Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How it all went

I certainly hadn't intended on taking this much time away from the blog, but between trying to heal (which is harder than I thought it would be), fighting with a stupid computer, attempting to stave off a cold, and dealing with a puking Vivian, it's been a busy couple of weeks.  Tomorrow will be 3 weeks since my surgery and in general I'm feeling pretty good.  To be honest, I thought that I would be feeling much more like my old self at this point, but I'm still finding I have limitations.  I still get tired pretty quickly, and I find that if I do any lifting (which I know I'm not supposed to do, but I'm stupid and stubborn) I can definitely feel it.  Still feeling super tender and bruised, but that's probably my own fault.

In any event, I wanted to get the whole "how it all went down" post out there before I forget a lot of it.  I promise the blog will be back to normal soon - it won't be all boobs all the time over here forever!

The way the hospital works was that I had to call in the afternoon before my surgery to find out what time I'd been scheduled in for.  I was lucky and managed to score the first slot of the day, which meant I had to be at the hospital for 6:15 a.m.  I was told at my pre-admit appointment to be prepared for a lot of waiting since the first surgery isn't until 8:30 a.m., and that I was welcome to bring a DVD player or tablet or something if I wanted to watch a movie.  So I showed up prepared with my little DVD player and the first season of Happy Endings along with Clue - nothing like a little Tim Curry to take your mind off surgery.  I ended up not even having time to take it out of my bag though - things moved so quickly!  Once they got me into my robe and settled in to a bed, I got my IV put in (which, by the way, was much better than when I had an IV when I was in having Vivian.  Now they don't leave the needle in your hand anymore, it's just the tube, so it was much more comfortable.)  Before I knew it my surgeon came in to say good morning, and a few different nurses checked in on me.  One of the nurses along the way came to get my surgical bra too, since it was put on me immediately after my surgery.  Then my surgeon came back armed with a Sharpie to get me all marked up.  Sadly, it was a black Sharpie and not the traditional red that you see in movies and on TV.  It was pretty interesting how she measured things out from my collarbone and drew all of the lines.  My mom took a picture for posterity sake - it's so weird to look back on it now.  Dr. Marignani was amazing through the whole thing - my mom couldn't believe how nice and friendly she was.  She even complimented me on my purse and was happy to answer any questions either of us had.  Next thing I knew it was about 7:45 and they were ready to wheel me in to the OR.

In typical fashion, a few things happened that would only happen to me.  On the day of my surgery there were a bunch of kids in getting tubes put in their ears and their adnoids taken out - must have been the ENT surgeon's regular day or something.  So as they were wheeling me to the OR there was a poor mother handing off her little boy for him to go for his surgery.  We had been talking to her in the waiting room and it was his second time getting tubes put in and he was also having his adnoids out.  Poor little boy was crying as he was taken away, and of course the mom was just standing in the doorway, helplessly watching him.  My heart was breaking for her, and the nurse had to gently ask her to move out of the doorway.  She stepped aside and they pushed me through - but because of the delay the automatic door timed out and started to close on my gurney.  My hand shot out to try and shove the door open, which is a ridiculous thing to worry about on your way to an operating room.  We pulled up to the OR and I had to walk into the room to get to the table.  I'd been warned beforehand that I would be asked what my name is and what procedure I'm having done as the final check to make sure they have the right person.  As soon as I walked in the nurses said, "Okay, what's your name and what are you here for?"  Because I'm an idiot I said, "I'm Ashlie Hawkins and I'm here for a breast reduction.  And uh, I feel like I should say I'm an alcoholic or something too."  Fun fact - jokes do not go over super well in the OR.

So on to the table I went and they started to strap my arms down.  I was trying to stay calm when I felt a large, heavy piece of fabric get laid across my legs.  I could hear some kind of metal clanking on it and my first thought was, "Holy shit, there's a giant roll of like Dexter tools on my legs.  That's messed up."  As soon as I thought it, a nurse said, "Okay Ashlie, I'm just going to strap your legs down too."  Then I went ahead and said, "Oh good, I was really worried that you just put a bunch of Dexter knives on me or something."  Puzzled nurse - "Uh, no.  We don't really put things like that on you."  So I'm 0 for 2 for jokes in the OR.  At this point they must have just decided they were done with me because I remember being told that I would start to feel a bit loopy, then the ceiling tiles started to move, then I was gone.

Next thing I know I'm in recovery.  I can remember being somehow curled up on my left side and feeling someone rubbing my arm and asking me to move to my back.  I can hear my name being called over and over again and asking me to respond but all I can do is cry.  I'd been warned before that people react in a lot of different ways when they wake up from anesthetic.  Some people are sick, some people are angry and come out swinging, and some people cry.  I'm apparently the crying, hyperventilating, shaking kind.  I had a nurse on either side of me trying to calm me down, but I just kept crying.  They told me it was okay, I was in recovery, and the crying was just from the anesthetic.  I couldn't stop, and when I tried to take a breath I would hyperventilate and couldn't stop shaking.  They gave me a warm blanket to stop the shaking and asked me what my pain was at.  The pain was a burning type of pain, and I'd been told before not to low-ball the pain level when they asked me.  So I said a 9, and they gave me a bunch of morphine.

That was at around 11:00 a.m. - and I left the hospital at around 4:00 p.m.  The time in between is fuzzy - I kept waking up long enough to have some ginger ale and a cookie so I could take a pain pill, then would fall back asleep.  Some nurses talked to me and checked on things, and one explained what would happen with my home care, but I don't really remember how it all happened.  I know I felt really badly that my mom was just sitting there waiting while I kept falling back to sleep.  I knew I was in a different bed than where I had started and was worried about where my things were.  I didn't even realize it was happening, but soon there was a wheelchair outside of my little area and it was time to go home.

The rest of the night, and to be honest the next few days were basically me waking up long enough to have a snack and a drink and a pill then head back to bed.  I had drainage tubes in, which are ridiculously gross and uncomfortable.  I was lucky though and had them taken out less than 2 days after surgery.  On the whole I felt pretty okay - just things change when you're recovering from something like that.  Things like "I'm hungry" or "I'm tired" turn into "I need to eat" and "I need to rest".  I did a whole lot of shuffling around the house, just doing laps since I was told that the more I moved, the better I would heal.

On the Sunday following surgery we got concerned that there was an infection since one of the VON nurses had warned that if we saw any signs of puss to get straight to the hospital.  That was the day that I tried to take a shower by myself (it didn't go super well) and noticed some yellow and green discharge on one of my bandages.  I knew I wouldn't be able to sit in the emergency room for hours at a time, so my mom called to hospital to see what kind of wait we would be looking at.  They called Dr. Marignani and she came right to the hospital just to see me.  She checked me out and said that it was totally normal, and that if I'd made it to the third day post-op without any problems then I was basically out of the woods.  I couldn't believe that she came all the way in just to see me - and on a Sunday afternoon.  I really can't say enough good things about her.

As the days went on things got easier and easier.  It took a good week before I could make it through a shower without feeling like I was going to faint, and it took a good 10 days before I stopped feeling dizzy altogether.  I feel like I healed pretty quickly - at this point I only have one bad spot left where my incisions intersect.  (My incisions are basically shaped like an anchor, curved at the bottom, then a line straight up with a circle on top.  The point at the bottom where the curved part and the straight part meet seems to be having trouble healing.)

Before my surgery I had been worried about how I would deal with it mentally.  Depression after any surgery is common, but depression after this particular surgery is very common.  It's a huge loss of identity for me, and I was worried about not being able to recognize myself afterwards.  Now that I can wear a normal bra I feel like I still look like myself in clothes - like a better version of myself.  I look slimmer and more proportionate, and I'm amazed at how differently clothes fit me.  When I'm looking in the mirror without clothes things still feel a bit foreign though.  Even though I know I'm far from flat-chested, they still look so small to me.  I know it's because my perception was so skewed for so long, so it's a hard adjustment to make.  I keep reminding myself of all the things I'll be able to do now (I can't wait to golf!) and that definitely makes things easier.

It will still be at least another month or so before the swelling all goes down, but at this point I can definitely say that I'm glad I had it done.  The relief on my back and shoulders was immediate.  Before my surgery I couldn't spend more than about 6 hours at a time in bed without my back hurting.  I thought it was just because I have a shitty old mattress, but now it doesn't hurt when I wake up in the morning.  I used to have to crack my lower back after walking around a store, but that doesn't bother me anymore.  I was out the other day and had to use the restroom and realized that that was a time when I would normally have to spend time in a stall readjusting myself - moving straps, pushing things up, just generally trying to get comfortable.  I don't have to do that anymore.  I can look in a mirror and look at my face before looking at my own chest.  I can walk around and feel like I blend in.  I bought a bra on clearance for $3 the other day.  This is a whole new world.

I can't wait to be able to do a jumping jack.

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