This is going to be a bit long but I wanted to get this down for myself and for anyone else who may be considering doing this particular combination of plastic surgery options. After a 130lb weight loss, from a combo of WeightWatchers and lapband, I maintained my weight for 5 months within a 3 lb range. My insurance paid for an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and bilateral brachioplasty (upper arm lifts) – I was extremely fortunate to have both covered, as that rarely happens. Here’s how it went:
My procedure took 5 hours, for which I was intubated and catheterized (fortunately not while I was awake to know about either one). Between belly and arms, the surgeon removed ten pounds of skin and fat, but mostly skin. There was no liposuction. However, post-op, the doctor told me that they had done a bit of muscle contouring in the lower belly to achieve the goals we wanted. Which meant more pain and a slightly harder recovery but a better ultimate result.
The tummy tuck incision is along the bikini line (not that I’ve ever worn one, but you get the idea), and it went completely across my front and wrapped slightly around the sides, ending on the side of my butt. Surgical drains (4) were inserted on both ends beyond that point to drain out fluids, help reduce swelling and improve healing. They are emptied and contents measured 3 times a day. I’m hoping hoping hoping that the drains will be removed on Tuesday’s post-op visit coz they are a pain in the butt – literally.
The very long incision is covered by Tegaderm, a clear acrylic dressing that helps hold the skin together for a more narrow scar, protect the incision from bacteria, and serves as a barrier to water. Supposedly I can keep it on for up to 2 weeks at a time, even through showers. (Not that I’ve had one yet; those stupid drains have to go first.)
My belly button is original but it was reattached when the skin was tightened so I have a dressing over that, too. And on top of everything I have a giant abdominal compression binder that feels like a corset. It actually does feel good to have the extra support, especially if I start to cough, and my drains are clipped to the top, which fits just under the bra line. Not exactly attractive but it works.
Now on to the arms: incisions are on the bottom of the arms (think holding your arms out to the side, palm forward; what’s on the bottom got trimmed up) and run from the elbow into the armpit. These incisions are also covered with Tegaderm and I have dressings that run from my back to front inside the armpit. It is next to impossible to make them stay in place. I also have ace bandages wrapped on both arms.
Believe it or not, this 5-hour procedure was day surgery. My insurance (and university) allowed me to transfer in a wheelchair van from the surgical center to the university health inpatient facility for 4 nights, and it made a HUGE difference. Just having two people at a time help me get out of bed was huge (just try getting up when your belly feels sliced open and you can’t put any weight on your arms). There is simply no way I could have managed home-care on my own, or even if I had someone there to help me.
My first week post-op was spent in the infirmary and at home, loopy on percoset, wrapped up like a mummy and dressed in my fleece pajamas. Because getting in and out of bed is so hard, I haven’t napped in bed since I got home. I get into bed by sitting on the side and looping a scarf around one foot at a time to pull the legs up without pulling on the abs. I sleep with bed wedge pillow to elevate my head and a big pillow under my knees to keep the body in a folded position, also to reduce stress on the abs.
As of now, I feel physically a lot better than I did even yesterday; every day is an improvement. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how the surgeon’s office thinks I can change the dressings on my own. The ones for the drains are on my BUTT and the ones on my armpit run front to back – how the heck do I change the dressings when my arm movement is restricted by stitches? I’m also apparently incapable of correctly wrapping ace bandages on my arms – again, having each one hampered by incisions is not making it easier. I saw my primary care doctor on Friday for a quick checkin and the nurses changed the dressings for me – and asked me how anyone thought I should be able to do them myself. No idea coz I have the same question.
I go back to the surgeon’s office on Tuesday – Day 14 from surgery. I am really hoping the drains come out and I get permission to drive plus a signed note to return to work. I need to find out what the long term plans are for those awful “under the armpit” dressings and when the stitches come out (the ones in the arms; the lower big incision are absorbable). I am still swollen and will be for a while, but every day that gets better and the more I return to normal life activities, the better that will get. No workouts at the gym, certainly, but even the usual ups and downs of standing, sitting, walking here, stairs, etc. will make me feel more normal.
And I can’t wait to get rid of the red moleskin shirt I’m currently wearing. I look pregnant because of the drains clipped in the front on the binder, and this is the only thing (other than my fleece pajamas with polar bears wearing pink scarves) that can cover the drains. Do you think burning it would be too excessive? Only after I’m fitting back into other things again, of course 🙂