I had 3 consultations with 3 board certified...
I had 3 consultations with 3 board certified plastic surgeons in Atlanta. Desperate for an answer as to why my belly was bulging out after the birth of my 2 kids after rigorous 4x/week exercise and cleanish eating habits, I decided to try and get answers from the plastic surgeon.
I noticed after my first childbirth 3 years ago (C-section) that a mysterious bump was all-of-a-sudden right above my belly button but my body generally returned back to its original shape. After my 2nd child (natural VBAC) 11 months ago, the bump over my belly button was bigger and even though I had worked out all the way up to 40 weeks and was back to working out 3 weeks later, my belly had retracted most of the way down and then was seemingly bulging out more after 6 months or so. But it doesn't feel like fat!
So after my consultations, I chose Dr. Carmen Kavali (who was my original pick) as I've gone to her for years for injectables and she has a strong solid reputation for mommy makeovers. Her recommendation was more aggressive (tummy tuck vs. mini tummy tuck which wouldn't address the hernia or above the belly button separation) than the other consultations I had but after she carefully explained the physics and showed me on my body, I think her solution would give me the very best result. So full tummy tuck, no lipo, ventral hernia removal, and breast lift. I'm actually fine with my breasts in clothes but underneath, they are fairly jacked up after nursing 2 babes. So Dr. K will pick the girls up while she's binding everything below my breasts down. :)
I can't wait to lose this obsession with how my body looks and feels. By no means do I think I am overweight, but it feels like a monkey on my back that my belly is poking out of everything I wear and I don't feel comfortable or as confident as I had before my babies. As soon as I put my deposit down for the surgery, I feel like a weight has already been lifted from my mental psyche so I can focus on what really matters: my family.
Today is surgery day!
28 Apr 2016
Day of treatment
I had surgery this morning at 7:30am and everything was a success! When I came to, I could feel how tight the incision is but the pain meds kicked in nicely.
I'm at home resting now with the prescribed pain meds and I felt like Dr Kavali has SUCH a good bedside manner. I felt 100% comfortable and her support team was kind, efficient, and helpful in pre and post opp. I'm so excited!
It was such a cool feeling to look down and see my flat stomach even though they are bound in compression garments right now. I'll post after pics in a day or so.
Day 3 - it ain't pretty but it will be!
I think Dr Kavali did a beautiful job. Especially with my breast lift. I can't wait for the healing to speed up. My pain is managed pretty well but the drains and the pain pump catheter are really annoying. I find that I'm much more comfortable walking around then I am lying down simply because it's tough to get up. I just took a shower and unwrapped my compression garments for the first time. I had to shower with one hand as the other hand was holding the drains and pain pump. Today is better than yesterday so I'm hoping for a good trend and get these gross drains out of here! Otherwise, I'm so excited to see the final result. It was so amazing to see a flat belly again.
Day 5 - improving
This weekend had me questioning my decision-making ability as I was not in pain but could not get comfortable or get a good night's sleep no matter what. I felt pretty good on day 3 and paid for it on day 4! I think the trick in the first week is minimal movement other than walking around once an hour for 5 minutes or so. I finally took 2 Percocet last night to get some rest and it's what I needed. I took it easy today and my drains have minimized dramatically. I hope it keeps up because they are annoying little suckers. I can't wait to get them out! I was able to take my pain pump out today so that was nice to have one less thing hanging out of my body.
I've got some pretty big bruising and I can't believe how full and perky my boobs are (no implants). Still super hunched over but it feels good to lay down with a pillow under my knees and behind my back.
Looking forward to post op visit in 2 days!
Also, I would love any recommendations on post op compression garments that are easy to hide and comfortable. Thanks!
1 week post op
So every day gets a little better and better. I'm still hunched over but getting a little more energy each day. I had my post op appt yesterday. The drains are almost ready to come out as they have very little output. Doc says I'm healing well except I've got a patch of necrosis (dead skin) right at the center of my incision. It looks like black leather and doc says it's because it is not getting enough blood flow. She explained that because I don't have much fat and since my skin was pulled tight to close, it made the skin very thin. It's freaked me out a bit and I go back in tomorrow to check in. I was told to put bacitracin topical ointment on it and we would check it. I'll post a pic but it's GROSS!
Other than that, my breasts and everything else are healing nicely. I'm just taking ibuprofen to ease the back pain and only taking Percocet to sleep at night. Not much pain but certainly moving a lot slower.
Hoping I can get these drains out tomorrow and see humans and sunlight again! They are virtually impossible to conceal and very uncomfortable. On the good side, my stomach is flat and my boobs are cute and perky! I can't wait to get past these first six weeks and go on my beach trip scheduled in the upcoming months.
So doc took the drains out yesterday!!!! I feel like a new woman! My bruising is definitely more pronounced but I'm not too concerned about it.
Dr Kavali has a plan to help heal the necrosis around my incision. I'm putting ointment on it twice daily and going to be seeing her weekly to adjust recovery.
I have to say that I've been so impressed with Dr Kavali. I never have to wait in her office as the staff is on top of everything and they all seem to work together very well. I never feel rushed and Dr Kavali always gives me all the time I need, she's present, attentive, smart, honest, and I feel like I definitely chose the right Doctor. The PA's Marissa and Layne are also very smart and attentive, too. I'm always glad to see everyone.
So now that my drains are out, I'm ready to do everything and go everywhere! But my body is like, um, hell no, girl. Rest! I feel perfectly fine with no discomfort lying down or sitting. Walking is challenging as its still tight around the incision and I'm pretty hunched over. Carrying my 16 lb daughter lasts a very short time. The pain in my lower back is too much. But every day gets better and better. My belly is still pretty numb but I'm told that is very normal.
13 Days Post op.
Every day gets better and better. I'm still hunched over but standing straighter and straighter. Im not taking any more meds at all and not in any real pain. I generally sleep with a long body pillow between my legs and sleep on my side as its not 100% comfortable as my incision is still tight if I stretch my legs.
As for my mysterious dead skin (necrosis), the doctor cut it out today as it was lifting and had declared itself. My whole abdominal area is still pretty numb so I didn't feel it at all. It left a pretty big hole that will take time to heal. Doctor has put meta honey in it (a natural antibiotic that speeds up healing) and will change the dressing every few days. I certainly wish it wasn't there as I won't be able to swim with my kids for a while until it's fully healed but it's easy enough to cover up.
I still have a good amount of bruising but my belly is flat and my boobs are so cute!
I will say that even though I had vetted out my PS as much as one can, you never know how good of a doctor you have until something goes wrong. Dr Kavali has been extremely attentive, mindful, and empathetic with me - while treating as carefully to get the perfect results we had all originally anticipated. I'm very very grateful for her bedside manner as its everything you would hope for in a Doctor.
Day 19 PO - Wound vac will be placed to help heal open wound after necrosis
So this healing detour has been crazy. My necrotic skin and open wound has been closely monitored and it looks like I would be a good candidate for a wound vac to expedite healing. I will have this put in tomorrow. From what I understand, it requires a tube from the wound connected to a larger pack that I'll need to wear 24/7 for a few weeks. Anyone have any advice on how to conceal it in terms of clothes to wear in the summer - especially for work? I would love to hear some positive stories on healing a wound after the tummy tuck and the wound vac.
It turns out I had a little seroma that my PS relieved for me. She has been great at explaining everything and walking me through options to help heal.
It is what it is so I will deal with it but the gravity of my complications hit me a few days ago. I'm starting to get a little scared but everything I've read points to a happy result. It just takes time.
3 weeks + 2 days PO (Day 3 with wound vac)
Due to the open wound as a result of the necrosis, I now have a wound vac to expedite healing after my mommy makeover.
Although it certainly was an unexpected complication, it is a reality so my goal is to heal as fast as possible and move on.
I will say, having the wound vac feels better to me than not having it. Even though it sucks to have a medical device attached to you 24/7 for a little while, I feel like it's actively healing and because the wound is now sealed, it feels less likely to get an infection and a little safer to move anout. The alternative was to let Mother Nature heal the wound on its own which is the equivalent of watching paint dry.
My PS changes the dressing and reseals the vac every other day (M-W-F) and monitors my progress.
I had my first dressing change with the wound vac yesterday (2 days after putting it on) and she said I was a good healer. She said the area was bright red and bleeding which was a good sign it was getting healthy bloodflow. She also said it was 1mm less width and had decreased in depth by 3mm in just 2 days. I was encouraged!
Just in case you were wondering why I haven't posted any pics of the open wound without the vac, it really was upsetting and discouraging to look at. So I don't look at it and allow the PS to walk me through what she sees. I did have a pic of my progress with the vac, however.
Overall, my body seems to be healing really well with the exception of the necrosis. My boobs are really shaping up and starting to take final form - although they still have swelling.
I had to buy a few new outfits to conceal the vac for work meetings. I am super encouraged by how clothes will eventually look once I lose the wound vac. I mean, everything I've worked so hard to achieve in the gym and through healthy eating habits, my physique is exactly what I was hoping for! So I have high hopes there.
Side note for anyone looking for info on life with a wound vac after a tummy tuck, the medical device looks like a medium size purse that is connected to a long thick tube. You can wear it on your shoulder or around your neck. I've coiled up all the tubing and attached it via Velcro to the shoulder strap and tuck it under my arm. I can put a longer blazer over it and cover it almost completely. Or I can just wear it and hope nobody is looking at the tubing coming out from under my shirt. I can disconnect the medical device for up to two hours so I've done that for work meetings and just tuck the disconnected tube around my waist and into my skirt or pants. Traveling through the airport, they most likely will do a pat down and swab everything for explosives. It takes a few minutes longer but it isn't the worst thing in the world. If anyone else who has had a wound vac had any tricks on how to conceal it, please comment below! I'm trying to follow my doctors instructions explicitly and forget it's there until it comes off.
Also, sleeping with it is easier than trying to sleep sitting up those first few days after the tummy tuck. The device gurgles and makes intermittent sounds which can be embarrassing in public but whatever. If you're in public, they probably will never see you again and if you know them, you can just say you've got a temporary medical device and be on your merry way.
Thanks for following my story.
4 weeks +1 day PO with wound vac
I've passed 4 weeks and have had my wound vac on for 9 days. What a difference the wound vac makes in healing! My PS has said that my healing is going quicker than she thought (yay!) so I am encouraged.
I don't feel any pain at all from the surgery after 4 weeks outside of tightness in my incision if I stretch out long.
I've been using plant-based supplements (Zija's Supermix 2x/day plus Zija protein smoothie in the afternoon) to help me with healing and as boost my protein intake. From everything I've read, protein is going to heal the fastest.
As for my open wound, it's shrinking significantly every time I get the dressing changed (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Every visit, my width of the wound has shrunk by 1cm. Right now, it's 7 1/2 cm and the depth of the wound is down to 4mm (it was 12mm one week ago). I am so hopeful that I will have the depth closed up in the next couple of weeks and can be free of the wound vac. I'm going to be faithful to the supplements as my guess is it's contributing to the speed of healing.
My left boob looks SO cute and my right one has had some spitting stitches so it's not quite matched to the left but it will be. I'm so glad I got a breast lift and I'm so glad I didn't have implants put in. I've always had big boobs so it's nice to have cute perky ones that fit into clothes just right without the distraction of exaggerated cleavage.
As this is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I'm a little bummed about the wound vac appendage as I won't be able to wear a bathing suit until it's gone. I'm trying to stay focused on getting through the tough part with a smile on my face. But it will heal eventually and I can sit around and admire my PS's work once the healing has concluded.
I can't wait to post pictures once the wound vac is gone and everything has healed up!
11 weeks p.o. / 5 weeks post wound vac
13 Jul 2016
3 months post
Wow. This has been a crazy roller coaster. I got my wound vac off after almost 4 weeks of having it on 24/7. It really sped up the healing and towards the end, it slowed to a crawl but it was good enough to get gone!
The good news is that in less than a year, PS will do a scar revision and it will look like what I had originally wanted. The bad news is that my belly looks pretty deformed as a result of the necrotic tissue and wound healing right now. The wound has pulled down my belly button and given it an oblong look. Not pretty! My belly button looks like a vagina!
The other weird thing is that the wound has shrunk A LOT which is great. The part I'm confused about is why the top layer of skin hasn't grown over it. I'm still going to the doctor 3x a week to have it monitored and change the medihoney dressing. They are putting silver nitrate on it to restart the process (apparently this cauterizes the area to stimulate skin growth) but I'm not sure why it's stalled despite these efforts.
On the positive side, I can go in the water (no lakes or rivers) and I did get to go in the ocean for a beach vacation. The salt water actually seemed to be really good for my wound as it appeared smaller and I thought had skin growing over it.
Emotionally, it's been a bit of a roller coaster. I can get frustrated with how vain and obsessive I can be. Especially over this wound stuff. I can't wear a two piece. I can't even wear loose fitting tops to workout for fear that my belly button will be seen. I'm still swollen in my upper abdomen so when I wear clothes, they don't quite fit me the way I had hoped. So I keep trying and buying clothes hoping to feel as confident as I had hoped with my "new body." I understand all of this will come with time and just try and be patient with it.
So let's talk about my boobs. I think Dr Kavali did a great job with the breast lift and they seem to be healing up pretty nicely. BUT now I wish I had opted for implants! My boobs are super cute and perky. But they don't quite fill out tops like they used to. I'm not sure if it's because my upper abdomen is puffy and I don't quite look proportionate yet. So I'll wait. I spoke to my doc and we will consider doing it during the scar revision next year.
I'm back to full capacity in terms of working out. I even ran a 5k right out of the gate at 6 weeks which felt so good. The only thing that feels a little weird is hanging from a bar as it seems to pull on the scars under my breasts and my tummy tuck incisions. Everything else feels great!
I'll post more pics soon. I was hoping to have beautiful healing results to post but it's gone slower than I was hoping. Fingers crossed, it will be better soon!
4 months post op - Waiting on scar revision next year
24 Aug 2016
4 months post
Okay, so the scar from the necrosis has healed but it's pulled my belly button down and has very hypertrophic scarring all over. It is just hideous and unsightly.
I go through phases on how I am coping with it. It seems as if my surgery was successful (I think, I hope!) but my healing went completely haywire. I have recurring staph infections and have paid all this money to rock a bikini. And now, I have to cover everything and can't even show my belly button.
As of today, I am beyond frustrated and disappointed in the results. My hope is that the scar revision surgery next year will finally give the results I had hoped and worked so hard for.
I don't know if there is still a ton of swelling but I've been working out 5-6x a week pretty hard and have hired a nutritionist. I've been very conscious and diligent in following a balanced and healthy lifestyle in terms of nutrition. I'm drinking extra water every day, too. For some reason, my stomach is still poking out and I don't know if it's bloat or what.
The other thing is that I didn't want implants - just a lift. I was SO excited with the results...until the swelling went down and now I don't fill a shirt like I used to. Maybe it's the proportion is now off but I will likely get implants when I have my scar revision next year.
I'm going to keep a positive attitude but today, I've been pretty upset about it all. I am fortunate that there is hope in the revision surgery and my PS has been very very diligent in helping me heal and open communication. But damn, I need to get my sexy back.
6 months post op - waiting for scar revision
18 Oct 2016
6 months post
Oy! Has anyone had a similar experience and the scar revision made everything better? I am hopeful but so nervous I'll have to live with this disfigurement for the rest of my life.
It's been 6 months since my surgery and the scar is pretty tough. My PS said that we most likely will do a revision after a year when the scar softens and the skin is mobile.
My upper abs are still pretty numb from where my diastasis was closed up but I believe that's normal.
I am going to get implants when I get the revision. My scars under my breasts aren't healing very nicely either so I'm scared that my next surgery will end in disaster as well. I wish I knew why this happened or what made it happen. It's really nice to fit into my clothes but I wish I could show my belly off and get the results I had paid for.
I just have to trust the process and be patient. I am hoping someone in the community can help me with their experiences (hopefully positive!) and let me know I'm not alone here. I appreciate the support and hope you are all faring well!