Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good Nutrition Pays Dividends / Second Anniversary of Horse Crash

Two years after the crash, Baghdad and I are doing fine.

Today is April 25, 2011.  Two years ago, I fell off my horse, Baghdad, and hit the arena fence with my face. In the ER, I was told that my jaw was broken in 4 places, as was my nose and right sinus, and the bone over my front teeth.  My front teeth were "displaced", which to me meant some were poking into the sides of my cheeks.  I had a cracked rib and a cracked vertabra in my lower back.  Eight staples in my scalp had closed a gash.

I was admitted to the hospital where there was almost nothing for me to eat; that is, drink, since my jaw was so broken.  I drank as much water as I could.  When the nurse brought in a meal tray, there were only containers of liquids:  grape drink, Ensure, dairy milk.  I had no desire for sugar-y drinks; Ensure is a useless, manufactured "product"; I am vegan.

I needed nutrition not only to stay alive but also to rebuild all my broken bones.  Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful family and friends.  Lisa went to Trader Joe's and bought soy and almond milks, and vegetable juices.  Teri brought my can of The Ultimate Meal from home.  Sue brought her Vitamix blender and put it in a corner of my room.

Then one of them would stop by to make The Ultimate Meal for me in the blender, twice a day.  Yes, the blender made a lot of noise, and whenever a hospital administrator saw/heard what was happening, they would say, "You can't do that in here."  Then we would explain why it was necessary, and they would "look the other way".  The nurses were always sympathetic and supportive.

On my sixth day in the hospital, I had surgery.  My displaced teeth were put back in their sockets, a metal plate was implanted over the 2 breaks in my chin, and my jaw was wired shut.  When I awoke from the anesthesia, I learned that now everything I would drink for the next 4 to 6 weeks would come through a straw and then through my clenched teeth.  Every doctor who saw me told me that my front teeth were "dead" and that I would lose them.

I was released on the seventh day, and had lost 12 pounds of muscle.  (At 5'8" and 115 pounds, I hadn't had much fat to lose.)  I was weak and had to be careful of my back, although my rib no longer bothered me.  Once home, I began juicing fresh vegetables every morning (beets and their greens, carrots, celery, cucumber).  I drank a tall glass of that before The Ultimate Meal.  Later in the day, I put whole avocados (peeled) in the blender with almond milk to puree and drink.  I was hoping that this would be "fattening" but no; my body just seemed to be using everything I gave it.  I pureed cooked vegetables, too - although soups were a lot easier.  My 5-grain combination of whole grains was difficult to get fine enough to drink through a straw, but I did my best.  I was driven all the time to give my body something to "work with" as it was healing.

On follow-up visits to the doctor who'd operated on me, I was shown a 3D image of my head.  It was pointed out to me how many more little bones in my face I'd broken that I wasn't told in the hospital; I was told that I should have been blinded by the accident.  As it came time to unwire my jaw, I was told that I could seek cosmetic dental care.

I began seeing a cosmetic dentist, a periodontist and an orthodontist; the 3 of them consulted about the best treatment options for me.  The cosmetic dentist said that I would lose 3 front teeth and would have implants.

I insisted my teeth had not turned brown and died, but he said, "Just wait; they will."  The orthodontist looked at my x-rays and pointed out that since I had broken both mandibular joints on each side of my face, I would always have jaw problems for the rest of my life.  He admired how the first doctor had done my chin implant, but my teeth had been placed back in their sockets leaning inward; I just didn't look like myself.  He put braces on my upper and lower teeth even though he agreed that I would have implants to replace my front teeth which were going to die.

A couple of months later, I had some surgery done with the periodontist.  She was to add some gum over my front teeth because in the crash, I had lost '50 years of gum'.  (I had the gums of a 105 yr. old!)  But when she opened up the area above my front teeth, she discovered that I had also smashed away the roots to the three front teeth everyone was saying were dead or dying.  After the surgery, she was very concerned, and drew a sketch to show me how I only had the back side of the roots remaining.  "Those teeth will have to come out," she said.  As usual, I resolved to myself that I would heal and keep my teeth.

A few months passed and a new image was made of my head.  My orthodontist looked at it and said, "That's amazing.  If I hadn't seen your x-rays in June, I would never be able to tell you'd had mandibular fractures.  You healed perfectly, with perfect alignment. And no scar tissue."

I pointed out that I had done so with no dairy products at all (which many people erroneously believe gives them calcium for their bones).

His reply, "Well, it must be something, because people don't heal like this.  You are a biological miracle."

A couple of months later, in March 2010, the twelfth month since my crash, I was scheduled to have those 3 front teeth removed.  Except I knew that it didn't need to be done.  When I told the orthodontist on a routine visit for my braces, he said, "We've already decided those teeth are not viable."  I remarked that I would not show up for the appointment.  He said, "Then you'd better call the periodontist and schedule a new consultation, because we've already decided your case."

So I did.  When I went back to see her and she checked my teeth (which had never turned brown), she was amazed at their strength and stability.  She said, "I have never seen a case like this.  They don't teach us this in school; you are so far outside the envelope.  I don't know how you did it.  It must have something to do with your diet."

Needless to say, I was elated.  She said she would call the orthodontist and give her recommendation that I keep my teeth.  Now I just had to face the cosmetic dentist again.

He was not so pleased.  He pointed out the flaws in my teeth; the fact that my gums over my front teeth are high.  He said that I 'deserved' to have a perfect smile again, and handed me a mirror so I could see all my flaws under his very good lighting.  I looked at my teeth in the mirror and thought, "These are my teeth; the ones I know and love.  They work for me."

"I'm keeping them," I told him.  He sighed and said, "You'll change your mind."

And really, it took more getting used to the new shape of my face:  my chin implant makes my chin look so big to me, and I have a square jaw now, but only on the left side of my face.   If I look directly at the camera for a snapshot, my face is crooked.

But, you know what?  I am happy!  My back, my rib, my head, my nose, the bone under my nose, my teeth - everything feels strong and healthy.  I ride my horse; I dance; I hike; I am "as good as new".  These are the benefits of a healthy, nutritious diet.  Benefits I never planned to "test" in this way.  I am so grateful to be me, and to have had the awareness and desire to make the eating choices that I have for the past 22 years!


  1. I just love reading this story. Thanks for sharing it. Doctors only know what they are taught. They have so much to learn. You showed them Alaine. You should be a guest speaker at med/dental schools. Maybe it's in your future. (-:

  2. I almost passed out reading this. But I bet you could pander your story to the medical arena. Some sectors are always searching for anomalies. Maybe they'll even name a procedure or treatment after you!!!

  3. But what would they call it - since it was based on good eating choices so the body could heal ?? That's what was so interesting to me - that the doctors were so SKEPTICAL that diet actually makes a huge difference. Probably because most people only make small, superficial changes in their diet - you know, choose low-fat cottage cheese over regular, for instance. And, hence, "miss the boat".

  4. Good thing that you stuck to your values and healthy diet. Even with a small dental implant las vegas that I had, I was whining and bemoaning the pain and liquid diet. You're an inspiration!

  5. It's good to live in an era where cosmetic dentistry is readily available. We need to be thankful of this innovation. By the way, I'm also inspired of your story.

  6. Elaine @ MomsOnBoardMay 16, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    Your story is simply inspiring! My dentist in Myrtle Beach SC has told me an almost similar story. We're so lucky to have the technology for better treatment these days.

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  8. Good thing that you stuck to your values and healthy diet.Your story is simply inspiring! Instrumentos Dentales