November 12, 2020

The Incident That Changed My Life 10 Years Ago

I know I've probably written about this every year for the last 10 years, but it was such a significant moment of my life that it's always in the back of my mind. The date of November 12 is the anniversary of when I fainted and broke my jaw.

I won't write out the whole story, because it's super long and I've already written it all out. I actually wrote it as soon as I got home from the hospital, so it was fresh in my memory. You can find the posts about it here.

Since I've been wanting to be more mindful of all the things I have to be grateful for, I thought this would be a good thing to post about today. Breaking my jaw was one of the best and worst things that's ever happened to me. It's so odd to think that something like breaking my jaw could have anything good come out of it, but it really did help me in so many ways.

Every year on this day, I am reminded of how grateful I am for my friends and family. It was on this day 10 years ago that I fainted, fell flat on my face, and broke my jaw completely through in five places.

A week-long hospital stay, two surgeries, and a recovery that required my jaws to be wired shut for six weeks gave me a lot of reasons to feel sorry for myself. But my family and friends took care of everything--my sister, Jeanie, took Eli to her house in Illinois to take care of him while I was hospitalized and my parents kept Noah for the week.

I had so many visitors while I was in the hospital (I am not even going to name everyone, because I will likely forget some people--I was on some serious pain meds and don't remember a whole lot, haha!).

Jerry even stayed the night at the hospital with me for 3-4 nights. I am so grateful to have a husband who will do whatever he can for me--including sleeping in an uncomfortable chair at the hospital so I wouldn't be alone.

When I got home, I learned that my friend Amber had called my friends to ask if anyone would be willing to make dinner for my family so that I didn't have to cook--and lots of them did! With my jaws wired shut, I couldn't eat the dinners my friends made, but my family assures me they were delicious!

(I still make my friend Courtney's carrot soup recipe sometimes--it was so thoughtful of her to make a puréed soup for someone she had never even met at the time. She only knew me through mutual friends.)

My friend Andrea went out of her way to drive Eli to and from preschool every day for a few weeks because the medications I was on prevented me from driving. Renee brought me some tea and fruit and veggie juices for my liquid diet.

Jerry stayed home from work to take care of me, and because of that, we were overwhelmed with the cost of the medical bills (even with great insurance, the deductibles were a lot). My parents, my siblings (Jeanie, Brian, and Nathan) all chipped in and surprised us by giving us the money we would need for our house payment, hospital bills, and even Christmas shopping for the kids.

No amount of pain meds could make me forget how loved I felt in the aftermath of my accident. So while it sounds odd that breaking my jaw was something to be grateful for, I have good memories of that time.

Having bipolar, I would go through periods of deep depression and I felt like was just "there" and not really wanted. I felt like a waste of space sometimes. When I broke my jaw, I couldn't believe how many people showed me love in some way. Their actions, large or small, made me feel important and truly cared about.

I still go through depressive episodes where I feel like I just exist and don't really matter. When I start feeling like that, I try to remember the aftermath of when I broke my jaw and just how many people took the time, money, thought, or energy to help me in some way--expecting nothing in return. That's special! That is something to be grateful for.

And just for fun, here are a few photos. (The detailed posts I wrote have more.)

This was the morning after I was admitted. My parents brought Noah to the hospital to see me. I broke my jaw on Friday, but they didn't schedule my surgery until Monday!

If you look at my bottom teeth, you can see how lopsided they looked. My jaw was broken directly in the center of my chin and then symmetrically twice on each side. When I fell, the broken bones also punctured through the skin just under my chin and at the bottom of my lower lip. I still have scars from where the bone punctured through.

I had been in the hospital for six days without a shower, and my mom brought some dry shampoo caps with her--she and Jerry put one on my head and massaged it in. I wish I could say it worked well, but I still felt gross and desperate for a shower!

This was directly after one of the surgeries (I think the second one--my lip was SO SWOLLEN). Jerry said some teen boys were making fun of me in the hallway of the hospital, and he was tempted to go punch them and break their jaws, haha.

This was after the other surgery. I was in so much pain, despite the IV pain meds. 

For six days, this was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I couldn't even eat the Jello or the popsicle because they were too solid! I lived on broth, juice, and tea.

After not seeing Eli for a week (this was the first I'd seen him since the night I fainted) I was so happy to see him! He'd spent the week in Illinois with my sister.

Eli thought my bandage was pretty cool, so I gave him one of his own :)

This is the bruising and rug burn from when I face-planted on the carpet. 

I love this picture! My siblings, husband, and kids having fun on the day I came home. My mom took the photo--I wish she and my dad were in it, too!

Thanksgiving dinner, 2010. My mom thoughtfully asked me if it was okay with me to make a turkey dinner (per tradition) even though I couldn't eat it. Of course I wasn't going to expect everyone to skip out on dinner! My mom made me a pumpkin smoothie.

This was the most generous, surprising, and appreciated gift ever... Jerry stayed home from work for a couple of weeks (which was unpaid time off) to take care of me and with our hospital bills, money was really tight. My parents and siblings all chipped in to pay for our house payment, my hospital bill deductibles and copays, and even some money to buy Christmas gifts for the kids. I was overwhelmed with emotion and their generosity.

This was the day I got my arch bars/wires removed! I was high on Vicodin and Valium in this photo, and clearly I was enjoying it! Until it was time for the removal. Holy hell, it was SO painful. It was literally like flossing between my teeth with wire the size of a paperclip wire. 

This is what the arch bars looked like. They were wired to my teeth and then to each other, so I couldn't open my teeth at all for six weeks. 

Getting x-rays at the dentist was fun! I have titanium plates and screws on my jaw that held the bones together while they healed. 

People always ask me if I know why I fainted. I had a huge workup of tests while I was in the hospital--neurology, cardiology, you name it--but none of them found anything. They suspected it was a seizure rather than syncope (fainting) because I must have been very rigid when I fell for my jaw to break like it did (very symmetrically). Usually when people faint, they sort of slowly collapse down. 

I'll never know for sure what caused me to fall, but I am VERY grateful that I was not conscious when I hit the floor. It also could have been much worse if I'd hit my head on the boys' beds on the way down. I had just lifted Noah into his bed on the top bunk when I felt dizzy and nauseous--so I started to walk to the bathroom, thinking I was going to throw up. Before I made it out of the bedroom, I was down. There were several things I could have hit my head on, but I managed to avoid those. So I actually got pretty lucky!


  1. I've emailed you before about how I fainted and broke my jaw as well, but I was 14, and the 30th anniversary of that horrible day was just this past August. My initial break wasn't as bad as yours, but I did have to have a second surgery and have my jaw wired shut again when I was 16. It took place right before Thanksgiving so I basically had to miss that, too! I don't think people can ever really understand how miserable it is. I'm glad you had such great support from family and friends.

    1. I remember your email! It's rare to find someone who can share in that same misery ;) I can't imagine having that happen at age 14! And to have your jaw wired shut AGAIN a couple of years later is crazy. I hope all is well now!


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