Also, My Jaw Can Walk Through Walls Now

18th February 2009

Filling out the paperwork for my oral surgery, I noticed I was signing a consent form for bone grafting. I had some questions for the person at the desk.

-Uh. Are you taking some of my jaw and putting it somewhere else in my jaw?
-Excuse me?
-Where do you get the bone for the bone grafting?
-Oh, it’s a pre-treated crushed bone. Sort of like sand we use to fill the space.
-Is it human bone?
-It’s cadaver.
-So, human.
-No, it’s cadaver. It’s animal bone.
-… Doesn’t cadaver mean “dead human body?”
-No, I’m pretty sure cadaver is a kind of animal.

In the end, she asked the doctor, who confirmed that it was dead-person sand they were packing in my jaw. This made me feel uncomfortable, and then deeply grateful. Signing that donor card is such an act of grace. I never anticipated needing anything quite so personal from a stranger, but here I am. Since the surgery, I’m carrying something sacred around with me — a little thimbleful of someone else.

Also, my jaw is now certifiably haunted. So if I say something insulting the next time I see you, you can’t necessarily prove it was me. Stupid.

62 thoughts on “Also, My Jaw Can Walk Through Walls Now

  1. derfina

    Crap on a stick! I never thought to ask where the farking bone came from for the graft. I have DEAD GUY/GIRL SAND in my MOUTH??? I coulda gone the rest of my life not knowing that. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  2. Dutchess of Kickball

    I might need to have my acl replaced and if I do I get the choice of a cadaver tendon or one of off the back of my leg, I’m leaning towards cadaver, and I hope I make the Bionic Woman noise when I run.

  3. beyond

    whoa. what kind of person thinks cadaver is ‘a kind of animal’ and then tries to convince others? the kind of person who finds a job in a medical office. you can’t have been the first to ask… i wonder how many of that dentist’s patients now think they have a ‘cadaver animal’ graft in their mouth?

  4. LizAndrsn

    I’m thinking you need to aim an insulting comment at the ‘tard at the Surgeon’s desk, and blame it on the “animal sand” that’s taken up residence in your mouth.
    But then, they probably wouldn’t see it coming.

  5. Nothing But Bonfires

    I’ve spent the last five minutes trying to think about what kind of animal she might have thought a cadaver would be. Something lupine, like a scary wolf? Something harmless, like a roadkill squirrel? Or would a cadaver be in the primate family? You totally should have asked. Screw it, tell me what dentist and I’ll call the receptionist and pretend I need a bone graft. This is going to keep me up all night otherwise.

  6. Abby

    Very cute.

    My grandmother donated her eyes. She was 70 and never even needed glasses. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to walk up to the person who is using them now. Think anybody wants to see you smile? Heh.

  7. Brenda

    Yeah, we get cadavers coming up to the house all the time in the winter. I love those little guys. The dog had one bailed up in the corner of the shed one day. You should have heard the racket.

  8. Jen

    Either you are an all forgiving Goddess or whatever necessitated your oral surgery really fucking hurt to the point where said oral surgery instantly cured your pain, kicked off world peace, and gave birth to kittens. Because if some dental assistant tried to explain to me about the cadaver animal, I would have been all, “I gotta go…”

  9. Elizabeth

    I’m waiting for a kidney to come and haunt my insides :) It is a pretty cool feeling to know that you are/will be carrying around a little piece of someone else, like you’re providing a little slice of immortality for someone.

  10. Maire

    Me too, Maggie. I have a cadaver ligament in my knee and thanks to that tiny piece of fibrous tissue– unwittingly donated, and seemingly small but not– I can run, jump, and play as much as I like. I don’t know who that person was, and when we think “organ donor” we think: heart, lung, kidney, liver, eyes… but the small things, like bones for grafting and ligaments for reconstruction are also great quality of life contributions. So to whomever gave me back my knee and gave you your jaw: thank you.

  11. Maggeh Post author

    Exactly, Maire. Well said.

    To everyone beating up the poor receptionist, I suspect English isn’t her first language (she has a very slight accent). Cadaver isn’t a word that comes up in casual conversation, so making the “animal” assumption is pretty logical. I just thought it was funny, because the answer surprised both of us.

  12. Txgrrl

    As the owner of a heart that didn’t start out as mine, I can genuinely say that putting your name on the donor registry qualifies as a supremely giving act. Whether it is bone, tissue or organs, all donations matter!

  13. eleanor

    Ugh. Reading all your dental posts makes me feel better. Sorry to say. My mouth, that I have taken such good care of, has betrayed me. My dentist said that some women’s saliva gets more acidic after kids (and/or during pregnancy) and that damages the teeth. I still feel like a loser though. And the money! Holy cow it costs an arm and a leg to make it right. Thank you for making me laugh/cry with your recent tales. Good luck and speedy recovery.

  14. maygin

    sometimes it is cow. i feel bad when people ask me as i, too, work the front desk at a dental office. i know so many things people would rather not…

  15. Sarah

    I think my reaction would be the same as yours: an initial “ugh”, followed by an “ooh” and gratitude. I hadn’t thought so much before now about the little things one can donate after death.

  16. Heather-in-Australia

    My husband had corneal replacement surgery a couple of years ago. He struggled, understandably, for a while with the concept of someone else’s body part intimately, literally attached to his own. In the end, what got him through was simply saying, to whomever the person was that donated their corneas, “thank you”.

    I love everything about this post: the grasp of the sacred delivered with “stupid” is delicious :).

  17. Noelle

    That was one brilliant post. I can’t even explain why–maybe that’s why I like it so much. I don’t think I’ve ever posted before, so this is the one that made me speak. I love your blog. Thank you.

  18. Lesley

    That was hilarious and wonderful. Thank you. When my Dad died we were able to donate his corneas. I wonder if that person really is seeing things through my father’s eyes…

  19. Colleen

    This is a thank you to everyone who has posted a comment. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. (My parrot is in the next room laughing WITH me. Seriously.) They say that comedy and tragedy are closely akin. This proves it!

  20. Stella

    Wow…I never knew that bone grafts came from cadavers…that said, I have always signed away the donor card. I figure I’m not going to come back anyway and there are people who need those things more than I do, at that point!

  21. Groovymarlin

    LOL I’m still laughing about the tool at the desk who was “pretty sure” that “cadaver” is “a type of animal.” Reminds me of the British people I overheard at the airport once who were convinced that a “scallion” was a “type of fish.”

  22. Jan

    Loved how you mixed “the sacred and the profane” in one post – the “sacred” being how you regarded the donor of the tissue you needed, and profane being the hysterical cadaver=animal thing. I snorted my diet Pepsi through my nose a little on that one.

    For those so inclined, it is also possible to pre-arrange to have your whole body donated for any needed organs/tissues, and/or for study by medical students (there’s still only one place to get human bodies, after all), which is what I and most of my family have done. Even if there’s nothing of mine they need for donation, at least some future doctor might learn something from peering at my innards that will help someone else some day.

  23. Molly

    I got a skin graft on my gums of a product called Alloderm made from cadavers. A couple years later, the company that makes it was accused of using stolen body parts. Woooo! My gums feel…dangerous.

  24. Sarah

    Some kind of animal.

    Yeah. That’s like when I ran into a guy named Lincoln. I asked if he was named after the 16th president. He rolled his eyes and was all “uh, no, that’s a common misunderstanding, but Lincoln was the 19th president.”

    Seriously, SAY WHAT?!

    Anyway, I had no idea they used cadaver anything during dental procedures. I guess it makes sense, though.

  25. Heather-in-Australia

    PS: Said “thank you” within his heart,that is, obviously not able to thank them directly. Gah.

  26. steph

    Thank Gah we live in a time when we can get donor bone sawdust from whatever kind of mammal it’s from! And comment #6 is still funny as hell.

  27. darcy

    My Mom has a cadaver bone in her neck, she got it about 6 years ago, though I could have sworn her neck was haunted when I was a child, I mean that woman didn’t just have eyes in the back of her head, she had a sixth sense, I never got away with jack squat.
    Mouth surgery sucks balls, are you starving, I starve everytime I have work done on my mouth..

  28. hayley

    i hope that receptionist was at least cute, cause she’s a moron.

    (and did she think that a cadaver was an actual KIND of animal? like an aardvark? in that case, she better have been cute AND had big knocks. classy, as always)

  29. claire

    oh my gosh something about that story strikes my funny bone.
    i love it.

    probably also has to do with the fact that i’ve had more dental surgeries than i can count on two hands. no cadaver bone, though.
    at least not yet.

  30. Karen


    “No, it’s cadaver. It’s animal bone”

    I wonder what she thought a cadaver would look like? Did she think there were cadaver farms dedicated to rearing cadavers for bone grafting across the world?

  31. karenw

    I had a bone graft in my lower jaw to support implants from baby teeth never lost (over half of my adult teeth…) and I wish they had used cadaver bone!!! They took my own from my chin which just creates such a fantastically gross image of my lower face being opened. Sorry for that. I love hearing other dental tales of woe though. Thanks for sharing.

  32. HDC

    Man does this ever make me appreciate the excellent dental care it’s now obvious I had as a kid. My orthodontist refused to do any work on my mouth until all my baby teeth were gone. I had six that needed removal (done under local, that was fun!) and two adult teeth that required oral surgery to help bring into place (general anesthesia, thank GOD!). Glad I had all that suffering put behind me as a kid as it would have been much worse now.

    Here’s to good pain meds and a quick recovery to you.

    And tell your dentist his office staff is populated by the functionally retarded. A cadaver is an animal, what the hell? Special kind of stupid right there.

  33. Laurie

    I had my son (who’s getting an implant soon) read your last 2 posts. I thought you might want to know his 17 year old opinion of them.
    “What is this like someone’s diary of something? I mean I find it funny but I’m not sure about who else would.”

  34. Colleen

    Ah, the seventeen year old son doesn’t yet know that this is how the world works. Perhaps it’s best if we don’t tell him quite yet.

  35. Laurie

    We must NEVER tell him. He would definitely start blogging if he knew there was such a thing. And then, everyone would know what an annoying mother I am.

  36. timmi

    At first I was all “yuk, bone from dead person” but after I read the rest, you’re right. It’s quite graceful – with the added bonus of haunted mouth. You can call someone a dumb ass and when their eyebrows arch, you can be like “it’s the spirits in my mouth!”

    Maybe that’s how turrets started …

  37. stacey

    she must have thought that you may be more offended by the idea of having dead-people bone in you rather than dead-animal bone.

  38. Lyz

    Timmi – You mean Turrets, as in the syndrome, right? Cause when I first read your comment I was thinking the tall roundish parts of castles and was all, “They’re judging the receptionist?!”

    Awesome post, Mags.

  39. matts

    I just had the same thing this week, my surgeon said the graft was pulverized bovine bone. He said the only side effect was an increased desire to eat grass. He’s not as funny as he thinks he is!

    I feel your pain!

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  41. aimee

    Ugh, I have to get this done, too. My surgeon was reviewing my options and said they usually use cadaver bone but can use cow if that makes me more comfortable. I think the cow bone freaks me out more than the human bone.

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