Monday, March 15, 2010

Red Rocks, Bad Stones & Boulder (Part 1)

A few days ago I felt a familiar pain that reminded me of last summer. And then I found this post that I'd started but never finished. Because I had every intention of blogging about my painful predicament and my trip to Denver... but life got in the way and I never got around to it. Until now. And now I'm going to spend the week posting about our trip. I don't want to forget it and I doubt that I even sent my dad the pictures. He reads my blog (the only family member who knows about it I think) so now he can remember the (traumatic) week we spent with him, terrorizing his home.

So yeah, back to the pain part...
This is what is causing my pain. And I don't mean the Hershey's Kiss. See those little white specks in the bag? Those are salivary gland stones. And they suck!

Over a year ago I started to have mild pain whenever I ate food or even thought about something bitter or sour. Eventually I realized that my salivary gland was blocked. After researching it a bit, I diagnosed myself with a salivary gland stone. A trip to the doctor a few months later confirmed it. The doctor recommended waiting for the stone to pass on its own and said most do within a year. It had been 6 months at that point.

Only 1% of the population will develop salivary gland stones. Most of them are asymptomatic. They occur most commonly in 40 to 60-year old males. Again, why do I have to be the anomaly? What the heck?

Six months later I was in Denver visiting my dad and the pain became unbearable. I knew I couldn't get to a doctor anytime soon. We were en route to Virginia and we were spending a week with my dad at his house in Denver.
So I did what any (temporarily insane, desperate, irritated) mom would do in that situation. I performed surgery. On myself. In a bathroom.

Hey, at least I sterilized my tools first. And I'll spare you the details, but let's just say it wasn't pretty. What I thought was a single stone turned out to be 8 large stones. I managed to break 6 of them into pieces but passed 2 of them intact. They were HUGE. Well, relatively speaking. Go look under your tongue at the tiny, pin hole-sized opening where your saliva comes out under the base of your tongue. Then imagine passing a rock a little bigger than a ball bearing through that hole. It was like childbirth in my mouth.I did achieve the desired result. I got the stones out and my spit could fly freely again. However, it came at a cost. My mouth and neck were swollen and sore for several days. I could barely talk or eat. And in the process of surgically removing the stones, I created an extra opening in my salivary gland. That last part may be an added bonus.

While most of you will either find this disturbing or amusing, I can assure you that it was my last resort. I was desperate to relieve the pain. And here I am, 6 months later, contemplating a repeat surgery.

I have at least 2 more very large stones. It could be days before I can see a doctor. I'm trying to wait it out because I'd rather be numb when they slice open my salivary gland and extract the geological formations that are inside. However, I'm also terrified after seeing pictures of the surgery on the internet. I wish the stones would just disappear but they're made of calcium so they aren't going anywhere.

Anyway, I'm sitting here with a lump under my chin and a swollen mouth so I'll definitely be getting these things out ASAP, one way or another.
When I found my old post about my salivary glad stones (which aren't supposed to reoccur... go figure) I saw all of these pictures from our trip. We had such a great time and I love homeschooling on the road when I can take my kids to see things that they've never seen before.
I drove our van through this tunnel on our way to visit Red Rocks Amphitheater. The last time I had been there was before I had kids and I went to "Rave on the Rocks." How times have changed!
The kids and I enjoyed a picnic lunch in the van because Red Rocks isn't exactly stroller accessible. We got out and saw the amphitheater but we couldn't go down to the stage. It was hot, there was no shade, and there were no tables so we had our lunch just like we do when we're on the road.
Another highlight of our day was visiting Dinosaur Ridge. The kids saw the actual ridge where dinosaurs walked. We talked a lot about geology and history that day.
The kids were fascinated by the dinosaur tracks but I don't think they really understand how awesome it is that we have these preserved for all to see. The entire ridge is covered in tracks.
The last time I visited Dinosaur Ridge you could drive right up the road and park to see the tracks. Now the road is closed and there are tour buses that take visitors up to the ridge and back on a guided tour. Of course the tour isn't stroller accessible and I was by myself with a 6-year old, a 5-year old, two 3-year olds, and two 1-year olds. There was no way I was getting on that bus.

So we walked.

All the way up a steep hill, I pushed "The Beast." Then we ran back down. It was quite an adventure!
Back at the Exhibit Hall, the kids dug for fossils. They unearthed huge dinosaur bones and spent a good half hour digging in the shade while I nursed the babies.
We even went inside to see the dinosaur exhibits. I was grateful for the air conditioning and the boys just wanted to play with dino teeth.

I wonder how big a dinosaur salivary gland stone would be?
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