One year later, a mysterious mouth injury strikes again

Brianna Albers avatar

by Brianna Albers |

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I’d just survived a car accident in Phoenix while road tripping with my parents from our home in Minnesota to the 2022 Cure SMA conference in Anaheim, California.

(Long story short, my dad ran over a particularly nasty curb in a gas station parking lot. Any other vehicle would’ve been just fine, but our van is irregularly low to the ground to accommodate my wheelchair ramp. He crunched part of the door, which caused a cascading effect of five issues that resulted in us renting an accessible van to drive the eight hours to Anaheim, just in time for my work obligations the next day.)

After our enjoyable but exhausting stay at Disneyland, my parents and I headed back to Phoenix for an undetermined amount of time while we waited for our van to be fixed. We were holed up in a pretty nice hotel, complete with a kitchen, because after a week and a half on the road, we were sick of takeout. It was well and truly a waiting game. We had no real idea how long the repairs would take, let alone if they were possible to begin with. We were surviving solely on cable TV and lots of naps.

It had already been a trip for the books, and we weren’t even home yet. All we could do was hope, pray, and watch cable.

Then I woke up with a pain in my left cheek.

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It’d been hurting for a couple of days, something I initially chalked up to the perils of cross-country travel. I probably bit it while driving through the rocky deserts of New Mexico. But the pain wasn’t letting up. In fact, it was getting worse. My whole cheek was swollen, to the point where I was struggling to eat.

As you might expect, I had all sorts of hypotheses, most of them involving doom and gloom. (I am nothing if not a hypochondriac.) I had visions of getting my wisdom teeth removed at the age of 27, wailing like a baby because I was deathly afraid of anesthesia.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in the form of my mom. She realized that, when my dad lifted me out of my chair, he was holding my head in such a way that my canines were aggravating the inside of my cheek. My dad normally uses an electric hoist, but he’d been manually transferring me during the trip, which explained the rapid onset. She bought a jug of Listerine from a nearby Target and told me to gargle as long as I could.

The pain cleared up in the span of a few days. Relieved to be free of my wisdom teeth visions, I promptly forgot the entire nightmare — until it reared its head again a year later.

Here we go again

It was a Tuesday in late August. My mom’s side of the family was visiting for a few days, so my dad and I were holed up in my room, engrossed in the series premiere of “Ahsoka.” My cat, Rey, lay at my dad’s feet, traumatized by the day’s events, namely the two little boys who were currently zonked in our guest bedroom.

I was eating Cheez-Its — because what else is there to eat while devouring your most-anticipated show of the year? — when I felt it.

A twinge in my left cheek.

Later that night, while brushing my teeth, I asked my dad if he could see anything out of the ordinary. I assumed some food had gotten stuck and would work its way out over time. But I woke the next morning to a very sore, very swollen cheek, and a sinking feeling in my stomach.

To my credit, I didn’t immediately jump to the worst-case scenario. It was probably the same thing that had happened the summer before. What I couldn’t explain was why. My dad was using the hoist and, as always, careful to support my head. But the pain was undeniable. It didn’t take me long to succumb to doom and gloom, convinced of my own inevitable end.

It was, of course, my mom who saw me through. Like last year, she made me gargle Listerine. Unlike last year, she thoroughly probed my mouth for evidence of wisdom teeth and found none.

Every morning for the past week, I’ve applied copious amounts of caustic green liquid to the inside of my left cheek.

Every morning, like magic, I’ve been amazed by the resilience of my own tired body.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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