The Long Recovery – One Student’s Personal Story

After being wheeled into the room, medicine was injected into my IV while a mask hovered over my face to help me go under. I soon was in a deep sleep.

One day later, I woke up to bright light and a loud noise that I soon discovered was coming from outside of the room. I tried to move only to regret it instantly. My face was throbbing and my stomach was churning.

The nurse saw I was awake and got my parents.

On August 4, I had to go to Hershey Medical Center for major jaw surgery. The surgeons pushed my front jaw back while my lower jaw was moved forward so the two parts of my jaw were lined up.

As the operation progressed, the doctors were also told to add on to my chin, but I was under the anesthesia for too long. According to my doctor, the surgery wasn’t supposed to take long. Instead I was in there for 10 hours. I was born with many medical problems and this operation was supposed to fix one of them.

I was still groggy from the anesthesia when my parents rushed in. The nurse followed in and moved me so I could sit up. Unfortunately, it was a big mistake. I quickly motioned for the yellow bowl in the corner and as soon as I had it, I threw up. Dried blood and puke was piling up in the bowl as I continued to heave more  into it. I was terrified because my jaw was wired shut and I couldn’t open my mouth. I felt like I was drowning! The nurse had to suction it out as I vomited to keep me from choking.

I'm back to school after my last surgery. Photo by Liz Lawrence

When I was all cleaned up, the nurse apologized to me for inclining the hospital bed since I was clearly not ready. Not soon enough, my surgeon came in to see how I was and talked to my parents. I was only half listening, but I did catch onto to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to move my jaw, open my mouth to eat or even talk for two weeks.

I was shocked, I knew that there were going to be a lot of restrictions, but not like that. He then explained the things that I was forbidden to do for the next six weeks. I wasn’t allowed to ride my horse, run around, eat hard food like chicken and candy or do anything physically related.

It was starting to get dark by the time my parents left, I was alone in the intensive care unit for the night. The night shift nurse came in the room to help me every time I got sick, which unfortunately for me felt like it was happening every five minutes. By midnight, I was wiped out from throwing up and was out like a light.

Morning came too soon for me as my mother shook me awake at 7:00 a.m.. She told me that my surgeon had come in and told the assistant nurses to start hooking me up so I could be moved into a private room. I was excited, but there was one problem. The nurses had to change the sheets before taking me to a different room and because of that I would have to stand. My mom came over to help me up and I slowly stood on my shaky legs. However as soon as my feet touched the cold floor I collapsed. My mom and the nurses had to quickly pick me up and place me in a chair. After the bed was clean, the nurses carefully settled me in.

Even being in a new room didn’t take away the aching pain that was residing throughout my left side to the right side of my jaw. It went down my neck and stayed in my stomach. At the time I didn’t think that the pain would ever go away.

Sadly though, my sickness grew worse as the day went on. It was around 3:00 p.m. when the new nurse walked in. She was holding a syringe with fluids in it. She explained that since I could not eat, I had to have some fluids in order to leave the hospital, so they would have to ease the syringe into my mouth in order to feed me. When she first did it, I choked it back up. They did it to me several more times and each time I kept throwing up, only adding to my misery.

However the worst was yet to come. Around nine o’clock the nurse on the night shift came in to take my vitals. It was then she discovered I had a fever of about a hundred and one. While my head was hot, the rest of my body was chilled. Apparently, when I had been throwing up the blood, some of it had gone into my lungs and I now had pneumonia. So, in addition to the feedings with syringes every couple of hours, I had to have breathing treatments and even more medicine in my IV.

The nurse was concerned about my breathing so at three in the morning, an x-ray team quietly came into my room and propped me up so I was sitting. They moved this huge machine in the room and took pictures of my lungs forcing me to sit through all of their prodding.

The next day, my surgeon announced that the bandages around my jaw can come off. And when they did, I felt so relieved. Still, I had to ice my jaw all day since it was so swollen.

It was also the day I was allowed to have visitors. Besides my parents, my grandmother and my aunt came to visit me. They told me how proud they were of me. Due to the fact I couldn’t talk, I had to write notes in my notebook, and I wrote to them that it really wasn’t a big deal.

The rest of the day went as smooth as it could. As soon as morning came I already had my breathing treatments and iced my jaw when my surgeon came in to announce the great news; I was finally able to go home. The next few hours were just about me getting ready to go home.

On the way home, all I felt was nausea and a splitting headache. When my mom and I arrived at home, I flopped on my bed and slept for several hours straight. The next two weeks I spent icing my jaw and drinking fluids. It was only several days before the first day of school when my dentist took out the splint that wired my jaw shut. I was happy because I could finally talk after those long two weeks.

However, even when I was in school, the pain in my jaw only increased. The stress of homework, tests, and other things played an important role. As I got swamped with responsibilities, the numbing pain amplified. It became so bad that I missed a week of school due to the stress upon me. Now, I have to juggle my responsibilities as I prepare for my upcoming surgery this winter.

By Sarah Gordon