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Returning to work

September 9, 2012

Tomorrow I head back to work. With annual leave it’s 5 weeks since I was last there so it feels a bit weird especially as some major changes happened whilst I was away. Unlike last time when I was returning to a job where I had only been for 6 weeks and felt like I didn’t know anybody this time I am returning to some wonderful friends but only for about 7 weeks before I leave for pastures new which does give me mixed emotions. I am heading to an amazing new job but leaving behind colleagues and friends who are really important to me.

My mind certainly thinks I am ready to go back but my body isn’t so sure. Yesterday I popped into Brighton and did a bit of shopping and cake eating with Jo. Normally this would be absolutely nothing  but by the time I got home I felt like I had run a marathon (a few weeks ago I had a fantastic day doing much the same thing in Brighton for hours with no tiredness to be had). It’s a tricky time in recovery, emotionally and mentally I need to get back but physically I need to take things really carefully. I hate feeling tired. My life is normally pretty busy and I really resent not being able to do everything I want to do. I feel a little like my life has been paused for the last few weeks and I am a bit impatient to get on with things. I know that I will win this mental battle and in a few weeks this will all be a distant memory. This blue feeling I have will go too as I get busier, hopefully unpause some things and begin to feel less tired.

My jaw is quite painful as the nerves come back to life, sometimes tingling, sometimes shooting pain, sometimes numb again and sometimes it itches inside my bone but all that means is it has worked. I’ve come to terms with the fact I probably will always have numbness on the right of my face but I am so glad it has gone from the left.

My advice to anybody getting ready to go back after surgery is pace it, minimise stress if possible and before you know it you will be better but listen to your body – if you need to stop then do.

Brighton – taken when I had a little more energy than I do today!

 

Surgery Success!

August 23, 2012

Today I went down to the hospital to see my surgeon and orthodontist and it was great news – the surgery I had last week was a success. Yay!

The surgeon thinks one of the screws wasn’t quite flush and for some reason the nerve moved (which is about the width of a finger and between the bone) slipped and nudged it. I think it was connected with everything still settling down. Anyway now the screw isn’t there the nerve is coming back to life. It does feel odd, sometimes very painful, sometimes tingly and sometimes numb again but it is definitely recovering. I’ve been told I no longer need to wear the braces at night so it really is all over.

This is what I feel like doing

I can’t begin to explain the relief I feel about this. Since I completely lost the feeling in May I have had it hanging over me, wondering when the operation would be, wondering if it would work or if I would never feel my bottom lip (and never feel a kiss properly – seriously this bothered me a lot) and then the anxiety beforehand remembering how horrible it had been after the first operation (it’s been pretty grim this time but not for as long). I think it is safe to say that for the last 3 months  I haven’t been completely relaxed (well probably since the first operation but this has been the worst) but now I can focus on recovering from the operation and moving on with my life.

I have been reminded over the last week how unsuited I am to being ill. Being ill makes you miserable, you can’t go out and you have to rely on other people none of which I am very good at. I’m not quite ready to paint the town red but hopefully next week I’ll be back in my own flat which will be great. It’s still tiring doing anything and I haven’t yet got the energy to even concentrate on a film but I can assure you this state of affairs will be changing. There are things I want to do, places I want to go and people I want to see.

Thanks again to everybody who has thought of me, texted, emailed, sent cards, visited and tweeted over the past week (and before that too). It means a lot.

I’ll post an update when and if I have news.

Third time’s a charm … Surgery number 3

August 19, 2012
Three

Three (Photo credit: Joe’s-Photos)

On Thursday I had my third operation on my jaw to try and restore feeling into my left side jaw and  bottom lip. I was incredibly anxious about it– something which itself was unnerving. I am generally quite optimistic and positive so was quite thrown by these feelings but pleased to say that anxiety was misplaced.

The surgery went well. Before my face swelled again I believe I felt my lip and certainly the pain I am in suggests that it did its job! I have loads of stitches inside my mouth and one on the outside. I haven’t bruised yet and really look most like I have mumps. It hurts to smile and laugh but that isn’t stopping me trying. I hate being miserable.

I reacted badly to the anesthetic – oxygen and steroid injections were needed. I was kept in until Friday lunchtime but unlike the first operation the ward I was on was pretty quiet so I did manage to sleep. Also the morphine probably helped knock me out (berry flavoured shots of morphine are quite something).

I have to say that being ill in the summer isn’t the same as being ill in winter. Back then I didn’t feel I was missing out, everybody was a bit miserable and stuck inside but at the moment I feel that life is very much happening outside and I can barely move from the sofa. I want to be, enjoying all that is enjoyable about being in summertime Britain. But the texts, messages and tweets are cheering me up – thank-you. My hospital visitors were most appreciated and I am looking forward to more visitors this week – don’t let the fact it hurts me to laugh stop you trying to make me laugh if you are coming. Talking is also a challenge – it hurts to talk too much!

Thanks again to all the great staff on Glynde ward and at the DGH – the NHS at its best!

One thought keeps occurring to me – how did Kate Walsh (the UK hockey captain) manage to return to playing in the Olympics so quickly after breaking her jaw? Seriously I am struggling to sit upright for more than 20 minutes!

In the tradition of the blog I shall say what I have been eating … soup (in this weather), slimfast, muller fruit corners, ice cream and bananas in custard. It hurts much too much to chew but hopefully it will heal quickly. I can drink tea though!

No photo – just imagine me with a swollen jaw.

I am back at the hospital at the end of next week. I might update before then depending on energy / anything interesting happening!

Chris sent me this to cheer me up – thank-you!

Surgery … third time lucky?

August 14, 2012
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On Thursday I am having my third surgery. This is supposed to sort out the sudden pain and loss of feeling in my bottom left jaw. It probably won’t sort out the right side of my face. I am far more anxious about this surgery than I was the other two. I guess I know now what can go wrong. I am scared that the recovery won’t go so well or that the surgery will cause more complications.

I know that chances are it will all be over very quickly and it will probably work fine but I can’t help feeling anxious. Its’ a slightly alien feeling for me. I normally feel optimistic and can always look on the positive but the memories of last time are making this a bit tricky.

People still ask me if I regret the surgery. I don’t. Despite everything it was the best thing I ever did.

Anyway when I am feel up to it I’ll update on how it goes.

More Surgery

May 23, 2012

One morning last week I work up with pain coming from my bottom left jaw, it was a sort of stabbing pain which also burnt like when you pull a muscle. My face was also swelling there and my lips felt taught and dry. They’d also started doing the thing where they go blue. When I was having lunch with Jess last week I realised something was wrong because a piece of bread got stuck between my teeth and cheek and I couldn’t open my mouth enough to get it out so had to use my fingers. So, I called the hospital on Friday and they suggested I come in on Tuesday (yesterday) to get it looked at by my surgeon.

I was a bit anxious – this side of my face has always been ok, it recovered quickly and well. However now it is also numb, in fact my entire bottom lip is numb, something which hasn’t happened for over a year. Also I’m aware both sides of my bottom jaw are now numb (now could be the time to have a filling as I wouldn’t need the drugs!) I thought they might have a look, give me some antibiotics and ask me to go back next week. I was wrong. They got me to have an x-ray in case a bit of bone had chipped off. There was nothing obvious there but it is clear something has happened. Chances are it is that one of the screws come loose. One could be infected but this is very rare as unlike last time when it was a screw in a plate the screws along my bottom jaw are just three screws so there is less area to get infected.

On the bright side this makes me even more unusual has having two sets of screws come loose is VERY rare. My blue lips are apparently so rare my surgeon has never heard of it before.

I am a medical mystery.

I don’t yet know when the surgery will be, sometime in the next 3 months. I’ll feel better when I know as at the moment I feel like suddenly all my summer plans are potentially up in the air.

I am getting my head round all this slowly – I’ll have more surgery, I’ll be back to eating less variety of food as I won’t be able to chew for a while, I’ll look pretty crap for a bit as my face will probably swell again and I’ll have to have more time off. I’m also aware that potentially over the next few years this could happen again to each set of screws. I currently have 4 more sets which could have to be removed. There’s no point removing them all now as that would run the risk of even more infections and they might never need removing.

At the moment this is everything I know. I am yet again ever so thankful and amazed by the treatment I am getting from the NHS. My surgeon and his team are amazing. I may feel a bit shocked and anxious but at least I don’t have to worry about cost or waiting for treatment.

Why I love the NHS

March 19, 2012

Tomorrow, it appears, that the NHS Reform bill will become law after valiant efforts by Lord Owen to delay it have failed. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has refused to publish the NHS Risk Register which details the effects the reforms will have in the day to day running of the NHS (that’s the bits we, the public, see). What is he hiding?

Tomorrow will be a sad day for the UK. The NHS isn’t perfect and the tales of things going wrong get more press than the things that go right. Things will still go wrong after tomorrow. Unfortunately less things will go right. Stop and think for a moment of all the times you and your families have had good care from the NHS. If you are someone with private health insurance and don’t see why you should pay tax for it as well? Lucky you but really? Have you never used an NHS service? If you break your arm tonight where will you go?

This is my tale of why I love the NHS. The background is here on my jaw surgery blog but in short I had jaw surgery last January. I had complications. They included swelling, severe pain, a virus attacking my facial nerves, severe numbness and one of the original screws coming loose. Anywhere else in the world I would also have had worries about whether extra scans, medication and treatment would have cost more money when I didn’t know when I would be back at work but not here in the UK.

I had to have more surgery and am still having treatment including a non-urgent recent MRI scan which I only waited 8 days for from referral. The MRI was sleek and felt like I was in some kind of futuristic facility.

The staff from my surgeon to the hardworking HCAs who I have been treated by have been nothing but amazing. They work long hours, treating many patients but when I was at my most poorly they fitted me in at the end of clinic. Never once did I feel I was getting less than first class service. My surgeon is one of the best. In a privatised health service I probably wouldn’t be able to afford him.

I could be miserable and say that most of my problems can be traced back to the surgery but they would have probably happened even if I had paid for it. The point is that the care I have received is the envy of all the jaw surgery patients I have had contact me from around the world. It has been less stressful and therefore more successful because I didn’t have to worry about cost. I may have had post-op problems but the operation was a success. I can breathe better, sleep better and on the non-numb side eat better. My long term quality of life and health is better. That is down to the amazing NHS.

The NHS is something we should all fight for and be proud of. We will miss it when it is gone.

Update: the bill become law in the next week. It will give future governments power to slowly dismantle, privatise and destroy the NHS. When future generations are battling for healthcare, dying because they can’t afford basic care, they will look at our NHS and wonder how we could let it be destroyed.  I hope every MP who let this happen sleeps well at night because future generations won’t.

MRI scan

March 2, 2012
Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

In the ongoing effort to work out why the right hand side of my face is numb I had to have an MRI scan today. I was only referred two weeks ago so firstly – well done NHS on speedy service! At my last appointment my consultant confirmed I have a viral infection but he isn’t sure there isn’t also something else going on so MRI scan it was.

Basically an MRI scan involves going into a machine with a tunnel and the machine takes images of slices of your brain. You have to keep VERY still. This of course means that my nose started itching. It was in a sort of head frame thing so even if I could have moved my arms I wouldn’t have been able to touch my nose. The MRI scanner looks like something from a Sci-fi film but it was ok.

They tell you to bring a CD in to listen to. I had mixed advice from people who had had MRI scans about this. Some said they couldn’t hear theirs over the beeps, some said to take relaxing music and some said to take music to distract you. In the end I opted for the Juno soundtrack as a) I like it, b) it has variety, c) it is loud enough to distract me . I think a relaxing CD would have been less helpful as I’d have probably ended up thinking even more about whether I normally move so much when I breathe or if the fact I forgot I was wearing an underwired (therefore metal containing) bra would be a problem. (They tell you not to wear any metal).

The staff  were lovely. I had to have dye injected into me so that it would show up my brain (not because they were having trouble finding it before you ask) but they were great at explaining what was happening. I had a bit of a headache and felt tired afterwards but I think that was more stress related.

In total it took about 20 minutes. The music definitely helped. They didn’t mention anything so I assume there was nothing hideous. I’ll find out what my surgeon thinks when I see him on 20th April….

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