On Friday, August 17th, I got home from work to find our very energetic year and 4 month old pup, Luna, waiting for my arrival. After being cooped up all day I took her on a walk, and like she sometimes does when she has energy, she wanted to run. So I ran with her down the block and into a cul-de-sac, and as we're finishing the loop, she runs one way around a mail box and I go the other. I didn't want the leash to get caught, so as I tried to slow myself down, I lost my footing, stepped off the curb, and landed right on my chin. I heard a crunch and an immediate ringing in my ears, and as I lifted myself off the ground and saw part of my tooth on the ground, I spit blood and knew it wasn't good. I picked up my tooth and walked Luna back home. I looked in the mirror and it looked like one of my bottom teeth was knocked out since there was a gap with blood rushing out. After grabbing a piece of paper towel and shoving it in my mouth, I left on foot towards the dentist at the end of my street.
When I got there, the first thing the receptionist asked was if I had insurance, which I informed her I didn't. She said they couldn't see me, and told me to leave, but first handed me an ice pack and told me there was an emergency dental office a couple blocks away. I headed out and continued on foot for another 4 blocks to a collection of offices, where I quickly learned that even though I was there well within the hours of operation, the door was locked and the shades were closed. I checked the directory and saw another dentists office, so I went over and pounded on the door, but they were closed too. Some people came out of the office next door and told me they had left for the day. A Good Samaritan leaving an appointment of some sort offered to drive me to the ER, which I gratefully accepted. In the meantime, I was texting my girlfriend, Cecil, who was on her way home from work, and asked her to get the car at home and meet me wherever I ended up.
Once I was admitted to the ER, I was asked a lot of questions, given a CT scan, and told to wait for a doctor. It was while I was in the waiting room when Cecil showed up to my relief. We were called into one of the rooms to talk about what had happened, where I got a shot of pain killers and I learned that I broke my jaw.
They said they couldn't do anything for me there, and I signed some paperwork to be transferred to a bigger hospital, OHSU. I refused an ambulance because of the cost, and Cecil drove me there.
When I arrived, I was directed to the trauma ward, where I was thoroughly inspected for other injuries, which I had none, and was told to wait for the 'face doctor.'
We waited for about an hour and a half before we talked to someone who gave us some real answers and explained what my options were. I was told that while it may seem serious to me, this "wasn't an emergency to them," and was told to go home and wait to make an appointment to talk to a plastic surgeon. After being told to leave, I reminded them about the gaping cut on my chin, and they went someone in to give me stitches, of which I got three.
We left the hospital sometime after 2:00 am, not really knowing what was going to happen next. I was instructed to call the plastic surgeon Monday morning to schedule a time to meet, and was told it may take 2-3 weeks before they could schedule me for a surgery because they had a full schedule. They suggested I take the maximum dose of Tylenol and wait it out.
I found that the best way to aid in pain management was to keep gauze in my mouth at all times and bite down slightly when I swallowed, because otherwise I could feel my jaw separate with even the slightest gulp. I waited out the weekend, doing research when I could, but mostly resting as much as I could manage and started preparing myself for the long haul without solid foods.
On Monday, with Cecil's help, we called the OHSU plastic surgeon to try to schedule something that day. The doc only had clinic on Fridays, which meant I needed to wait a full week before I could even talk to them, and got confirmation that their schedule was booked for a couple weeks out. I asked to be referred to a maxillofacial surgeon, as that was who I really should have been seeing (based on information found online and recommendations from family), and I was told that since I came in through the trauma ward, they couldn't refer me to one. I would need to come back in to get checked out before they could give me another referral elsewhere. I told them the pain was getting worse and asked to be prescribed something stronger than Tylenol, and was again told they couldn't do that over the phone and I would need to come in for another appointment.
We started calling around, and finally found a maxillofacial surgeon's office with people who actually sounded concerned. They told me to come in immediately to see them, and within the hour, I was filling out paperwork in their office. I took another CT scan, and in no time, I had the attention of a knowledgeable and compassionate doctor, showing me on a screen in detail exactly what kind of damage I did and what repairs were needed.
The damage, I learned, was much more extensive than anyone at either hospital had told me before. I broke my jaw down the middle, right in between two of my bottom teeth down through the chin. I had fractures on each side near the top of my jaw, which are luckily small enough to not need their own plates to fix. I sheared off half of an upper canine (which was getting increasingly sensitive), chipped my bottom tooth near the break, chipped another upper tooth above the break, and broke off about a third of a molar. I was told I was lucky that the break happened in between those two dimples in the jaw, as that's where a bundle of nerves come out, and if it had broken outside of that I'd likely have permanent nerve damage. We told them what the other doctors had said about a wait time, and they were horrified, saying 2-3 weeks is almost half of the total recovery time.
What needed to happen next would be a surgery where I get a titanium plate screwed in to reconnect the jaw in the middle. I'll have wires wrapped in between my teeth so my jaw can be wired closed to aid in the healing process. I won't know until the surgery, but hopefully after a couple weeks, I can shift from being completely closed to having rubber bands put in to allow for some light movement. My total recovery time should be about 6-8 weeks, at which point I'll need to go back to have the wires cut off.
I was able to schedule my surgery for the morning of Friday the 24th. I came home that night (Monday) relieved to know I was on my way to getting healed.
The next day, Tuesday, I returned back to work. I needed to keep my mind off of the injury and start making money again to pay for the surgery. I should mention that I work as a product designer/ mechanical engineering contractor for an hourly wage. I've been working here for about 4 months, and am still waiting for a full time offer, which would include medical insurance.
As it stands, right now it is Thursday night, and my surgery is tomorrow morning. I will report back afterwards on how it goes, and will be giving updates on my status as the days and weeks progress.
~ ~ ~
When it comes to costs, I have not yet been told or given any bill for the first two hospitals, so your guess is as good as mine. My quote for the jaw surgery, anesthesia, the hardware being installed, and wire removal rang in at a little over $12k. Once that is all said and done, I can start looking into getting my 4(+?) teeth repaired, to which I have no idea what that might cost.
This freak accident has totally sent my life's trajectory off course, and I'll be recovering from this, both physically and monetarily, for quite some time. Since my accident, I've had a lot of friends and family ask how they can support me through this tough time. As I mentioned before, I have a very hard time asking for help, especially when it comes to money. I know these costs aren't as extreme as what some other injuries may fetch, but it's still a big deal to me. Thinking about the costs involved hurt more than the injury itself, and I'm sure the same will hold true even after my surgery.
I've set up this GoFundMe as an avenue for anyone who wants to help but hasn't gotten an answer from me on how. I can't find it in me to ask anyone personally for financial help, but by making this, I can leave the door open for anyone to help in any way they can. Every little bit would be a massive help, and even $10 from anyone who could spare it would be immensely appreciated and I would be forever grateful.
Thank you for your support and for taking the time to listen to story.
P.S. This is Luna, our four legged bundle of energy:
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