I reached quite a quick decision that it was time...
I reached quite a quick decision that it was time for this......and did a lot of research before deciding on Dr Komwit at Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok. Whilst it's cheaper here than in my home town (Sydney) I also believe (having had dental work in Bangkok previously) that the treatment and facilities are just as good (if not better). The clincher for me was being able to 'disappear' and rest for 2 weeks which would be impossible at home.
I flew to Bangkok yesterday and had an appointment with Dr Komwit at 9 today. He advised me on what I 'needed' - facelift, no brow or eye work - and this was followed by heaps of tests (blood, ECG, X-ray). The hospital is ultra modern and incredibly efficient. Most impressive. I'm traveling on my own and staying 5 minutes walk from the hospital. All that's working well and easily so far. Have to report by 6am for surgery tomorrow. Nervousness AND excited!
Early stages of recovery
I had surgery yesterday. It was scheduled for 7am and I noticed the theatre clock was a few minutes before 7 when I was wheeled in. Prior to surgery, Dr Komwit saw me and drew a whole lot of markers on my face. I felt really scared and he was very gently and reassuring. The aneasthiatist also saw me and explained what she would be doing (general an aesthetic) and she gave me a sedating shot so I felt much calmer from then on. I woke up in recovery at about 1 - the surgery took 4 hours. Dr Komwit said it takes so long because he works very slowly and carefully. I was bandaged very tightly and felt awful. Once back in my room I had more pain meds and dozed on and off. I was 'with it' enough to be able to send texts to friends and family. I had a little soup for dinner......but became very nauseous and vomited around 5 am. Couldn't face eating anything else - and it hurts to eat.
Day two post - thoughts
I forgot to mention in my post yesterday (blame post surgery haze!) how good the nursing support was in Bumrungrad. My room was the size of a hotel suite and the food looked good even though I wasn't able to eat it. The nurses did all the usual regular blood pressure checks and always responded very quickly to my calls. Unlike other hospitals I've known, it was really, really quiet. On the morning after surgery, they nurses showered me and when dr Komwit took the main bandage off, I was amazed that they somehow washed my hair (with me lying down in bed)! When I was ready to go back to my hotel, a nurse arranged for a porter to wheel me here in a wheelchair...... Being on my own, I wondered how I'd manage this and expected to get a taxi even though the hotel is less than a 5 minute walk.
I was easily able to walk over to see dr Komwit for a quick check this morning and he reassured me that everything is fine. Spent the day resting with ice packs, applying ointment, reading, watching DVDs, and really couldn't be doing this on my own if I didn't have wifi connection to friends and family back home. It's also so nice to be in an exceptionally comfortable hotel room with balcony overlooking gorgeous gardens.
Bruised and swollen
This morning I had the best very long shower AND hair wash. Felt so good!!! I also have a bath in my hotel room (which I usually prefer to relax in) but my shower today was heaven! Couldn't get the ointment near the scars out of my hair though - but didn't try too hard - that can happen after the stitches come out. I think I read somewhere that days 3 and 4 are the worst for swelling? I hope that's true - I feel like my cheeks will explode if they swell any more. I'm getting impatient to see some results. Still feeling in good spirits and so thankful to be able to rest in such beautiful and peaceful surrounding. I had a Thai foot massage this afternoon which I usually enjoy but it felt too painful ..... Maybe a bit much on top of the trauma of this week. Here are a few things I wish I'd known prior to the surgery -
I can't chew! So far only able to drink (soup, juices etc) and a little bit of poached egg. (On the other hand thought I'd miss my nightly glass of wine - not at all!)
It's difficult to balance my reading glasses over the bandage/stitches - maybe a hand held magnifier would've been useful.
Really enjoying (and needing) special body lotions, oil burners etc.
I'm learning is to take things slowly and be patient! So want the swelling to go down - I'm impatient to see the results. Still swollen but my cheeks are feeling a bit softer and the bruising is spreading to my chest - surely a good sign? I saw Dr Komwit this morning and he said everything was going 'normally' and no further need to wear the face bandage or to use ice packs. My life is usually busy and full of multi-tasking so I'm enjoying the challenge of doing things slowly, of being mindful, and resting.
Time passes - with some questions....
I read that heat makes swelling worse, so I tried to stay indoors in the aircon most of today.. Much as it was nice to have a change of scene, sitting in the shade at the pool for a while felt uncomfortable, so it was back to my room and on with the ice packs. I think the swelling is going down.....I can sort of feel my cheeks moving again. The only pain is really a sort of discomfort from the pressure. My 3 kids back home (in their 20's) have been very interested in and supportive. My son has been joking for years that I should do this! I was wondering today, though, what sort of example does this send to my daughters.....I worry about that. On an entirely different note, also worried about how to get the ointment out of my hair....it's so sticky and greasy and warm water and shampoo makes no difference at all. Hope someone out there can help?!
Had my stitches out today - took less than 10 minutes and didn't hurt a bit. Surprisingly, since the surgery, there's been no bleeding or scrabbling at all. Dr Komwit told me that there are a lot of internal stitches which dissolve. He takes a lot of photos each time I see him and he says (and showed me the photos to prove it) I'm progressing well. He also showed me a photo of what he cut off - I could only manage a quick glance at that one -:) Resting a lot, still eating just a little soft food like yoghurt soup. Spirits are high!
One week milestone
So pleased the first week is done. What a roller coaster ride! Whilst I felt good and strong in my spirits, the physical side is challenging. No doubt about it, this is major surgery. My original plan was to travel to Myanmar for a week post surgery - this would've involved flights, a cruise etc. I am SO pleased I changed my mind about that. Instead, I've moved to Hua Hin, a coastal town 3 hours drive from Bangkok. I'm staying in a gorgeous historic hotel (where I stayed with my kids previously)....acres of gardens, very peaceful. A good place to relax and recuperate further.
Slow and steady
The swelling is going down slowly but surely.....the bruising persists. I typically bruise for the slightest bump so maybe I'm extra prone - and Dr Komwit did say I had 'thin' skin! Even my hand is still darkly bruised from the canula. I can't help wondering if it would've helped to have take arnica.....I trying to eat a lot of pineapple and watermelon ((diuretic). I've tried putting on concealer but it just sort of melts in the heat here. Had a lovely chat on FaceTime with my sister in London...she was reassuring and. I hope by the next time we speak (in a week or so when I'm back home) there'll be a noticeable improvement.
Bruising, bruising ....please go away!
As the swelling goes down, the bruising seems to get worse (or show more)? I can't get any arnica or vitamin K here.....so I'm learning to accept, be patient... also eating lots of pineapple, doing gentle massage, cold packs, resting.
Leaving Bangkok - 2 weeks after surgery
So happy to be going home today - 2 weeks after my surgery! I saw Dr Komwit yesterday and he reaaured my that my bruising and swelling was normal for 2 weeks post-op. Very pleased I didn't plan to return home any sooner (12 hours of flying) and pleased I've favored in more rest and recovery time back once back home.
3 week update
Feels like more than 3 weeks since my surgery.! A lot has happened in the past week and, looking back, those early recovery days were so hard.....uncomfortable, not painful .... and that feeling of 'omg will this get better, what have I done???!!' The 2 flights home (12 hours) were strange - I felt like I was jolted back into the big wide world, and very conspicuous (though I'm sure no-one was looking). Even though I could lie down, I barely slept and came straight home to bed. I had a long conversation with my ex husband later that day and he noticed nothing! The few people who know (including my 20 year old son) think the result is already good. I've been quite active this past week - out to dinner, movie, driving , shopping, cooking etc - all fine, but feel tired quickly, so early nights. I have a short work meeting with a new client on Thursday, and a big family gathering on Sunday - both of which I hope my changes will go un-noticed. I'm still swollen and have that 'post dentist' feeling - so probably feels worse than it looks - and the bruising has almost gone. In summary....week 3 is almost a breeze!
4 week milestone.....
Today is 4 weeks since my surgery - I was in Bangkok for 2 weeks and I've been home nearly 2 weeks. I've found thie posts on this site absolutely invaluable as well as the comments and support from everyone. It's also really encouraging to look back at my earlier photos now.....and to see that I'm making progress.
Everyone heals differently but I'd say that at this 4 week mark I'm 80% back to my normal life. I work as a consultant and I've not had any 'public' work yet (planned these dates around that specially) and I'm not yet back to my main exercising (cycling and swimming) although walking is fine.
The bruising has gone but there's still swelling. No one notices, it seems. I went to a big family gathering on Easter Sunday and no-one in my family (Dad, brother, sister in law) noticed. I've seen friends who don't know and they've not noticed. I still feel quite self conscious though........and, in a way, would love it if someone said 'Wow! You look amazing!'
I find that my face and head feel very heavy/tired after I've been socializing or busy shopping, cooking etc so I've started wearing my chin strap bandage at home again and that feels very comfortable.. I'm still sleeping on 2 pillows and on my back. Although I've been driving for the past 10 days or so, I find turning my neck quite difficult.
Not quite ready to wear earrings again......somehow don't feel like decorating my ears!
Will post again at the 6 week mark.
6 weeks - tough times
The past couple of weeks have been tough. At 4 weeks, I thought my recovery was pretty much done but I now understand why other talk about 3 months....6 months. Because I felt and looked ok I returned to quite a busy social and work life (including dinners out, guests to stay and to dinner, my daughter's engagement party for 100) and rested less. The swelling got worse, my neck got tighter and difficult to turn.....and I felt miserable and quite desperate to be back to normal. I appreciated quick and reassuring responses from Dr Komwit to my emailed photos .... but still worried something was wrong.
So, my 6 week summary
* SALT matters! I stupidly forgot about salt and ate a salt caramel ice cream desert. (Yes, really)! I soon puffed up so much I felt ill for hours
* swelling is worse on waking up (even with sleeping propped up). I really, really long to wake up feeling good
* chin bandage still helps - wear it quite a lot at home
* 2 accupuncture treatments (for lymphatic drainage) felt helpful (comforting at least)
* earrings feel odd because my ear lobes are swollen
* no-one notices!
Patience, patience, patience...
8 weeks today - getting there!
20 May 2014
2 months post
The last 2 weeks have been a lot easier than weeks 5 and 6......partly because I think I'm getting used to some of the discomforts (like tightness) and challenges (like no salt and tiredness) and managing them better (resting more, worrying less) and partly.....dare I hope?.....things really ARE getting better! I feel more on top of my normal domestic routine, some exercise (1 hour walks), social life and a few very long, intense work days. With the latter, I paced myself and rested before and after.
My observations at 8 weeks/2 months
* loving daily long warm showers and hair washes (a bit of hydrotherapy?!)
* still wearing the chin strap sometimes at home and always at night (loosely)
* arranging pillows so I can sleep on my side without squashing my ear
* use a warm gel pack about once a day or in the evening if feeling swollen
* can almost wear reading and sunglasses comfortably!
* hugely grateful to realself for all the info.......especially the Dr answers to the question 'neck tightness relief after facelift'. I pm'd 2 members who asked the question and was reassured by their answers as well ...... the choking/tightness feeling does resolve. Panic over!
And 2 final comments (for what they're worth) -
..... older facelift patients (those of us over 60!) seem to heal/recover slower
..... quite relieved no one has noticed yet and maybe that's because it's a subtle change (which is what I wanted!) and also that I'm still feeling a bit uncomfortable so haven't yet fully embraced my new look!
Good wishes to all my fellow fl travelers - thank you again for your support and encouragement,
As the feeling and mobility is returns, I am even more aware of the discomfort of the ongoing swelling.
It took me all of 8 weeks to really understand the salt thing. I’m quite savvy re food - I love to cook, I eat healthy, I’m not overweight. I read so many times on this site about the link between salt and swelling and I thought I was reducing salt by not adding it and not eating obviously salted foods like nuts (except at 6 weeks when I totally forgot and had a major swelling incident after eating salted caramel ice-cream). But, duh, what I didn’t realise is how much ‘hidden salt’ there is in foods - especially many favourites I was eating regularly - cheese, smoked salmon, capers - even bread and milk. It’s easy, easy, easy to get to 1500mg a day.
I only finally got it when I read this fantastic response on Realself from Dr George Commons to “How long until swelling is 100% gone after a facelift?”
“Swelling is quick to dissipate 60 % in the first 2 weeks but then the long wait begins. Avoiding salt and sleeping with head elevated helps. Occasionally I recommend diuretics for a boost in swelling reduction. By 3 months most have 80% of swelling gone. Buy 6 months 85 to 90 % is gone. The last 10% can take most of a full year. There are huge differences in people. I have been amazed at how some swell so little and some so much. A GREAT TRICK is to go on a very low salt diet starting 2 weeks prior to surgery. Try to not go over 1500 mg per day. Read all labels. It is not easy. Once you have a load of Sodium aboard it takes 4 or 5 days to get rid of it. Remember the cause of swelling. Surgery disturbs your little lymphatics. There are zillions of these little vessels. Enough to stretch to the moon in one person. Until they reconnect and function, the surgically damaged tissue will hold fluid because of poor lymphatic drainage. When lymphs reconnect, swelling dissipates. You will be fine. Sodium is your enemy in the interim”.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve waged reduced salt drastically (plus drinking lots more water). The result is much less tightness and feeling less swollen and, even though probably not visible, it does make a difference and certainly feels better.
Hope this helps others too….
3 months - worth waiting for…
26 Jun 2014
3 months post
This has been longest 3 months. Through all the doubts, discomfort, swelling, and general ups and downs it’s been a steep learning curve. Thanks (hugely) to all the words of wisdom and experience on this site, I held 3 months as a goal. Someone said that one of the ‘difficulties’ with facelift surgery is that it’s not instant gratification - you look and feel a lot worse before you feel and look better. You really do need a huge amount of patience and resilience.
Now that I’m here, I look back and all I can say is that I went into this bravely but naively. What I thought were the big things - like getting through the surgery, the scars healing, worrying about looking markedly different, post surgery problems - all passed uneventfully. The ‘little’ unexpected things have been tough……the ongoing swelling (less now and greatly helped by low salt diet), the numbness (still there but receding), forcing myself to rest, discomfort wearing glasses and earrings (only just ok now), sleeping on my side (at last I can), low energy and reduced physical activity, feeling self conscious (needlessly), having a haircut (ouch! - my hairdresser didn’t know/didn’t notice, maybe I should've told her?!), driving (limited neck mobility), sore eyes etc.
Feeling good now, and looking forward to going to France on Monday for 3 weeks. If I knew then what I know now, would I have done it? Tentatively, yes….I’ll know for sure when I get to 6 months!
Six months = relief!
23 Sep 2014
6 months post
Six months today since my surgery and there’s only one way to describe how I’m feeling - relieved!
- most of the feeling is back and the swelling has gone - pretty much back to 'normal'. I’ve not had any sharp ‘pings’ which I read are indicative of nerves reconnecting - but, I also read that this doesn't always happen and the nerves are healing anyway (which seems to be my experience).
- I was very fortunate with my choice of surgeon, Dr Komwit, in Bangkok. His skill achieved 3 important results for me as I approach my 62nd birthday: jowls gone, neck and jaw line tightened with loose skin gone, reduced lines around my eyes. I had every confidence in him and really appreciated his calm, gentle and professional approach.
- nothing went wrong. In retrospect, I realise that complications are a big risk and traveling overseas for surgery makeS this and/or revisions much harder. Naively, I didn’t give it a thought at the time :) This makes choice of Dr and hospital critically important. I got the very best of care at Bumrungrad Hospital - fabulously large, quiet room/suite, immediate responses to calls for assistance, all pre-surgery mark-ups cleaned from my face, even my hair washed (in bed!) the morning after surgery.
Things I didn’t know then…..but do know now (which might be helpful to others) - this is big surgery and I certainly needed 2 weeks ‘down time’ post surgery and months afterwards to get totally back to normal. I really don’t know how people manage to go back to work in a week or so - it was a month before I could even go to a brief work meeting (I work part time).
- I wouldn’t contemplate doing this without a general anaesthetic. Four and a half hours of surgery with local anaesthesia would have be unbearable (in my humble opinion).
- for me, it was the right choice to travel to Bangkok for the surgery. More important than the cost, it maintained my privacy and forced me to rest. The combo of a week in Bangkok and a week in Hua Hin worked perfectly for me. I did not need any extra support or anyone to organise things for me. I was easily able to ‘look after’ myself and walk the 5mins to Bumrungrad for follow up visits. (By the way, I really don’t understand the concept of cosmetic surgery ‘holidays’……. if you have facial surgery, you’re unlikely to feel up to doing much more than rest……and would need to be pretty tough to sight-see, shop etc!)
I was very ill-prepared which, in some ways, that was a good thing: I may not have had the courage to go ahead if I’d know how long the healing process took, the side effects - and what could go wrong.
- 3 months after my surgery, I was ready to travel to France for a month (including a week of cycling), then Singapore (for work) and then San Francisco for work and a wedding. All went fine except I noticed swelling at the end of each long and hot cycling day.
- there were SO many side effects. The initial things were obvious and expected e.g. swelling, bruising, not being able to chew/eat solid food, stitches. After that, I had a very tight neck for many weeks, wasn’t able to sleep on my side (or wear earrings) until about 3 months, it was uncomfortable to wear glasses for ages, and I had swelling (sometimes extreme) from salt (and exercise) until very recently. If I’d taken the salt issue more seriously from the beginning I believe I would've had a lot less discomfort in the early weeks.
- I put on weight due to not being able to exercise. This was quite hard for me - I could go for walks, of course, but cycling was impossible (I couldn’t turn my neck fully) and I’ve only just this week got back to lap swimming. I found the sedentary life hard in terms of boredom and emotional well being.
- with my Dr located overseas (even though he answered a couple of my email questions promptly), the Realself site was invaluable for reassurance re some of my healing questions and the support of members - thanks again to all!
Bottom line - was it worth it? Even though no-one noticed (apart from a few general comments re my hair and skin looking great) I feel better about my appearance......so, YES!