For those of you who have read my previous posts, you are likely well aware that I recently had surgery to remove my 11 year old breast implants. If not, feel free to [click here] for some back story. That said, I have been wanting to write about the surgery for a while now, but the recovery process has taken a lot out more of me than I expected and I have not had the energy to do so, nor the focus or brainpower to write more than a few sentences at a time. But, today I’m feeling decent and so I’ve decided to sit down and write.
My surgery took place on November 2nd, so a little over two weeks ago. I thought I had prepared well for the surgery after reading a myriad of posts in the support group I am in, from women who had already undergone the procedure. After reading their stories, I assumed that it would be about 2-3 days in bed before I regained my energy and could do light tasks, such as walking to the bus stop to take the kids to school and working at my computer during the day. In addition, I anticipated 4-8 weeks of overall healing before I could do more invasive activities such as working out. So, in preparation, I cleaned my entire home, top to bottom, to make sure that I was in a clean environment post surgery. I did all the laundry so that the husband and kids had clean clothes to wear during my recovery time without the added pressure of laundry. I cooked whole foods plant based meals for myself and my family to help during the recovery process and again lift some of the daily burden off of my husband. I loaded up on fresh greens and fruits to juice to help with the healing. I filled all my prescriptions ahead of time and put them by my bed. I rented movies and books from the library to keep me occupied during my healing process. And I set up childcare for the day of the surgery so that if we weren’t able to pick our kids up directly from school that afternoon, that we would not feel stressed out if things ran a little late. And I even started practicing a surgery specific meditation created to help promote healing. I was ready. Nervous, but ready.
Or so I thought.
Unfortunately, as it goes in life, nothing went exactly as planned in regards to the surgery or the recovery.
The day of the surgery we dropped the kids off early at school thanks to help from their teachers and drove anxiously to the surgery center. We checked in and were admitted, and put in a room to prepare for the surgery. We met with the nurses, anesthesiologist, and the doctor and I was suited up in the oh so flattering hospital gown, socks, and blue hair cap. But, with 30 minutes til surgery, my doctor poked his head in and told us that the surgery was being pushed back 30 minutes due to the surgery ahead of us running late. This happened again and again, until my 10:00 am surgery was pushed back to 12:30 pm, so two and half hours later than expected. We thought we would still be okay, because we had child care til 5 pm and the surgery was expected to be 2-3 hours with a 30-60 minute recovery. So, even with a 30 minutes drive home, we were still okay. That was a bad thought process though.
The surgery took two and a half hours, which was within the normal window and my doctor came out to let my husband know that everything went great and that I was taken to recovery and he would be called back shortly. However, the recovery took a lot longer than expected and after an hour a nurse came back to tell my husband that I was having difficulty coming to. They told him I was in Stage 2 and very sleepy, which I gather to mean that I was off the breathing tube, but still not quite conscious. Finally an hour and a half later they let him come back to the recovery room where I had just woken up – and I use this term extremely loosely because I could not stay conscious. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and could not really communicate with anyone. Although, the first thing I said to the nurse when I first started coming to was “Can you kiss me on the forehead, I miss my mommy”. Lol. Yes, I’m a 35 year old mother of two and I still want my mommy when I’m sick or in pain. Ha ha.
At this point though my husband was freaking out a bit. He later told me that he was terrified that I was going to be in more of a vegetative or brain damaged state because I just could not stay conscious. He would try to speak to me and ask me questions, but I was unable to respond to him. Over thirty minutes passed with me unable to maintain consciousness. My husband even spoke to the anesthesiologist whom he said seemed concerned herself, which didn’t help his unease. I started to slowly be able to communicate elementary thoughts and they fed me some applesauce to help get calories into my body. I had not eaten in about 22 hours. At this point it was 5:20 pm and the surgery center had closed at 4:30, so staff were either gone or on their way out the door and my husband could tell that although they wanted to make sure that I was coherent, the staff working with us were anxious to get going too. So they got me into a wheelchair and decided that I was ready to be discharged. They sent my husband down to get the car and pull it around front and told them they would wheel me out front to meet him. He got there and waited, but no me. He received a phone call after 10 minutes or so letting them know that I wasn’t ready due to severe nausea. The room was spinning and I felt extremely sick. They gave me more medication (a giant shot!) to help with the nausea and fed me more apple sauce. Finally around 6 pm the nurse rolled me to the car where my husband was anxiously waiting. I don’t think any one of us felt 100% comfortable with me leaving at that point. I just didn’t seem quite ready, but we loaded up and left. In hindsight, my husband said he wishes we had booked a night with a surgery recovery center or at the very least driven straight to the hospital so someone with medical knowledge could have taken care of me. He felt in over his head.
Also, if you remember me saying so before, we only had childcare scheduled til 5. My friend who was watching the kids had a prior obligation she needed to get to, so my husband was frantically trying to make arrangements to have another friend come and pick up the kids from the first friend and watch them until we could get there. This was already stressful unto itself, but keep in mind – these are brand new friends that we are asking major favors from – we just moved here in late March and one of the two friends I only made 2 months ago! AND I am NOT good with asking for favors or for help. Lol. My friends were AMAZING though and took care of it without a hitch! The kids were in good hands, so my husband could simply focus on getting his wife home.
On the way home I was very sick and threw up a few times which offered momentary release of nausea. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort and extremely fatigued. We picked up the kids from our friend’s house and made our way back to the apartment. The night is a bit of a blur, but I remember getting out of the car and barely being able to stand. We were in our basement parking garage and I ended up laying in the roadway. My husband eagerly got me to the side – out of the way of any possible cars – and propped me up, seated against the wall. We knew there was no way we were going to make it to the apartment on our own. We live on the tenth floor and at the end of a very long hallway. I remember thinking that I would likely die if I tried to make it there myself. I know, very dramatic, but that’s how I felt that night. My husband was feeling panicked and decided he would see if they had the luggage cart available to help me. He ran to the front desk of the apartment to ask for help and the kids stayed with me – which was probably a bit traumatic for them. My husband came back with the security guard and two of the leasing agents. I never saw them, but could hear their voices going in and out. They had brought a rolling chair, but I couldn’t even stand well enough to get into that, so one gentleman ran back and got the luggage cart which was lower. I remember hearing them say “should we call 911”, so I know I wasn’t in good shape. When they got back with the luggage cart I was able to crawl myself onto that and curl up in a ball while they pushed me up to the apartment. I cannot even imagine what a bystander may think. Lol. The security guard assisted my husband and they pushed the cart all the way to my room and got me propped up in bed. Success.
The rest of the first night is a blur. I remember being in pain, but more than anything it was the nausea and fatigue that was the larger of the evils. My husband worked from home the next few days to help me out as needed. He got me fluids, medicine, and food, and helped me get out of bed to use the restroom. I was so weak that I could not even get to the restroom myself which is probably only 10 feet away. In fact, the day after surgery while bringing me to the restroom I lost consciousness. My husband was terrified. He told me that he looked at my eyes and I was just gone. I drifted in and out of consciousness while my husband tried to figure out what to do. He couldn’t let go of me but he needed to get his phone to call 911. The kids were already home from school so he called in panic to my son who brought him my phone – which was dead. My husband and son were scared and felt panicked, but before they were able to find the working phone I was coming to and asked to be moved to the bed. They were able to get me to the bed and called the doctor immediately. The doctor calmed them down and advised them to lay me down and prop my legs up above my heart and noted that this is not uncommon as I had lost a lot of blood and it probably had rushed out of my head when I stood up to go to the bathroom. I drank some apple juice and started to feel okay again.
Luckily this was an isolated scare and although I continued to feel weak I didn’t have any other incidents of passing out. It seems that my body is simply not good at handling trauma. Over the next week I continued to drain a lot of blood and remained very weak despite eating well balanced meals and staying hydrated. I felt disappointed that I was doing so poorly and felt naive regarding my anticipated recovery.
I was stuck in bed for the most part oscillating between reading books, watching movies, and sleeping. My husband would help me to the restroom and also help me try to walk the length of the apartment so that I could get my body moving and not risk blood clots. We found if I drank apple juice before getting up I tended to do better. I think it helped balance my blood sugar and give me that extra boost of energy I needed. My kids would come spend time with me and read me books, write me letters, and keep me company. We discussed in detail the surgery and recovery process and explored the fears that they had and moments that they felt scared.
I continued to remain extremely weak and fatigued, but the pain was tolerable. It was hard to sit up on my own (my husband had to help) and hurt if I rolled on either side, but other than that it was more of a strong, but dull pain. My back and bottom hurt from sitting in the same position for so long too. I felt beat up, but it was not acute pain. I decided to forego any narcotic pain medications and I have only taken Ibuprofen and Tylenol to help with the pain. Oh, I also had an anti-nausea patch, which we were advised to leave on for a few days post surgery, but after receiving a tip from a member on the support group I took it off and suddenly my nausea decreased significantly – how ironic. The patch also caused my eyes to be dilated so I could not read until the patch was off.
At my first post-op appointment, 5 days after surgery, I had no energy and could barely think to ask any questions. They removed the compression band and returned my implants, but I was unable to get either drain removed because the fluid levels were too high and so we scheduled a second appointment 4 days later. The day of the first appointment was very difficult for me emotionally. I was not healing like I expected to heal, my drains were not out, my body was extremely weak, and I was fully dependent on others to take care of me. I felt like a burden on my family and also felt dumb for turning away the help offered by both my mom and my mother-in-law. I know, I know, really silly to turn down help, but I did not expect it to be such a difficult recovery and we live in 850 square feet so I was worried that it would end up feeling like too much. Wrong. If I had it to do over again I would ask both to come….just at different times. Lol.
In addition to feeling like a burden to my husband and kids, the results were deflating (pun intended). My right side was extremely swollen and bruised and my left breast had adhered (with scar tissue) to my chest wall. I knew that there were aesthetic risks to getting the implants removed, and mentally I was okay with that, but here I was looking at my body for the first time feeling completely deformed. I broke. I cried a lot – which let me tell you is NOT good when you have just had surgery on your chest! The emotional and physical pain was too much. I felt completely defeated and hopeless. I never doubted that this was the right thing to do because I needed to get these foreign objects out of my body, but I was throwing myself a wonderful pity party for ever getting them in the first place.
I reached out to the support group online and was flooded with love and encouragement. It was just what I needed. The crying allowed me to release my emotions and the support lifted me out of it. I felt cleansed from the sadness and started to become optimistic to my healing process. I got tips to help release the adhered breast and was reminded that it can take 6 months to a year to see the full results of the surgery as it takes time for our bodies to heal and our cells to rejuvenate. So, really only time will tell if the tips will work, but at the end of the day I am healthier than I was two weeks ago and I accept that. I was never going to be a bikini model anyways.
During my second post-op appointment, the fluid had decreased enough in my left side to have my drain removed. Wahoo! I could not believe how long the drain was and how much was inside of my chest. No wonder it was so painful. I spoke to my doctor about the surgery and he confirmed that he was able to get all of the capsules out! Hooray! He also indicated that he sent the capsules to pathology to be tested and that my implants looked clear and unruptured. Double yay!
My parents had flown in the night before my appointment and my husband had the day off for Veterans day, so we were able to spend the next few days together as a family. I was out of bed and started to regain my energy.
Women in the support group had told me that once the drains were out that I would start feeling better more rapidly, but I could not believe how true it was – and I only had one out. My energy started to increase significantly and I didn’t feel the need to lay in bed all day. I still took several naps throughout the day, but I was up and joined my family for meals! We actually went out to eat several times – my husband would drive me and the rest of the family would walk to meet us. It was fantastic. By the last day of my parents’ trip I felt so good that I decided to walk the mile to the restaurant with them. I even put on makeup and had my mom blow dry my hair. I could not get over how much better I felt. I was on a natural high and felt so optimistic about my healing.
Unfortunately, it did not last long. My parents left after brunch and within a few hours I was starting to feel beat up again. It felt different this time. I did not feel the overwhelming fatigue that I had originally felt, this was pain. I felt like I had just gotten into a terrible car wreck. It hurt to move. My chest and back hurt far worse than it had the entire time since the surgery. At first I thought it may just be inflammation due to the rubbing of the still intact drain on my right side with all the walking I did. But, the pain continued to get worse – waking me up in tears in the middle of the night and keeping me glued to my bed during the day. It felt like a relapse and my spirits sunk. The second day I started to run a low fever and was worried about infection. I got ahold of my doctor and spoke to him about the symptoms and onset. He said that it sounded like I had developed a hematoma. He gave me steps to take to try to get the blood to drain on its own since it was on the side that still had the drain, but indicated that if it didn’t drain independently he would need to open the incision and manually drain it. This was a scary thought – I did not do well with the first surgery, I did not want a second one.
The hematoma also landed me right back in bed for the week which was extremely challenging, especially after having the taste of freedom over the weekend. Luckily, another friend had heard about the surgery and insisted on helping. I’m grateful that she didn’t take my “thanks, but I’m sure we’ll be okay” for an answer and could see that I am someone that doesn’t do well asking for help. She insisted and I will forever be grateful. She coordinated with her amazingly wonderful and sweet nanny to pick up the kids from school every day and bring them home to me. On top of entertaining all the kids (my two and the two she already watches) she has helped me with dishes, walking the dogs, and they even made muffins! Seriously – they are a Godsend. So this has taken a boatload of pressure off of me and I’ve been able to focus on healing.
I have been following my doctor’s advice to a T for 5 days now and the overwhelming pain has subsided. I still have extreme tenderness in my breasts and feel achy, but not to the degree it was before. The drainage is still high, so I am assuming the hematoma is draining on it’s own and I won’t be going under the knife again. Yesterday I started feeling decent and was able to get out of bed and spend most of the day sitting at the table attending to an overwhelming amount of emails and doing some light reading. I even ate dinner with my family. I was a bit worried that I may be overdoing it and feel worse today, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I still feel only 60% healed, but I feel decent and able to do light activity such as get myself food and drinks, sit up at the table and work on the computer, and walk around the apartment without feeling like I need a nap. I am hoping that over the next couple of days the fluid will decrease significantly and I will be able to get second drain out. I am optimistic that it will be a major turning point for me.
I know that was a ridiculously LONG entry, so if you stuck through it I thank you. In the end, I don’t regret getting the explant surgery and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am 16 days into a healing process which was 11 years in the making. I am trying not to waste any energy regretting the decision to get the implants in the first place – it was just a part of my journey – and rather focus on the strong and healthy individual that I am becoming. That said, I would plan a bit differently if I had to do it over again. First, I would check my expectations at the door and realize that this is major surgery! I would anticipate a two week recovery time and plan for that. This way it would be a bonus if I healed earlier. Second, I would ask for more help from friends and family. I would also set up more medical care knowing that my body doesn’t fare well with trauma. Third, I would try to be more loving to myself. My husband gave me wonderful advice in one of my dark moments. He said, “Be gentle to your body. You are healing.” – wise man 😉
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! I love the dialogue 😉