Here's the lovely foam brace. It's hard to eat with it. It not only hold the jaw, but it holds the adam's apple and makes swallowing hard to do.
ACDF stands for Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion. "Anterior" means working on the backbone from the front of the patient. The spinal cord is behind the backbone and discs and so would be in the way working from the back. Also the back part of the vertebrae is where all the tendons and muscles attach. The surgeon said the disc was not just bulging but had ruptured. I still can't recall any traumatic event that caused it, just little things over time.
The incision. No stitches with thread nowadays, these are called "steri-strips", kinda duct tape for surgeons. I don't know why I was expecting the incision to be vertical. I haven't asked the surgeon if muscles were cut or not. When lying down I'm so cautious that I'm very paranoid about lifting my head. I usually place a hand behind my head for support to get up or turn from my side to back.