It’s been 8 weeks since I had 2 surgeries back to back. A preventative double mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction, which uses my own tummy fat to form my new breasts.
The surgeries went very well. I was nervous but excited too as I delved into hospital life. There are so many parts and they all work together in an amazing way to achieve amazing things. Granted it’s not always smooth sailing but from my perspective it’s still amazing
My pre- admission clinic appointment where I saw an anaesthetist who talked about getting a general anaesthetic and what to expect breast care nurse (stalking about the finer details of what to expect during recovery and answering any and all questions ), plastics doctor (reconstructive surgery part of things), tissue donation lady (who talked about using breast tissue for research and needed consent to take blood and the breast tissue at surgery), nurse (clinical measurements like height, weight, blood pressure, temperature, and an ECG to see heat my heart was doing).
I also had a CT scan that day too (to see where the Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator DIEP vessels are http://www.microsurgeon.org/diep). I was actually impressed and amazed with how smoothly those appointments were. I left feeling informed and confident all was under control.
The day of surgery was smooth sailing too. I arrived at the hospital at 6.15 am, the appointed time at the appointed place and I felt like I was just on the conveyor belt moving slowly through each phase and stage until finally I was in theatre.
First the Administration, just checking details and waiting. Then the nurse who takes my pre surgery observations (OBS) of blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. She takes me to get changes into a hospital gown and now I have my identification tags on my wrist and foot.
I’m now admitted and waiting and seeing the surgeon to get drawn on. I wait for him with my husband and we chat to keep things calm. The surgeon arrives and we move to a little room where he makes the necessary markings he needs during surgery. I say goodbye to my husband and move to a pre-theatre room where I have a brief chat with the breast surgeon and I meet the anaesthetist to get a cannula inserted for the general anaesthetic. There seems to be quite a few people now and I’m given the first anaesthetic medication. I don’t remember getting wheeled to theatre because you don’t remember anything after that.
I woke up in recovery and didn’t feel too bad, surprised if anything that a day had gone past. I felt like I had woken after the best sleep ever. So rested. I knew where I was and what had happened. I was not confused, not in pain. Just warm and breathing with a mask on. I was looking toward to seeing hubby.
Looking back on it all, I don’t think of it as a bad experience it’s almost like a dream. My abdominal scar, which has healed, now looks absolutely amazing it’s the neatest little line. So much of the discomfort and numbness has gone from my abdominal area and my breasts feel more like me now too. Even though I’ve had some complications with an infection I still don’t regret my decision in anyway. I feel comfortable with how things are progressing even though healing has been delayed and I’m still on antibiotics.
The first few days are hard to manage not being able to walk without discomfort. Now, I walk well, I can stand up straight and walk longer distances without getting as fatigued. It’s such a long way from the few steps I was able to take in hospital; the steps to the bathroom and then to the nurses’ station.
I feel like I’m connected to the hospital and to the nurses, and to the surgeon and all the people who have contributed to my care over the past few weeks and months. I wonder if sometimes I even miss them I look forward to seeing them and when I go to my appointments. I connected to several nurses. Bridget, who looked after me on the first night. She came with another nurse to roll me over and rub moisturiser on my back and gently give me a back massage. My back was sore and the massage felt wonderful. Then there was grace who came in to take my OBS on one of her shifts and saw I was holding back tears. She cried with me while she worked and we laughed at how strange that was. I felt better after letting the tears out, happy to have someone with me and a hug to strengthen me again.
I always want to go up and visit the nurses on the ward, to let them know their care is appreciated, the nurses and other patients too. I’ve made friends with some of the other ladies who were my room “neighbours” or that had the same surgery and who I’ve met in the hospital over this period of time. We still keep in contact now. We have bonded over our experiences and the have helped me see beyond the difficult moments in time. Those moments do pass. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
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