Monster Face

Hi planet Earth dwellers,

The joy of being a human with blood and muscle and bones that give form to our bodies is reconsidered when experiencing pain. An assault to our physical condition reminds us that we are mortal beings, destined to one day turn to dust. As contrary as it seems, pain increases in intensity and duration as we age, despite the years of experience enduring painful trials and triumphs.

When visiting a hospital during a painful situation, a pain chart with numbers and yellow faces allows one to express their pain level with just a breath of a number; 1 being mildly annoying, 10 being the most excruciating pain you’ve ever felt. While giving birth, I stated to the doctor that I was between a 7 and 8, despite the fact that the pain I was experiencing was a personal 9. I imagined there could be worse pain, so I lowered the level a bit. I’m not sure if this is what the chart developer had in mind when creating the easy-to-use Hell translator.

14 years ago, I experienced a greater pain than the false 9. My personal best score of 10 was reached after being vaulted over the handlebars of my mountain bike. Riding downhill, I hit a rock and braked too hard. A true physics lesson occurred when my body remained in motion as my bike stopped. Landing squarely on my helmet covered frontal lobe, I continued forward with my face in dirt.

The impact was taken mostly by the helmet, with a large indentation and a crack that ran all the way across the top to the back. My face and teeth endured severe friction, resulting in a split lip, a gouged upper lip, and cuts surrounding my mouth and chin. A bloody gritty mess prevented my friends from seeing the overall damage. My good friend Margie (who I’m meeting for lunch today) took me to the hospital. (To add insult to injury, I stepped in dog poop while getting into the car.) On the way to the ER, she was courteous enough to stop by the house to tell my husband and to grab a bag of frozen peas for my face.

At the hospital, I endured a four hour Emergency Room visit. In excruciating pain, I couldn’t talk. I also had gravel in my mouth, so that didn’t help. The man on the other side of my curtain gave me details on how he sawed off his finger. Thanks dude, I needed to know that. My personal record of 10 on the pain chart was verbalized as 8 when the doctor finally arrived.

My monster face had undergone 12 stitches, a CaT scan, numerous abrasions inside and outside of my cheeks and jaw, palette impact, and an undiagnosed concussion which left me vomiting the next morning. I had to drink all my calories for a week or two (Ensure, milkshakes, smoothies) and a toothbrush was impossible, due to limited ability to open my mouth.

To this day, I believe I suffered mild head trauma judging by the lapse of short-term memory that occurred in the following weeks/months of this event. It took me a full year to regain the muscles surrounding my mouth to be able to smile normally. Each time I tried it looked like I was making a condescending effort at being nice. The nerves on my chin pin-pricked for a year at the slightest touch, but eventually regained their surface. Arthritis developed in my neck from the impact and facial scars are still visible, but fading.

Despite the pain, life continued to be good. Charlie didn’t mind that I briefly resembled a monster, and one year later Aileen was born. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share my story. Life is too short to dwell on the the physical and emotional 10s in our life.

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