Jessica Korda on road to recovery after painful jaw surgery

Jessica Korda LPGA Tour return 2017 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Jessica Korda on road to recovery after painful jaw surgery

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Jessica Korda on road to recovery after painful jaw surgery

Jessica Korda now has 27 screws keeping her face together. She holds up a mirror when she eats because parts of her face are still numb from major jaw surgery. The 24-year-old could easily miss her mouth and stab herself with a fork. She rehearses smiling and talking in a mirror, too.

“It broke my mom’s heart,” she said, “feeding me through a syringe for weeks.”

Learning how to do the most basic things over again has consumed Korda’s grueling offseason. She plans to begin her seventh year on the LPGA Feb. 22-25 in Thailand after missing the first two events (both titles she had previously won).

The injury to Korda’s left forearm that kept her out of the 2017 Solheim Cup was well-documented. But the severe headaches that have plagued the four-time tour winner for the past three years also have had a significant impact on her sleep, mood and body.

Last November in China, the entire right side of Korda’s face cramped up, making it difficult to see out of her right eye. The face cramp lingered until the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. That vicious cramp was the final straw.

“I don’t think I’ve woken up in the last couple of years without something hurting,” Korda said. “I’m only 24 years old. This is what is supposed to happen when you’re 70 years old.”

Korda had worn braces for eight years and more recently slept with a retainer that resembled a hockey puck. She also developed sleep apnea.

Doctors said jaw surgery was the only way to correct the severe overbite that caused her to use only 20 percent of her teeth when she chewed.

“Just take a piece of meat and squeeze them in your back jaw and hold them for 24 hours,” said Jessica’s father, Petr. “You will see how much it is impacting you.”

The jaw surgery took place on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C. It was scheduled to last 90 minutes but took more than three hours. They first broke her nose to get the tubing in place. Then her top jaw was broken in three places and her bottom jaw in two.

Her mother, Regina, gave her medicine every two hours. Mom also bought a Vitamix Blender and Jessica existed on soup and smoothies for weeks, losing 13 pounds. Before surgery, Korda indulged in anything that sounded good. She’d roll up to Chick-fil-A and order two meals.

These days she’s trying not to bite her cheeks or her tongue, saying her jaw works in a different way.

Friend Austin Ernst came to visit in Bradenton, Fla., but Korda can’t remember much of it. She does recall keeping a towel close to her face at all times to catch the drool. Loud noises hurt her ears so she watched the television on mute and mostly read.

Luckily, she was in better shape by the time younger brother Sebastian became the third member of the Korda family to win an Australian Open title. Sebastian won the junior crown at the Australian Open 20 years after his father won the Grand Slam. Big sister Jessica was glued to every shot.

The first time Korda hit a golf ball was on Jan. 7 at Topgolf to celebrate Jodi Ewart Shadoff’s 30th birthday. She hit left-handed.

By the last weekend in January, Korda was back hitting full shots and working out with new fitness instructor Kolby Wayne, whose golf clients include Justin Thomas and Lexi Thompson.

“As of right now I am not playing with any tape,” said a relieved Korda.

Doctors said she could feel back to normal in six months, but Korda has mentally prepared for one year.

“Hopefully it will free her up,” Petr said. “She still has a long road ahead.” Gwk


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