Seven weeks, three days, and 19 hours after my jaw was cracked in half, I am once again able to open my mouth. As I entered the doctor's office this afternoon, I knew there was a possibility of him removing the wires that bound my jaw together. I had been thinking about it since my last visit two weeks ago, when he suggested he would do it if the X-rays showed the bone had healed.
So, there I am, sitting in the patient's chair after my X-ray, when he says it. "I'm going to take the wires off now." I was thrilled, but at the same time frightened. Though I want to eat food, speak properly, and return to normal, I am afraid of what I might see when he removes the wires.
The last I saw my teeth, they were split at the gum, pointing in two different directions and barely visible through all the swelling. Now, the bone has healed, they are repositioned, but are they back to normal. Over the last two weeks, I have been exploring my jaw with my tongue, losing myself in thoughts of crooked teeth, an offset jaw, or the possibility that the only reason my teeth were still even in my mouth is because my mouth is wired too tight to allow them to fall out. These thoughts haunted my dreams each night, and the joyous occassion of being able to move my jaw again was slowly fading as the fears of what is to come overwhelm me.
And then he began to cut the wires. In a matter of seconds, they have been removed and he is asking me to try to open my mouth. This seems like a simple task, but when you haven't asked your jaw muscles to do anything for almost two months, they aren't very repsonsive. With his aid, I slowly opened my jaw. A dull pain ran across my temples as my jaw opened about 3/4" of an inch. The doctor didn't want me to open it much further, and quite frankly I don't think I could have. And then I began trying to move it on my own. Something didn't feel right. Something still doesn't feel right. My mouth doesn't feel like it's my own. It's like a piece of machinery attached to my body. It is not a part of me.
It doesn't close the way it used to. My teeth don't meet in the same way they used to. And the roof of my mouth feels like it is falling off like burning wax, melting over the backs of my teeth, only to be pushed up by my panicked tongue. I'm overwhelmed with thoughts and anxiety as I leave the office, instructed that I still can not chew anything and must limit my diet to extremely soft foods or anything that does not require chewing for the next two weeks.
I get into my car and gaze into the rearview mirror, the first time I have had a chance to see my new look. Tears well up in my eyes as I see a reflection that is not my own. You take for granted what you look like each day, knowing that when you look in the mirror, you will look back. You come to expect the person on the other side. Little will change, with the exception of the occassional new blemish or wrinkle.
I began to get dizzy, but pulled myself together and tried to remind myself that I am alive, able to move my mouth, and in the process of rebuilding myself, not completed. I called my mother on my cell. phone, letting her know that my mouth has been unwired and that I am trying to maintain composure and consciousness as I drive myself home. I don't feel like going back to work. I need some time to digest all of this.
Am I a hideous monster? Disfigured like a Frankenstein? No. For those that have seen me over the past few weeks, I am moderately the same, with the exception of the new long hair and 164 pound (yep, lost a few more) frame. But my jaw has changed. My teeth almost look too perfect, oddly positioned along my jaw line like a Howdy Doody doll, moving up and down at a nearly vertical motion as opposed to along an axis. And my teeth, those that were pointing down and out after the accident are chipped and slightly out of alignment, still partially hidden behind the metal bracing that the doctor left in place for the remainder of this rehabilitation.
Am I happy? I guess. I can speak again, and I just ate soup for the first time in two months without having to put it in a blender first. But I am also terrified of the new face that I see in the mirror. It is not me. It does not feel like me. It does not feel like a part of me. Please god, say that time will make it feel and look like a part of me again.