Surgery – Complications & Recovery; Part 2

I DO NOT have the weight of the world on my shoulders and need to remember that!

(Note: This blog was written about my recent tummy tuck and arm lift surgery and the recovery process)

Monday 20th Feb – The pain is not too bad today  – I finally got out of my room and walked with one of the funnier nurses, i’ll call her Ye. She is an absolute cracker (this means she is extremely funny in Aussie slang for my American friends) and makes me laugh…  We walk up and down the ward a few times, and that is it – back to bed, wiped out again..but at least my hemoglobin levels are rising…  Mum came in after work and we went down to the cafe for a latte… It is the simple pleasures.

Tuesday 21st Feb – Had one drain tube removed today! One down 4 to go! I also went outside for the first time since admission and had coffee in the court yard! – Lovely day and I feel the last of summer slipping away as i am still stuck in here. Today was supposed to be the day I would get out… But given the complication of blood loss and still having tube in I will be here for a bit longer, House is not even talking release dates yet 😦

Wednesday 22nd Feb – Two more drains out today – Still get light headed easily and resting a lot. Went for a couple of small walks off the ward today. My Dad came in on his way past which was a good distraction. Not a lot to report, my pain levels increased a little tonight managing this has been a little hard, but pain means your healing right?

Thursday 23rd Feb – Well I awoke today in pain, big pain and I was also upset on top of that, I suppose being my 10th day in here was getting to me a little. For some reason I am feeling the pain in my arms and abdomen more, it is a burning aching feeling.. I struggled with pain management all day.

Thursday night turned into a bit of a farce.. I asked my nurse at 7:30pm for pain relief she never came back with it. I am not one to keep buzzing and annoy them and thought that she must be caught with another patient. But at 7:50pm the pain became worse, a lot worse. So I buzz again and 5 minutes later she comes in – sees the tears rolling down my face because of the pain ( I don’t like to cry by the way) and exclaims “Oh I forgot about your pain meds” scurries off and then comes back in (sheepishly) and gives them to me, and seeing that I am clearly upset, quickly leaves.

The problem is that the pain was full force now, and took ages to get back under control… The key with pain management after major surgery is to keep it at bay and take the meds on time otherwise if can become excruciating… A point lost on this nurse today.

I do want to add that although I have been harsh here, I have massive respect for Nurses. Two of my best friends are ICU nurses, my house mate is also a nurse, plus the nursing staff here have been amazing, most going above and beyond the call. For me the issue was the nurses attitude to me today, which was short and abrupt all day and then she snuck away after giving me my medication, not a great look really – but you get poor performers in every industry!

Friday 24th Feb – Day 11 Going a bit stir crazy, but got another tube out – Only one to go…House said that I can hopefully have the last one out tomorrow and be released! YAY – but it depends on how much fluid collects… I am literally willing it to stop… Power of positive thought can’t hurt, can it! The pain is a little better today. Have been very grateful for all my visitors and friends / family calling. On a bad note though I found out that my Grandpa fell over, tripping on a step and has fractured his pelvis! -He is currently in hospital too! – My parents have really hit the jackpot with both of us in!

Saturday 25th Feb – Day 12 I didn’t sleep well last night – I awoke to House and a Nurse coming into my room, House was on his early morning rounds, and, at 8:10am I got the news that I wasn’t going home. Still draining too much and the tube can’t come out; House explained that while sometimes they let people go home with one or two drains still in, he won’t release me today given the extreme heat and my continued low hemoglobin levels, he said he wants re-assess the drain tomorrow and hopefully I can go home then.

It takes all my energy not to cry when they are in the room. I fully understand his reasoning and know that it is made in my best interests… But I just want to go home, sleep in my own  bed, sit on my couch…

I call my friend Janelle who was going to pick me up and take home. She listens to me cry and assures me that I can continue to hold out. She comes to visit later together with her partner – they make me laugh and cheer me up. I have continued to receive many supportive texts and calls from friends and family, thanks guys – these are so very welcome.

One of the things that has surprised me is that I tire so easily, I still have to rest regularly after 12 days. I really didn’t think of that prior to surgery, I thought that I would be sore and tender, but the fatigue really does hit me hard a few times each day. I just spoke to one of my nurses who just dropped in to say hello.  She asked what I was doing and I explained about my blog and that I was writing about the fatigue.. She explained that it has hit me harder because of the lower hemoglobin levels and that my body may continue like this for a few more weeks. This means that I will need to reassess my plans for when I return home, building in short walks and naps over the course of the day.                                     But that’s OK because at least I will be home.

So, being excited about going home tomorrow may have been premature. It is 10:00pm now, and I was just about to post this when I decided to check the drainage bottle, it is already at 100ml, so I think that it is now unlikely that it will come out tomorrow, my nurse agreed… I am worn out, sad, I can’t get my hopes up anymore 😦 that being said I should be more grateful for the good care I get here!

Will keep you updated in the next installment.

Till then, Lin xox

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Surgery – Complications & Recovery; Part 1

Still smiling - well trying to!

This post is written more as an overview diary style; to document the recovery time after tummy tuck and arm lift surgery. I have had a few people email me who are considering surgery asking questions about how I have faired – This is just my experience and despite the complications and pain I would do it all again 🙂

Wednesday 15th February According to House (my surgeon) everything with my surgery went smoothly yesterday, “text book” was how he described it when he called into my hospital room today. He did say that I lost a fair amount of blood in surgery and that I was currently still draining quite a bit of blood and fluid… He ordered a blood test and it came back with info that I had a low hemoglobin level (75). It was explained to me by the hospital physician (who also looks after the care of patients post surgery) that I was low on red blood cells, which will make me lethargic as these carry oxygen around your body. They decided to put me down to have an iron transfusion on Thursday to assist with rebuilding the red blood levels.

Thursday 16th Feb I had the iron transfusion today, but still felt extremely tired and wiped out. I was still barely able to sit on the side of the bed whilst they changed it for me, and I was sleeping all the time. Honestly the pain isn’t quite as bad as I imagined it to be, the pain killers work well, the fatigue on the other hand is a killer, not used to feeling like this anymore! The highlight of the day was a visit from my mum and my friends Janelle and Joe!

Friday 17th Feb. Still not much better, pretty wiped out all day, had a quite day and two of my girlfriends came to see me… Had more blood tests and the level had dropped again despite the iron transfusion to around 68. Both House and the Physician stated that it would take a few days for the iron in my system to start to rebuild the red cells and that the level would come up over time. Exhausted I feel asleep very early tonight…

Saturday the 18th Feb – My Birthday (one I won’t forget in a hurry!)

Still draining a lot of fluid and blood from my abdomen, I awoke feeling wiped out, tired and like the sleep I had really did very little for me. After breakfast I went to the bathroom, just as I was about to go back to my bed I started to feel very unwell, very quickly.               I called my nurse who was just outside the door, I remember babbling to my nurse something about feeling like I was going to be sick, then I got dizzy and everything went black….

I had passed out and awoke disoriented with nurses yelling “Lin wake up” over and over. There were so many nurses, I managed to get wheeled back to bed and had a team of Doctor and Nurses in the room – checking everything. Apparently this is called a MET (Medical Emergency Team) call and is broadcast across the hospital so Dr’s and nurses can attend. So they decided that I passed out due to low blood levels and something called the Vagus nerve, which apparently when it is stimulated can make blood pressure drop and you pass out, this combined with the low hemoglobin sent by body into shut down. The doctors said I was as white as the sheets on my bed.. Just what every girl wants to hear! So I was ordered to stay in bed and was to receive a Birthday present from my doctors – Two units of blood to be transfused!

My Mum, Nan and Pa came in the afternoon and brought me some afternoon tea, the blood was flowing and I was feeling a bit better but still unable to get out of bed. Mum cheered me up with a homemade passionfruit iced sponge cake for my birthday – the nurses were so happy to have some supper, plus another friend visited after dinner and brought in a great sense of humour and  a super moist carrot cake, laughter is the best medicine right? (Yes I am spoilt!)

Sunday 19th Feb – Wipeout; Today was pretty much a good example of being wiped out in bed and exhausted – Yesterday’s shenanigans took it out of me a little, that plus I have been stuck in this room since Tuesday night… I miss being active and outdoors, but have no energy to care. The day pretty much consists of taking pain meds, sleeping and trying to recover.

To be continued, stay tuned –

Till next time, Lin xox

Surgery Day Reflections – Here we go!

Riding the wave of emotion all the way to Surgery Day (Those Stay Puff arms soon to be gone!)

(Note: This blog was written over a few days and is about my tummy tuck and arm lift surgery)

I had dinner out tonight (Monday night 13th Feb) ate some lovely seafood and a few laughs with a friend – my last supper before surgery. Got home, packed my case for hospital, gave myself a pedicure with a lovely foot soak, tried to calm down. But it is now 3:30am and I still cant shut my mind down! It is the day of my surgery now, a day that I have been waiting for for many months. I have turned on the Macbook because sleep seems elusive, and my mind is racing. I turn it on to get all these niggling thoughts out of my head….

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I had to stop writing above it wasn’t really helping – It is now 4:30am,(Tuesday 14th Feb) Writing usually helps me deal with stuff, but I just had a bit of a panic attack – this has only happened a few times in my life where the physical symptoms become unbearably palpable.

My heart started to race, constrict and I felt like I was about to have a heart attack… I knew almost straight away that it was a panic attack, my chest hurt, my back hurt – and a headache was brewing..I also knew that I needed to calm down; given I am about to go into surgery in less than 12 hours I can’t take a calmative or any type of pain killer. So I grabbed my heat pack, popped it in the microwave for 3 minutes and tried to walk and breathe through the pain. I used the heat pack over my back chest and head and heat then began to release the muscles. I then called my friend Janelle and she talked to me for a bit, reassuring me, helping me to breath and work through it… It all helps and I feel calmer now, just opened up the Macbook to type what happened – for some reason it feels important to get it all down… I have to stop all food and fluids at 7am. I am tired now – will have a quick sip of water and try to get a few hours sleep.

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I wake at around 9:30am, shower, blow dry the hair, dress and change the bed (I love coming home to fresh sheets) Everything is packed, the day is here and my Mum picks me up to take me to the hospital.

We arrive at the hospital for my 12pm admission and I am taken through to the surgery waiting ward. Next the fashion stakes go up! I gown up in the lovely backless frock that hospitals specialize in, but I do get a nice terry toweling robe for modesty. I also get to wear lovely white compression stockings and a red colored hair net, I strategically (and to pass the time) place the hair net to one side to look like a raspberry beret, then spend the afternoon singing the Prince song to myself…

While I am supposed to go through for surgery at 2pm, I don’t end up going through until around 4:30pm – This doesn’t help with the nerves but I am so tired from lack of sleep I doze in and out, Mum does a good job of keeping me distracted, they come to take me to theatre and I say goodbye to mum. When I get to the holding area I am encouraged to hear some decent music coming from theatre. I joke about the music not being a fan of country music with House (my surgeon) while he marks out all the all the excess skin he is going to chop off a with a Sharpie. The anesthetist gives me some sleeping juice and the last thing I remember is moving onto the operating table….

I don’t remember much from that night – I remember my nurse explaining that I can just press the morphine pump for pain relief, and I vaguely remembered my house mate (who is a nurse at the same hospital) stopping by after her shift (she tells me the next day that I told her to go so she wouldn’t miss her train:) )

In the morning I am told by my nurse that I am not really using the pain pump that much, she asks if I am in pain- I am but don’t want to hit the button – We realize why I am reluctant because when I begin to use it more it makes me nauseated and I am promptly sick. Apparently Mr Morphine pump and I are not going to get along, despite really wanting a relationship him, he is too strong for me, overwhelming and just makes me sick rather than feel better (someone say toxic relationship 😦 ) The Nurses clear with Dr House for me to switch over to a few types of pain tablet and this concoction is much better…

Surprisingly I feel ok by Wednesday afternoon. House and a hospital physician tell me I am still losing a bit of blood through the drainage tubes that are coming out of my arms and stomach (gross right!) and everyone comments that I am a little pale, after blood tests  this is discovered to be due to low Hemoglobin Levels. The Doctors tell me they plan to give me an iron infusion the next day… I have my mum and then later a friend visit Wednesday night  – This makes me feel better, and I think that I am on the road to recovery… While I can’t really get out of bed by Wednesday night I feel quite good & I am hopeful that recovery will continue on this trajectory… Unfortunately things aren’t to pan out quite as smoothly as I would hope…But that will have to wait till the next blog post…                          Till then,

Lin xox

Plastic Surgery; Preparation

Trusting your Surgeon - you need to feel comfortable with them!

I first saw my Plastic Surgeon in November last year (2011) ,and, prior to going, I had done all the obligatory preparation that the modern woman does;  primarily  I Googled the heck out of the topic.  😉

But seriously apart from the google self research, I got a referral from my lap band surgeon, spoke to my GP and gotten another referral for the plastic surgeon, and begun to meet with a psychologist  to talk about the changes ahead.

During all my research there did not seem to be a lot to find about people’s personal journey’s with this type of surgery. There was a lot of info from American sources, mainly plastic surgeons who were explaining their services and methods of surgery. Overall I did not find much of this information to be either relevant or helpful.

What I did find helpful was a list of questions to ask your plastic surgeon about their qualifications, the procedures you are considering, what they would suggest, recovery etc. I went to the Plastic surgeon with the idea of what occurs in America as being the norm. This would be what most of us have seen on USA TV shows; where people who were once morbidly obese and after losing their weight, have multiple procedures at once – including a belt lipectomy (tummy tuck all the way around the middle), arm lift, thigh lift and breast lift.

So I spoke to my Surgeon (lets call him House) who has consulting rooms at a very reputable Private Hospital in Malvern. On our first meeting he listened to my story of weight loss, running and wanting to deal with the skin that was holding me back both physically and emotionally. He listened well, answered all my questions on my list and explained what he thought would be the best plan forward for my personal situation and case.

House explained that I would likely get better results in the long term by breaking all the procedures that I would need up over 3 different surgeries. This would allow my body to recover better, allow the skin to be stretched in one direction for one procedure and then tightened the opposite direction on the next procedure. House also explained that in the USA they tend to have to do all the procedures at once to get their health insurance to cover it as they often won’t cover and pay for multiple procedures despite this providing better results over time (Yet another reason to be thankful for Australian Health Cover).

House was great in the initial consultation, he showed me pics of his work and I felt at ease with him. I scheduled the 1st surgery for tummy tuck including a lateral thigh lift (this means it goes a bit wider than a tummy tuck over to the sides) and a Brachioplasty (arm lift) for Feb 14th 2012…We agreed that these were the two main areas that were affecting my health, exercise progress and self esteem the most, and to start there and work on the other areas progressively over the next 18 months.

From this point it was a matter of working out the logistics such as; time off work, money, and staying fit and healthy… What I found out in the lead up to surgery was that despite wanting the surgery I was very scared and fearful of what was ahead.

Some days I was fine with the idea of surgery, but mostly I spent most of my time trying not to think about it. Part of the reason (apart from not liking hospitals) was that I was scared more this time than the last time I had surgery (which was the lap band surgery). I was scared because I love life now; and actually have a life to lose… Last time I didn’t have any quality of life, nothing to lose and the prospect of something going wrong didn’t seems like it could be worse than the life I lived then.

I spoke to friends and colleagues, and my Psychologist about this… Their feedback was it is OK to be scared (it is normal) but they also reminded me that my surgeon and all the people involved in the surgery are professionals and do this type of surgery all the time!

This was what I needed to hear and allowed me to think about the surgery in a new way…

So in the lead up to surgery; I used a variety of strategies to get through and deal with the anxiety –

*Being informed & trusting that House is a professional who knows his stuff and practices at a great hospital.

*Staying busy and speaking to my friends, family and Psych. A Big thanks to my all friends and family for listening to me and a special thanks to SM who told me her personal story of plastic surgery and what she went through with a tummy tuck!

*Continuing to live a very social life – Meeting up with friends, going out, working out and having a few drinks; still living and enjoying life.

*Knowing that at the end of it all, I am strong and can get through this (They have drugs for the pain right!)

So in the next installment I will talk about the day before surgery and the big day itself!

Till next time

Lin xox

Surgery, My Valentines Present to myself!

I haven’t blogged a lot over the past few weeks, and I apologize for this. I have felt caught between a rock and a hard place over the past few weeks, and this has been because I have been getting ready for reconstructive plastic surgery.

Under the Knife - Happy Valentines Day!

I have been dealing with a variety of different emotions over the past months as I have been meeting with doctors, surgeons and my psychologist in getting ready for this, the next part of my journey.

With losing a huge amount of weight, I also lost any chance of my skin being able to bounce back, I lost all skin elasticity and therefore kind of looked like a deflated balloon when all the clothes came off. This was not something that I was happy with, part of me felt deflated too, it wasn’t boding well for my self esteem; Moreover it was causing me medical issues, especially when it came to exercise and physical training.

After speaking with my GP and referrals and appointments with Reconstructive Plastic Surgeons, I decided that the best way forward from this point would be to undergo 3 separate surgeries over the next 18 months. This would address most of  the issues and allow me to move forward emotionally and physically. It would also give me the best chance to have good outcomes without stressing my body by trying to have everything done in a short time frame.

I haven’t exactly hidden the fact that I am getting surgery, I have told friends, colleagues and family what I am doing – just haven’t blogged about it yet. I have had extraordinary support from everyone I have told.

I have had some crazy moments, moment of being so scared and paralyzed by the thought of what was happening, but have been supported through all these emotions by amazing people in my life; I am blessed to have such great friends, family and support.

So on Valentines Day this year (2012) I went into Hospital to for the first of 3 surgeries (Or as i jokingly call them to my friends – the slice and dice) I am now recovering from a tummy tuck / lateral thigh lift and a brachioplasty (arm lift) still in Hospital and will blog a bit about the journey that I have been through over the coming days… It has been a rough couple of days in Hospital, and the recovery has been slow! But I am happy to share it now, I was scared to write about it at the start, to share it – always for fear of being judged! – But now I know that I need to share it, because if this helps one person who is going through something similar, then this is how I pay it forward…

Will write more soon , Till next time

Lin xox