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Patient Story: Abdominoplasty

May 19, 2012

Learn more about the Abdominoplasty surgery, click here.

 

My Story: I am a 29 year old female who has spent the majority of my life battling weight issues (At my highest weight in my early 20’s I reached a plateau of 225 lbs).  Since that particular moment, I have been committed to living a much healthier lifestyle through which I have been able to achieve a healthy weight range of 145 – 150lbs and a healthy BMI.

 

During those years I also got married and experienced two successful full term pregnancies. I am now a married mother of two young happy children. Between the two pregnancies, the initial weight gain and some yo-yo dieting over the last 8 years I was not at all happy with the way my stomach looked after all that I had achieved through diet and exercise.

 

My stomach has always been an area where I stored fat when I gained weight, and it seems that no matter what I did for exercise or how I healthy my diet, that trouble area never seemed to disappear in its entirety.  I was proud of my achievements physically, pleased with my jean size and most of my body, however the one thing that had always eluded me was a flat tummy. After all those hours in the gym and making healthier choices as the pizza called out to me still hadn’t yielded that one result and it was disappointing.

 

As selfish and silly as it may seem I wanted to wear a bikini and be happy in it and it was that and a desire to finally be happy with my body that led me to consider surgery as an option.

 

I have to admit, at first I was nervous about the consultation. However, after having done extensive research there were little surprises and I started to feel comfortable with the idea of really going through with this. One particular thing that really made me feel comfortable with my decision was that Dr. Macadam confirmed with me after examining my midsection that some of my abdomen muscles had significantly separated (likely from pregnancies) and there was really only loose skin covering my abdomen. At this point I felt that I truly had "done the work" and that the ability for me to tone by midsection with diet and exercise any further was basically zero.

 

In the months leading up to surgery there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about it and didn’t start to think maybe I was a little crazy for doing this. Ultimately I knew that it was either a few months of recovery or a lifetime of torturing myself with diets and exercise that wouldn’t give me what I wanted.  

 

This surgery would allow me to move on from weight-loss mindset into a healthy weight maintenance mode while giving me the tone I so desperately wanted

 

Surgery:

 

Planning my surgery a few weeks after Christmas helped keep my mind off it just a little, and before I knew it the day of my surgery had arrived. After a quiet and somewhat surreal drive into the surgery centre, we parked in the underground lot and I headed up to the surgery centre both extremely excited and nervous about the upcoming procedure. We got up to the 10th floor, knocked on the door and it all began. I have to say, from the moment I stepped off that elevator I didn’t need to be nervous at all.

 

The pre-op procedure was a very calming experience and the amazing staff at Dr Macadam's who went through everything patiently and slowly for me, honestly made me feel right at home. My husband went off to the local Starbucks to catch up on work while I was in the procedure, with his cell handy when I was ready for a visitor. I was still scared and nervous but I felt comfortable.

 

Walking into the OR and getting up on the table was probably the hardest part of the whole pre-op procedure but they kept me focused on other issues and kept me talking to distract me (I’m guessing this works with a lot of female patients!). Within minutes I was out and the next thing I recall was I was waking up after the surgery.

 

Post op was also good despite the grogginess and heaviness I felt in my abs. The pain wasn’t nearly as much as I had expected. I was uncomfortable for sure but not in pain. I’m sure the freezing and the drugs were helping with that. Within a couple of hours I was heading home and ready to start recovery on my own.

 

Recovery Weeks 1 to 2

 

I learned very early on in recovery that the following motto really helps...be patient, focus on small victories, and keep a sense of humour. Within a matter of hours I had gone from a fully functioning adult to walking like a hunchback, getting dressed by others, crawling up my stairs, and having my husband do every little thing for me including emptying  my drains. There are many parts of this surgery and recovery that are not what I would consider to be glamorous in any way so being able to find the humour in it all really helped (Warning: this is a fine line because laughing actually hurts for the first few weeks).

 

The first 24 hrs was filled mostly with rest, medication-taking, drain changing and attempting to find comfortable positions and ways to move that weren’t hard on the incision. There were bouts of nausea, periods of extreme fatigue and periods of insomnia but every day things seemed to get a little easier, at least on most days.

In the first week each day was a new accomplishment...going to the bathroom by myself, getting up the stairs without holding the railing, even making my own snack was an achievement. Early on I decided I needed to focus on achieving many things I take for granted in everyday life. Focusing on doing one thing each day I couldn’t the day before gave me a small goal to achieve and something to celebrate so I didn't feel so useless. Surprisingly the pain never ended up being what I expected at all, I am sure the Tylenol 3's helped this and I took them as directed. Overall the area felt more heavy than painful and while getting comfortable was at times tricky the first week was easier than I imagined. The most painful part was actually my back from having to walk hunched over so I didn't tear anything open. By mid-week I was also growing tired of changing my drains and not being able to sleep on my side because of them so it was a huge highlight for me when after 6 days I was ok to have them removed by Dr. Macadam in one of my post op appointments.

 

In the second week I again tried to focus on progress but there wasn’t as much day to day improvements as there was in week one so it became frustrating at times. My husband was great at keeping me focusing on progress and noticed things I was getting better at that I didn’t however it was still hard not being fully involved in family life. Yet, I must admit getting to relax and watch TV, read and taking afternoon naps was a rather appealing part of the whole process.  Pain-wise, in the second week,  there was still much less than I had imagined; I was sore for sure and spent most of the week working towards being able to stand up straight (which took longer than I had anticipated), but from an overall pain and discomfort level I didn't find it that painful. As I got more active however, I realized quickly that my endurance had disappeared as I found myself getting tired just from climbing the stairs or walking through a grocery store. As the weeks go on I know that will get better, but being a fairly active person and fit person I admit that it’s a bit of a blow to ego!

 

Recovery  Weeks 3 to 6 - The road back to normal

 

The third week ushered in a new chapter of recovery...the real world. This week I went back to work. I work in an office setting and had been doing some work from home so knew that I could handle at least some of it, but was concerned about the lack of freedom to rest if needed. Thankfully my work is very understanding and flexible so I survived. It was hard at first getting back into the routine especially with me not as mobile as I had been. I took it easy at night and had a lot of help from my husband and daycare provider with the kid (things like getting my son in and out of his car seat when I wasn't allowed to pick him up were a challenge). The hardest part of this week was the lack of energy and not being able to stand up straight yet. With all the muscle repair I was still hunched by the end of the day and quite exhausted. This was one of those weeks where patience was important (something I’m not always good at!)

 

In the fourth week things got easier. I was able to sleep normally on my side again, my energy levels were coming back up, I was able to help more around the house. On the other side I still couldn’t pick up my son and still couldn’t do everything I wanted to, so it was in many ways a week of total frustration.  Recovery however was going great with everything looking good and I was without any pain medication for most of the week. I was getting more and more comfortable with the results and despite all the swelling that still remained I must admit my tummy looked quite good. The break from the exercise did set the rest of my body back, so I couldn't wait to start working out again. As I write this I truly realize that the overweight 225lb girl in her early 20's sure had come far, working out used to bother me and now not being able to work out bothers me more!

 

The fifth week is when I started feeling close to normal again. It also marked the week where I got to go binder free during the day and actually pick up my son! Those first cuddles were the best feeling ever. Having no compression binder on was a very weird sensation for the first few days as I had been wearing it for 4 weeks straight and had really gotten used to having the support there . My stomach area especially around the belly button was still quite numb and will be for sometime but it doesn’t bother me as much as it did at first. I’m starting to notice a difference this week in how my clothes are fitting. My jeans are still tight around my legs but the muffin top is gone! Shirts are fitting better too as there is less stomach to cover.

 

Life after a Tummy Tuck - some final thoughts and advice

 

In weeks six through eight the swelling has started to decrease and I have been able to start working out again. I’m a very goal orientated, progress driven person so the first work out was rather disappointing, but I knew I had to take it easy so I didn't hurt myself (every subsequent work out now I feel that I am getting stronger and returning to my former fit self). The numbness is reducing and/or I might just be getting more used to it and either way I’m starting to feel like my old self again. I still have some days where I feel tightness and some soreness, and days where the swelling is bad and makes me feel bigger, but I know in time that will all take care of itself as long as I take care of myself. After going through all of this I want to be sure I don’t erase the good work I have done mentally and physically in my life and health so this journey has given me a renewed focus on keeping healthy.

 

Upon reflection, the other hard part of the recovery was the mental aspect especially regarding the taking time for myself. Watching my kids play and not being able to join and not being  able to pick up and hold my 18 month old was very difficult.  I could see the confusion in his eyes when I wasn’t picking him up and the disappointment in my daughter’s face when I couldn’t play with her. I like to think though, one day, they will understand and down the road I believe this will make me a better parent as I become more happy with myself.

 

I tried to enjoy the downtime and at times accomplished that, but the mommy guilt is a hard emotion to eliminate. There were also other mental aspects I hadn’t really considered that were taking effect. The first time I took a good look at the results and incision I almost blacked out. It was strange seeing all the loose skin gone. With the gradual weight loss I had before I don’t think my mind had really ever caught up to that so this drastic change so quickly was a little hard to process. Overall I would say that I benefitted from doing a lot of research and coming to terms with my decision before signing up to do this. I had a good support structure available and I relied on it  in order to get through this procedure.

 

While they say it takes a year to realize the full results, I would say that in two months in I can really see and feel the difference and am truly happy that I decided to do this for myself. I would like to thank Dr Macadam and her staff for making this experience a great one, the care I receive pre and post operation was excellent, the people were friendly and knowledgeable and I felt confident after each consultation, appointment and procedure.

 

 

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