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August 15, 2009

A Big Decision

Sandra went through a lot of orthodontic work when she was younger to align her teeth properly and to treat TMJ issues. TMJ is the joint where your upper and lower jaw come together. A long time and a lot of money later, and her TMJ issues are back now and giving her more problems than ever. A number of issues like clicking and pain while chewing, having her mouth lock in open and closed positions and headaches that last for days at a time forced us to set up an appointment last Thursday with an orthodontist to see what could be done.

To be honest the options didn't sound pretty. They do one of the most thorough examinations I've ever seen - especially considering this initial visit was totally free. They did molds of her bite, pictures of her teeth and profile along with full head MRI allowing us to see the bones, joints and nasal passages. The first thing he told us is that her issue is skeletal and has obviously been treated through orthodontics which would never correct the problem. The only way to really correct what was wrong is surgery.

Let's elaborate on that a little more though because this is not as simple as that. He showed us how her jaw had not developed far enough forward presumably due to nature along with some of the treatments she'd undergone to "fix" things. Her TMJ joints are not aligned correctly which is what has been causing the locking, pain, clicking, ringing in her ears, and "muffled" hearing. On top of that, he told us it looks like degenerative bone disease in there, and her airway is significantly blocked by how far back her jaw sits and two polyps that showed on the scans as well. My first though hearing all this is, "Wow, that's a lot of problems!!" The airway blockage is most potentially a problem for sleep apnea, which would get worse over time if not corrected.

At least now we knew what we were up against. Obviously it would need some time, love and surgery. But then he kept going. He's got a lot of awards and plaques on his wall of this office, and apparently goes all over the world doing this stuff and teaching people and working with other doctors who are the best in this field. Knowing that, to hear him say this is one of the worst cases he's ever seen made me a little nervous for my wife if I'm being honest. He said if she was his daughter, she would be starting the treatment now, and there are only two doctors in the entire world he would entrust with it. We only get one shot to correct the jaw and it needs to be done right. For a case this severe, there are two surgeons in the entire world he would let work on his daughter. One is in California and the other is in Chile.

This just felt kind of like a final blow. Hearing on issue after another and seeing the images on the screen was tough, but this was the blow to the stomach. I think at this point, I realized how truly involved this would be, and how expensive. He actually had software that was amazing and showed us how her profile would change after the surgery. Obviously it is our call as to whether or not we pursue this. When we decide though, our first step is the splints to correct the TMJ, but if we do that, the surgery would not be optional. In her case, this is a both/and because if they fix the TMJ, her upper and lower teeth would no longer meet because of the skeletal issue. We can't do one without the other It seems like a no-brainer that we need to fix it now to avoid longer term issues, but it is still a scary step.

Before leaving, they gave us a LOT of information to look over, as well as costs. The splint to correct the TMJ is going to run about $2800 and requires Sandra to drive to Ft. Collins weekly for the next 3-5 months. After that, there is the surgery in California. Just for the doctor, hospital, anaesthesia and surgery, they told us to expect between $45-55,000. Then there is also the pre and post-surgery work that happens here before we go, which is another $14,000. All in all, it will be nearly $75,000 to stop the pain and hopefully prevent major issues in the future when the TMJ issues could actually break her jaw and force a surgery anyway.

Our insurance is great and hopefully will cover most or all of this, but we don't know for sure yet. We just want everyone out there to pray for us. We both feel that it's the right and smarter thing to do. We've been praying about it and I think we just need to trust that God will provide. We'll need people to help watch our kids so Sandra can go to appointments. Sandra needs prayer and encouragement because she doesn't really want to do splints and braces again, and surgery is scary. Our kids will need prayer to understand what's going on with mom and why. Our finances could take a huge hit with all this too, so there might even be people willing to pray for that too. We love you all and we'll keep you updated. We need to decide and get the process going next week if we're going to proceed so please pray, pray, pray!


Angie said...

Wow...I will definitely be praying for guidance and direction!

Jennifer Hamilton said...

It sucks to see friends keep getting handed life issues like this. Although I suppose it's just one more way to see God at work, I still don't envy you guys. One thing after another! We're with you whatever happens!

Anonymous said...

wow Jon. I will DEFINITELY be praying hard about this. I know that there are going to be nervous feelings and its all very overwhelming, but with Gods hands guiding you and Sandra, there is nothing to worry about! I am praying!!

Danny said...

I hate punches to the gut. I hate it when my wife hurts and I can't make it go away. In those moments when the best I can do is cry along side of her . . . well I just feel useless as a husband and a man. Then Jesus picks me up and holds us both close.

Jon I know that if you could take this for your wife you would but remember that you cannot be all that she needs. Hold her in the tough times and keep finding and moving back towards the hope. The source of our hope is Jesus. He's our rock.

We're 20 min from FoCo. Let me know if there's anything we can do.

Praying for you brother.