I had realized that I would need to have skin removal surgery several years ago and began saving for the surgery, but was under the mistaken impression that I still had a lot of fat to lose before considering surgery. In December 2013, I thought that it was time to get a feel for my options. I met with four plastic surgeons, and knew that I had to find someone with a lot of experience with massive weight loss patients because these surgeries are almost reconstructive in nature, and our skin and needs are very different than the average plastic surgery patient. Also, I was looking for someone I would be comfortable having do my full body – lower body lift, breast reduction, arm lift, and medial thigh lift. I was initially hesitant to set up an appointment with Dr. Shifrin because he is younger than most surgeons, but the before and after pictures on his website of MWL patients, breast reduction patients, and tummy tuck/ mommy makeover patients made me decide that I had to at least meet with him. I walked out of my initial consult knowing that he would be my surgeon.
One of the things that really helped me make my decision was that with respect to experience, he was actually much more experienced with MWL patient surgeries than many of the more seasoned surgeons. He indicated that roughly a quarter of his work at the time was with MWL patients, and one of his fellowships was under the tutelage of a renowned MWL specialist. Aside from the technical skill set, he was also very kind, and took the time to explain things in plain English without talking down to me. He also was very honest about what could and could not be done, and WHY it could or could not be done. For example, he told me that my stomach would be much flatter than I had originally anticipated, but that a lower body lift could not totally remove my mid-back love handles and showed me how that skin has connective tissues that would inhibit that. He was also very honest about likely “complications”, e.g. minor incision openings and popping stitches. My results were exactly as he had explained. Additionally, even before I had told him that I would like him to do my surgeries, he personally responded to all of my e-mails promptly, usually within 24 hours. That continued both before and after my surgery. At my request, he arranged to have two of his former body lift patients call me to answer some of my questions as I was finalizing my decision.
On to the actually surgery – my first surgery was a circumferential body lift and breast reduction, which ended up taking around ten hours on May 8, 2014. At my initial consult, Dr. Shifrin estimated that he would take off 20-25 pounds between the body lift and breast reduction. After the surgery, he told me that he took off about 22 pounds of skin from the body lift, and a total of roughly 3 pounds of tissue from my breasts. The countouring on my midsection is amazing. My surgery was only 2 months ago, so I am still quite a bit swollen, but my before and after pictures here are in the same pair of jeans (while my waist and hips would fit in smaller pants, my thighs which desperately need to be done will not allow that). I will let you decide for yourself about the quality of his work. Sorry, I have no breast shots… but I can tell you that I had very heavy, uneven, saggy breasts. One was an F and the other was an H. As I fully expected, I needed an anchor shaped incision for my breast reduction. I asked Dr. Shifrin to make me a full D, which translates to a 3 cup reduction on one side and a 5 cup reduction on the other. I finally went bra shopping this week, and bought two bras in a D and two in a DD, so he made me a very perky full D, which is exactly what I asked for. Best of all, my neck, shoulders, and upper back are no longer in one perpetual state of being completely knotted up.
Although for me personally, the quality of staff is down on the list of decision factors in choosing my surgeon for such specialized surgeries, Dr. Shifrin has really good staff. He has two offices. His downtown office currently handles cosmetic patients and his Oak Lawn office handles insurance patients. I happen to be both. My breast reduction was medically necessary and went through insurance, and my body lift (although medically necessary) was not covered by insurance. His Oak Lawn staff handled all of my insurance claims, and disability coverage requests quite well, and his patient coordinator Danielle was prompt in getting back to me when I had any questions about that process or the hospital where I was to have my surgery. I did all of my follow-up appointments at his downtown office. His downtown patient coordinator Adrian was great in coordinating all of that as well as my second surgery, including my request to change surgery dates after already booking. I needed to get a new compression garment the week of the July 4th holiday (Dr. Shifrin provides compression garments post-surgery), but was not able to get downtown on a day that the office was open because I live and work in the north suburbs. In the spirit of truly going above and beyond the call of duty, Adrian volunteered to take home a garment and meet me in the north suburbs to give it to me.
If you have read any of the blogs out there about body lift surgery, you know to expect the first several weeks to be torture, even with the best of surgeons and no complications. For the first two weeks, I couldn’t even sleep in my own bed and needed help even getting up from the couch to go to the bathroom. At four weeks, I was able to move around and do things including driving, but was exhausted by the end of the day even if I was only moving around for a few hours. My body apparently had a ridiculous amount of swelling because I didn’t get my last drain removed until week five, at which point it was still draining more than the recommended 30 cc, but fortunately I did not end up with any seromas. I had a couple of small incisions about an inch in length that opened and needed to be treated with Neosporin and covered with guaze but had completely closed up by week 7. So you never know which “complications” you will end up with. At six weeks, I was back to a pretty normal life, I could make it through a full day of work and get to the gym for cardio, but was definitely still swollen and taking it easy at the gym. Although I have been cleared to lift weights, for my own peace of mind, I am waiting until I’m 9 or 10 weeks post op to start. It is important to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions and to eat a healthy, protein rich diet. I had a protein rich diet, both before and after surgery, and strength trained heavily prior to surgery, both of which likely aided in my recovery. I am currently using biocorneum lotion on my scars to help those become less noticeable, but every medical professional I know who has seen my scars thinks they are healing wonderfully. I have included a picture of my scar from the front, so you can see how thin his lines are, and yes he has offered to revise the scar to make it lower and straighter on the right free of charge. The scar in the back is very low and straight, goes right along the top of my crack. Of course everyone’s scars heal differently which is a function of your own skin rather than the surgeon’s skill.
I am sure that Dr. Shifrin enjoys all of his work, but it is clear that he has a true passion for reconstruction post massive weight loss, and that his work in this sphere is truly a work of art. I believe that the greatest testament of my satisfaction with his work is the fact that I have already booked my inner thigh lift and extended armlift for this October. I will update this review after I heal from Phase 2.