I had skin surgery on the 1st of February. I had a huge amount of trepidation in the lead up to the event, and not without reason.
This wasn’t done at a hospital. It was done at a “surgery center,” which is where you do your surgeries if you’re a surgeon who doesn’t want to do all the other stuff one has to do to have hospital privileges – things like spending hours doing rounds and filling in paperwork.The consequence of having surgery in not-a-hospital is that there is no such thing as an overnight stay for observation. I was sent home a few hours after major surgery.
The good thing is that hospitals are not restful places. Between the noisiness of the surroundings, the smells, and the constant intrusion of staff taking your vitals, bringing meals, and cleaning, sleep is not really happening. The bad thing is that if I had a reaction or needed anything I didn’t have in the house, I couldn’t just ring the nurse and have it addressed.
I didn’t even really see my incisions for a week. I was sent home in a cross between a corset and one of those elastic and velcro knee wraps – a thing that wrapped my entire torso tightly in a thick layer of stretchy fabric. It was hot, itchy, and uncomfortable. I suspect it contained latex (to which I’m allergic, although no one asked me about it before the surgery) because I have what look like burn marks in places where it directly touched my skin. I wasn’t allowed to remove the wrap, change my dressings, or shower for a week. A lot of sponge baths happened, but they never felt quite adequate.
My surgery was complicated in scope: not just the normal “tummy tuck,” where they make an incision from hip to hip, pull the skin down, cut off the excess, and sew you back up leaving you with a smile-shaped scar across your lower abdomen. My surgery meant one incision from the bottom of my sternum to my pubis that intersected with another incision from one hipbone to the other. But, as they say in the infomercials, that’s not all! He also did a thigh lift, which involves making one incision nearly all the way around the circumference of the top of the thigh and another incision on the inside of my thigh from the groin to about three inches above the knee. That’s six incisions, each at least 12″ long, all around my body.
I had two surgical drains to take away the excess fluids (they’re called Jackson-Pratt drains, and I don’t want to link to them because they’re gross) that had to be emptied twice a day and the amount of fluid recorded. It’s disgusting, the effluvium smells weird, and I couldn’t just drain them, I had to pour the liquid into a graduated cylinder to measure it. Having the tubes inserted right at the outside of my hips meant that there was no way I could recline that wasn’t resting on staples or the insertion point of the tubes. This is what opioid painkillers were created for.
The abdominal incisions were closed with dissolving sutures and glue, the leg incisions by dissolving sutures and STAPLES. Yes, I had over 100 staples holding my skin together around the tops and insides of my thighs. It took two weeks to have the staples removed, by which time the pain of having those staples removed paled in comparison to the aggravation of having them in. Once I was able to shower, the glue of the abdominal incisions came away in bits over time.
The drains were the last thing to go. Most people have them removed after two weeks, but I’m a special, special snowflake and got to keep mine for an entire month. I saw the surgeon twice a week, each time showing him the records I was keeping and hoping that today was the day I’d get the drains removed. I suspect that he removed them after a month, not because the drainage had stopped, but because leaving them in much longer would somehow lead to a bad outcome.
Once the drains were out, I was sent out into the world in an uncomfortable, and yet strangely sexy, compression garment. I thought the hard part was over.