On the right track

I went back to St Vincent’s today to check on the progress made with the hyperbaric treatment. The appointment was with the Plastics department, and how my mouth was healing – the skin and bone – was the big KPI.

I went into the appointment feeling a little doubtful. There’s no doubt that my health has improved markedly since I began the hyperbaric treatment, but I can still feel a patch – much reduced, albeit – of exposed bone about where my missing teeth would otherwise be.

The good news is that the doc was pleased with the results. That means I’ll finish up this course of hyperbaric treatment next week and will have another ten days scheduled just as a safety. It’s pretty much standard.

Whether all the recent improvement can be attributed to the treatment or other factors, such as exercise and natural healing, matters little. The swelling is much less than it was, and much of the congestion from my sinus passages has cleared.

I’ve still got a long way to go to get back to full fitness, but considering I’d lost all of my wind, I’m going well. Stamina has increased, as has general strength. The body has hardened up generally and become more capable. Even my hip has gotten better. I still limp occasionally, but generally only at the end of a long day. Motion is lotion, as they say, and I’m hopeful it will continue to improve.

Much to my relief, a couple of key indicators I’d been keeping a sharp eye on have finally shown signs of improvement. After all the surgery and treatment, my blood pressure was awry – first low, then high – and my resting heart rate had increased significantly. Perhaps it was understandable, but I was puzzled and concerned that neither had shown any improvement, despite the overall boost to my health and fitness. Then, finally, in the last couple of weeks, my blood pressure has returned to normal levels – quite a drop – and my resting heart rate dropped from the low eighties to the mid-seventies. Still, some way to go, but the trend is positive.

On top of all this, or because of it, I’m sleeping a lot better.

My only two concerns are that I still can’t open my mouth much wider than an inch, and my speech is sometimes impeded.

I spoke to the doctor about that, specifically asking him to examine a couple of spots – the pointy lump in the side of my mouth and a hard ball in my cheek. In both cases, he thinks it’s bone – and it makes sense.

The pointy lump only became apparent when the plate was removed. The doctor believes it held it in place. Given that I’m missing teeth at the back right of my mouth, my mouth has a different shape and hasn’t the usual support as it would if they were still there. At some point, they will be. Dental reconstruction is on the agenda, but first things first.

The ball of bone in my cheek is more mysterious. It’s in a location I wouldn’t expect bone to be, and not with that curvature. It’s not there on my left cheek. But, as my facial bones on that side were reconstructed with bone taken from my hip, it’s certainly possible. Once more, the removal of the plate may have had an impact.

The doctor explained to me their process, which was comprehensive. First, they want to make sure that I’m healing properly. That’s the stage I’m at now. Next, they look at function and how they can improve that – the opening of my mouth, dental reconstruction, etc. Finally, there’s the cosmetic stage, making me look good again. The clear task there is to fix up my nose, but there may be other things they can do too. But that’s the last priority, and fair enough.

This means that I’m still likely to have a fair journey ahead of me – maybe another 6-9 months, assuming everything else is okay. I can live with that. Part and parcel of that is more surgery, but if it makes life easier, bring it on. And, if they can make me beautiful again, even better.

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