Open wide…

Yawn. Click.

And there I stood, doing my best impersonation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

That’s right; I had somehow managed to dislocate my jaw while yawning.

Cue silent panicking.

Silent by necessity rather than by choice you understand because despite the frantic mantra of ‘ohmygodohmygodohmygod’ that was running on fast-forward repeat in my head, the only vocalisation of which I was capable was a deep-throated gargle along the lines of ‘aargh-aargh-aargh-aaaaargh‘.

Very caveman-esque and not at all attractive to my way of thinking.

Once I was able to breathe without hyperventilating and the little black spots stopped dancing in front of my eyes I tried to manoeuvre my jaw back into place – tentatively at first and then rather more forcefully – but it was no good. My visage may as well have been carved alongside the Mt Rushmore quartet for all the movement my near-frenzied prodding and poking elicited.

Of course this had to happen on one of the nights that Mr S was playing tennis so Miss S and I were home alone. I had just tucked her into bed and was looking forward to curling up with the latest episode of White Collar but my plans to spend an evening drooling over Matt Bomer now appeared to have been put on hold.

Not that I needed any Pavlovian-styled visual aids of the sexy-man variety to get me drooling; I was doing a pretty impressive job right off my own bat. Apparently humans produce a staggering amount of saliva – close to 2 litres a day according to Wikipedia – and with my mouth stuck on open and no way of swallowing, the saliva had been pooling in my maw and was now threatening to overflow. I dashed to the basin and made like the teapot in the nursery rhyme – I tipped me up and poured me out.

Effective, yet sadly transient as my mouth immediately started re-filling. Obviously the first item on the agenda was to find a more permanent method of dealing with my overworked salivary glands. I decided to go with the eminently practical method of stuffing my mouth with tissues to absorb the never ending cascade and… Success!

Well yes, admittedly a very small victory but at that moment I’d take what I could get. Silver linings, and all that; glass half-full rather than half-empty, right?

Which reminded me; it was time to tip me up and pour me out again.

Having ensured that I would neither drown in my saliva nor drool on myself for the next few minutes I was finally able to move on to more pressing matters. Namely, how to… I was unsure of the correct terminology – un-dislocate? relocate? – my jaw. So I did what any intelligent person does when drawing a blank; I Googled it. Unfortunately, for once Mr G let me down as there were no informative postings or YouTube videos providing helpful instructions for the DIY un-dislocating of a dislocated jaw. All postings agreed on one thing though; a dislocated jaw was to be considered a medical emergency and required the dislocate-ee to proceed immediately to their nearest A&E.

Roger that.

But how to get there?

I briefly considered phoning 999 but as the conversation would, perforce, be one-sided it didn’t take me long to realise that the only way I was getting to A&E that evening was if I drove myself. Apparently I do have to do everything around here.

First port of call was rousing Miss S. There was a very real possibility that being woken by a wide-mouthed, drooling, ‘aargh-ing’ mother would scare the pants off her so before waking her I wrote her a brief note explaining what had happened. Naturally I had to take into account that she was only seven and that words such as ‘dislocated’ would be met with a blank stare despite the graphic visual aid that was my face.

I decided the following served my purpose nicely – ‘my jaw is stuck and I need to go to the hospital’ – and taking a deep breath I gently shook her awake her and shoved the note under her nose. She read it, nodded and started to get dressed. Apparently I had finally hit on the one sure-fire way to render her speechless. Just when I need her to be my mouthpiece. Go figure.

While Miss S quickly dressed I wrote out some flashcards so that I would not be reduced to charades once we reached the hospital. The first one simply stated: ‘Dislocated my jaw yawning’. My driver’s licence would provide them with my personal details so I didn’t have to write down those. But beyond the obvious questions I didn’t know what else they would ask so was obviously going to have to improvise once we got past the basics. However, I drew the line at playing charades in front of a crowded A&E waiting-room so packed plenty of paper and pens, together with my phone and iPad. Like the boy scouts, I believe in being prepared.

My flurry of activity was interspersed with numerous text messages to Mr S even though his phone doesn’t receive signal at the club. Keeping him informed at least made me feel as though I had some sort of handle on a rather surreal experience. The texts started with a frantic ‘OMG, come home NOW; dislocated my jaw!!!!’ and progressed through the more laid-back ‘Meet me at the hospital when you’ve finished tennis’  to the impassioned ‘Will rip out my own salivary glands if I don’t stop drooling!!!’.

We finally booked it out the door, pausing only long enough to scoop up the kitchen roll – emergency anti-drool kit, you understand – and my sunglasses, for which I have no explanation seeing that it was dark out, other than I was obviously running largely on autopilot at the time. Or maybe, like Superman, I was under the mistaken impression that they would provide me with an adequate disguise.

And so we set off to the hospital armed with kitchen roll, flashcards and sunglasses. Admittedly, I would have preferred an all-concealing burka but my well-stocked closet had, for once, been lacking so it looked like I would have to rely on my natural charm to see me through this embarrassing situation.

Things were not looking good.

Although the drive to the hospital was only fifteen minutes long – OK, so I may have been speeding; sue me – my salivary glands continued to gush. Throughout the drive Miss S – my hero! – wordlessly passed me a steady supply of kitchen roll and I arrived at the hospital looking like a demented chipmunk but with drool-free clothes.

A major achievement.

Interesting factoid for those that like to collect useless bits of information: kitchen roll soaked in saliva and left overnight sets hard as rock. When I cleaned out the car the next day the centre console was overflowing with a pile of concrete-like globs which Miss S fell upon with glee, declaring them to be perfect for some arts and craft project she was planning. I gagged at the thought and hurriedly threw them away.

Apparently I never let her have any fun.

A deep breathe and I entered A&E which thankfully, was largely empty, and proceed to show my first flash card – Dislocated my jaw yawning – to the receptionist. This elicited murmurs of sympathy from her and she proceeded to ask the usual questions – name, address, date of birth – all of which were easily copied from my driver’s licence. Her next question was a bit harder: ‘how long ago did it happen?’ By holding up one finger and then tapping my watch I successfully conveyed that this farce had been running for almost an hour.

Inquisition over, I was told to take a seat and scrunched down as far down as possible while holding a piece of paper in front of my mouth. My attempts to appear inconspicuous seem to be successful as no one spared me a second gland. Huh… Either I could look forward to a lucrative career as The Human Chameleon or having wild-eyed, drooling lunatic-types cluttering up the A&E waiting room was an everyday occurrence. The fact that it was more likely to be the latter was a scary thought.

By now Mr S should have finished tennis and as I knew he was unlikely to check his phone when he left the club I decided to call him, hoping to catch him before he drove all the way home. Of course I wouldn’t be able to speak to him so I had to write down my plan so that Miss S understood that she would translate for me and, more importantly, what she had to say.

A few minutes scribbling and the newest set of flashcards were ready, the main take home messages being: ‘Don’t panic’ and ‘Read you text messages’.

I finally got Mr S on the phone and handed him over to Miss S who naturally decided to ignore my nicely worded prompts and ad libbed her lines, leading with ‘Mom’s jaw is stuck. We’re at the hospital. Come quickly,’ and hung up; the equivalent of yelling ‘shark’ while at the beach if Mr S’s reaction was anything to go by. Not surprisingly, he frantically called back and I passed the phone to Miss S and waved the ‘Read your text messages’ prompt under her nose and thankfully this time she didn’t fluff her lines. Radio silence for a few minutes while Mr S presumably read all the texts I had sent that evening followed by a terse ‘On my way’.

Hooray, the cavalry rides to the rescue!

I was finally called by the triage nurse and got to practice my high-speed writing skills as he fired questions at me. Fortunately, each time, he caught my drift before I was halfway through my written explanation so the consultation progressed rapidly. Fifteen minutes later and there was still no sign of Mr S even though, when I called him, he was only a ten-minute drive from the hospital. Apparently his excellent sense of direction doesn’t work in the dark and/or when stressed. Fortunately, after driving around most of central Milton Keynes for the better part of thirty minutes he finally stumbled across the hospital by accident.

In the meantime the triage nurse had sent me off for x-rays. These were taken by a tiny Indian lady standing four-foot nothing in her mismatched socks, who addressed me as ‘dah-leeeeng’ and lengthened all her short ‘i’ sounds. “Now dah-leeeng, I need you to place your cheeeen on this theeeeng for me and stand very steeeeel.” I placed my chin on the thing and remained motionless while the x-ray camera orbited my head. Happy with the first image she then told me to open wide for the second one; perforce, I assumed the same position as before – cheeen on the theeeeng and mouth still stretched wide. For the third shot she told me to close my mouth.


She wanted me to close my mouth?

While at x-ray technician academy, she’d apparently skipped the lectures on ‘how to read the patient’s file’; her observational and deductive reasoning skills weren’t too hot either.

Not surprisingly, my third image was identical to the first two. Free to go I returned to A&E to find that Mr S had arrived. He took one look at me and fell about laughing.

Yeah, love you too, honey!

Apparently this was Kodak-gold so while I glowered at him he whipped out his phone and snapped away. He first got me to do The Scream pose and then in a dire French accent instructed me to ‘show him playful…’, ‘how him sexy…’, ‘show him pouty…’

Instead I showed him the finger and he reluctantly pocketed his phone.

Deprived of entertainment Mr S instead chose to while away the time by describing to me, in great detail, how he fixes dislocated jaws in cats. Apparently the trick is to dislocate the jaw completely before sliding it back into place.

Up till then there had been surprisingly no pain associated with my jaw but Mr S’s enthusiastic descriptions – illustrated by a YouTube video – filled me with foreboding.

I didn’t need a crystal ball to predict that my future was going to be filled with pain.

A lot of pain.

The doctor’s appearance thankfully saved me from further tales of gore and I was ushered through to the examination room; he seemed confident that a slight nudge was all that was needed to manoeuvre my jaw into place. I was sceptical but played along.

He drew on a pair of gloves, gripped both sides of my head and slid his thumbs into my mouth until they were resting atop my back molars; a position disturbingly similar to that of someone holding a games controller. I prayed that he was really good at Mario Kart and gripped the chair tightly.

A subtle downwards pressure was applied to my jaw which had no effect whatsoever except that his thumbs keep sliding off my molars thanks to the saliva pooling in my mouth. To provide a more secure hold he grabbed two disproportionately thick wads of gauze, jammed them over my molars and yanked downwards. Hard.

Nothing much happened.

Except that I was now choking on all the gauze being rammed down my throat.

I ‘aargh-aarghed’ urgently to get the doctor’s attention and he stopped, enquiring solicitously whether he was hurting me. I mimed choking and pointed to the gauze and thankfully he got the message. He moved aside to confer with the nurse and I used the time to loosen my white-knuckled grip of my chair’s armrests; I may have left permanent dents in the wood.

The doctor returned and informed me that I was going to need muscle relaxants before he would be able to pop my jaw back into place and so I was ushered through to the resuscitation room.

Wait… The resuscitation room? Seriously? What do they know that I don’t know?

To add to my worries there were now two doctors and three nurses clustered around my bed. Either it was a very slow night in A&E and I was the main attraction or they knew something I didn’t.

Either way it was not reassuring.

Fortunately I discovered a small silver lining; as I was now reclining on a bed rather than sitting upright in a chair the saliva had finally stopped flowing and I could surreptitiously remove the glutinous wads of kitchen roll from my mouth. One of the nurses gravely offered me a cardboard bowl into which I graciously dropped the disgusting globs.

They landed with a squelch and we both shuddered.

Glutinous globs discretely disposed of, the nurses buzzed around me; one took my blood pressure and another inserted an IV. The third regaled me with the story of the time she dislocated her jaw while yawning; her brother accompanied her to A&E but gleefully insisted she do all the talking and then laughed himself sick over her alien-speak. Mr S’s photo shoot paled in comparison.

Finally it was time for the drugs. First came the morphine; this confirmed my previous assumption that my immediate future was going to involve a lot of pain. A muscle relaxant and sedative followed the morphine in rapid succession.

The room began to spin in slow, lazy swoops.

Suddenly my thigh muscles started spasming lightly in a manner eerily reminiscent of many years back when I was given a drug to which I was allergic. Despite being surrounded by a phalanx of medical experts, all of whom were well qualified to correctly diagnose an allergic reaction, in my drug-induced haze it was suddenly imperative that I tell them about this.

My urgently gargled ‘aargh-aargh-aargh-aaaaargh!’ was accompanied by writing motions in the air. Everyone looked at me uncertainly for a moment before leaping with great enthusiasm – and disturbingly little success – into a game of ‘Guess What the Patient is Saying’.

Nurse 1: “You’re going to be sick?” Head shake.

Nurse 2: “You need more morphine?” Violent head shake.

Nurse 3: “You’re hungry?” Eye roll and head shake.

Doctor: “You need to pee?” Seriously? How does miming writing even remotely resemble miming the need to relieve myself?  Face palm and despondent head shake.

 Take away my ability to speak and my communication skills are apparently on a par with those of a chimp. Less so in fact; my Simian cousins can at least hurl faecal matter to show their displeasure; move a couple of chromosomes closer to wearing a t-shirt – on which will definitely be printed ‘I’m with stupid ’- and that pleasure is denied me. It’s sad really, what evolution and a few thousand years of civilisation have taken from us.

But now it’s Miss S’s turn to have a go at that thrilling new game show ‘Guess What the Patient is Saying’.

Miss S: You want pen and paper?”

Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Let’s hear it for Miss S – the only one to guess correctly what I was trying to sign while qualified professionals didn’t even make it out of the starting gates. God help us all if I had been trying to tell them that Timmy had fallen down the well.

Three different people shoved paper and pens in my face and I grabbed the nearest one and scrawled as quickly as I could, given that my muscles were turning rapidly to jelly, ‘maybe allergic to drugs – muscles twitching‘.

Nurse 3 who is reading aloud over my shoulder as I write pats my arm kindly. “Don’t worry, dear. You’re in the best place possible if you do have a reaction”.

My inner monologue always has a tendency to sound like Sheldon Cooper (of The Big Bang Theory) but this inclination becomes even more apparent when stressed; I can almost see Sheldon sneering at the nurse “Yes of course, how silly of me. Because all the evidence so far suggests that the medical staff of this facility have the most amazing powers of observation and deduction. Not.”

I’m pretty sure it was a good thing no one understood what I said.

By now the medical cocktail was really taking hold and I closed my eyes and enjoyed the swooping feeling. Unfortunately, even though I was aware of everything going on around me my brain had effectively shut down; at least that’s my excuse for what I did next.

Because Miss S (a seven year old, mind you) was the only who correctly interpreted my gargling and signing and not my beloved husband of almost twenty years, in my drug-induced haze I impetuously decided that she was my new BFF and laboriously scrawl across my piece of paper ‘I’m going to marry Miss S as she is the only one who understands me’.

Thankfully, before I could embarrass myself further I finally passed out completely and stated to snore. Loudly.

For the next 30 minutes I slept soundly – and snored – while the doctors tried everything, short of a crowbar, to move my jaw back into its usual position. Eventually though they admitted defeat and I woke to the words ‘Well that didn’t help at all.”

As all their other attempts had failed it seemed the only option left was surgery. Unfortunately Milton Keynes Hospital did not have the necessary maxillofacial surgeons on its register and I would therefore have to be transferred to Luton & Dunstable Hospital.

While they completed the necessary paperwork I lazily counted ceiling tiles when, with absolutely no warning, my jaw suddenly popped back into place and my mouth eased shut.

How very anticlimactic.

I tentatively opened and closed my mouth a few times. So far so good.

Mr S called the nurse over and I proudly showed her that my jaw had slipped back into place all by its self; she seemed rather put out for some reason and vanished to find the doctor. He told the nurse to send me for further x-rays to make sure that my jaw wasn’t cracked but otherwise seemed to have lost interest in me.

I was bundled into a wheelchair and returned to the domain of the diminutive x-ray technician where I was once again ‘dah-leeenged’ and obediently placed my cheeen on the theeeng. To tell the truth, I didn’t so much place my chin on the thing as allow it to support 99% of my weight; goodness only knew when the muscle relaxants would wear off.

Disappointingly, this time round, I was not required to demonstrate my jaw’s natural proficiency by opening and closing on demand and after taking only one x-ray I was on my way back to the resuscitation ward.

As everything seemed to be back to normal – jaw-wise that is – I was told that I could leave as soon as I could walk out of there under my own steam. This proved to be bit of a problem as the muscle relaxants were still doing their job and the messages my brain was sending my legs were obviously getting lost in translation because I wasn’t doing a very good job of staying erect for more than a few seconds at a time.

It took another hour of slow pacing next to my bed before I was finally able to walk out of there. I like to think that the drive home involved witty and intelligent conversation on my part but, to tell you the truth, I have only the vaguest recollection of it. When appealed to for his version of the journey Mr S pleaded the fifth suggesting that the witty and intelligent conversation was probably all in my head and that the real scenario involved loud snoring. And possibly drooling.

Once home I remember locking up the house for the night and tucking Miss S into bed before collapsing into my own bed to sleep the sleep of the heavily drugged.

The next day I emptied my bag of a surprisingly large number of rock-hard globs of kitchen roll and made sure to shred the piece of paper on which I had announced my intention to marry Miss S; handing blackmail material on a plate to one’s offspring never ends well.

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