When my surgeon told me at week 4 that he wanted to extend the duration I was wired up from his original quote of 6 weeks to at least 8 weeks, I was quite bummed. I reminded myself that in the long run, those extra 2 weeks would seem minor, but the idea of donning my grill for even one hour longer than I had expected was enough to put the surgeon on my $hit list (pardon my French), at least for those extra weeks.
Between week 5 and 6, I resorted to feeding myself with a turkey baster just to speed up the in-take of thicker food smoothies to fuel my body for the daily power walks and progression into pool jogging and basic core exercises. At week 7, I attempted to “negotiate” with the surgeon to remove the wires and while I wasn’t entirely successful, we did strike a deal. He removed the bands and allowed me to keep them off during the day, as long as I promised to place them back in at night and at any point if my jaw was in pain. I was the obedient patient and a grateful one as well, as this gradual freedom at least enabled me to begin spoon feeding myself mushy food. Overcooked pasta, stews, hummus, mashed vegetables, lentils and yogurt were just among the many foods I consumed. It was a beautiful thing to begin eating again, even if the food consistency was similar to baby food. I actually continued to blend certain food to at least a soft, chunky consistency that I could easily swallow without chewing.
Everyone loved asking me what my first meal would be when I was freed of my grill. The dream of my “perfect” meal changed on a daily basis from a savory pasta dish to a scrumptious risotto (or even paella!) to a warm piece of French or sourdough bread. I knew the last of these wouldn’t happen, at least not right away, but considering that sliced bread was not blend-able, my body yearned for that simple starch.
Alas the day of my scheduled grill removal arrived and I scrambled to wrap up work so I could trek across the city to the surgeon’s practice. On my walk over, I started to wonder how exactly he would remove all of the wires as it appeared that my grill had made a nice little home in my mouth for the past 2 months. To describe simply, sections of the wires were no longer visible as they’d become buried in my gum line. The surgeon had assured me this was part of the normal course. Lovely.
Without going into all the gory details, the removal process was painful and bloody. Turns out the wires would be clipped in many sections and then untwisted and yanked out individually from my gums. Don’t ask me how, but my surgeon convinced me not to take any local anesthesia for the process. I guess he figured if I could handle an Ironman triathlon, this ought to be a walk in the park. About half way through I started to regret my decision not to scream out for the drugs, but just like a tough race, I began envisioning the sense of relief that would soon bless me. The seemingly long 30 minute procedure was finally completed and my surgeon tried to humor me – “Don’t look in the mirror right away. You might faint. Your gums are nasty and look like a battlefield.” Priceless.
Instinctively, I skimmed my teeth with my tongue, remembering the cool, smooth feeling I had experienced as a teenager when my braces were first removed. The extremely tender feeling in my gums this time around though was a quick reminder that a bit more recovery time was still in store. I shook the surgeon’s hand, thanked him for his great work (and mentally removed him from my $hit list) and asked him how soon I could begin a regime of “real” exercise. He knew I was chomping at the bit (great metaphor in this case considering my jaw had been wired shut!) and said I could do anything I felt my energy level and strength could handle, but ”just don’t go out and do a triathlon!”