Post-Surgery Update: Part 2

I’ve put this off for a while, partly because my feelings about the aftermath of the surgery are complicated, and partly because some of the fallout is still going on.

Once the drains were out (which normally takes two weeks, but for me took a month), I thought things would finally begin to heal. I was wrong.

The first indication of trouble was that the intersection of the two huge incisions on my stomach began to open up. First it was a tiny hole, then a series of tiny holes, then one big hole, leaking yellowish/greenish fluid (there is no better color to say “this isn’t a good thing”). The surgeon thought it was pseudomonas, a fairly common post-surgical infection normally cured with the antibiotic Cipro. I took the Cipro for ten days…nothing. Another ten days…nothing. Another ten days…nothing.

By this time, I had moved. Going to my surgeon’s office twice a week for him to look at me for five minutes and swear I was getting better wasn’t an option anymore. I went to my regular doctor, who cultured the wound (which had now become three wounds at different points along the incision). It turned out to be actinomycosis, an infection so rare that neither my regular doctor nor my surgeon had ever seen a case of it. I was referred to an infectious disease specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis. The treatment is a LONG course of penicillin.

It’s the end of July now, so it’s been nearly six months since my surgery. I’ve been on penicillin for two and a half months, and I’ll be on it for at least another four months. Probably longer. The infectious disease specialist said that actinomyces is a really slow-growing bacteria, but that means it’s also slow to cure. And it’s hard to tell how things are going – the disgusting discharge has slowed, but I now have about twelve open wounds across my lower stomach, with new ones opening up occasionally.

Was it so bad?

There are so many things about this surgery that didn’t turn out the way I was hoping. The first is that I had specifically asked my surgeon to remove my belly button. There’s a complicated reason for this that I won’t go into here, but I made myself very, very clear. He ignored me. What I have now is a wrinkle of skin a good 4″ higher than my belly button should be, in the middle of a bunch of other scarring. It looks like what it is – a mistake. The second is that the loose skin I thought he would remove from the backs of my thighs is still there. My buttocks look like deflated balloons. And the disgusting, leaking, yellowy-green cherry on this botched meat cake is the line of open wounds along my lower abdomen.

I know far more about wound care than I ever thought I would. There’s now a shelf above my dresser that’s full of nothing but combine pads (they’re thick, 5″x9″ surgical pads), surgical sponges (normal people would call them gauze), and prescription antibiotic spray. The amount of medical waste I generate is embarrassing, because the wound dressings have to be changed at least twice a day, and medical stuff is all individually-wrapped for sterility.

All this drama has meant that it’s taking me a lot longer to process the emotions than I think it should have. I’m finally coming around to feeling okay about how I look in clothes. It’s still a surprise to me that I now fit in easy-to-find, off the rack clothes, and post-surgery, they fit the way I expect them to. It’s now been nearly three years since I had my bariatric surgery, and I haven’t experienced the weight rebound a lot of people experience. I weigh myself daily, and it’s been within a few pounds for the last year and a half. My bariatric surgeon, my regular doctor, and my other surgeon all say this bodes very well for my long-term success. So, that’s a victory.

I wonder how long it’ll be before the good feelings outweigh the bad regarding this whole exercise. We’ll see.

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