This is me, looking like a soulful basset hound in the ICU. Plastic surgery is so glamorous.
I’m now eleven days post-op. I’m sore and bruised, have the energy of a tomato, four feet of suture line, and a brand-new sense of humbleness for those who take care of hospital patients day after day after day, with excellence and compassion and cheerfulness.
Last Monday I rolled into the OR and heard the anesthesiologist say, “I’ve given you some versed…now some fentanyl…” and that was it. For me, it was lights out. For my surgeons and operating team, it was remove the right breast, carve away the radiated, stuck-down tissue on the left, harvest skin and fat flaps along with their blood supply from the abdomen, create breasts out of them, connect them to their new blood supplies in my chest, sculpt me a new belly, and sew, sew, sew.
Twelve hours later, I’m in the recovery room, although I have no memory of it. My first lucid recall was moving to a bed in the ICU and thinking, yowza this hurts.
So here’s the challenge of post-op care for patients with new breast flaps–the flap transplants’ blood supply must be protected, while the patient’s vital signs must be supported. Easy? Not so much.
The head of my bed was elevated to 45 degrees and I was warmed by a hot-air blower blanket for 24 hours. The position and warmth made it a struggle to keep my blood pressure up, oxygen saturation high, and temperature down. Bless the ICU nurses. I grizzled and sweated and made like an inert elephant seal, while they checked the flaps, encouraged me to breathe deeply, checked the flaps, wiped my face, and checked the flaps. When I decided it was time to get my carcass out of bed, they willingly hauled the tubes, monitors, lines, blanket, and all, and exerted superwomen efforts to get the elephant seal up and in a chair.
Twenty-four hours later, I’m sprung from the ICU and moved to regular surgical floor. The nurses are all beautiful, no kidding, and I even have some nursing students assigned to me. What cracks me up here is that everyone has heard that I was a flight nurse for a long, long time, and everyone wants stories. No problem.
And now I’m home, working hard on standing upright and gaining new strength every day. The inpatient hospital experience is now a memory of people’s kindness and hard work.
Remember when you were pregnant or with someone who was, and they used the little wand with goop to search all over the baby bump, listening for the baby’s heartbeat? And when they found it, the whoosh..whoosh…whoosh sound that was so beautiful and reassuring and made you think the baby was just happy and healthy in there? Well, nurses used the same Doppler technology to listen to the flaps. And every time, we heard the whoosh…whoosh, and we knew the new girls were alive. Safe and happy.
Thanks, God. Thanks, everyone.
“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes”
10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman