Continued Healing

This will likely be my last Panniculectomy surgery update for quite some time because there’s not much left to say.  As of yesterday, Thursday April 27th, I am 5 weeks post-op.  I saw my surgeon for a check up on Tuesday, and everything is well.  The splitting in the middle is almost all the way healed, and the splitting on my side/hip is still open and rather deep, but healing at a fairly quick rate.  The doc said it looked good, and to just keep it clean and dry.  I am officially off of all antibiotics and doing well.  Very little pain, if any.  Just the occasional zing of nerve pain from having a big portion of skin removed which is totally bearable, some muscle aches and pains if I sit still for too long at a time, and phantom itching for the part of my skin that is gone.  But besides that I feel mostly normal again.  I have to continue to wear my compression garments for a few more months, which I am comfortable with since I have some swelling and a lot of scarring at this time.

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On the left: Summer 2015, 270ish lbs. On the right: Spring 2017, 210ish lbs. and post-panniculectomy.

The garments I have are probly about as comfortable as they can get, so I don’t mind wearing them most of the time.  I don’t have to see the doctor again for another 4 months, and that’s just for another routine checkup.  Plus my belly looks slightly lop-sided, and we just want to make sure that’s going away and looking great by that time in my recovery.  If not, I may discuss a repair, but I’m hoping we won’t need to go down that road.

 

I am going to continue to see my nutritionist so that I can continue down my healthy path and proceed with documentation in support of a breast reduction.  I will be eligible as soon as October for that surgery, but I think I will likely wait until at least January just to give myself a break from all the surgery recovery pains, to make sure I’ve lost the weight I want to lose and firm things up a bit, and to make sure I’m not going to miss half of next summer in recovery.

Once that surgery is complete, I will be done with surgeries in regards to loose skin.  For one, I don’t have insurance that will cover anything more.  And for another, I do believe I can firm things up from here with some vigorous exercise and willpower to keep at it.  Since the Panniculectomy I have been slowly losing more weight, even being sedentary.  I think it changed my metabolism a bit, and I look forward to taking advantage of that soon.  At my 6 week mark, which is next Thursday, my activity restriction is lifted and I will be riding my bike and hitting the gym at least a couple times per week.  I’m really looking forward to it.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually looked forward to exercising.  But without that embarrassing belly flap, I have nothing to fear.  I am currently at 209 pounds, and my overall goal is 175 (though government BMI standards say I should be around 135, I think I would look anorexic if I got down to that weight…. I still want some curves!). I know I can accomplish 175 with more hard work.

Thanks for reading along with my surgery journey.  I hope I have helped those of you who were trying to decide if this surgery was right for them.  I hope I have given you what you need for information if you were going through struggles with the recovery.  I hope I have provided support or encouragement for those of you also on a weight loss journey.  Good luck to you all, and thanks again!

More Splitting

I’m sparing you the photos, because it’s gross…

Now that the front splitting area is under control and healing well, the one on my right hip has come much farther open.  It is at the end of the incision, and has been draining quite a bit.  Last night I was using q-tips to gently clean out some darker colored stuff inside it, and I decided since it was very obviously open under the one remaining steristrip that went over it, I should probly take it off so I could clean it better.  Once I did that, I saw just how ugly and deep it was under there, and how much it stunk, I had a bit of a panic attack.  I had Jake take me to the ER in the town where I had the surgery done.  The ER doctor was in the room for maybe 30 seconds and told me to go to my surgeon’s clinic today.  It took me a while to get an appointment made today, and my surgeon was not in the office today, but I did see his nurse.  She looked at it, measured it, and told me that since this is such a big surgery and such a large incision, its is very common for them to come open a little bit here and there.  She assured me I was okay and not annoying or naggy for being so concerned about all these wound changes.  She assured me it was just because I have never been through this before so its all unknown to me, and let me know that she sees things like this every day in their clinic.  She said keep the wound clean and dry, no ointment or anything.  Continue taking antibiotics, and leave it open if desired to let air get to it, as it will help it heal.  But keeping it covered is okay too, since it drains and I don’t want that all over my clothes.  Either way.

I feel a little embarrassed about how upset and scared I was over it, but she’s right, I haven’t ever been through this before.  Every surgery I’ve ever had has healed up without an issue.  And this one is much bigger and major.  But now that I know its not dying tissue, and its normal and healthy for what it is, I can relax and just re-focus on healing.

Splitting *graphic image*

Just when I thought things were healing well, I notice some extra drainage right in the front middle of my incision line on Friday of last week.  At first I freaked out, thinking it was a lot deeper than it actually is.  I called the surgeon’s clinic and they told me it has to heal from the inside out, that there’s nothing I can do.  So I’ve been babying it over the weekend.  However, I finally pulled off the saturated and no-longer-stuck steri-strips this morning, and its not nearly as bad as I originally thought.  I think the mystery of being behind bandage, paired with my fear of a wound coming open, played hell with my imagination.  Included in this post is an actual photo of how open it is.  It’s probly about 1/3 of an inch deep, but keeps closed with tight bandaids, enough to keep it from gapping and open enough that it won’t get infected hopefully.

I’ve found that the little open spots here and there, like my belly button and other very small spots like this one have a hard time closing up.  And I think that’s because they are covered 24/7 with compression garments and/or absorbent gauze in an attempt to keep them dry.  I think its hard for them to heal as well when they don’t get much air and are ALWAYS covered.  But I’m not allowed to go without the garments, so I guess for now I’ll just stay on antibiotics to keep infection from taking over, and keep cleaning and drying the wounds as much as I can.

Furthermore, I am not really satisfied with how I’m looking cosmetically, so I’m considering a consultation with a different surgeon to get their opinion and see if there’s anything we can do to fix what I don’t like.

Swelling & Bloating

Today I had another post-op appointment.  It was just supposed to be with a nurse to get the rest of my staples out, but since I have been having some issues, she had to call my surgeon in as well.

Last Friday I called and explained to them that my bellybutton was still not looking good.  Since they took 1/2 the staples out last week, it has sort of pulled away and doesn’t seem to be healing together.  I can see the stitches under the skin and it drains quite a lot, not to mention it hurts all the way around it and its a deep pain.  So they said they would leave a prescription for more pain meds for me in the emergency department since it would be after hours before I could pick it up.  But on the way there I decided I would go ahead and see a doctor since there was just the beginning of an odor.

Once I got there, the ER doctor took a look and diagnosed me with mild cellulitis in and around my bellybutton.  He prescribed a different antibiotic than I had just finished off, I picked up my prescription for pain meds, and went home.  The pain meds helped over the weekend, but my bloating got pretty bad.  In fact, I think my tummy looks about 3-4 months pregnant.  I had been telling Jake I was pregnant with a water baby.  LOL

My bloated round belly

Back to today… the nurse took my staples out everywhere except around my bellybutton.  She put steri-strips across the entire incision where there weren’t already steri-strips from last week.  Then the surgeon came in and decided he wanted to try to drain fluid from under my skin, since that was what he believed the bloating to be from.  He had a large, I’m guessing 14-gauge needle, and poked me right in the belly to drain fluid.  It really freaked me out, and it hurt.  Thank goodness my mom was there with me to try to distract me because I thought I was going to pass out.  He didn’t get any fluid out, so he tried a second poke.  He then told me that it wasn’t fluid making me bloated, it was a large blood clot between my skin and my abdominal wall that could not be removed with the needle due to its thick consistency.  It is not dangerous, and is fairly normal.  But it was not able to be drained.  He said keep wearing compression garments (which I have been 24/7 except showers), and go ahead and stay active.  It will take 6-10 weeks for the clot to dissolve and go away, and until then I just have to deal with the bloating. He said to speed the process slightly and decrease discomfort, I should take hot showers (not baths), and/or use a heating pad on my belly.

Also, he said my bellybutton looks okay, and he promises it will look better someday.  But for now I am to finish up the antibiotics and keep the remaining staples in it for another 2 weeks.

The best news of the day: most of the staples are out and I can be active again.  And by active I mean walking.  Still no lifting or strenuous activity.

Released!

On Tuesday I went for a recheck with my surgeon and got those hideous drains out of my skin at last!  He also took out about half of the staples, every other one.  I got steri-strips in their place, alternated with the remaining staples.

He said the reason my bellybutton looked like it wasn’t healing together properly is because bellybuttons don’t like being held up the way the staples held it up.  He took out about half of those staples too, and my bellybutton has since sunk down into my belly a little bit more like it should.  There’s still a lot of drainage from it though, so I’m having to pack it with gauze to keep it as dry as possible.  Kinda gross, but manageable.  The surgeon also agreed that my bellybutton is, in fact, off center just a tad.  He said a lot of the problem right now is that there is a lot more swelling and fluid build-up on the right side of my belly, so it makes it look a lot worse.  Once that goes down it won’t be quite as noticeable.  But if I d
on’t like it once I’m all healed, he’d be happy to remove the bellybutton altogether if I’m unhappy with it.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, so I’ll just cross that bridge when I come to it.

I was also released from the abdominal binders!!!  He said I could use a normal tummy control garment from now on as long as I wear them constantly other than for showers (for another 3+ months).  I chose Maidenform brand, and tried several different styles before I chose to stick with the romper style.  The proper size for me, large 12/14, is ridiculously hard to get on, but once its on it provides wonderful compression for proper healing.  Its much more comfortable because it moves with me rather than folding, pinching and poking like the binders did.  All the reviews said always get a size up, but honestly I don’t think that would provide the compression I need.  Its a battle to get the proper size on, but it does what its suppose to.  So I can’t complain too much, and I definitely recommend the proper size to get the job done for this particular cause.

I’ve been quite a bit more active since that appointment so my pain has been increased slightly.  But the discomfort from the drains is gone, so it sort of balances out.  I’m still needing to take frequent rest breaks.  I’m still trying to take things as easy as possible so I continue to heal quickly.  I get the rest of my staples out next Monday.