All credit to the Doctors on the Plastic Surgery team they do their ward rounds early in the day. None of this endlessly hanging around for them, although as I discovered, these days it’s hard to tell a Doctor from someone you might meet in a pub on Saturday night. Sunday’s Doctor carefully removed my binder and checked the dressings underneath. They were all clean, meaning that I was healing well. The other good news on Sunday was that one drain had slowed to virtually nothing and could come out. The bad news was that it was deeply embedded and was an uncomfortable experience to have removed, which left me a bit tearful and protective of myself for a while afterwards. Still, one down…
Once I’d got over the initial ArghPain! post-surgery feeling I found myself in an odd situation, in that if I didn’t move I had no pain whatsoever. But if I did, it was a definite case of *(%^$”£&%! By Sunday my body shape had subtly changed, with fluid pooling in my hips and upper thighs, leaving me quite a bit wider than I actually am. I was aware of this before I saw it because the binder I was wrapped in started to roll upwards as the fluid settled. But I did feel a bit brighter, so, drain in hand, I ventured a little further down the ward each time I got up so I could build up my mobility again. I can’t fully straighten up at the moment, so I’m walking hunched over – which is causing backache more than anything. This is expected, it’s the way I’m taped up and it’ll take a few days to loosen off.
It’s a surprise just how much you can’t do once your abdominal area is compromised, but it’s human nature to compensate. I quickly learned that pushing was not an action I had too much trouble with, whereas pulling and lifting were out. Also, there’s nothing much to do otherwise, so my daily routine became time punctuated by walks, meals and nurses coming to do my obs. I am so glad I read because it passes many hours effortlessly.
Monday was a Bank Holiday, which can only be the explanation for finding the Doctor attending to me that morning in Jeans and a faded Muse T-Shirt and looking like he was wearing them from Saturday night. Still, he was happy with the contents of drain 2 (rather a lot of blood), said it could come out – and so could I! He also wanted all my dressings changed prior to departure, which gave me an opportunity to discover what was lying beneath. Drain 2 came out and although uncomfortable was less shocking as I knew what to expect. It’s like a snake wriggling its way out of your abdomen and pulling the rest of it along too. Taking the dressings off was a protracted business. There are lots of them and as you can imagine, in some places dressing adhesive and body hair is an unpleasant combination. Thank God for scissors! Underneath, covered in Steri-Strips was my 73cm inverted T - neat and straight. And, sitting in its new position but packed with gauze, was my new umbilicus. It was quite a humbling sight to see how much had been achieved in the space of three hours. Touching it feels odd too. The whole area is very sensitive and even the slightest touch with my own hand feels like being tickled. It’s all a bit swollen – that’s a given bearing in mind what they’ve done – but it’s all where it needs to be and the excess bits are no longer there. The Nurse cleaned it and covered it all back up with fresh Steri-Strips and dressings until later in the week.
After that I could get dressed. As I said earlier my shape’s changed with fluid retention, so it was lucky that I’d brought soft exercise trousers to wear rather than anything fitted. Achieving knickers for the first time post-drains was a thing – especially as they no longer disappear under an enormous paunch! I wasn’t quite up to putting my own shoes on though, so Simon helped with those and before I knew it I was making my way out of the door and home.
It’s been five days now and I still can’t straighten up entirely, so back ache remains prevalent. I’m getting used to sleeping semi-reclined on my back with a pillow under my knees, although moving between that position and vertical remains my greatest problem. My abdomen does not hurt otherwise and is starting to itch, indicating that my skin is knitting together well. I’m learning what I can and can’t do. I’m learning to not charge about and to realise that I get worn out very quickly and will do for a while. I’ve loosened off the binder a little so it’s supportive but not restrictive. I’m going to have to wear this for the next 2-3 months, so it and I are going to have to become good friends. I can’t shower or bath at the moment so I’m having to do a strip wash which I can mostly manage on my own. Stairs wear me out and the swelling in my upper thighs and hips is dissipating now that I’m more mobile.
Turning sideways and looking at myself in the mirror is odd. I do have a sort of a flat stomach even now – even if it is rather swollen – so in time I look forward to seeing how it recovers and settles down. Scarring will be substantial, but as I said previously, this was never about being able to wear a bikini; just the comfort that will come from having skin that finally fits.