Sunday, November 9, 2014


Last week began in trepidation and ended in celebration. Last evening as the three of us had a snack at one of our favorite restaurants with Alex happily downing fries and orange drink, Ed commented that we never would have guessed that he would be doing so well three days after oral surgery. Despite having eight teeth—four wisdom teeth and four twelve-year molars—removed on Wednesday morning, Alex has been remarkably congenial and energetic. Prior to the surgery, Ed and I thought that, at best, Alex would want to lie in bed for several days to recuperate. Our greater fear, though, was that he would be in such pain that he would be nasty and possibly even aggressive, angry that we had put him through a procedure that made him suffer. However, God watched over us, brought Alex safely through the surgery, and spared Alex and us pain, a true blessing. Moreover, with the removal of those damaged and impacted teeth, we are seeing significant improvements that we never anticipated.

Although Alex has never complained about his back teeth bothering him, his dentist told us in August that he needed to have the upper twelve-year molars removed because they were decayed. When we took him to our dentist for a second opinion, x-rays indicated that his impacted wisdom teeth were damaging the roots of the twelve-year molars. Consequently, our dentist recommended removing all eight of those back teeth at the same time, and he referred us to an experienced oral surgeon, who concurred with that treatment plan. The removal of the twelve-year molars created openings to remove the wisdom teeth, which were totally “bone impacted.” In addition, he felt this oral surgery should be done at an outpatient surgery center with an anesthesiologist putting Alex under general anesthesia. While we felt bad that Alex would have to undergo this procedure, we agreed that it must be done and moved forward to schedule the surgery. As Alex pointed out to me, this was his first surgery, which shows how well God has protected him in his nearly twenty-three years.

After reading through all the possible complications and things that could go wrong during the oral surgery (including pain, bleeding, infection, jaw fracture, permanent numbness, and even death), I signed the consent forms as Alex’s legal health care representative and prayed that none of these potential problems would occur. However, I also remembered my own wisdom teeth removal when I was in my teens as a rather unpleasant experience with pain, swelling, and generally not feeling well for about a week, none of which I shared with Alex, not wanting to incite his anxiety. Because Alex has had positive experiences with doctors and dentists and lab work, he views them as a grand adventure, and this was no different. Even having to get up in the middle of the night, since we had to leave at 4:00 A.M to register at 4:30 A.M. for his 5:30 A.M. surgery, didn’t faze him. He simply told me to wake him up at 3:30 A.M. by reminding him, “It’s twelve hours to Jeopardy!” When I fulfilled his request, he rolled over, gave me a sleepy grin, and awakened without any complaints. We were off to a good start.

In the pre-operation room, two sweet nurses helped us prepare him for surgery and even let him weigh himself when he asked if they had a scale. When he had an IV inserted, he calmly handled the procedure and watched as the nurse put the IV in place. When she injected medication to numb his hand—the worst part of the process, she warned him—he began to wince, and I told him to pretend he was blowing out birthday candles, a trick I learned along the way to distract him and ease pain. He complied, and all was well. The nurse commented that he was an excellent patient, which made us quite proud, but we were even prouder of how calmly Alex was handling himself before surgery.

As Ed and I sat in the waiting room during the hour-long surgery, I alternated between praying and trying to read and distract myself from worrying about Alex. At one point, I looked across the room of the Catholic hospital to see a plaque with a cross that read, “God always keeps his promises.” This reminder comforted me and gave me hope that Alex would, indeed, be safe in God’s hands. I also remembered that many family members and friends were praying for us. Thankfully, Alex came through the surgery beautifully with no complications, and we were glad to find out that Alex was calm both before and after the surgery. When we went to see him in the recovery room, he had gauze stuffed in his mouth and was sleepy, but his coloring looked quite good, and he seemed no worse for the wear. In fact, he kept trying to tell us something. The nurse, who kept commenting on what a sweet boy Alex was, said that he kept repeating some phrase that she couldn’t decipher with all that gauze packed in his mouth. Because of his articulation issues, Alex’s speech isn’t always clear on good days, but the swollen mouth and gauze made understanding him even trickier. The kind nurse, Ed, and I kept trying to figure out what Alex was telling us with no success. Fortunately, he wasn’t upset that we didn’t understand, and when we were wrong in our guesses, he just calmly repeated the mumbled phrase again. Finally, I figured out what he wanted. “Bologna and Thousand Island dressing?” I asked. He nodded and grinned as much as that gauze allowed. After having all those teeth removed, he was thinking about a strange food combination, probably because he was hungry from pre-surgery fasting. I told him we’d have to wait and see how he was feeling before he could eat anything, and that satisfied him.

Once we got home, he seemed remarkably alert and pleasant, even though he had been awakened in the middle of the night, had been under anesthesia, and was given medicine to numb his jaw. We thought he would sleep most of the day, but he wanted to stay awake and talk to us. Again, the gauze packs muffled his speech, so I made him a chart with the letters of the alphabet, numbers from 0-9, and a happy face and sad face to let us know how he was feeling. His flying fingers quickly spelled out what he wanted to tell us, and it was hard for us to keep up with him. At one point, he noted that his voice was raspy, and I explained that they had put a breathing tube down his throat when he was asleep. He grinned and told me in that raspy voice that he sounded “like Bob Dylan.” Nonetheless, he was chatty all day and never once pointed to the sad face when we asked him how he was doing. We were amazed and grateful he was doing so well and was so cooperative about keeping the ice packs on his cheeks and the gauze packs in his mouth.

While we thought he might be more swollen and less pleasant the following day, he surprised us by looking quite good and acting as though nothing had happened, even though the pain medications had worn off. Although he never complained about feeling bad, we gave him over-the-counter pain medicine to keep him comfortable along with the antibiotics the doctor had prescribed. Apparently, his mouth didn’t bother him too much because his appetite was excellent. Besides looking and acting as though he felt fine, Alex was unusually chatty. Moreover, his speech suddenly seems much better and clearer. Even though Alex never complained about those teeth, maybe they have bothered him for a while and made talking more difficult. Perhaps this surgery that we feared would make him temporarily worse has been the turning point to making him permanently better. Perhaps, this is the beginning of the healing that we have prayed for God to give Alex. After seeing how well Alex has come through a rather difficult procedure, we are thankful that God has spared him pain and that Alex is recovering amazingly well, even better than we could have ever hoped or imagined. Certainly, as I was reminded this week, God keeps his promises.

“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. Rescue me, and I will be rescued. You are the one I praise.” Jeremiah 17:14


Dawn Marcotte said...

I am glad to hear that Alex came through the surgery and is recuperating well. I sometimes think we don't realize how important the health of our mouth really is. A cavity or other problem can effect how our whole body feels - I suspect he actually feels better overall.

God Bleass

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, Dawn, for your kind note! I think you are absolutely right that Alex is feeling better and that he probably didn't realize that he wasn't feeling well. We have noticed that he is able to open his mouth wider, probably because his back teeth aren't there to bother him, which is making talking and eating easier. We're just thankful that he came through the oral surgery amazingly well.
Take care,

phyllisbizeemom said...

So happy Alex did so great & is a
daily testament to God's love &

I absolutely love your blog!
(Especially the scriptures & your
positive outlook!)

I've been busy & have missed
reading your postings every week.
(I'm reading all of Nov. today)

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks so much, Phyllis, for your kind words. I'm pleased that you like my blog. :) We are delighted that Alex's healing was pretty much amazing, reminding us that God is taking care of him. Hope you and your family are doing well.
Take care,