Thursday, August 02, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 29 : Brave : Part 2

Someone kindly commented on my beautiful smile in my Beyond Layers Self Portrait a few weeks ago.  If only they had known what that smile cost me!

When I was 18 years old, I had major reconstructive jaw surgery to correct an open bite (as opposed to an over/under bite) and painful TMJ problems.  The day before surgery, we went to a party for a cousin getting married.  I was a basket case, thinking about the surgery the next day.  I was in tears -- afraid of the unknown.  Although I trusted Dr. Hintz, the surgeon, it was to be an 8-hour operation with 5 days in hospital and 2 months wired shut, unable to eat solid food or speak. Would the surgery even work?  Hospital patients have to essentially hand over their bodies to the surgical team and nurses.  That was kind of scary, too.   Surgery was the last option.  All other more conservative treatments had failed.   I survived ... and eventually became a medical librarian due in part to my early experience with this side of the medicine. 

I remember waking up after surgery and hearing someone in the next room having a terrible time, coughing and sputtering.   I could hear the suctioning they had to do for him.  A kid from my home town (the hospital was an hour away) had survived an awful trauma where his jaw was blown off in an explosion.  I sort of knew the kid. He was a year younger than me.  I realized I had been fortunate enough to have been prepared for the surgery, and 2 months recovery. I knew what to expect going into it.  This kid had no idea.  His life was changed in an instant.  That put things into perspective for me.  I really didn't have it so bad after all.   I think things did turn out ok for him eventually, after multiple surgeries--at least, I hope it did.

I'm glad I faced my fears, and moved through them.  Although the surgery fixed the physical and mechanical problem of my ill-fitting jaws, it took another 8 years to overcome the psychological damage years of wearing awkward mouth pieces, and learning to talk around them.  I felt like a freak of nature then, and that feeling didn't go away immediately.  Now I can look back at pics from those days and I can see I don't look so different from anyone else.  But I sure felt like a freak.  I remember thinking, "If I can just get through this, just get past the surgery, I can get on with my life and forget that troubled past.  It was also the summer between high school and college.  Now I can say I'm glad of the experience.  It put my life on hold for a time, but it built a lot of character.  That experience remains an important part of who I am.  And I am grateful. ;-)

So the photo ...  I think Kim Klassen had a photo of a bowl of blueberries a while back.  Blueberries are one of my all-time favorite foods.  So I thought I could set up my own Blueberry still life.   I also liked Kim's Little Things brush / stamp for this one.  While I was wired shut those 2 months after my jaw surgery, I couldn't eat any solid food, only what liquids could seep through the cracks between my teeth--not everything blends up fine enough to do that.  Indeed, some things (like dumplings) plugged up those cracks, and then I had a hard time breathing.  Eeesh!  Something so simple as eating was not something I could participate in during that time.  Do you know how many food commercials are on tv? Do you have any idea? A LOT!  I was aware of every one when I could not partake. 

Processing on Brave Blueberry Photo :
Layer 1 : Background
Layer 2 : Kim Klassen's Cool Grunge Texture; Multiply Blend Mode at 50% opacity
                I set the texture to the white background only.  I didn't like what it did to the wood.
                Set a layer mask to erase texture from the blueberries and bowl above the horizon of the background.
Layer 3 : Copy Layer 2 ; Soft Light at 100%
Layer 4 : Copy Layer 3 ; Multiply at 64%
Layer 5 : Kim Klassen's Little Things Stamp ; Multiply at 100%; Color chosen from blueberries
Layer 6 : Copy Layer 5 ; Multiply 78%

Here's the original photo straight out of my camera.


ju-north said...

Now that's what I call brave! Well done you, to go through all that and be brave enough to share it as well! You must have given courage and hope to so many people.

Michele Matucheski said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Judith. Kind of makes me wonder, "What have I done in posting this very personal info." LOL I can honestly say it was worth it, and it could have been much worse.

Beverly said...

Michelle, that kind of surgery is something a person has to be really brave to go through. A friend of mine had a similar one. Brave is probably an understatement. You look fabulous!

Michele Matucheski said...

Thanks for reading it all the way through, Beverly. I never thought Beyond Layers would make me think about all these things ... I thought I'd just be making pretty pictures! Now I see the story adds emotional depth to the images. What a great class!

Tammy said...

Wow!! You are one brave and beautiful lady!!!