Plastic Surgery: A Pre and Post Op Diary

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Well, its not exactly travel related, but it’s Elle related, so I figured that it was okay to write about my experience with reconstructive plastic surgery on this blog.

Basically, this post is going to be a collection of small diary entries from three weeks before my first surgery until I am six weeks post op.

Basically, I am undergoing two operations to remove excess skin following a dramatic weight loss when I was in my teens. The first (and most intense) operation is a belt lipectomy (also known as a body lift) and involves a cut that goes the entire way around my lower abdomen, having the excess skin cut off and everything sewn back together. The second operation is a thigh lift, which follows a similar process to a belt lipectomy but with the cuts being in the groin and inner thigh area.

Thank you for reading and for all the support I have received in comments and DM’s – I really appreciate it.

Feb 20th 2019 – 21 days until first operation

Well, I am absolutely shitting myself. Not literally of course, but I am seriously freaking out.

It is all just coming up so quickly, the next three weeks are going to fly by, and then there’s no turning back. I mean, there’s not really any turning back now either, I have already spent $6000 towards this first operation, and there is no way I would be prepared to lose that money.

But still, I am having second thoughts and doubts.

I have had operations before, and I never feared them the way I am fearing this one. I know why. I was never a healthcare professional when I’d previously gone under the knife. I was told of the risks, but I never really comprehended them.

But now I know all about what could go wrong. I have seen wound dehiscence and wound infections firsthand. I have seen sepsis come on so suddenly and so violently that patients have gone into true septic shock. I have seen people nearly bleed to death with DIC. I have seen DVTs and pulmonary embolisms nearly kill people.

I fear because I know too much.

I know all about what could go wrong and what could happen to me, and worse of all, if something does go wrong, I’ll have to accept that it was my decision to have the surgery that ultimately made it happen.

For the first time in a long time, I feel really scared.

But, not going ahead with the surgery scares me even more. I don’t want to live with this excess skin forever. I hate it. I hate the way it feels, the way it looks, the way it makes me self conscious and the way that I am acutely aware of it in every single moment of my life.

I need it gone, and in three weeks, it will be.

March 3rd – 9 days until first operation

Thank goodness, the fear has started to subside. I have been able to sleep a bit better over the past few days, and my fear is slowly being replaced with complete and utter impatience. I have reached a point where I am not totally shitting myself, and now I just want it to be all done and I want to get started on the road to recovery.

I have had a consult with my anaesthetist, I have purchased my compression garments, my bag is (semi) packed and my dear Papa Burne has booked flights to come and be with me during those first few days post op.

I finally feel ready. It’s a nice relief.

March 9th – 4 days until first operation

I was so sure that this period of waiting would fly by, but now everything feels like it is moving slower than a snail.

I had trouble getting to sleep again last night, but it didn’t feel stress related. More than anything, I now just feel restless. I cleaned my entire unit yesterday, which is quite the red flag. I usually hate cleaning and only tend to do little bits and pieces of it at a time, but no, yesterday I scrubbed this place completely clean and didn’t hate it.

I have today off, two more days at work, one more day off to run final pre op errands and then it will be the day.

It can’t come soon enough.

March 12th – Day before first operation

Well, I have officially been ‘marked up’. I have lines drawn all over my abdomen marking where the cuts will be made, and I am not gonna lie, it is equally exciting and terrifying.

My dad arrives from Adelaide tomorrow to be with me for the first few days post op, which brings me so much comfort. Papa Burne has been there with me for all three of my previous operations (what can I say, I’m defective) and I find his presence very reassuring.

I feel scared, ready and anxious all at once.

Let’s do this.

March 17th – Day 5 post op

The first few days of this recovery were pretty fricking brutal.

I started spiking temperatures not long after I got back to the ward. My first concern was that I was brewing sepsis, but the reality was that it was far too soon for a post-op infection.

I was eventually diagnosed with Influenza B, which I must have contracted a few days pre-op, but due to the incubation period I didn’t have any signs or symptoms until after I had gone through everything.

To say that I felt like I’d been hit by a bus was an understatement, but I was relieved that it wasn’t an infection. Getting the flu is awful, but at least it would resolve in a few days and didn’t have the potential to wreak havoc in the same way that an infection would.

However, today is day five and I am feeling so much better! I am walking around with ease, only requiring panadol for pain relief and just generally, the pain from the surgery itself has not been anywhere as bad as I expected.

As for the results, well, I am pretty darn stoked.

My surgeon removed a whopping 4.8kg of skin from my abdomen, which is kinda crazy when you think about the fact that the entire skin of an average human weighs in at around 9-10kg.

I am finally free from my hideous belly overhang, and I am so so happy.

March 20th – Day 8 post op

I feel scarily normal already.

Like, I probably could have gone to work today! I am in almost no pain, my swelling is getting better all the time and just generally, I feel really well.

I really expected this to be harder.

May 5th – 7.5 weeks post op #1 and 3.5 weeks post op #2

My entries definitely died off after my second surgery, mostly because it was a totally different experience to the first one, and it was one of the most painful and distressing experiences of my life.

Where the first operation had been easy, the second was incredibly difficult. The amount of pain that I was in was truly unbelievable. I was taking so many prescription pain pills and I still felt like they didn’t touch the sides. After my first op was so easy, I was truly not prepared for such an overwhelming amount of pain and discomfort.

I am still in pain even now, though I am better enough that I have returned to work.

I still don’t really feel back to normal though, though hopefully that feeling isn’t too much further off.

I also developed a serious case of the post anaesthesia blues. I was so depressed that I wouldn’t let my nurses open the blinds for three days straight. I barely ate for over a week and cried near constantly. I even started to seriously contemplate ending my relationship with Dan – it is really disturbing to think about how strongly my mental health could be influenced and impacted by those anaesthetic drugs.

From a mental health POV, I am much better now.

Guess what cured me?

Travel planning of course!

As I write this entry I am in the midst of actively planning four trips for this year, as well as two more for next year. Having those adventures on the horizon has really helped to get me back to the happy and positive person that I was before.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, for me, travel (and even just travel planning) has almost always proved to be a cathartic and life affirming experience.

This is the last entry I will add to this post, so, once again, thank you for all the support, encouragement and love that you have shown me over the past few months – it has meant so much to me.

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

11 thoughts on “Plastic Surgery: A Pre and Post Op Diary

  1. Elle, I’m so glad that you’re feeling better! I know this is a big operation as my ex wife had this done a few years ago, it was really hard for her but she was OK. I look forward to your travel adventures in the future. You two make a cute couple too!

  2. I’m glad to hear you’re on the road to recovery, and really admire you for sharing your experience! It can’t have been easy opening up about it all.

  3. Im glad you are through the surgeries now. The last one sounded a nightmare.
    Why DO those anaesthetics create such havoc with mental health sometimes, do you know? I was down and anxious after back surgery too.
    PS you look beautiful in the photo here!

  4. It’s been a wee while since I’ve stopped by…I’m so glad to read that you are recovering well and are back to travel planning (you’re right, this is a good sign!), take good care!

  5. When I was in a really bad accident and needed like 4 surgeries in two weeks, I was also super depressed, anxious, and completely lost my appetite… I thought at the time it was the situation plus all the opioid painkillers, but maybe it was also the anesthesia! I honestly had never felt anything as crazy as that before, even when I was properly depressed. Anyway, I’m glad you’re back up and at ’em, and I can’t wait to see more of your travels!

  6. Dear Ellen, what a journey you have been through – so happy to hear that you are finally on the up though. That photo of you with Dan is gorgeous – you look so much like your beautiful Mother honey xxxxxxx

  7. By coincidence, I met a man Thursday who invented a brain monitor to use during anesthesia which is a better way to determine if the patient is getting too much or too little. He said it is in wide use now but I don’t know if it is used outside the U.S. I hope it helps with the problems described in your second operation.

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