One would imagine that as a person who has had some big plastic surgery by an amazing life-changing surgeon and has ended up with the most amazing results would never say something like “I survived plastic surgery”. One would expect to hear me say “I am so lucky to have had plastic surgery!” and I am. They might imagine me saying “What an amazing life changing experience!” and it is. What people rarely expect to hear is “That was one of the most challenging experiences of my life and I survived it.” It was and I did and I am forever changed in more ways than anyone could ever expect.
Let me give you some background: I lost an amazing amount of weight and ended up with an equally amazing amount of extra skin. As a gastric bypass patient I expected to have a tummy tuck at some point but I ended up needing a full body lift with some extra thigh work thrown in just for kicks. Basically what that means is that I got cut in half, filleted and pulled up like a pair of panty hose, then add in a little extra thigh work and voila! A new woman!
I read a great deal about my impending surgery and tried to prepare myself for the pain that was involved. I’ve not given birth so I couldn’t relate it to that, nor had I had any serious surgery other than the gastric bypass, which by my standards of pain was a breeze. Laproscopic surgery and migraines were my only references for pain.
I was in for a rude awakening.
I went into surgery as ready as I could be for it. I had a positive attitude, I had one full week of 24 hour care by friends and family set up, and was as prepared emotionally (therapy) and physically (exercise and vitamin supplements) as I could possibly be. The first thing I can remember is waking up after surgery (and I’m still not sure whether it was in the recovery room or in the operating room) and being put into what I consider a medieval torture device: the compression garment. As they were transferring a freshly filleted Large/Medium Sized Marlene into an Extra Small Petite Torture Garment I felt intense pain, intense enough to use words and threats that even I didn’t know I was capable of and let me tell you, I am a professional at cursing. I remember waking up twice during that particular procedure, both times I swore like a sailor and threatened bodily harm to those who were inflicting me with that pain. The next thing I remember is waking up in my hospital room. A dear friend who was a hospice nurse for 25 years had lovingly volunteered to be with me my first night in the hospital. I had told her “Oh no, I’m sure I’ll be fine!” to which she guffawed amd swore she would not allow me to be alone on my first night. I will never be able to thank her enough for being there that night. I recall waking up and having the nurses tell me that I had to sit up and walk around. I looked at them with what I imagine to be the look of Satan, as I knew deep in my soul that this was going to be bad. I shut my eyes, said a few words of encouragement to myself and began sitting up. I’m pretty sure I moved .02 millimeters and realized that the level of pain I had was beyond anything I had ever expected. I looked at my friend and my face must have said it all as this seasoned nurse, a nurse who dealt with the dying and who had known that I was a pretty tough cookie and had survived a lot, saw my face and became slack jawed and immobile for a few seconds.
All I can remember thinking in that moment is that I wanted to die.
In that single second I thought of drug addicts I knew that could bring me enough prescription pain meds to kill me, poisons that I could get easily, and wondered if wishing death upon myself hard enough hard could actually kill me.
I realize this must sound dramatic and silly to some and I know others have suffered pain far beyond what I have, but if you research this surgery carefully I think you will agree that it is not an easy one. I also know that the mindset of someone who has to have a surgery because of a life or death experience might experience pain differently than someone who is experiencing it voluntarily. I asked for this surgery. I paid for this surgery. I wanted this surgery. I know this changes things, however, in an effort to write honestly I can only tell you what I felt and what I felt was miserable, god-forsaken pain that I wanted to end. Now.
Here’s where things better! My surgeon came in the next morning and I told him what I was feeling and he immediately said that I shouldn’t be feeling that intensity of pain and instructed the nurses to add something to my pain cocktail. This alone made me feel better. Let me say that in no uncertain terms, I adore my surgeon: he hung the moon, the stars and all celestial beings in my opinion, but in reality the man has never had a “full body lift with extra thigh work for kicks” so I cannot ask him to know what I felt. I believe that man to be god-like in many ways but I can never ask him to know what if feels like to have the surgery I had.
After that things got progressively easier. I requested an extra night in the hospital as I did not believe that I nor my “keepers” could deal with what I had experienced and my most amazing surgeon made it happen. Once I got home things got better and better. It was hard, harder than I ever expected. It was hard on my many Nurse Ratcheds, as they had no idea what to expect either (I could tell you the story of two of my friends painstakingly applying ointments, accidentally violating me and taping me to death only to have me move one half inch and have everything come off in a sheet, completely in-tact like a mummy). It truly took a village, and I had the most amazing village anyone could ever imagine, but nothing, and I mean nothing could make it easy. It was hard. And let me tell you, for several months nothing about got easier.
People assume that since you volunteered for Plastic Surgery that it’s easy... that it is somehow a delightful experiencethat you chose and because yo chose it that it causes nothing but smiles and puppies in baskets and rainbows and unicorns. Let me dispel this myth now... plastic surgery is SURGERY. They cut you, you bleed, you feel pain, you heal, etc... just because you volunteered does NOT make this easier.
There. I feel better. Do you?
I do not mean to scare you, I simply want to let you know that no matter what procedure you are having that nothing is easy. I have had minor work done (extra eyelid skin removed, Botox, Juvaderm) and major work done (full body lift with extended medial thigh lift). I would gladly take 6000 shots of botox and juvaderm and have my entire eyelid removed before I would volunteer for a full body lift again, however, let me say, unequivocally, without doubt, I AM HAPPY that I did it once. Every last little bit of pain, misery, etc... was worth it. Why? Because for the first time in my life I feel like a normal human being. When I gain five pounds I see it in my beautifully smooth lipo-suctioned outer thigh and I feel it in my amazingly tight tucked stomach. I sit down in a chair and see my lap and I now understand the whole concept of lying down to get into a pair of tight jeans!
My incredible, most amazing surgeon made me look normal for the first time in my life. This, my readers, is an accomplishment that most will never understand, but on my end, this makes my surgeon god-like. I began my journey at 426 pounds and now people see me and think that I am “normal”. Dealing with me is not easy. I am relatively smart, I ask questions and think I deserve answers. That is why choosing a surgeon is so vital. And let me add that my journey is far from over. I plan on having several other procedures (if my surgeon will suffer me!)
I highly suggest visiting several surgeons and seeing who “fits” you... do they understand where you have been? Do they know where you want to be in the future? When you sit in their waiting room, do the other patients look anything like what YOU want to look? Does your surgeon listen to your fears? Your desires? Do you like what you see when you look at their “before and after” photos? Do you like their office staff and strangely, do you like the way they look? (You will be in contact with many of them before and after your surgery and, chances are, they have had work done.)
I read a great deal about local surgeons, I read reviews of their work on websites, and as a gastric bypass patient, I admit I had amazing resources online that perhaps an average person who is looking for a facelift or breast augmentation might not have, but nonetheless, you are the consumer and YOU are in charge of your experience. You get to look at pictures, ask questions, research EVERYTHING. I chose my surgeon wisely and I have never looked back. He has been my advocate and a trusted confidant. I trust that man with my life, and let me say, I LOVE my life so I do not trust it to, well, anyone but my surgeon. He has seen parts of me that only lovers have seen and he has seen me at my absolute most vulnerable. Again, I trust him with my life.
And with my amazing surgeon, I would do it all over again. (with a little whining)