Lip Repositioning Surgery Parts 1 & 2

As I type this, I’m sitting on the second rung of an old ladder which is pulled up to the island in my new kitchen down in Texas. My keystrokes echo off high ceilings and bare floors because our furniture is still on a truck making its way down from the east coast. From where I sit I have a perfect view of the Gulf of Mexico which is pretty cool, but as always, this move is definitely bittersweet. I’m back in my hometown where I can soak up all the sun I want, but I’ve left all my wonderful friends behind which makes my heart ache. It’s my fourth cross-country move and I can say one thing for sure: they always suck. Such is military life, right?

So much has happened since I last posted, and as the title of my post suggests, YES! I had my surgery!! I know Dr. K thought I was completely bat-shit crazy when I informed him that I had to change my drive-out-of-town date to the actual day after surgery and that I was still beyond excited to go through with everything. I assured him that I knew what I was getting into and was fully capable of driving halfway across the country with a gash in my mouth, but the truth is is that I’d psyched myself up so much that I was convinced that the healing process would be just as simple as the crown lengthening. Had I’d known my face would feel like someone mauled me with a lead pipe, I might’ve had second thoughts. Actually… probably not. I wanted this surgery that bad. Regardless, I’m one week post-op and even though I’m in moderate pain and still pretty swollen, it was all 100% worth it. That’s right. One hundred percent worth it.

In the past few months, I’ve done a significant amount of Googling about the lip repositioning surgery. Either my internet searching skills fell to the wayside or there really isn’t anything out there, but I couldn’t find a decent first person take on the actual surgery and recovery (I was mainly interested in the recovery). So I guess I’ll have to do it.

As you may have gathered, I was right in the middle of a move. The day before my surgery, the packers showed up several hours late which wound up to be a total reflection of their workmanship. They half-assed everything and took off at around 6:00 pm with all kinds of loose ends to tie up the following morning – the day of my surgery – and also the day the giant truck was scheduled to leave town. Of course, they showed up four hours late again which wouldn’t have been a big deal if I didn’t have to clean my entire home that evening and begin my drive to fucking Texas the next day. They were supposed to be completely finished before 4:00 so I could leisurely clean the place. Seriously, one guy was so bad, he accidentally packed my pillow (which was in the “don’t pack closet”. He told me I could find it in the box labeled pillers. He literally labeled several boxes: “PULLERS and PULLER”. And wouldn’t ya know it… my damn pillow wasn’t in a single one of them. I found it stuffed in a box with a lamp and my grandma’s fake plant.

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So the day of my surgery, I dropped my kid off with the neighbor and took an 800 mg Ibuprofen an hour prior which I would later be told was a smart move. I chose to forgo the crazy anxiety drug because I drove myself to the appointment, and I also needed to be completely capable of cleaning the house once I returned home. I guess I thought I was super woman.

I showed up and was happily greeted by the girl behind the front desk. Unlike my previous visits, I was the only patient in the waiting room. I didn’t sit around but for a few moments before I was called back. All that talking myself up paid off because I truly felt anxiety-free. I was ready! Or so I’d thought. I forgot how many shots were required to numb my entire upper arch. For my last procedure, I was so jazzed up they probably could’ve gotten away with doing injections right into my eyeball.

Dr. K immediately got right to it. First some pictures and then some topical numbing stuff. Then, a few moments later, shot after shot, and I’m not going to lie… several of the ones in the front triggered gigantic, involuntary tears. I didn’t cry… they were just tears. My face was weeping in advance for what my mouth was about to endure. The only breaks Dr. K took were to reach for more ‘juice’ which turned out to be a good thing because it was all over with just that much quicker. I think it took about 12 shots to start with. After he allowed some time to pass for the stuff to get me nice and numb, he leaned me back got started. We had an audience which, unbeknownst to them, was nothing new to me (they politely asked if it was okay). After struggling with infertility for several years, I’ve grown accustomed to being on some sort of medical display. Screw it. Folks wanna watch procedures? Go right ahead! At least this time I’m not spread eagle and pantsless on a gyno table surrounded by a gaggle of doe eyed med students.

First, he started with some gum contouring. He took a tiny bit more off the gum line at the top of one of my central incisors as it wasn’t quite as high as the one next to it. Then, he began the precise incisions. Fortunately I wasn’t able to watch, but from what I understand, he began his incision at tooth #3 along the mucogingival junction all the way to tooth #14. Then he made a parallel incision about 8 mm above the first one. Basically, he cut me from one side to the other. Here is a chart so you can get an idea as to how far the incision went around my arch… from 3 to 14. Keep in mind #1 and #16 are wisdom teeth and I had mine yanked long ago.

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At one point, somewhere around #6 on the upper incision, I could totally feel him cutting. I was pretty numb so it didn’t necessarily hurt, but I knew something wasn’t right and it kinda grossed me out. I stuck up one finger and mumbled to the best of my ability, “uh…i-kun-full-gat.”. I’m quite certain that after several decades of deciphering patients’ garble, he totally understood what I said without a second thought, and without question, he continued humming as he gave me another injection, asked me if I was okay, and then carried on. He paused for several more pictures (one of his assistants was documenting the procedure) so I took that opportunity to take one of my own. I’ve decided not to post it though because it could probably bring a grown man to his knees.  I dare you to look at this picture. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Before I knew it, he was stitching me up. Twenty-four maybe? Every other one was a dissolvable suture and the others were to be removed after three weeks. The only things that I can point out as “uncomfortable” were the shots (of course), the retracting of my lip which gave me a gnarly hematoma about one centimeter in diameter on the inside pad of my upper lip. I checked everything out in their handheld mirror and was somewhat choked up when I saw my new smile. I was so happy! Here is a photo from about an hour after surgery. My lip had already begun to swell but it’s clear that my smile was drastically different.

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And now for the fun part. What in the hell was I thinking when I thought laboring like a workhorse immediately following a surgery was a good idea?? I pulled up to my house and those idiots were still lollygagging around with more than half our furniture sitting out on the lawn and only a few boxes loaded onto the truck. It was 2:00 pm… Lil Wayne echoed loudly throughout my tree-lined, colonial home neighborhood… these dudes even stopped the fucking ice cream man right after their 10th smoke break, and just before their 11th. I know I sound ungrateful, but seriously, we bought lunch for these slackers on both days because as we’ve learned in the past, food (and kindness laced with tolerance) is motivation for them not to destroy your shit. The least they could do is finish the fucking job they’re being paid to do on time, but no. These assholes are guaranteed to get paid, regardless of their effort, with little incentive to do even a mediocre job.

The sun sank lower in the sky and it became clear that they’d be there long after dark… which meant the baby would go nuts because we were derailed from her strict schedule (by far) and didn’t have access to a quiet place for her to go to sleep, which meant that she’d probably need an exorcism two hours into our 1,650 mile drive. It also meant I wouldn’t be able to get to work on cleaning the house. The anesthesia had long worn off and my face was pounding. Pounding. I took another 800 mg Ibuprofen but it did practically nothing in regards to pain relief. The movers finally left at 11:30 pm so I fell back on plan B and took one of the hydrocodones left over from my first surgery.  That helped significantly and I was able to clean my bathroom. Luckily I spent a great deal of my days keeping our home in order so cleaning turned out to be pretty effortless. Night one of urban camping on an air mattress was absolutely miserable. My sweet husband didn’t air the thing up properly so my hip and shoulder grazed the hardwood floor underneath as I tossed and turned while periodically drooling small amounts of blood… which tasted delightful. Rather than getting sleep, I subconsciously worried about ruining my favorite pillow.

I can think of only a handful of times where I wasn’t a morning person. Even hungover! Not Urban Camping Day 2. I awoke to a great deal of pain which somewhat subsided about 45 minutes after I got moving. I hit the ground running though because there were a million and one things to get done before the property manager showed up to do our final inspection. My three-day-drive was to begin in only a few short hours so anything more than Ibuprofen was totally out of the question.

We drove seven hours – me in my car with both cats, and my husband in his truck with the baby – and made it to our hotel where I took a hot shower and did my best to relax. Stress levels were high because we were hauling all kinds of shit that had to be unloaded from the truck bed for fear of theft. Plus the baby was pissed that we’d subjected her to her “torture device” for so long. Somehow I managed to eat a grilled chicken sandwich from Chic fil A but HO-LEE-HELL I was in pain. And it took me over an hour to eat. I have this thing about needing to chew with my mouth closed, so that may have played a part in the hour-long meal.

I intentionally woke up at midnight to take some more medication because the swelling was getting pretty bad. We started again the next morning at 4:30 am sharp for our 14 hour second day push. At 6:00 am, I took another 800 mg Ibuprofen. As directed, I took another at noon. Five hours passed before my eyelids became too heavy to ignore. Like past the point of dangerous. I called my husband and told him that we needed to pull over STAT.

At the rest stop, I laid my head down on my center console and instantly fell into a deep, deep slumber. Just me and my cats. I jolted awake “seconds later” (which was actually half an hour later) to my husband tapping on my window holding the baby on his hip with the best ‘WTF look’ I’d seen in a long time. He literally showed me his watch as if to say, “Your napping is dicking up our drive time!!!”. Actually, he did say this later on at the hotel but I blew him off and told him to be quiet and fetch me a red bull with an ice pack.

To this date, I can’t think of a more fulfilling sleep than that one. I later realized that taking excessive amounts of Ibuprofen will cause drowsiness. I’m such an idiot. Maybe I should’ve read all those papers that came with my medication. The papers that I promptly tossed in the recycling bin. Regardless, my recharge was awesome because aside from my pain, I felt like a new person. It’s amazing how sleep (or lack of) can affect the human body. All it took was twenty-something minutes.

We made it to the hotel and did the whole unloading thing once more. In the rain. The baby was restless and I was in a significant amount of pain so I was a total dick to everyone within a 10 foot radius; I could feel my heartbeat throughout every inch of my face. My eyes were bloodshot and the swelling was ridiculous. I looked like a blowfish. This was my worst day by far, but I managed to sleep that night.

We started day three at 5:30 AM. Because of my Ibuprofen scare the day before, I didn’t want to take any drugs. I was hurting pretty bad but not quite like day two. After seven more hours of driving with my ferocious beasts, we finally made it to our new home in Texas. Look how swollen I was. My lip! My nose! My cheeks!! Wow!

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Day 4 post op was still pretty painful. It hurt to laugh and smile of course. It also hurt to be whacked in the face by a balled up baby fist. That did happen and I went down for the count. I promptly took a hydrocodone which seemed to answer all of my prayers. If you’re reading this because you’re worried about pain during recovery, keep in mind that I was only taking Ibuprofen. When I took actual pain killers, things calmed down significantly! I was running low though and still pretty swollen so I decided to call and talk to Dr. K’s assistant. She told me that since the lip is so ‘vascular’ that my swelling (even up into my forehead) was all very normal. She sent in a new prescription for some more hydrocodone and asked me to report back.

Day 5 was more of the same but much less swelling. It was this day that I realized my swelling probably had a lot to do with the fact that I basically allowed myself zero down time after the surgery. It was literally ‘go go go!’. Not once did I sit down on the couch and veg out like any normal human being would after being cut open and stitched back up. Luckily we ordered a brand new mattress and box spring, so even though our house was empty, we at least had that.

Day 6 was the first day it didn’t burn like the dickens to swish water through my mouth after brushing my teeth.  I was getting somewhere! Also, I was able to smile pretty good. I am SO PLEASED!

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I promise to report back with the rest of my recovery soon because I’ve definitely got a ways to go. I presume my next few days will be busy with unpacking all our crap so bare with me!