February 11, 2019
Six months ago, a crashing tree branch interrupted our Pacific Crest Trail hike. After choosing foot travel as a major form of transportation for many weeks, we entered the city of Seattle by ambulance.
Thus, our time of limbo began. Recovery in the hospital quickly led to more recovery time in an apartment near the hospital. As I healed, we progressed to visiting family in Oregon, returning regularly to Seattle to check in with the doctors.
That rogue tree branch had dealt quite a wallop. I felt as if I were in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the fractured occipital condyle and carotid artery pseudoaneurysm to heal in order for the surgeon to reassemble the eight pieces of my jaw.
While in Seattle, we explored our new home.
A ride on the ferry provided a porpoise eye view of the Seattle skyline.
The Fremont Troll, one of the better known denizens of the city, lurked beneath a bridge.
Christmas sparkles enhanced an already gorgeous winter sunset peeking between skyscrapers.
Who could resist playing next to the fountain at the Seattle Center?
One day we saw dancers getting filmed in front of a street mural.
A tugboat pushed a barge full of gravel through the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks, much to our delight.
One charming result of limbo time included meeting old friends and hikers from our travels. I still giggle when I think of the dinner conversation we had with Specs, a 2017 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, now living in Seattle.
We traded tales of experiences on the trail. Specs described the odd looks given by other hikers each evening when he pulled out his after-dinner wine, packaged in a juice box with a sippy straw!
“It’s wonderful how hiking a long trail makes one appreciate the finer things in life,” I exclaimed.
Specs burst out laughing. “Yes, the perspective gained on the Appalachian Trail is what makes one designate things like wine in juice boxes as ‘finer things’ of life!”
Each time I visited the neurosurgeon, he told me my body was healing admirably, and then he’d send me off to go heal some more. When the neck brace was removed in December, I celebrated! Maybe now, four months after the accident, I would get my jaw operation!
I could scarcely contain my joy to be rid of the neck brace!
The craniofacial surgeon had other ideas. “The broken pieces in your jaw bone have grown together. Yes, there is nerve damage, and yes, none of your teeth meet, but your body has been creating new bone. We could operate, but it would put your healing back a good bit.”
“But I can’t chew, with my teeth not meeting,” I told him.
“I think orthodontics might help,” he told me. “It’s been such a long time since the accident, it might be better to look at different answers.”
He sent me to an orthodontist who had much experience with trauma victims. She was sure she could give me chewing capabilities again, possibly without surgery at all!
My mouth was measured and x-rayed and photographed. Teeth molds were made. Our most recent visit brought the fascination of seeing a digital model of my skull, with the jaw healed crooked and none of the teeth meeting.
Jay put my thoughts into words. “One wouldn’t even know how to begin to get those teeth aligned properly.”
The nurse responded encouragingly, “That’s why we have Dr. Chen! She’ll be using all this to make a plan for your teeth.”
This uncertain period, awaiting decisions and action, is almost over. My braces should arrive the last week of February, and I’ll embark on the final phase of healing. The orthodontist estimates it will take two years to put my teeth in order.
In the meantime, we’ll enjoy a bit of winter in Seattle. And begin making plans for more adventures in the spring!