I just turned 41 and told myself that I would...
I had consultations with 2 local plastic surgeons and dozens of conversations with fellow girlfriends who had undergone the Tummy Tuck procedure. It was after those various conversations and professional consults that I decided to move forward.
I started my plastic surgeon selection on this very site (Real Self). After several reading several reviews on Dr. Robert Lowen, I decided to reach out to his office for a consultation.
My consultation was scheduled with a week of my inquiry. His Patient Coordinator, Shalena, was professional, welcoming, but more importantly, people-friendly! I met with her for 20 minutes to explain the procedures and desired outcome I had for each. Immediately after that, I met with Dr. Lowen. Now, after reading all the Real Self and Yelp! Reviews on Dr. Lowen, I was fully prepared for an extremely dry and stand-offish consult. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with a non-nonsense, direct, extremely technical, and in-depth consultation with Dr. Lowen. (As a side note, I work in the tech field and have a keen desire for details. In my book, Dr. Lowen was a perfect match). We discussed both procedures and look at photos of both for nearly an hour. During this hour, Dr. Lowen walked me through the surgical techniques he would use for both my breast lift and my abdminoplasty + vaser liposuction. This is where I learned Dr. Lowen leveraged a drain-less surgical technique which meant I would not need drains for either procedure. He asked me questions about my weight, my diet, my lifestyle, my family (i.e. number of children) and why I wanted to do these procedures. I gave him my answers and then we proceeded to an examination room. During the exam, Dr . Lowen and his female assistant were both present. Dr. Lowen measured my breasts from collar bone to nipple tip. At this point, he told my breasts were asymmetrical and the number of centimeters one drooped lower than the other. He then told me and showed me where firm breasts should sit (in centimeters). He also advised that I would need an extended Tummy Tuck and recommended I split my surgeries into 2 procedures. After I dressed and we were back in the consultation room, he told me that the breast lift procedure would take approximately 3-3.5 hours while the Tummy Tuck would be between 7.5-8 hours. As such, combining the 2 surgeries would leave me under anesthesia far too long and increase risk. Frankly, as someone who had never had major surgery or been under anesthesia, I agreed that I'd prefer to minimize the risk. I was also grateful to hear that I had enough breast tissue so that I would maintain the same bra cup size and would not need any implant--YAY!
I left Dr. Lowen's office with patient referrals to women who had done similar procedures to mine and a quote for both surgeries.
A week later, I had another consult with a plastic surgeon my girlfriend had recommended. Meanwhile, I had reached 2 of the 3 patients Shalena had given me and had stellar recommendations from both of them. Both of them offered to send me pics or meet with me to show me their scars and results. One of them actually sent me her post-op photos. I was astounded by how good she looked and even more amazed when she told me 7 of her fellow family members had their abdminoplasties done by Dr. Lowen. I was also grateful that both patients had completed their procedures within 5-6 months of me speaking to them.
As to my 2nd consultation...the Dr.'s office was a lot closer to my home and his practice had its own Operating Room so their would be no need to travel to different surgery centers. Beyond this, however, the pros end there. This Dr., while friendly and a possessing a pleasing bed-side manner, made me feel like I was on a used car lot. After entering an examination room and undressing, the Dr. entered the exam room solo. We discussed both procedures and looked at very old photos of his previous patients. He then asked me to briefly turn around while he opened my gown and glanced at my body. Unlike Dr. Lowen, he never measured my breast droopiness and all he said was your breasts are asymmetrical. He didn't have me fully disrob and didn't look at my back to tell me whether I would need liposuction on my back (Dr. Lowen had done both and had told me I would not need back liposuction). He then told me I would need an extended tummy tuck with traditional liposuction. As for the breast lift, he was confident he could do both procedures in 6 hours total. When I asked him about drains, he said he would recommend I get them. I was the. Asked to get dressed and meet his coordinator for my quote. Overall, the consult took 45 minutes (compared to 1.5 hours with Dr. Lowen). I was given a quote of $21K for 2 procedures that would be performed at the same time and take 4-5 hours less time than Dr. Lowen's quote. I asked for patient referrals and was told they don't usually do those and she would have to contact patients to ask. She also asked if she could give them my number instead of giving me theirs. I said sure. I left the office feeling really disappointed and more determined that my gut-feel was right the first time...Dr. Lowen was the right Dr. for me.
I had my breast lift scheduled for Oct. 29th and my tummy tuck scheduled for Dec. 2nd with Dr. Lowen. I moved one sabbatical week off to the end of Oct. During my pre-op appointment (approx. 21 days before my BL surgery), my husband joined me. I was given numerous documents to sign, pre-op pictures were taken, and my husband and I asked questions about what to expect during recovery. I was also given my prescriptions and told to begin cleansing the breast area with Hibercleanse 3 days prior to surgery.
BL surgery day---we arrived 1 hour before the scheduled surgery time. I met with my anesthesiologist and Dr. Lowen a half hour before the surgery. Dr. Lowen made all his markings and advised my husband to return with my prescriptions about 3 hours later. I was escorted by my nurse and the anesthesiologist into the OR.
I awoke 3.5 hours later with an extremely dry mouth, a bandaged chest, and lots of pain!! My nurses at he Menlo Park Surgery Center were amazing and took great care of me. I spent the next 3 days in my recliner taking Vicodin, an antibiotic, and ibuprofen for the swelling every 4 hours. By Day 4, I was off the narcotic, had completed the antibiotic, and was only using ibuprofen to manage the pain. I even went on a 3 mile walk. My breasts looked incredible and perky despite the fact that they looked smaller. Thankfully, I was able to fit perfectly into my 36D Victoria Secret bras. They look amazing. My areoles had been reduced in diameter and were in perfect proportion to my breasts. I was able to return to work 5 days after my surgery.
Part II--Abdominoplasty (or Tummy Tuck)
As for the recovery, I'm in Day 8 today. The first 3 days were horrible! I couldn't get out of our recliner on my own or wipe my own butt. I had horrible back pain, but my doctor says this is common. Thank god for my husband! He was amazing. He fed me, helped me get to the bathroom, and slept with me in the recliner my first night home. I didn't have much of an appetite the first few days after surgery. I took vicodin, antibiotic, and ibuprofen every 4 hours. I also had a pain pump for the first 3 days that was inserted under the skin to provide medication to the incision. The decision for a pain pump was entirely mine. It was an additional $450 in cost. My doctor didn't sway me one way or the other. It was purely my decision. I'm so glad I opted for it. The pain was so intense those first 3 days. I can't imagine what if would have been like without it. I was bandaged up and told I couldn't take a shower for 4 days. That was horrible. But, I had my nurse friend come over on Day 3 to give me a sponge bath and wash my hair. I feel so much better after that! On Day 4, miraculously, I had enough mobility that I could almost get off the recliner on my own and was able to wipe myself. I also had my first pre-op on Day 4 and my pain pump removed. The doctor said I was healing nicely. I should say that (thankfully) I didn't have drains. My doctor used a drain less technique for the tummy tuck. He did the same for my breast lift. This was one less thing for me to worry about :)
At my post-op, my doctor added a few stitches where the pain pump tubes were removed, added gauze to my incision and bandaged me back up. He advised me to remove the gauze and take a real shower in 2 days. On Day 6, I showered alone and finally had a peek at my surgical results. Wow! I can't believe how flat my stomach is! There is still significant swelling but it looks amazing. My skin is nearly stretch mark free and I have a new belly button. I will post photos soon!
Day 8 + new photos
I finally took some photos today. I've been wearing these foam pieces underneath the binding. My Dr. recommended doing so to keep the swelling down. You'll notice an indentation in my skin, however that's not the incision but the indentation from the foam core.
Day 11- 2nd post-op
As for the Doctor's appt, he said I'm still healing nicely and the swelling is down considerably. I'm glad I don't have to wear a compression garment. Instead, he cut new foam pieces for me and he gave me a new binding. I will take pics tomorrow of the binding I have. I have to go back next week to have the stitches removed from my navel.
After the Dr., I took my friend to lunch and we walked over to my favorite boutique. It was the most walking I have done since the surgery.
Day 15: No more narcotics and feeling so much better
I asked my doctor about my binding garments since I've seen many other reviews on RealSelf where women that are post-op abdominoplasty use full on girdles. My doctor doesn't use these types of bindings. Instead, I have these 1/2 inch foam cores that are about 5X6 inches in size strategically placed against the front of my abdomen and around the left and right side of my flanks. These foam cores are then bound to me with a Marena binder (think large Ace bandage that is the same fabric as a girdle. I've attached a photo from the Marena website). My doctor says he sees better results with this type of post-operative 'garment'. I must say, as far as comfort goes, it is so much easier than having to wear a girdle with legs that feels 2 sizes too small. it's easier to remove and clean on a daily basis. I just remove them when I bathe and then wipe the foam down with an anti-bacterial wipe. As for the Marena binder, I throw it in the washing machine on cold, delicate cycle with Borax. Then, I let air dry. It's worked great.
I'm hoping to be off of
Day 28... Walked 3 miles and am feeling soooo much better!
The hubby and I have also had sex since then. I was only brave enough to try it once about 2 days ago. I was on top and that felt better. And, no, I didn't wear my binding garments. LOL. I was a little self-conscious about the abdominal scar. But, honestly, given how amazingly flat my stomach is, I am not complaining!!! Have a look for yourself and let me know what you think.
Dr. Lowen is a master at his craft. He is extremely professional, seasoned, and skilled in his profession. He is a perfectionist and diligent in achieving the best results for his patients. He is no-nonsense, direct, and honest in his assessments of the results you can expect from him. His delivery and execution of the procedures totally align with the expectations he sets. I will only use Dr. Lowen for my plastic surgery procedures. I would also recommend his work to all my family and friends.