Jaw Surgeries-something most of you guys didn’t know about me.
When I was 13 I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. Which pretty much means I stopped breathing up to 33 times an hour when I was asleep, essentially making it so for every 10 hours I was in bed I was getting an average of 4ish hours of sleep. Which sucked. I was constantly exhausted, I was constantly bitchy and annoying-cause I wasn’t sleeping. I was super short (if you know me now, picture me a foot shorter-that’s how tall I was (4’10”) in middle and the beginning of high school. They determined that my overbite and almost non-existant lower jaw was what was causing my sleep apnea.
For 3 years (from 7th grade to the end of 9th grade) I slept with a CPAP machine, a mask that pushed air into my nose and through my airway to keep it open. It was a pain in the ass, but made it so I could sleep-and boy did it feel refreshing to actually get a decent nights sleep, even if I was attached to a machine. The first picture is of me in middle school, with a huge overbite, little jaw line, and a weirdly proportioned face. mollyface1.0
In 2005 I had my first reconstructive jaw surgery-my surgeon moved my lower jaw out 22cm, my upper jaw out 12cm and my chin out an additional 5cm. Picture #2 is right after this surgery. I was in the hospital for 12 days. It took almost an entire year for the swelling to go down completely, but for the first time in 3 years I was CPAP free. It was glorious, but the post-op recovery was all but that. I couldn’t chew for almost 4 months, my face was completely different, I couldn’t really brush my teeth (honestly the worst part of recovery). My jaw wasn’t wired shut, my surgeon thinks that’s barbaric, but it was so tightly banded together that it was impossible to move my jaw for weeks. Once I got used to my new look (it took some serious adjustment) and got back to eating, I felt freer than ever.
Fastforward to 2007-I developed such severe acid reflux that I was hospitalized for many weeks, couldn’t eat, was so sick I felt like dying. They determined that my acid reflux (this is very rare) was caused by my sleep apnea, and my jaw had moved back. I had noticed some changes in my bite, but didn’t think anything of it. So I went back on CPAP and the reflux magically disappeared overnight (literally). But I was completely unwilling to go off to college on CPAP-I was already going to be the freshmen who was on a gluten free diet, I didn’t need to also be that weird freshmen who slept attached to a machine. Picture 3 is me in 2008 before my second surgery, but with what we now refer to as mollyface2.0.
My second Jaw Surgery was in August 2008, 18 days before my first day of Freshmen year of college, it was hospital—>dorm room pretty quickly. This time my surgeon moved my lower jaw only 11cm, upper jaw 6cm and chin only 2cm. Picture 4 is postop day 1 of surgery #2, swollen but not nearly as bad as the first one. It was far less extensive, and I pretty much knew what I was getting into. I went off to college after being home for about 10 days, with a VERY swollen face, inable to chew anything, and could barely talk. Talk about weird first impressions on my classmates. Luckily people got to know me for who I was and listened to my story, not judging that fact that I had to blenderize all my food from the dining hall (made it EVEN WORSE). My face settled, I made friends, I could eat solid food (but chewing steak was still an issue for me), and I got used to mollyface3.0 (picture 5).
Again, let’s fastforward-this time to summer of 2010. I realized my reflux was back and pinned it pretty quickly to the jaw pain I had been having for a few months. SO back to CPAP I went, this time it was for the entirety of my junior year of college (hello awkward).
My third and final surgery was a mere 11days before my first day of senior year. It was literally hospital->home->school, each for only a few days. That surgery (picture 6) was a little different-more painful, more complicated, but led to a “cure” of my sleep apnea. It was determined that my tongue and epiglottis (the thing that separates your esophagus and windpipe) were what were actually blocking my airway when sleeping, and it had been getting worse over the years. Along with a lower and upper jaw advancement (8cm and 3cm respectively), my surgeon shaved off the back of my tongue and made my epiglottis less “floppy”. That hurt, like hell. Imagine strep throat x10 pain, along with a swollen face and the inability to chew or talk. This is pretty much how I started senior year of college. Luckily I warned everyone before going back up there.
The last picture is what my face looks like currently, or as of a few months ago. aka mollyface4.0
I need to say one thing-this was in no way my surgeons fault, he’s one of the best in the world at this surgery, and I have shitty bones and joints due to other autoimmune disorders and malabsorption issues.
Would I go through this again, maybe not, but probably. It’s really amazing to be able to sleep without CPAP, without sleepwalking, and be able to get rest while in bed, instead of waking up terribly unrested every morning.
I felt like sharing this journey with y’all for some reason.