41yrs Old-165lb Weight Loss...My Extended Arm Lift was my Biggest Plastic Surgery Decision EVER! Perth, AU
Hi there :) I'm in Australia...I know most of you...
I've just posted some before pics for right now...but I had the arm lift 23 days ago. I'll be posting the 'after pics' really soon.
Just a quick background...after weighing 152 kilos (around...335lbs) at the age of 30...I was sick & tired of feeling sick & tired...and with 2 small kids under the age of 3, I had to do something. To cut a long story short I was lap banded in 2003 and within 2 years, lost 75 kilos (about...half my body weight). What was left behind was some fairly good quality thick skin, but wayyyyyy too much of it.
My plastic surgery history up until this stage, included a breast reduction at aged 18yrs (a dress size AU16/US 12 and a bra cup size E)- down to a C. Happy days. That surgery was performed by Dr. Allistair Turner- perfect. In the years that followed, my weight creeped up and up and at my fullest weight, the same surgeon performed a tummy tuck. This was purely a practical measure since the skin on my belly was so compromised by 2 pregnancies in quick succession, both Caesarian...and baby size was 10lbs 5oz. That's one huge belly! Sadly, and so uncomfortably...it was riddled with heinously wide stretch marks. So wide in fact that the sheerness of them would tear and bleed, even if I scraped them slightly whilst showering! Yowwwch! So....Dr Turner have me a tummy tuck, purely as a practical measure and certainly not about contouring me into a vision of perfection. I was still big...my tummy had a weird shape- bulging out above the umbilicus and then scooping inwards right under it. It looked as if I was sucking my belly in permanently. BUT-! I was happy :))) I could throw away those Meyers of cotton gauze bandages that were folded back and forth over and over again, and tucked under my pannus to absorb moisture and avoid infection. Smelly and YUCKY! So peeps...in my eyes...that surgery was a success and I was so thankful for Dr. Turner's help (he's now virtually retired btw).
Anyway...fast forward To post weight loss....
The same surgeon performed a breast lift revision, tummy tuck revision and inner and outer thigh lift by 'ring barking' both legs. A huge surgery, but I healed well and all in all- a drastic improvement. Now set Dr. Turner aside and enter Dr. Kailis....
My brachioplasty. Something I'd wanted for so long since my arms were sooooo flabby! I would see a surgeon, then bail out....wait a few years...see a surgeon...then bail out. 9 years later I find that ageing skin only made matters worse (I'm 41...) so I saw a few surgeons and then chose (drum roll here please folks........!!!!) Dr C Kailas :) I write about him below in the 'review' section. Anyway....to be blunt...I was not so keen on this surgery. All the years before this I'd only heard scary stories of botched arm lifts...ugly scars, limited range of motion...disappointing results...and in general...I was of the opinion that it was a waste of time, as the scars would outweigh the more (slightly more...) benefits...of slender arms, hands down.
Now that I'm 41 ...the condition of the skin due to general aging...plus the effects of some fairly serious weight loss...meant that the skin on my arms was fairly compromised, and it was time. I was over the scratching, itching, and tugging at all that loose skin! Anyway....it's 2:10am now...and I'll go to sleep now...and in the morning, I'll add to the story and the process involved. Hopefully my review will encourage others to make the right decision for themselves. Stay tuned :) xxx
Post Op Photos...Day 1 in Hospital
The Op: Dr. Swan was the anaesthetist. I chose him as I heard he was brilliant. My best friend is a theatre nurse and couldn't have recommended him more. He's a serious man with a mission, and not the guy you target for a quick laugh in a nervous situation. Just as well, as your life does tend to balance in his hands and I was quite thankful he was direct, to the point and in the mood for business. He managed my anaestheology without having to remove my lap band fill beforehand (NO ONE MESSES WITH MY FILL ;) and he handled a few tricky situations with that brilliantly. I woke up alive (always a bonus) and in NO PAIN WHATSOEVER. Ok, morphine had a little to do with that...but those of you who've had surgery, know it could be a hell of a lot worse. I had no scratchy throat...no deep tissue pain, no nausea...it was a completely smooth ride (THANK YOU DR. SWAN :)))
So...I woke up bandaged as pictured...the tubing you see is just extra post-op oxygen and it was a drain-free operation. That surprised me, and immediately I panicked...thinking...."Oh nooooo! I'm going to get huge bulging puss balls at my elbow!!!") [ok, so I'm a bit dramatic...] ....but I did seriously panic. That wasn't necessary as you can see...it all drained out...on my pillow :) YAY! And as Dr. Kailis says..."it's better out, than in!" :)
So...I woke up feeling great. I was expecting to feel mega sliced up, but I just felt tight discomfort, and a paper-cut like pain up my arms. Very fine and quite manageable. Of course don't try to move in this situation unless you want to squint, but it's all manageable. My suture line was an extended one, so it returned into the arm pit and down the side of my rib cage/torso and curved to meet my breast lift scar. I'd asked for this to address the skin laxity on my rib cage which in my pre-op life...I'd pull and use as a part of my boob which would then fill up a 'D-cup' bra...leaving a big 'pleat' under the bra wire. (I didn't hurt, and it was necessary to avoid mega bra-spill...a potentially scary sight). So...Dr. Kailis obliged and removed some of that skin, thank the LORD!! At this stage, it's hard to see just how tight that area is, as the swelling is pretty intense there. There's deep bruising from liposuction and contouring, so it's still early days yet. At first it felt my arms were resting on bags of jelly...but as time has passed, the swelling has been resolving itself. I've probably got 40% swelling remaining at day 24 post op.
So....these are the photos from hospital the day after I woke up from surgery. I could already tell I was going to be pleased with the reduction in size...but only time would give more detail :)
Home from Hospital....
Looking at the wounds, I'm a bit terrified of the initial inspection...you know it does tend to look like Frankenstein a bit...stitches can look 'chewed up'...gathered and strange. BUT...again...In my past experience...it always levels out and should it not? A quick Dr's visit for a trusty polish up always does the trick- so no genuine anxiety about getting that tape ripped of in a few days (day 7).
Silicone Gel Scar Therapy Starts Now...
Dr Kailis's nurse Louise (who works with Dr. Kailis @ Bodyworx on Colin St, West Perth) saw me on day 14 to do a 2nd bandage change. She was pleased with results too, and was the one to share the dreaded 'first look in the mirror' moment. This, for me conjures up visions of horror movies where trauma victims look at themselves in the mirror in hospital and cry "what's happened to meeeeee". I mean, I was anticipating about a meter of road kill stitching. But no! A beautiful line- all straight and neat....glorious stitching and absolutely AMAZING work. I couldn't believe I was as pleased as I was with the results. I was HOPING it was going to be 'better' but geez.... This was far better than Id even expected! Thank you thank you Dr. Kailis & Louise :)
Ok. So the silicone gel is pretty exxy...but the results people talk about online suggest the investment is a no-brainer. I bought a 10mg tube of 'Xeragel' from the company that sold me the compression garment (Body Plus in Leederville...$148). That get was weird and sticky and very tacky on the fingers. I then tried the one that Dr. Kailis gave me for free (how nice, you even get a parting gift :) and lo & behold....it was silky smooth and sooooo much nicer, and easier to use. I must have got a dodgey unit though (it comes as a pen shaped applicator, with a pump-like mechanism to administer the gel). I dropped back into the clinic today to check if it was the pen, or the patient :) and my ego was protected. It was the pen. And what do you know...they replaced it no questions asked, even when the first one was complimentary. Are we feeling the love yet folks? ;)
My 1st Baby Wound...
I thought I'd post the pics though, so you can see what to expect. The stitching along the side of my torso appears to be 'gathered up' as it comes to an end. This is pretty normal as there would have been more skin on my back, than close to my breast, when the elliptically shaped skin would've been removed. This has happened in other surgeries too (thigh lift) and it's just the nature on the beast. As a Fashion Designer in my former life, I understand the necessity of a glorious 'gather stitch'. This will flatten out (and yes, can tend to scar differently to other areas) but...with silicone gel, and massage and time...should flatten out ok. If it all goes to custard, I'll just get that scar revised later. Don't you just love the 'domino effect' of plastic surgery...????! ;)
My First Real Shower.
Soap in hand...gently washing my lower arm, then up to the biceps...then underneath...and My arm felt SMALL. It was liiiiike....all I could feel was 'arm'. The real arm. Not moving skin...no folds of skin....no blanket of moving, draping skin...just ARM.
AND IT WENT ALL THE WAY UP MY ARM!!!
My arm felt, errrr....***longer***!!! It was like the skin being removed had exposed my real arm to me. I've scored a long arm. I'm so happy.
Happy happy joy joy. I think only people who've lived with moving flopping, draping skin around their core body can appreciate a moment like this. It's a liberating moment...one where you feel like you can be you...without being hidden by annoying wobbling interruptions. Do you guys get that?? The joy of seeing my arms. I tell ya.... all I keep hearing myself say, is "thank you". I truly appreciate the care my Dr took in making this a positive experience for me. I'm so grateful.
I'll post some photos shortly of the wound without bandages at day 24 post op.
24 Days Post Op Pics...
As for pain sensations at this stage... Well there's no pain. There's the bruising and swelling which is just tender to touch. The suture lines feel tight and this can feel a bit restrictive- and for me the most uncomfortable part is right in the armpit. I don't have that zig-zaggy scar that some of you say is designed to allow for extra range of motion. But then some of you have the same straight line as me...so like everything, each patient's pre op arm requires custom made lines :) The tightness in the armpit feels like I want to cut the scar to allow for more give- the pulling feel like someone is pinching me reeeeally hard! It's just a baby scar and once it softens...and flattens...and breaks down a bit...it'll move with the arm better and allow for more range. That's the theory, and I'm sticking to it. If it doesn't turn out that way, I'll take a reality pill and head back to my surgeons rooms but trust me- right now I have an anxiety level reading of approximately...Zero :)
Patience for patients.
Ok. Bad joke.
Exactly @ 4 weeks Post Op
I noticed that the left underarm seemed tighter than the right, like the scar was pulling more. I kept rubbing it with my CG garment in which obviously made it worse. What ended up helping was to let it cool down (hello) then in the shower I go. Lathered up with soap and gave it a gentle massage. Both arms responded well to massage. It makes the tightness for me, subside. But definitely NO RUBBING!
The numbness makes me feel like it's ok to rub (I'm talking a circulation boosting rub, not a scrubbing rub!) but no people. Take heed and try a little bit of gentleness. I can be a bit barbaric at times :)))
Ok, so generally overall I'm feeling better each day. Literally I notice something improving every day. I'm still putting the silicone gel on daily...still preferring the local compounding pharmacists formula over the 'Xeragel' (sticky and yucky :/) and still finding that my arms feel for comfortable in the CG garment.
Wearing it though is ANNOYING. I couldn't imagine doing this op in Summer (in an Australian Summer!) I'm wearing a CG that looks like a bustier as well to give the extended (bust line) scar support too. It seriously limits your wardrobe options (!!!) and it can get a li'l toasty as well. You have this higher rounded neckline (and I usually wear V-necklines) and 3/4 length sleeves. Ohhhhhh the bitter sacrifices!!! Lol!
So far, I'm more than happy with the results and still well in track with the "ITS WORTH IT" statement :)))
Let's see. In a nutshell, to be honest...I'm more pleased with my results thus far than I had ever imagined. It's still early days...(23 days post op) ...but for an op I was almost certain I'd regret (but felt no other option than to try and do SOMETHING to make my arms more comfortable...) I must truthfully say... I am SO thankful I chose Dr. Kailis to do this op. Very confident surgeon...very straight forward, very transparent with anticipated expectations...very willing to address any questions and (in my case, fairly confronting) questions ;) annnnnd....just a very reasonable and easy to follow plastic surgeon. Like a bit of humour thank God...but still serious enough to make me feel this was a step not to be taken frivolously. A bit resolution focused at the beginning (my sentences were often prematurely cut off with a quick, strong and confident "YEP" !!!)...but you soon got to knowing this was just his style and he was in fact, really paying attention. (Ok, I've just realized that I must have been experiencing a bit of transference there....since my hubby always says "Yep....yep.....yep...." !! And then I KNOW he's not listening ;) Lol! Overall...a down to earth, yet seriously professional surgeon who so far has not only not let me down, but has impressed me beyond belief. I'm one happy cookie thus far :)