Day of first surgery

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I arrived to the hospital at 5am after waking up at around 3-3:30. I think I take the cake for getting up earlier than anyone on any other jaw surgery blogs. Why so early? Good question. I don't know. It was fine though. I was just eager to begin.

My surgery was at Beth Israel Medical Center's hospital on 16th and 1st in Manhattan in New York. I live in Brooklyn, so my girlfriend and I took a cab there pretty easily that early in the day. The early hours of the morning seemed to fly by. The surgeon who I had been meeting with for more than a year unexpectedly came by the surgery admitting room before we began, likely to calm any nerves he thought I may have. He was carrying a tackle box with my physical models and some extra equipment. He comforted my girlfriend and I with some words, made a few jokes and then commented that I was about to look like a “pumpkin” from all the swelling.

My surgery was scheduled for 7:30, so I was led upstairs and got my gown and slippers on. They called them "slippers", but they were socks. I entered a large room with a row of beds. I was told to go to #15. A few minutes later they said I could walk to the operating room. No need to be wheeled in. I walked in and you could sense the cleanliness of the place. The air didn't have a smell and everything was spotless. It was slightly weird knowing I was getting on the operating table for an operation I'd waited years to receive. They asked me to get up on the table, which was actually quite thin. I'm of normal weight so I didn't hang off the side, but still, it seemed thin. One arm extension came out of each side so I could rest my arms during the operation. My surgeon was there with two other doctors. There was another woman in the room who looked to be getting all the materials together. And the anesthesiologist put my IV needle in (ouch), then asked me to relax. The last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist telling me she was putting me to sleep now. I looked up at the ceiling and noticed about 30 seconds went by without me feeling anything. That's the last thing I remember. I don't remember feeling it working. It must have been instant.

I don't recall anyone asking me to count backward from 10, but I do remember hearing voices when the operation ended. Something along the lines of "successful" and "it's 4pm" and "it went well". All good things! I somehow was able to speak and ask "did my jaw get wired shut" and the surgeon said "no", which I liked hearing. I don't remember seeing anything during this conversation when I believe I was still in the operating room (as opposed to the recovery room). I was informed later that it took them an hour to get started because they noticed one of my nasal passages was almost too narrow for the breathing tube. They said they almost cancelled the surgery. To wake up to that news... it would have been a devastating blow to me. I'm glad they found a way to continue.

I recall later seeing my girlfriend somewhere in the hospital, as well as being wheeled around in a bed. I was taken to room 88B which was for people who required special, close attention. Four beds in one room with two hospital staff in the middle to help at a moment’s notice. The other three beds were occupied by sick people receiving really strong fluids through IV needles. I learned later I was likely the most serious case in the room. I had a button next to my right hand that I could press to get help if needed. It was comforting. However, after being there a while in and out of consciousness, I awoke to what may have been the worst hours of my life. My body did not react well to the surgery. All of the things I was about to experience are pretty standard though. I’ll make this quick, but I do want to state that I think it’s important for people to know what to expect. Here's what that first night was like when I gained consciousness.

I felt a splint in the roof of my mouth, as expected. It was causing a lot of pressure with the numbness and swelling in my face. Sometime around 1am, I vomited blood twice (several minutes apart) all over my bed sheets, I struggled to open my jaw and suck bloody mucus with a suction tube out of my throat and one of the nurses pulled a 4 inch catheter tube out of my you know what. I screamed, even though I couldn’t scream normally, in agony, when he pulled it out. Screaming awoke my jaws and made me sound like an orc from Middle Earth. He said the only thing you could say in that situation "I'm so sorry". He had to do it. I didn't want that thing in there any longer. My right nostril continued to bleed for two days from the breathing tube they used during the operation, and I drooled from massive cheek, nose and lip swelling for the first week. It was truly an awful first night.

I don’t remember getting any sleep.

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