I dunno about you guys, but for me this was the scariest part. I was never afraid that my surgeon wouldn't deliver results (One of my favourite replies to the never ending stream of 'Aren't you scared he'll screw up your face??' questions was always, "Uh, NO. What's he gonna do - make it bigger??" Oh the irony...), and I wasn't afraid of the surgical procedure itself at all. (They basically wheel you in, give you a shot and then wake you up in a few hours with a load of gunk in your nose. Job done.) But I was pretty afraid of what I would go through in the immediate aftermath of my hospital visit. So although I know I said I want to focus these posts on recovery AFTER the cast comes off, I thought I'd quickly pass along a few tips from the early recovery process, in case they're of any use. And because I must have spent WEEKS of my life scouring the interweb for tips and tricks (and tried most of them), I'm hoping this can save a few of you some time, effort and money as well. You're welcome. :-)
-Pain. Everyone says that there's no pain at all, but I fail to see how that's physically possible. Whether you've had an open or a closed procedure, let's not forget that this is pretty major surgery, so a bit of pain/discomfort is to be expected. Or I certainly expected it anyway, so I took the pain medication they gave me consistently for the first 48 hours. I took them, not because I had any particularly acute pain (though the swelling under the cast thingy is pretty uncomfortable), but because I didn't want to wait until I NEEDED it. I've done that before and that sucks. Furthermore, let's be honest - it's one of the few times in your life when you're legally allowed to consume narcotics so really, waste not want not, people! (Ahem.) I actually only stopped taking pain meds on the third day because a) I'm not *actually a regular user of class A narcotics, so I like to watch my consumption of such things and b) I realised at about 4pm - when I felt some slight aching in the bridge - that I had forgotten to take them since the night prior and I figured that was a pretty good sign that they were no longer necessary. Oh, and I'm pretty sure my pain meds (co-dydramol) contain caffeine because I was awake most nights until 4 or 5 in the morning and I have NO idea why else this would be (and I always too one before bed). Despite this, my advice is - take the d@mned medication for the first day or so, even just to set your mind at ease that you won't be hit by a major waive of anything horrible in the early stages of recovery. They were prescribed for a reason so even if you don't take all of them, I'd advise not to get caught with your pants down in this regard. Or in any regard, really. Could be awkward.
- Sleep. Let me put it this way. Today is my eleventh day post-op and I am hoping that mmmmaybe tonight I can get a full night's rest. First - it's recommended that you sleep sitting up. WTF?? Who does this? Who, in their right mind, and without the help of copious amounts of alcohol and/or prescription sleep aids can *actually* sleep sitting up?? Not me, kids. And probably not you. The things - swelling will happen whatever you do and however you sleep. And everyone knows that the body does most of its repair work whilst it's asleep. So if you can' sleep AT ALL (like me for the first four days at least) you're not doing the healing process any favours. On the fourth night, I finally gave up on the little airplane pillow thing (bought on recommendation from another ps site) that I'd stacked on top of 4 other pillows in an effort to achieve the perfect 45 degree angle of incline, and went back to my normal sleeping position, but with an extra pillow for slightly more elevation. And okay, my nose *may* have been the size of a London bus when the cast came off, and sleeping in my usual position *may* have made it worse (though my surgeon said it probably didn't affect it all that much - if you're going to swell, you're going to swell, no matter what), but I tell you, I thought I was going lose my sodding MIND if I couldn't get some sleep. And when I finally went back to semi-normal position, I woke up on day 5 feeling like a new woman. My advice? Forget the weird crescent pillow thing or sleeping in a chair or any other awkward, 45 degree angled rubbish (unless you're the one freak of nature who can actually sleep vertically) and get some REST. I would try at least one extra pillow for some extra elevation at night and try to stay sitting up during the day but for goodness sake, do what you must to get some sleep. Your dry mouth will make that one tough enough...
- Speaking of which, another enormous barrier to sleep which I'm sure you've all read about everywhere is the dry mouth dilemma. Holy desert face, does that SUCK. And I'm afraid there really is nothing you can do about it. Your nose is full of blood and gunk and splints and, I dunno, some kind of heavy lifting equipment (or so it feels) and you simply cannot squeeze even the tiniest stream of air through it, no matter what you do. Which means? Mouth breathing, baby. Oh yea, the sexiness just doesn't QUIT! My best advice on this front is just to expect it, understand why it's happening, and don't even THINK about going to sleep without at least one bottle of water beside the bed. But I'd recommend two, to save middle-of-the-night refills. Also, it's a good idea to warn friends and family that because you can't breathe through your nose, you can't actually eat with your mouth closed (or not without a series of complicated and furstrating breath-holding exercises), so to forgive your shocking manners for a week or two. Oh and lip gloss! Lip gloss applied before bed is a LIFE SAVER on the dry mouth front.
- Itchy face. Not one I can across in my prep work, but seriously - an unreachable itch is akin to water boarding in my humble opinion. (Which is obviously a total exaggeration. I'm sure water boarding is a little worse. *cough*) But rather than try sticking anything up or under the cast, or trying to wiggle your nose (ouch), or - as I wanted to do - ripping off the bandages and forcibly removing several layers of skin with a wood sander, I discovered a trick: slowly and gently, with just one finger, try pulling the skin between your eyebrows up toward your hairline and then releasing as soon as you feel it shift under the cast. You can vary this from side to side (eyebrow to eyebrow?), depending on where the itch is, but I mean VERY gently. I have no idea what causes the itching, but for me, just to move the skin a little was usually enough to stop it. Heaven.
- Chest spots. Possibly the worst part of the whole thing. Picture this: You've just finished spending 8 days looking at the inside of your flat, and mostly just one room. You are advised not to shower so you have tried taking baths (awkward, I've never been a bath girl), but not hot ones because that may loosen the cast, so you've basically felt disgusting and swollen and thoroughly unshaggable for a full week. BUT, you're FINALLY finished with your meds and got your cast off, so...happy days! Sunshine! Hot shower! Makeup! You and your GINORMOUS nose are venturing out with your girlfriends for brunch for the first time in what feels like six lifetimes. And - as it's summertime in London (the BEST time of year in this city) - you don your loveliest, floatiest summer dress and some kickin' new high heeled sandals you bought yourself as a cheer-up gift on cast removal day (because obviously). And then, upon final, pre-taxi inspection, you discover that your chest, neck and shoulders are COVERED in tiny little pimples. What. The...???!! This is, I understand, not something everyone goes through, but it's also not uncommon after a major surgery. I'm still not clear on what causes it - whether the body is reacting to the cocktail of drugs it's been on for a week, or fighting off infection is putting strain on other bits of the immune system, but I tell you it does NOTHING for helping swollen-face morale. The breakout started around day 8 or 9 and I got the last new spot last night. It's still very much there today, but there are no new spots this morning, so I think by tomorrow/Monday it *should* clear up. Apparently there is nothing that can be done to prevent this, so my advice is just to have the exfoliator handy, and ideally some organic, chemical free lotion to soothe any angry skin that may pop up in the week following cast removal. And prepare to laugh it off with your girlfriends over the first (or third) glass of bubbles. Honestly, they'll probably be too busy staring at your super-sized schozz to notice anything else. Le sigh.
- Numb bum. Yea, so...basically my @ss was numb for the WHOLE of the week. If you're not trying to sleep sitting up, you actually ARE sitting up - reading, watching films, questioning your life decisions with your girlfriends on the phone, whatever - and the constant balancing on the upper half of the old bum bum is just RUBBISH. My advice - butt crunches in bed. They helped me to get blood flowing back to the area (and hopefully did a bit of toning as well?) (positive thinking!) and made me feel a little bit less like a lazy waste of space, whilst 'Orange is the New Black' streamed for three days almost without pause from my Netflix account...
- Compression socks/stockings. Wear these. For at least 48 hours, but ideally for as long as you can. They are neither sexy nor at all comfy, but blood clots are bad, mmm kayyyy? Also, if they ask you to give yourself anticoagulant shots, don't worry. They really don't hurt. You feel a teeny little prick when you insert the teeny little needle, and it's a bit sore for a few minutes after you inject the medicine into your skin, but it's NO BIG DEAL. I wasn't sure I could do it, if I'm honest (not the greatest fan of needles and never have trusted myself around one), but it was surprisingly simple and so SO important to do this.
- The state of your nose when you get the cast off. Yea. Not great. Bunch of clogged pores, oily (and yet dry somehow) skin, a few black and/or white heads. But not as bad as I expected and I have super oily skin. I did some light exfoliation the night I got my cast off (it has to be light as it hurts too much to be heavy), kept the skin clean, applied my lovely organic face moisturisers and it's already cleared almost completely, not even 4 days later.
And I think that's all I've got for now on the recovery front. Very happy to answer any questions, though, so please do leave any in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them honestly and give any advice I have.
Oh, and as for swelling, I'm pleased to announce that this morning was the first morning that I could actually see my new nose taking shape. It's now officially back to normal human nose size, and - though still v swollen - I'm already feeling much happier about the whole thing. I would post pics, except it's like a BILLION degrees today and I'm slobbing around my flat, not feeling particularly photogenic (read can't be bothered to put on any makeup) and I'm slightly wary of all the shocking photos of me floating about the internet already, courtesy of this little adventure of mine... Will post more pics tomorrow, when I'm hopefully even LESS swollen (and when I've been forced, due to social engagements, to slap a bit of mascara on the face.
So for now...a very happy weekend to all.