Monday, November 19, 2007

A Time That Changed Me

When I was in grade school, it became very apparent that I was going to need braces at some point. My teeth were beyond crooked, my jaw "clicked" every time I ate, and my sister yelled at me almost nightly to chew with my mouth closed. It was obvious things were not growing the way they were supposed to, so we made the appointment with the orthodontist.

Little did my parents and I know what a huge ordeal we had just undertaken. The orthodontist hinted very early on that I may need oral surgery. He said he would give my braces four years to do their job and that we would reevaluate when those two years were up. I got my braces on in the spring of my 8th grade year. I remember that my class was taking a field trip to a nearby high school to watch their "student performance" of their spring musical. I missed the first act because I was getting my braces on. I wished I had missed the 2nd act so that I could go home and tear my teeth out.

Over the course of the next four years, I made my monthly visits to the orthodontists' office. In that time, I even had to go get an adult tooth extracted because it was not coming in. But when the four years was up, the changes that needed to occur to avoid oral surgery didn't happen. So we scheduled the surgery. I would have my top and bottom jaw broken and pinned back together in 4 places. I would be wired shut for at least 6 weeks, during which time, my diet would be limited to anything I could suck through a straw or otherwise get around my clenched teeth.

I had the surgery the summer between my junior and senior years of high school and spent my 17th birthday with my jaw wired shut. I had countless follow up visits. My parents had to rearrange the living arrangements at our house because I wasn't allowed to sleep by myself in case I started choking or had to be sick. My equilibrium was thrown completely off kilter because of the swelling and how close the surgery had been to my sinuses. I had to learn to talk and articulate without moving my jaw. My sister and I joked that I had turned a major corner when I was able to pronounce "Philip's Milk of Magnesia". I wouldn't let my mom take pictures of me because of how hideous I felt I looked with all the bruising and swelling. To this day, I ask my husband, Dave, to check my chin for spilled food because I never regained full feeling there.

And through it all, my mom and dad showed me what it was to be a parent. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure how I would have made it through that surgery and the two more surgeries that became necessary. From rolling me over in bed when I didn't have the energy to do it myself, to picking me up from the bathroom floor because I had fainted yet again, to putting Peanut Butter Cream Pie and vanilla ice cream in blender to celebrate my 17th birthday, they exemplify what it means to love.

As you prepare this week for your Thanksgiving holiday, don't forget to take the time to remember those people and times in your life that have changed you. Without those experiences, whether good or bad, you would not be who you are today.

This is an entry into Scribbit's November Write-Away Contest.

5 reviews:

Scribbit said...

Wow. That would change your life--doesn't it make you glad for modern dentistry too?

carrie said...

Gosh! What great parents...that's awesome that they still made sure to try to make everything special for you...

ValleyGirl said...

I had a similar experience, but thankfully, never had to have surgery. I had the option of doing it the "quick" way or the long way, which was braces and several different appliances over the course of 3 years. (I opted for the long way!) My jaw was never wired shut, but because my molars needed to be longer, the wicked thick elastics joining my top and bottom molars kept me from opening my mouth very far. Nasty business. Boy, am I ever thankful that's in my past!! And I'm thankful I didn't get sick and tired of soup!

Daisy said...

Such agony...and you are such a survivor.

childlife said...

What an incredible story! I just love the closeness you seem to have with your parents. My little girl has had to have a lot of surgeries too - I hope that someday she will have such kind, fond thoughts of her parents.