Obdurator, oh would you help me place this call?

(Sorry. The only other song-pun I could come up with would've been "OburATOR obdurATOR OB dur ATOR obdurATOR obdurATOR OB dur ATOR" to the tune of "Amadeus", and that one's already gotten me threatened.)

Obdurator Numero Dos went into my mouth and, eek, the back of my throat today. The process of molding these little dudes and fitting them is fascinating because I do not understand it at all, but it seems to work. Next time, I promise, I'll get into posturing and why it's bad for a brain.

So: Obdurator. The primary job of this thing, which looks like the mother of all retainer tops and is held in place by four tooth-wires, is to keep the wearer (me) from shooting liquids and solids out of her nose, and to keep her from choking. It also makes speech much more intelligible.

The first obdurator covered only my hard palate. That meant in practical terms that I could sip small amounts of liquid and eat very soft or very hard food--nothing in between--and that my friends could understand about 90% of what I said. All in all, it wasn't a bad deal, aside from the fact that it couldn't be removed for the first week (Dr. Crane had to tie it to my teeth with some suture, long story) and thus it got to be The Single Nastiest Thing I Have EVER Seen. I'll spare you that story.

This second obdurator is really *cool*. Not only does it cover the part of my hard palate that it did before, it takes care of the soft palate that isn't there any longer as well. Parts of it are hard, parts of it are flexible, and parts of it are strangely in-between. To give you some idea of what this thing is doing, look at the picture above.

See the pointer that's labelled "Hard Palate"? Take everything from the tip of that pointer to your left/illustration's right away. Take it off, throw it out, and leave a fucking huge hole there instead. I searched Google Images for some time, and even logged in to the various med portals I can get to through work, and I can't find anything even remotely comparable. I'm missing not only that much palate, but that much of the back of my throat as well.

You can see/imagine that the loss of that much soft palate is a big deal. Not only does your soft palate keep you from sounding like a Charlie Brown cartoon adult when you speak, but it moves around to shut off your airway when you swallow, it flexes to help you swallow more easily, it bounces up and down with certain consonant sounds...it does a lot. It's immensely flexible and muscular and can move about eight different ways without your even realizing it.

The prosthetic guy made three molds of my soft palate and the back of my throat. The first was with a hard-setting, awful-tasting acrylic, and focused on the center back of my throat and the palatal portion of my nasal airway. The second was made of this slightly squishy, foamy sort of stuff, and goes from the spot where my right second molar used to be to just to the right of midline of my palate. The third is I guess kind of flexible a little; I can't dent it with a fingernail, but it doesn't feel as rigid as the acrylic, and bridges those other two bits.

Unfortunately, this one only kind-of-sort-of works at the moment. The primary problem is that I've only got a week's worth of healing done on the soft stuff in the back of my throat, so swallowing feels like I've got strep. The other problem is that somehow, the rigid part of the prosthesis, the middle bit, shuts off my nasal airway unless I hold my head in one specific position. I won't be sleeping in this obdurator, so that doesn't much matter, but it is a little freaky. Plus, I hate breathing through my mouth.

But think of it: one week ago, a surgeon took out most of the back of my mouth and enough of the back of my throat that I am a freakshow. Today, I can speak intelligibly, sounding only as though I have a bad head cold. The prosthetics dude says I will sound completely normal--not hypernasal, not like a muted trumpet--in just a couple more weeks.

A. Mazing.

When I start my second, after-nursing career, I think it might have to have something to do with dental prosthetics. It's unbelievable the difference an hour and a half in the chair did for me today.

I sound like myself again. My voice is back.