So…I Think I Want a Tummy Tuck
By: Lisa Rodgers
For those of you that don’t know me, I have been a Certified Scrub Technician at the Centre for Plastic Surgery for 8 years. After all the tummy tuck procedures I had seen & done (hundreds!), it didn’t seem too hard so I decided that after having 3 kids & losing some weight I was going to have it done. Having watched so many moms like me get fantastic results I was confident it was the right procedure for me. Since so many come to us for this surgery I thought I would take this opportunity to share. This is the story of my experience from start to finish.
I am a mom to three wonderful kids. I’ve always struggled with my weight & childbirth didn’t help. Still, I felt like I could handle it with diet & exercise. I was wrong. Even after working hard to get healthy & loose the extra pounds I just couldn’t get to the shape I was hoping for. Finally I just thought “I work at a plastic surgery office!! Why not get a Tummy Tuck?!”
Standing in front of a surgeon in your underwear showing him the most hated part of your body can be a very awkward experience (especially when you work with him!) With my personality the best way to get over it was laughter. Once we moved beyond the giggles & jokes the whole process was incredibly professional. Being on the patient’s end for the first time was very enlightening. The love that our staff has for their jobs really shows through. They made me feel as important as any other patient & extremely comfortable with my decision.
Once I had gone through my consultation, had my date picked out & the deposit paid the next step was my pre-op appointment. Our pre-op nurse Maribeth went through all the details with me. Despite the fact that I have been a part of so many Tummy Tuck procedures, it was so different being the patient! During the appointment she took me through the whole process of before & after surgery including all the medications that would be used including the ones that I shouldn’t take. She answered all of my questions & even went over the clothing I should wear the day of my surgery (yoga pants & a zip up shirt are best!)
Finally, the day of my surgery came. Surprisingly, I wasn’t really even nervous. After working with everyone for so long there wasn’t much to be concerned about. I knew they could get my IV started (which is usually a struggle on me), and that I would be in the best hands. My only concern was how getting sick from the anesthesia but the anesthesiologist was right on top of it treating me for nausea with medication even before the surgery was underway. I kissed my husband goodbye as I was going to “sleep” and that was the last thing I remember before I woke up in recovery (with no nausea!!). It was the very first time I didn’t get sick from being put under. In recovery, they let me wake up first. Then they helped me up into a recliner chair, and made sure I had plenty of ice on my belly to help control swelling. They went over all the post-op care instructions with my husband like how long I needed to be iced, when I needed to take my medications, how often I needed to get up & walk & what to do with the drains that are placed during surgery. Then I was on my way home! That was when the hard part started.
Even though it’s an outpatient procedure a Tummy Tuck is still a major surgery. That night, the Dr. called to check in. Even though it’s not a normal protocol for most practices, our physicians call every one of their patients the evening after their procedure. By the time I received that call I had started thinking “what did I do!!?” Even though I had been told what to expect & had seen so many patients go through it I still wasn’t prepared for it to be so hard.
The first thing I discovered was to forget about underwear for the first few days. It’s best to plan on just being in a nightshirt as it’s much easier to deal with when you need to use the bathroom. Each patient goes home in a binder that helps to support the abdominal muscles. When you have an abdominoplasty, your tummy muscles “go on strike” for the first few days meaning that they literally stop working. My husband had to be available to help me get up & down, help me walk, & help me to use the bathroom since I couldn’t do it on my own. He kept my ice packs fresh & even set his alarm at night to give me my pain pills. (It’s much better if you take them on time to stay ahead of the pain.) He also helped me to empty my drains & monitor the fluid. The next thing I found out was that it was better to use your bed. For the first couple of days I thought it was easiest to sleep in a recliner but finally found that my bed was much more comfy. I took all the pillows I could find to prop my body into a comfortable position. After about three days I was finally ready to shower & I was still feeling so uneasy I made my husband get in with me. It’s important to have someone close by, as you are still very unstable. It was incredibly eye-opening to discover that there was so much I couldn’t do on my own.
The other part I wasn’t prepared for was how stir crazy I would be! I had gone to the library ahead of time to rent two seasons of a show I wanted to watch, but it wasn’t enough. I had to have my husband run out for movies regularly & invite my friends come to visit me. I am a very busy person & it was so difficult not being able to get out of the house. It’s really important to plan on lying very low and having things planned to keep your mind occupied.
After about a week I was starting to feel much better & that was when I went in for my post-op appointment. At that point most patients are still a little bent over, moving slow, & tiring easily. I was all of those things. The physician will check your incisions, remove drains, & go over any additional instructions. For me, this appointment was when I really started to feel human again. Even after the post-op appointment you’ll still need to be in the binder & there is a bit of a science to getting dressed. I found it easiest to put the binder on over a tank top, and then to put my underwear over the tank & binder. It’s much easier to use the restroom when you don’t have to dig for your underwear under all those layers!! I also found that keeping up on ice regularly at this point really helped with the pain & swelling.
Writing this blog I am a few weeks post-surgery. I’m healed & cleared to go back to my normal activities. I haven’t had my post-op pictures taken yet since it takes a few months for the swelling to be completely down, but I’m getting closer. Everyone has asked me “would you do it again?” The answer is “you bet I would!!!” Even though the recovery was harder than I thought it would be & I still haven’t made it to my final result I am so incredibly happy! A few days of pain & limitations was well worth the confidence I feel now. When I look in the mirror I am ecstatic with my improved shape. Beyond that, I have an even higher level of respect for my co-workers & the physicians at CPS. I truly love them all & am so thankful. As a patient they exceeded my expectations & made it an amazing experience from start to finish.