48, Two Teenagers, Been Waiting 16 Years for a Tummy Tuck! Chicago, IL

I've always been thick waisted and even as a teen,...

I've always been thick waisted and even as a teen, wasn't comfortable in a bikini. I finally got sick of having my pants be tight in the waist and loose in the ass, so I decided to bite the bullet and do something about it. I'm 5'9", 183 lbs. I'm trying to lose as much as I can before my April 21 surgery!

Is this how you blog? I'm going to give it a try. Day of Surgery! With pre-op photos

I've been posting in the forums all along, but I thought I'd come over here and blog a little before I forget my experience, because having these to read from other people was tremendously helpful to me. My pics are not great, but I never claimed to be a photographer! There aren't any back shots because I really didn't have any back flab. Lucky, huh?

My weight morning of surgery was 186. I am 5'8", 48 years old and have two teenage kids. I have hated my saggy belly for years. I can even remember when I was a kid, looking at my own mother's saggy belly and thinking, gosh, I hope I never look like that! Imagine that - even as a child I knew that a saggy, flabby belly wan't a good thing. I could get into a whole thing about how even then the media had brainwashed us about the ideal feminine figure, but why bother? The point is, I obviously chose not to fight it!

I was the first case, so I showed up at 6 am and was quickly taken back and put through all the hoops. Lots of history questions, IV started, etc. Because I'm a nurse and work on Epic systems, the girls all wanted to talk to me about that stuff and we built a good camaraderie. They had me listed in their system as Male, so we had to fix that to make sure nobody thought I was there for gender reassignment!

Eventually the surgeon showed up and drew on me like they do on Nip/Tuck. Then he took photos. For the side shots he had me hold the IV pole. It was so comfortable I started thinking perhaps a pole should be involved in my next career move. I still haven't seen the photos - I need to see if I can get copies from him so I can post them here.

I met the CRNA and everyone who would be in OR with me, then they walked me in. They made sure I was comfortable on the table. I asked why, because I'd be asleep so I wouldn't know. They said it was because it would make a huge difference in my comfort level when I woke up. Apparently this really was important, because someone else on the forums mentioned that they had residual tingling and pain from a pinched nerve, which I can only guess was from bad positioning. Anyway, they knocked me out and all was beautiful

I woke up in a world of pain. No shit. It was like I got pulled right out of heaven into hell.

Ok, I exaggerate. It felt like someone had forced me to do 5000 crunches and then had a horse kick me in the gut. I was groggy, and no matter how I tried to move the discomfort was the same. Nothing relieved it. They kept giving me pain meds, which ultimately kept me in recovery about an hour and a half longer than most people end up staying there. I was the first one in, and the last one out!

I managed to make the hour drive home, although I don't remember any of it. I got deposited into a reclining chair.

Things to note:
1. You won't believe how hard it is to get up from a chair, or to lean back. Anything that engages your abdominal muscles will make you want to die. I'm pretty sure the last 7 days have built up my biceps quite nicely.
2. Getting into and out of a bed is next to impossible on your own. Luckily, I have a wrought iron canopy bed, and my husband hooked up pulleys and straps so I could pull myself out in a way that engaged my abdominals very little. It looks like 50 Shades of Grey in there, but it's a great system.
3. Take your time and figure out the best techniques for getting yourself in and out of any position.
4. For the love of god, don't watch anything funny, and if you have allergies, start treating them now so you don't have to sneeze!

POD 2 through 4

Not going to lie. Post Op day 2 and 3 I really regretted doing this. "Why did I do this to myself?" and "My belly wasn't THAT bad" ran through my head on an endless loop. I could barely get out of the recliner without help, and getting up to go to the bathroom took a good 5 minutes just to scootch myself to the end of the chair to be in a position to push myself up out of it. I learned that depending on how you are sitting and your hand placement, you use very different muscles. For example, it was impossible to pull myself to the edge of the chair, but if I could get my hands behind me on the seat of the chair I could push myself to the edge without engaging my abdominal muscles.

I also was urinating ALL THE TIME. I peed every 10 minutes. When I weighed myself, I weighed 4 lbs more than when I went into surgery. Since I really hadn't eaten anything since, I assumed this was from all the fluid they used for the liposuction. Well, it was coming off now for sure! I definitely didn't have to worry about making sure to move for 10 minutes every couple of hours, because I was up and down to the bathroom about every 3 minutes. At one point, I just stayed on the toilet for about a half hour and read my iPad. I peed 5 times in that half hour.

At this point, I tried to get into my own bed because the back spasms were unbelievable from sitting in the recliner, but that was pretty much impossible. There was no way I could get into my bed without a lot of pain and engagement of the abs. I figured if I couldn't get in, there was no way I was going to be able to get back out!

My binder was super tight and lined with foam panels. I felt like I couldn't take a full breath. I used the incentive spirometer every hour like I was supposed to, but by the end of each round I felt like I wanted to pass out. Who knew breathing could take so much effort? The binder was kind of itchy and so tight that I started sliding my hands into it just to relieve the pressure from small areas of my skin at a time. Boy, did that feel good! I'd just slide a palm down my belly and hold it there for a couple of minutes and give the skin a chance to breathe. I don't know if you're supposed to, but it was pretty much the best part of my day!

I woke up day 4 feeling a lot better - but don't kid yourself. That came and went too. I started having rounds of feeling better and then feeling crappy again.

Takeaways from days 2-4:
1. This is the worst pain I've ever been through in my life. It really is. And I've had other surgeries. I'm a critical care nurse (former - now I do other nursing). I understand pain, and this was the worst. But...it was manageable. No joke about it though -it's the kind of pain that causes depression and crying and wondering why the hell you ever thought this was a good idea.

2. Take your meds. Don't be a hero. Load up on the narcs and worry about pooping later. Do NOT put yourself through hell just because you're afraid you won't be able to poop later. You'll poop! It might not be fun, but it will happen. Take your stool softener and your narcs and stay as comfortable as you can. (Disclaimer - I am on a diabetic med called Victoza that made pooping a non-issue for me, so I never had that worry. I poop like a champ. I can poop on command).

3. Don't refuse help. Even something as simple as having someone stand next to you while you try to stand up and walk to the bathroom helps. You will be woozy. You will feel a little scared and shaky. It will pass, but let people help you!

4. Sleep. Don't worry about being active. Just sleep. Don't get a blood clot, but rest. Your body is rebuilding itself. It just went through hell. Let it do its thing.

5. I seriously, seriously would have given anything during these two days to go back and have never done this to myself. If someone came to me and said "for a million bucks I can make this all go away like it never happened" I'd have taken out the biggest PayDay loan you've ever seen in a heartbeat. That feeling, too, will pass.

My first Post Op Visit! POD 5 with pics!

Oh my goodness! This was the day I'd been waiting for. My stupid binder had been rubbing me raw on a couple of spots on my hips. I didn't move it or open it up to reposition it because I was scared to death I'd do something to disrupt my healing, so I just tried to protect those spots with my panties by tucking them underneath the binder.

I napped most of the day, so my husband had to wake me up when he came home to take me to my appointment. For some unknown reason, I woke up in more pain than usual. I'd been having a really good day, but when I woke up I was super sore. My back spasms were out of control, and my belly wasn't much better. So anyway, I hobbled my way slowly into our van and we made the long trek to the doctor's office for the followup.

He took the binder off and peeled off the foam and I saw my belly for the first time. It was amazingly tight. My waist wasn't as small as I'd hoped, but he said I still have about 25% more swelling to go down and that everything is going to get smaller. Everything was numb. I couldn't feel anything from my braline down to my pubic area. Unfortunately, the place where my drains are coming out of isn't numb at all! That's where I could really use it! That area was also the most swollen, but he told me that would be the last to go back to normal because it's the lowest and fluid, of course, seeks the lowest possible level.

I wasn't paying attention, but my husband said when he took the packing out of my belly button (which is cute and in a perfect spot!), it was like a magician pulling endless handkerchiefs out of a pocket. He said the packing just kept coming and coming and coming. Since I was numb, I didn't even realize he'd pulled stuff out of it!

Once I explained my continued level of pain and muscle spasms, he allowed me to add ibuprofen and valium to my Norco regimen. I can tell you that the next day was the best day ever.

The attached pics aren't that great because my husband doesn't understand how to take pictures. Which is funny because he's an artist, but what can you do?

Post Op Day What? 10?

My primary issues as of day 10 seem to be the drains driving me crazy and my back. The drains come out Monday at 5 pm, so I'm already planning on feeling like a whole new woman after that! I'm not having any incisional pain at all, and except for feeling a bit like a walking bruise, the only real confusing pain I have is right below my braline in the center of my torso. I don't know if there's an anchor stitch in a muscle there or what, but it's the only area that is inexplicably sore, and it's the one thing keeping me from putting on a bra. I'll have no choice on Monday, because god help those who have to spend a day at work with me braless. I still take a valium to get me through the night without back spasms, but even that is getting less and less necessary. I successfully navigated my biggest challenge today. My mother has mental health issues. She has extreme anxiety among other things, and insists on coming to visit us every weekend. She can't help obsessively worrying about things, so I never told her I was getting surgery. I managed to keep her away last week by claiming to have the flu, but this week she adamantly announced she was coming over and staying the whole day. I managed to hide my drains in a pair of baggy sweatpants, and told her I was walking slowly and carefully because I had injured my back and was on muscle relaxers. She bought it, so since this was the last weekend of me being outside of normal, I can safely say she will never know I've done this. I feel terrible that I can't share this with her, but I have to protect her from herself.

Kind of a rough week - POWeek 3


So I started back to work this week. The first day was great, because I was able to work at home and take a virtual class I'd been assigned. The second day, I went in to the office and made it until 12:30 before I headed home. I'm very lucky that I've built a base of trust and respect where I work, so they pretty much let me do whatever I want.

I took a nap when I got home and woke up with a fever. I felt absolutely miserable! I was shivering, and sweating, and felt pretty much like I had the flu. This went on literally all night. I am lucky that I work for an excellent primary care physician who called in a script for me because it took my PS a while to get back to me. When he finally did, he ordered labwork (that I haven't got the results from yet) and said it's unlikely to be infection from surgery because I'm so far out from the surgery date at this point. Maybe I just got lucky and actually got sick!

Anyway, I woke up in a literal puddle of sweat. It was so gross, my husband thought I peed the bed until he saw that my hair was soaked too.

So Post Op Week 3 began with a couple of great days, and then a setback. Wah. My soreness does seem to subside a little bit more every day, though, so that's something.

Last Update for a while

So - for those who didn't see my updates before in the forums - I ended up with a pocket of pus that had to be opened up and drained, and I'll be packing it three times a day for about 6-8 weeks. It's very disappointing and hard for me to wrap my head around, but I'm starting to get used to it. I'm not great at packing it - I do my best but I can't even get half of what the doctor packs in there when he does it. Anyway, I had a good long cry and pity party for myself this morning. Now it's time to move on with life and just hope that nothing else goes wrong. Outside of this mishap, the rest of me feels pretty good. I'm standing 95% straight - just a little hunched over, but if I force myself I can stand totally straight. I just don't do it for very long because the stretching feeling starts to hurt after a few minutes. Since my pocket was drained so much of my pain is gone, and my fevers have stopped. It seems we've gotten it under control. I just wish there was a better way than packing a wound three times a day to let this thing heal. I know there's not, but it just sucks. My PS swears it won't affect my ultimate result, and while I hope he's right, at the moment I care more about continuing to heal than what the end result will look like.

Getting my mental shit together

Ok, so I've finally gotten my head wrapped around the next month of my life involving 3 times a day wet-to-dry wound packing. It hasn't been easy, but at least the self-pity parties have stopped. And hey, there are some positives: 1. Except for this 1 inch opening in my incision, the rest of it looks pretty good. In some spots, my incision scar is actually already disappearing, which is amazing to me! 2. Every single morning things get a little easier than the one before. Right now, my worst issue is I do toss and turn knowing the first thing I have to do in the morning is pull all this stuff out of my wound pocket and repack it, but it's starting to become routine. I just remind myself it's not forever, and I DIDN'T GET SEPTIC AND DIE - which I totally could have. 3. The place I work and my bosses are the best. One of them is my primary care physician, who I credit with making me go to the ED when it was time and probably saving me from sepsis. He probably did save my life just by not letting me wait any longer. My other bosses are allowing me to work from home when I need to, or to work shorter days so that I can get home to do my afternoon dressing change and work the rest of the day from home. 4. I do believe that once this wound care is over I will be happy I did this. Right now I am still regretful, but I think my end result will make me happy. Still - if I have learned anything from this experience, it's "leave well enough alone". I have no complaints about my surgeon. He has been wonderful, and sometimes shit just happens. I don't blame him for my infection, and he did wonderful work outside of that.

A better day!

So, today has been the best day I've had since surgery. I managed to go out to a movie with my family, and have held up pretty well without even a nap. I'm getting the hang of this wound packing thing - or at least I thought I was, but it seems like I'm able to pack less gauze in now than before. Fingers crossed, I'm hoping that means I'm healing quickly and there's less open space to fill.

I have to say this for sure: My PS and his office staff are wonderful. They have communicated with me constantly, have answered every question I've had, and been there for me with every concern I've had. I would recommend him and this office for procedures.

The Road to Recovery

Well, I'm almost at 7 weeks and everyone is right, this does seem to be the magic number. I went to work Monday with no compression and swelled up so tight I was sore everywhere. I wore compression (Spanx) the next three days, then didn't wear compression today to work. I have swelling, but it's manageable and not at all as tight as Monday! And the soreness is almost non existent.

I am starting to cautiously feel optimistic that I will be back to normal (or darn close) within a couple of weeks. My huge pocket that I had to pack with gauze has shrunk to the size of about two q-tip tips. I'm allowed to take baths and swim, as long as it's only in my own pool. I expect I will be packing that spot for no more than a few more days.

The most fun has been that my jeans that were tight before surgery literally are falling off of me. When I got ho,e from work yesterday with my arms full of stuff (so I couldn't hold my waistband) my jeans slid to my knees before I could get to the kitchen table to drop my things and grab them! It's still too soon to shop, though, as I think it's too early to know what my size will be a month from now.

Happy healing, everyone! It does get better! I was full of misery and regret early on with my infection, and I am sent the light at the end of the tunnel!


So, yesterday morning I woke up flatter and more comfortable than ever. I hadn't been wearing compression and it seemed like every day I was getting less and less swelling. Then, I spent yesterday moving my daughter into a dorm for the next two weeks, in the heart of Chicago.

Because the elevator was constantly packed with other students moving in and she's on the third floor, we ended up taking the stairs. A lot. By the end of the day my phone app told me I'd done 28 flights of stairs and walked over 4 miles. 4 miles might not seem like much, but it's the most action I've seen since surgery. Needless to say, I was swelled to high heaven last night, and some of it has stuck around for today as well. Ugh!

Quick update

It's June 21! Exactly 8 weeks PO, starting week 9. Things of note:

1. The swelling has improved quite a lot. It has also changed. For a long time, the swelling seemed to "pool" at my incision. There was a clear shelf that formed at my incision line-swollen above, less swollen below - except for my mons (anyone else hate that word? I do, it makes me think of Will Ferrell into the hot tub on SNL with his "lover"-yet another word I hate.) anyway, my mons area still swells kind of independently of the other swelling. Not to the point of Ken Doll, but obviously swollen.

2. It seems like sensation on the surface is coming back from the outside in, as in from my sides toward my middle. The area below my belly button is still as dead numb as a frat boy on a bender, but everything else is starting to respond to pressure from my fingers, or ache if my waistband cuts in a bit when I sit.

3. I remain unconvinced that my bb isn't trying to close, so I've been keeping an earplug in it most of the time.

Otherwise, things are going well. I almost feel normal again.


I forgot to explain. The way the swelling has changed is that now instead of a shelf along my incision, it seems to be more all over and higher up on my abdomen. I feel more like a puffball, but less like there's pressure on the incision area.

Photos finally!

People have been asking about photos, so here are my before and after. The before were taken by the surgeon a half hour prior to surgery. After was taken this morning. I'm at about 10 weeks.

Almost 4 Months Post-Op

Hello all!

Just a quick update. Despite my little setbacks, which seemed huge at the time, I am healing super well and feeling almost completely normal. My issues were small compared to some - I had that infection and hole I had to pack for 6 weeks - but of course, to me, they were huge!

I just had a follow-up with my surgeon. He says I've got about 10% more swelling that will go away eventually. My belly button keeps trying to close up, so I"m keeping an earplug in it for several weeks. If it continues to try to close we will do a revision in his office, so I'm not super concerned about it.

My tummy is still numb around and below my belly button, but if it stays this way it won't really bother me. Of course I hope the feeling comes back, but it's not a huge problem. I only worry that I might not notice if I hurt myself in that area.

Just wanted to let you all know that I didn't believe early on that I'd ever feel normal again, but I do! I'm not even scared to do crunches or exercise anymore. I spent two weeks walking all over Italy - 10 miles a day minimum, and did just fine. No soreness, and just a bit of swelling at the ends of the days.

You will get through this, and you will be normal again. And gorgeous!
Hoffman Estates Plastic Surgeon

I am redoing this review as of Post Op Day 24. I did not have a perfectly smooth recovery, but not everyone does. Having said that, Dr. Patel did a great job on the way I look and I couldn't be happier with my results. When I began having issues, he and his staff were very responsive and communicated with me constantly. The customer service given by this office is really among the best I have ever seen in the medical community - and I work for a hospital. Additionally, the surgical center he uses has wonderful staff. Everyone I encountered treated me very professionally and in a friendly way, and made me feel like they really did care about taking great care of me. I would absolutely recommend this surgeon to anyone seeking out plastic surgery services. He really cares about what he does, and doing it right.

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
5 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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