Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TMJ... it's not just for breakfast anymore.

I have lived with TMJ since I was a teenager. It developed while I had braces and unfortunately, I was not intelligent enough at the time to know that my orthodontist had created in me a chronic problem that would last for the rest of my life. As a matter of fact, I remember telling him about the problem and he seriously just shrugged his shoulders at me and essentially told me that these things happen sometimes.

Oh... but for the statute of limitations...

At any rate, I have lived with popping and clicking jaws for more than 20 years now and that has really been the only issue I have had. Until a few months ago.

I began to experience what I first thought was an earache. I went to the doctor, who determined my ears were just fine. My next thought was that I was beginning to have problems with my wisdom teeth.

Yes, America... there are still adults in the world who have kept their wisdom teeth. Mine came in without any problem... straight and true. I even have an extra one for good measure, that has never come through, but makes an appearance whenever an x-ray is taken and all the dentists and hygienists ooh and ahh over it and I feel very, very special. At least for those 30 minutes of teeth-cleaning.

However, before I could get to the dentist to determine if my wisdom teeth were doing me in, I developed almost a numbness in the cheek muscles of the right side of my face. Back to the doctor, who was afraid it was the beginning of Bell's Palsy and therefore started me on steroids and treating me for same.

As long as the steroids were flowing... I was doing fine. However, once the dosage started wearing off, the ache was back with a vengeance. Therefore... back to the doctor I went. I was then referred to an ENT to make sure this was not a neurological problem and the first thing he said upon his examination was.... you guessed it... TMJ!!!

Seriously? I have lived with this for many, many years without actual PAIN. But he likened it to having a trick knee that would just one day go out on you. Then he patted me on the head, referred me to a TMJ specialist (who did not take my insurance and whose 3 hour consultation was going to cost me $250) and sent me on my way.

Just to rule out the wisdom tooth mystery (because I really do like to dabble in my own self-diagnosis - just so when I am right I can point my fingers at the closest physician and do my I-told-you-so dance) I headed to the dentist and determined that my wisdom teeth were just fine (thankyouverymuch - oh you naysayers) and this was indeed a TMJ problem.

My new dentist told me he could fit me for a bite guard that would help me in the evenings, but it would take a few weeks to determine what, if any, my insurance would pay for the cost. (The answer... big, fat NOTHING). In the meantime, I could avail myself of an over-the-counter bite guard from Walgreens.

After standing in the aisle and reading all the labels (and how you were NOT to use them if you have TMJ... Don't.Do.It!) I picked out a brand and proceeded home to boil it and bite down on it and create my own mold.

I used it for a few weeks while I waited to see what my insurance would pay and am now using it in order to save up the money to purchase a real one. (These things ain't cheap, honey!) But the funny part of this story happened a couple of weeks ago. At some point during my REM cycle, I apparently was having nothing else to do with the bite guard because when I woke up in the morning it was not in my mouth.

I had no memory of removing it during the night. I looked around and finally found it hiding out under my pillow.


The next morning, I woke up with it no longer in my mouth... but clutched in my hand.

What the...?

The last time this happened I woke up and found the appliance was not in my mouth and nowhere could I find it in the bed. It was not on the bedside table. I stripped the bed and it was nowhere to be found.

Because it was on the floor, on the other side of the room.

It is probably a good thing I am still single.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is it Munchkin Land??

Recently a dear friend experienced gall bladder surgery. Having already survived that surgery (my one and only) I made sure to visit with her to generally be a beacon of shining light... as well as to give her sister a break from staying at the hospital. My friend had a pretty rough go of it as her gall bladder was gangrene!!! Who knew that was even possible? She certainly outdid my gall bladder... as my surgeon only named it "the worst gall bladder EVER". He may have passed out if he'd been the doctor who removed my friend's organ.

At any rate... we had plenty of company at the hospital with various friend stopping by and checking on Lou and making her feel oh-so-much-better with just their very presence. As we were taking our leave, our friend Joni walked out with me, we said farewell in the parking lots and headed on to our respective homes.

There had been a really bad wreck on the interstate as an 18-wheeler apparently forgot how big he was and ran his load under an underpass and subsequently got stuck... closing down the interstate! I knew better than to go home that way. So, I thought to take the long way home, through the dark and winding roads.

About 10 minutes into the trip the wind began to blow as if Dorothy and Toto were flying by. Because it was already dark outside (and because tree branches were now hitting my car) I called the parental units to see if there were any warnings out that I needed to be aware of.

Sound of phone ringing and the Maternal Unit answering:

Mom: Hello?

Me: Mom? Hey... are there any weather warnings out I need to be aware of?

Mom: Where are you?

Me: I am driving home from visiting Lou in the hospital, but it has gotten really windy and there is some pretty bad lightning flashing. Are there any warnings?

Mom: I don't know. I'm not watching TV.

Pause for effect

Me: Can you ask Dad?

The Paternal Unit is always watching TV. He knows EVERYTHING.

Mom: Jack... are there any weather warnings? Mumbling response. He's not watching the local news. He's watching a ballgame.


Dad: Well... there's something going on around Summit. Where are you?

Me: I just left Summit! Is it a tornado?

Dad: You might want to stop and go back before you hit that bad weather. They are saying there are strong straight-line winds. You know those can be pretty damaging.


After about three minutes of explaining what I was doing and why I was in a car in bad weather, and didn't I have enough sense not to go out in that weather, even though the weather was perfectfly FINE when I left the hospital, I hung up the phone and prayed.

Ahhh... those parental units. What would we do without them?

I didn't die. I called my friend Joni who was also on the road, and whose home I was going to pass before reaching my home. Joni was just as concerned. The stoplights had all gone out as well as the electricity... but I knew I could at least reach shelter at her cabin at the farm.

Two hours later and the storms had passed and I made my trek home safe and sound.

Yes, I know... it's been a while...

I cannot believe I have not updated since the Derby. Goodness Gracious! We made it through the Preakness and Belmont without a Triple Crown Winner - AGAIN!!! -- since the last time I posted. I PROMISE... I will do better!!!!

I will blame my status on the fact that I have gone back to college, and was therefore studying and generally doing every piece of extra credit work available in order to pass the class. What class? American History, part Uno. (I had three general ed classes yet to fulfill - and two history courses are included in that packet).

I passed the History class. Actually, I didn't just pass it - I ACED it - which made me do the happy dance for days and exclaim my good fortune to any living creature that stood still long enough. The bunnies living in the backyard were so excited for me, they went forth and multiplied! I was a bit jealous... as I was unable to celebrate in the same way. But that did not hamper my celebratory spirit!

Instead, I signed up for a summer class - Appreciation of Theatre. I Aced that bad boy too! I only had to write one paper for that class and was very pleased with my resulting grade. I also had to read several plays - and be able to understand the difference between a fly loft and a flat. Since I have built flats and helped install a fly loft in my not-too-distant past... well, let's say I was happy to have taken one more step on the way to bringing up that pitiful grade point average I had when I was much younger and less apt to actually attend class.

So far for the fall, I will be taking a communications course as well as a course in Classical Mythology. That's going to be some fun reading! I am pretty pumped about it. I'd like to get that last History course in too (American History, Part Deux) but I am not sure that I can get it online. If not... there may be some discussion as to my ability to change my work schedule in order to actually sit in a classroom with 30 or so students who will be young enough that I could have given birth to them.

How interesting, and yet completely frightening would that be? Hmmmm????