My Bariatric Life Making Peace w/ Serious Arm Lift Complications after Major 6hr Surgery (4 procedures) w/ Dr. Joseph F. Capella

Sort by:
*Treatment results may vary

I've wanted this surgery since 2006 with Dr....

I've wanted this surgery since 2006 with Dr. Capella and I am finally realizing my dream. Dr. Capella's technique is to make one long incision from the elbow down the side of the flanks and under the breast resulting in a beautiful contour. He is very well known for his arm lifts, and has the largest experience in the world of this surgery. I invite you to follow my journey and see before and after photos here.

Arm wounds separated, skin necrosis aft brachioplast

Complications after brachioplasty

My photos above show skin dehiscence (the small wound opening in the arm pit - NOT the larger area of skin necrosis) after brachioplasty (arm lift), which happens in about 25% of patients who undergo this procedure.

My photos also show the right arm in which there has been some minor skin necrosis (death of skin cells). This is the long white line that you see that runs along my incision and goes about 4-5 inches down the arm, as well as the circular wound. This is not a true necrosis in that the underlying skin is in good condition and only a small area of superficial skin cells are sloughing off. Google images of skin necrosis and you will see the difference. My surgeon said this condition was caused because he pulled the skin tight. Note that he did not say he pulled it too tight! That would be very bad!

Although my arm looks pretty awful, it is not as bad as it seems. There is a burning sensation on and off, and a sharpness if I extend my arms too far. I rate this as discomfort rather than pain.

Treatment is to keep the area dry with gauze, and my surgeon said I was welcome to try the Xeroform (gauze with pertroleum and 3% Bismuth Tribromophenate) that a few patients had recommended. I find the expensive Xerform to be soothing on my arms but it is too soon to tell if it will provide any other benefit. Like many products that are out there for pre and post plastic surgery recovery, it may just be a gimmick. I will let you know my opinion a little further down the road. Regardless, my surgeon told me that he hopes I will be recovered by 3 weeks, which will be 6-mos post op, and I can return to vigorous exercise. Yikes I hate feeling like a couch blob until then!!!

My surgeon said that I will have a thicker scar in this arm and he would revise it in his office when the time was right.

Some people have been overly concerned when they saw my photos. It does look a lot worse than it really is. I do not want to scare anyone considering brachioplasty, but rather prepare you for what might happen. These complications are more annoying than anything else. Of course I speak only of my own experience and with my specific surgeon who is a master in brachioplasty. Your personal experience based on your health conditions and your pain threshold and the skills and experience of your surgeon could be very different.

I read somewhere that the ASAPS says the avg plastic surgeon performs 1-2 arm lifts per year. I have not asked Dr. Capella how any he has performed but he has the most experience in the world doing this procedure. From what I see he is doing at least 1-2 of these per week, if not more. My estimation is that he has done more than 1000 arms, and I am probably under estimating that.

My point being is that I trust my surgeon's expertise and skills. And while the arm healing is a minor setback, I am not at all worried about the final outcome. He does fabulous arms and I am happy that he does pull them really tight. I have seen too many surgeons who under-correct the arm lift and the end result is mediocre. If I am going to have a scar along my arm, then I want the very best shaped arms I can get. Not something mediocre.

I have posted a before shot of my arm taken during markup. I will post an after shot at 3-mos and 6-mos post op. I also will post periodic shots of the arm healing.

My brachioplasty was performed as part of a nearly 6.5-hr surgery that included: body lift (no tummy tuck, which was done previously), inner thigh lift, monsplasty, and upper body lift (breasts, flanks, arms). My entire body has now undergone body contouring and you may read all about my journey here:

A final surgery is planned for 2014 to do my implants and face/neck lift, and any minor revisions and tweaks to my body. I will be sure to write a review on that experience when the time comes. Until then, I will be healing and returning to life as usual -- but with a smoking hot body, :-)

Right arm is healing

My right arm is healing and nearly all granulation tissue now. My surgeon told me to use only the dry gauze now and no tape. The openings in the axilla are bothersome and do not seem to be improving to me. Maybe it just needs more time owing to the stress of this area constantly moving. But my surgeon is checking new photos of the area to see if there is any hyper granulation.


In my post on Nov 2, I wrote, "will be recovered by 3 weeks, which will be 6-mos post op, and I can return to vigorous exercise." It should have read, "will be recovered by 3 weeks, which will be 6-weeks post op, and I can return to vigorous exercise."

I will be 6-weeks post op in just about 2-weeks, and time cannot fly quick enough for me. Geez, I cannot believe it is almost Thanksgiving.

Arms and Axilla at 4 weeks 1 day post op

To me the arm looks as it is healing but the axilla look worse. I will ask my doctors.

Dr. Capella asked me to do the wall crawl with my fingers to stretch my arms aboce my shoulders. My skin is so tight that I cannot lift my arms much above my shoulders at this point. Of course, the pain in the axilla don't help! Ouch!!!

Arms and Axilla at 5 weeks post op

They do not seem to be improving to me.

Hyper granulation

I am so frustrated that my arms are not healing well. Here is a pic of the right arm with hyper granulation that has been there for at least a week. My surgeon is sending me nitrate sticks in the mail that he will instruct me how to use.

But it is really the axilla that bother me the most and I just don't know why they are not healing. Not happy today...

Much better!

I pulled some of the debris off my right arm wound with my fingers. It looks much cleaner now, and healthier. Allow me to correct myself, in my post on Nov 14 I wrote, "I am so frustrated that my arms are not healing well." But what I meant was "I am so frustrated that my arms are healing so slowly." There is a distinction between poor wound healing, which is not what I have, and slow wound healing, which is what I do have.

As for the Xeroform pads, my surgeon advised me to stop using them a few weeks ago. He did not like the way that my arms looked and prefers the dry gauze treatment. Furthermore, he likes the rough weave gauze because it pulls out the debris. He told me that I would not be able to find the rough weave in the pharmacy, that everything is fine weave. So I have tried ordering the Covidien Gauze Sponges from Amazon in hopes that it will be the rough weave. The price on Amazon is much less than in the pharmacy. I ordered 200 4x4 for $7, free shipping. The Xeroform BTW was $55... in my case they were a big waste of money.

Dr. Capella assured me that my arms will heal. I asked him if the stretching exercises were contraindicated for the axilla healing (streching exercises are to lift my arms above my shoulders whereas axilla healing are NOT to lift arms above the shoulders). He told me that I could stop the stretching and the axilla will heal quicker, but reassured me that they will heal regardless. I chose to keep doing the exercises and let the axilla take longer to heal.

For me, not lifting my arms above my shoulders prohibits me from living life as usual. It was not good for my psyche to be unable to do hair and makeup, to have to keep wearing my same few recovery shirts that open and close in the front versus wearing my normal pretty shirts that must be pulled over my head. Additionally, the limited range of motion is what is most bothersome to me so I will prioritize this healing over the axilla.

As far as hyper granulation, Dr. Capella said he is not sure if I have it. Remember he is only able to see it in a one dimensional photo, not in person. To me it looks as though the wound on my right arm has hyper granulation but Dr. Capella said it doesn't normally occur there but rather in the axilla. So at this point I am not sure where he wants me to use the nitrate sticks. He is going to walk me through using them when they arrive next week. So I will find out then and let you know.

BTW - a word on panty liners

You’ll need dressings under your arms to keep them dry. Initially, I used panty liners taped to my arms with surgical tape. This is a pretty common practice. Some people don't want to use gauze because it sticks, especially the rough kind that my surgeon uses. Initially my Dr. Capella questioned how absorbent panty liners were. Later when my axilla opened he told me to stop using them and use gauze, no tape, because the gauze was more absorbent. Also, the tape pulled some skin off my arms. Of all the things that I have tried, I do find that for me the rough weave dry gauze is most effective. It keeps my arms dry, whereas they are pretty juicy with everything else I have tried. What's more, it is a very low maintenance regimen to follow, and inexpensive. I really like to keep it simple and not get into all these complex and expensive wound dressings and regimens.

Arms at 37 days post op

My arms are looking better at 37 days post op, especially the wound that I removed the debris from.


My right arm wound is looking better. The only thing that I did differently was to really pump up my protein intake, even more than the high protein I had been eating previously. I was afraid I'd gain weight eating all this extra food but instead I lost weight.


I also pulled two sutures from my arm wound in the past two days that apparently were working their way out. This may have contributed to the improved healing.

Now these are awful looking arms...

Here are the photos from me pre op photo shoot. Yikes, I did not know my bat wings were so large! Sometimes ignorance is bliss...

Axilla after treatment with silver nitrate sticks

I used the silver nitrate sticks on my axilla and it made the dehisced area turn a light grey/white. Dr. Capella told me to simply rub the stick on the wound and the silver would come off the stick and onto the wound. He said it would not burn. One armpit did not burn but the other did, although it was not what I would classify as painful but rather uncomfortable.

Late the next day my armpit wounds began to hurt, like they had been feeling a couple of weeks ago. I looked at them and all of the white/light grey tissue was read again, and there was a sizeable area of grey surrounding the wound. I wish that I could upload a pix but I took it on my phone and sent it to Dr. Capella. As luck would have it, this happened later in the day on Friday, just before 4:30pm, and I did not hear from him. I know he would have text me back by today if it was something to be concerned about. But just the same it would have been relieving to hear from him that everything is OK. Why do these things always happen to me on end of day Friday?!?!

My arms continue to be painful... tolerable, but painful. It has been a really long month from when they first opened until now. I am really glad the arm wound has shown such fast improvement once the foreign objects (the sutures) were rejected.

I want to reiterate that this is a minor complication and should not scare you off if you are considering having this surgery. It always looks worse on someone else than it is if you yourself go through it. I was so afraid of my arms opening up, but I figured they would. And when it happened it was not all that bad as I had imagined. It really is more frustrating than anything else.

Now that I am 6-weeks post op, Dr. Capella cleared me to exercise, except not repetitious lifting my arms above my head. So I worked my core and my calves today at the gym.

The right arm wound where the sutures came from (I think this is called spitting stitches, not sure) was already healed over with a thin coat of skin. Dr. Capella called it epithealized, which is the next phase of healing. Yeah!!!

Pix of axilla after treatment with silver nitrate sticks

These pix show the skin turned white/grey in the axilla after treatment with the silver nitrate sticks. The pic also shows the epithealized right arm wound.

Nearly healed

My arms are doing much better! The axilla are about 1-cm big now. The arm wound is healed over and will continue to shrink. It healed at 6-weeks post op just as Dr. Capella said it would. It is too soon to tell if I will need scar revision, but I am certainly confident in Dr. Capella to do that if necessary.

It seems the silver nitrate sticks that I used on my axilla seemed to make them worse. Between that and the limited ROM I got scared this past Sunday and called Dr. Capella. Yes, I hated doing that but I was on the verge of an emotional crisis. He was understanding as always. He told me to stop using the silver nitrate and assured me that no patient of his has ever lost range of motion. He said that I do not have to do any treatments now because the wounds are nearly closed. I felt much better after that.

Axilla and arm wound at 7.5 weeks post op

The left axilla healing is not as good as the right axilla because here I had used two silver nitrate sticks versus one on the right before my surgeon told me to discontinue use. The right arm wound is very small now.

My lovely arms 2-mos post brachioplasty

Just wanted to post a pic of what my arms look like at 2-mos post op. I think they look lovely the way that they are, but in fact they will get even better as they are still swollen. I'll be sure to post a pic at 3-mos post op.

Arm wound healed at 8 weeks post op

How a surgeon manages a patient after surgery...

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but what the pictures don’t show is my relationship with Dr. Capella. I had a few minor complications with my arms after this surgery and Dr. Capella was all over me -- just like he was all over me after my tummy tuck. The TT was my first surgery and I was scared. There was never anything wrong with me but Dr. Capella carried me through it until I was satisfied that I was OK (it was just normal swelling and nothing more).

As for this surgery, Dr. Capella saw me every morning in the Care Center and even on weekends. He made sure that both he and I were completely sure that I could take care of myself on my own at the hotel before I left the care center. As for aftercare, he insisted on knowing the hotel I was staying at alone in NJ. He wanted a way to get in touch with me super-fast and said he or his office would call me if they had not heard from me for a few days.

My first night in the hotel he asked that I call him at any hour of the night if I were to have a complication. He had me specifically promise to call him if I had shortness of breath and he would have me admitted to a nearby hospital. Well, I did awake from a dream with labored breathing at 4am and called him. I told him I did not know if it was anxiety induced or something serious. He told me to have the front desk send the paramedic and they would be able to tell. Later that day after surgery, Dr. Capella called me to make sure I was OK. I was fine. It was just anxiety.

Other times before I left NJ I had fevers, groin pain, depression, and my axilla opened. He saw me immediately each time and treated me. He called in prescriptions and had them delivered to my hotel. At one point his PA Scott possibly saved my life because I was taking diuretics w/o doctor's orders and depleting my body of water and potassium. I was pretty ill and he picked up on it.

Once I developed the minor arm wound back home, Dr. Capella sent me for a CBC to make sure I did not have an infection. He monitored my healing via photos and emails and phone calls. He phoned me during his lunch time on a number of occasions, as well as answered my emails and calls across the weekend. And my arm wound healed pretty much right on schedule, just as he said it would.

How a surgeon manages a patient after surgery is a true testament to his/her character and dedication. Body contouring surgery is not a singular transaction, wherein once the surgery is completed the interaction can be considered to be done. Your surgeon will need to be responsive to your needs and concerns during the months of recovery that will follow.

I have said it many times, and it bears repeating: You are not buying a procedure. You are buying a plastic surgeon.


I have not posted pix of my arms in a while. I am approaching 3-mos post op, about 12 days away now - wow, time has flown! So decided it was time for some progress photos of my arm wound healing. I actually have not looked at them in weeks.

It looks to me like I will need some scar revision, just as Dr. Capella predicted. But they look pretty good all things considered and I am pleased with my recovery.

I like how narrow I have become

With the arm lift removing the excess skin and fat that caused my arms to bow out from my body rather than lay flat at my sides, I now so enjoy looking at how narrow my upper body looks. I always thought I was broad across the shoulders but I am not. In fact most of my tops are size XS now.

I truly enjoy looking at myself nude. How many women can say that? I surely could not say it before plastic surgery. Not since I was a teenager! I like that my arms and breasts look so youthful and slender.

It is really wonderful to love and appreciate your own body.

Right Arm Wound Healed Nicely

I am 4-mos post op and amazed by how well my arm wound healed. It was quite the hideous sight for a while there. I believe that I will still need scar revision, actually I believe I will need scar revision on most of my incisions because I scar darkly owing to my part Latina heritage.

Follow-up appointment with Dr. Capella yesterday

I arrived in NJ on Monday morning and met with Dr. Capella that afternoon. It has been 5-mos since I have been to his practice. He made some staffing changes and I found the atmosphere was warm and welcoming -- a true reflection of Capella Plastic Surgery.

Kerry, his new (and lovely) patient coordinator was extremely kind, going above and beyond to help me (and my dog) get from the Route 17 train station to my hotel. BTW Dr. Capella's practice is one building away from the Ramsey Route 17 train station making it extremely convenient to get to his practice.

When I arrived at Dr. Capella's practice that afternoon, Kimberly, who has known me from the start, came out from her office to greet me. Kimberly is the former patient coordinator and she was given a well-earned promotion to surgical coordinator. She was warm and friendly as always and very complimentary about my transformation.

Best of all was meeting with Dr. Capella. He had a smile from ear to ear and told me that my results exceeded his expectations. They exceeded my expectations, as well. I told him that I was so glad that I found him. Never would I have believed back in April of 2013 when my journey began that he could get me to a size 2 jean. As I have said many times before: You are not buying a procedure; you are buying a plastic surgeon.

I discused my arms with Dr. Capella. He believes that I will not need scar revision on either arm. Not even the right arm that had the ugly wound. He wants me to wait to see how they lighten. He is convinced that they will be the color of my skin. As he has never been wrong in any medical opinion he has given me, I easily trust his advice.

I did ask Dr. Capella to cut my right arm pit to remove some slight webbing that was there and was impeding my full range of motion with that arm. He said the skin would soften and stretch over time and I could forgo the z-plasty but I asked him to do it none-the-less. So he did.

It was fascinating to watch him do the procedure on me. I am his first plastic surgery patient that he did the procedure on, but he said he had done it a few times in med school. It did not take much time at all and I barely felt anything. Today the incision burns but that may have been aggravated by all the clothing changes I did. I did a photo shoot in NYC and had four changes of outfits. Of course, everything was over the head and required me to keep raising my arms.

I go back to see Dr. Capella tomorrow to plan my final surgery. I am very excited about that. It has been an amazing journey so far, and in some ways I am melancholy to see it come to an end.

Darn arm pit opened after z-plasty

Three days after my z-plasty, my darn incision opened. Dang! Now it will take weeks to close. By now I have become so acclimated to plastic surgery recovery that I am hardly phased by it. I've become one high-toned sonofabitch (as Stephen King might say), LOL.

It is not Dr. Capella's fault that it opened. I am sure it was lifting my arms over my head so many times on Tuesday to change clothes that disturbed it. He had told me not to lift my arm over my head. But everything I brought with me goes over my head.

Add to that, the morning that I left NJ to head to CA I had to take 2 trains, 1 bus, 2 cars, and 2 planes. It was the commute from hell and took about 15 hours door to door. The worst part was that there was an explosion that morning near Newark airport so my train would not drop off there. Instead, it dropped me off in Newark and told me to take a bus to the airport.

I lugged my 52 pound suitcase up stairs, down stairs, and all around before I finally found the darn bus. Needles to say my arm was opened even more the next day. The entire top of the z is open.

I am so glad that I will not be getting any revisions to my arm lift. I cannot take the healing. The only patients I know whose arms did not open were those who did not use them for anything for weeks. I do not think I could sit still that long.

Nice Arms! 5-mos post brachioplasty with Dr. Joseph F. Capella

I love my arms!

*uck My Arms!

I cannot believe it. My arm wound healing problems never end. I hope to never do surgery on my arms again. I had a small and simple procedure on my left arm when I was in Dr. Capella's office last month. He extended the incision to get rid of a "pop eye arm" that I had with my elbow tissue being too large. It wasn't a lot, but it was clearly visible. Anyway, five weeks after the procedure it just now opened today. I should be well outside the danger zone even for a brachioplasty opening, and yet this simple little incision is not healing well.

Add to that, my zplasty wound healed but since last weekend I can feel it tearing. I snapped a pic of it yesterday and I can see and feel two tears not in the incision but outside of it in healthy virgin skin. I just don't get it.

I am so frustrated with my brachioplasty. It is usually an easy procedure for people to recover from. Sorry for the whine. It is just me of those days!

Healing Issues with Arms

Well, my zplasty healed over since my last post but it again has a small tear. I just don't know why I have healing issues with my arms because the rest of my body that has been incised for my plastic surgery has healed just fine.

This new tear is a re-opening of one of the tears I wrote of in my last post. It happened after a shopping spree that I went on. I tried on a lot of clothes, many of which went over my head. So I assume that this motion had something to do with it. But I am just at my wits end as to why I have delayed healing, and only with my arms. I eat very healthy and take a lot of supplements. It is confounding.

I have a phone consult on Friday and will ask Dr. Capella about alternate treatments. My guess is that we will try silver nitrate and that I am just going to have to limit use of my arms for a longer recovery than what most people have to go through.

Again, for those of you reading, rest assured that my experience is atypical for a brachioplasty - with Dr. Capella or anyone else. Many patients have an easy recovery of it. Conversely, my thigh lift recovery was easy and this is a surgery that many patients have a very difficult time with owing to pain. I did not experience that. We each heal differently.

If I had it to do over, I would still get the brachioplasty even knowing what my recovery would be like. My arms look beautiful aside from the scars, which hopefully will lighten to my skin color. As for now, they are my darkest scars.

Arm lift incisions at 7-mos post op

My Bariatric Life before and after plastic surgery with Joseph F. Capella MD - yes this really is me!

I received a lovely message from a WLS patient thanking me for inspiring her. She told me that she realize that she could do this and was not a complete failure.

We have the strength within us that it takes to succeed. We just have to find it. It took a long time for me to grow up and take on the challenge of my obesity. I have been free of obesity and my obesity related illnesses for more than a decade. The plastic surgery was the completion of erasing the sins of my past, getting rid of the telltale skin that was a constant reminder that I was a failure with regard to respecting my body for so long.

Not only did it shame me to look at my naked body in the mirror, but also it kept me from fully being present to living a life I love. I am so stinking happy nowadays. And I take such good care of my body, working out several times a week and eating super healthy. I know that I can fall back into old patterns of behavior so easily and ruin all the wonderful things I have achieved. I never want to backslide.

Just a little more than a year ago, the "before" photo above was taken at Easter. Yes, hard to believe that the person in both images is one and the same. The "after" photo was taken this past March, just 5-mos after my stage 2 body contouring with Dr. Capella and 3-mos after my facial plastics with Dr. Winslow.

I now have the body that weight loss surgery could not give me. It has been decades since I looked this good. As of this writing, I have lost 50-inches and 40-pounds. I went from a size 14 jeans being tight to size 2 jeans in less than a year since my tummy tuck (my first plastic surgery). Never did I imagine that a simple tummy tuck would lead to this.

I feel like I hit the lottery!

Occupational therapy and physical therapy

Well, I have not posted an update in a while. I have been having continued problems with my right arm's limited range of motion. This all began when I awoke from surgery to find webbing in my armpit (some clinicians call it banding). So it made it tight and I could not move my arm the full range of motion. While I was in the Care Center, Dr. Capella had told me to stretch the arm, specifically to do the wall crawl, and the tissue would stretch. My PCP told me the same thing. So I was not worried.

Dr. Capella cleared me to go back to the gym after 4 weeks. There, my trainer gave me some very good exercises to stretch the arm. I was making improvement when rather suddenly the range of motion got worse instead of better. And it was very painful to move my arm past a certain point. I had great difficulty putting on my coat this winter.

Fast forward to March and Dr. Capella did a zplasty to lengthen the scar. It certainly did release some of the webbing, but not all of it. Dr. Capella's P.A. Scott said maybe I would need another zplasty. Unfortunately what happened is the zplasty opened 3-days after I had the procedure done. Scott advised me not to do any upper body exercises. It took the zplasty about 2 months to heal so that means I did not do any upper body exercises (including stretching the arm) for two months. This helped the zplasty to heal but at the end of two months I had even less range of motion and more pain in my arm. I could not hook or unhook my bra at this point.

So I had been in contact with Dr. Capella all along and he advised me to see a physical therapist, an orthopedist, a physiatrist. Subsequently I saw my PCP (who has a background in sports medicine), then an orthopedic P.A. and an orthopedic surgeon, who then ordered an xray and occupational therapy 3x a week and referred me to the practice's "shoulder specialist" for follow-up.

I have been in occupational therapy for a while and wow it was extremely painful at first. Psychologically it was very hard, too, because I have not had normal use of my arm for 9-mos and I feared how much longer it would take before I would, or if I ever would. But my doctor friends urged me to do the therapy. It was bad in the beginning. The therapist had a bunch of stretching exercises for me to do 2x a day every day. I would feel like throwing up and get lightheaded from the pain. But it is not as bad now. I recently saw the "shoulder specialist" and he ordered ASTYM physical therapy 2x a week and prescribed a cream to be applied 3x daily.

I posted a question about my arms to plastic surgeons on Realself to ask how they would fix my arm, because the webbing or banding is still an issue. When I saw Dr. Capella in June he said he would cut out the arm scar but not go into the axilla because that area tends to open (both of mine did). He said we have to wait for the tissues to heal before he can do that because my tissue is too degraded right now. The RealSelf plastic surgeons suggested a larger zplasty and skin grafting. I cannot tell you how much that frightens me. Not only do I NOT have insurance that will cover all of these expenses (and I imagine that skin grafting is extremely expensive) but also the physical and emotional trauma of going through a skin grafting and the toll it will take on my marriage -- if it comes down to that, and I surely hope it doesn't.

I began the physical therapy today in addition to the occupational therapy. I still cannot fasten and unfasten my own bra. I hate to sound like Debbie Downer but at this point I have to say this procedure was not worth it.

Any encouragement and positive advice is much appreciated right now.

Just breathe...

I greatly appreciate my friends for stepping in and offering positive support and great advice. I am in a more positive frame of mind now. I hate the feeling of being overwhelmed by this and am keeping it at bay now. I want to feel empowered not helpless.

So I look at the people in physical therapy and I see how very ill or broken down some people are. And although it saddens me that these people are suffering, it also minimizes my injury, helping me to see that I could be much worse off. And I was quite happy the other day in PT that I was able to unhook and hook my bra!

I just need to remember who I am. I am strong. I do not give into fear. I overcome obstacles. I have a good life.

Now just breathe... And be with what is.

Finding my real self...

My Bariatric Life Living Larger than Ever!
Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens." --Kahlil Gibran

Online reviews paint a rosy picture, but the reality is plastic and cosmetic surgeries are not without risks. Everyone thinks ‘complications won’t happen to me,’ but they can and do happen. Those with a history of obesity have a higher risk of developing complications.

Never did it cross my mind that I’d have a serious complication. I had chosen my plastic surgeon wisely: looked at his experience and credentials, asked him the hard questions, viewed his before and after photos, and talked to his patients. Dr. Capella is, in fact, the leading plastic surgeon in the nation for body contouring after massive weight loss-having done some 10,000 procedures. However serious complications, although rare, can happen even under ideal circumstances.

I’ve walked through fire and rainbows during my plastic surgery journey. And I am more than weary of the drama. I've now had enough of dwelling in sorrow over this year-long complication. I had to accept that I’d suffered a serious and perhaps permanent complication. The universe is in control so why fight against it? It took a lot of self-reflection to get me to this place; to be open to life and love even when I want to slam shut the door of my heart. I did my best to focus on all the things that went right instead of what went wrong.

I’ve lived a lot of life this year. And so much of that was made possible by my plastic surgery. I've achieved a level of health and fitness that I have not had since I was a teenager. I have newfound zest for life, and have explored new places and done things never before possible. In the past few months I have: joined a co-ed crew team, drove a wave runner at 71mph, river kayaked for hours, went full speed down an Alpine slide 5x, conquered an advanced ropes course, ran a 3k and a 5k, gone trail riding several times, and taken many RV road trips to places I've never been in the South and Midwest.

I no longer have a deformed body. That was something that ate at my soul in a way I cannot even describe. Now I have a desirable body. I love the way I look in clothes. I love the way I look without clothes. I lost my fear and inhibition and found happiness and strength and passion: I bought 4 bikinis and even went topless on the beach; I wear mostly thongs now NO more granny panties or Spanx; I look great in mini skirts, and skinny jeans, and thigh highs.

Plastic surgery is about so much more than aesthetics. It's about finding the person you were meant to be.

Ultimately, I will have to have my injury fixed, if it can be fixed. Or I will have to live with the limitations I have now. I see myself having surgery next year, and I am confident things will work out. The universe always conspires to give us what we need. All of this is leading somewhere and I just have to remain calm as it unfolds.

I remain an advocate for plastic surgery after weight loss. I have spoken to countless patients who now love their bodies, some for the first time in their lives. Some patients have had no complications, most have had minor complications, and a very few have had serious complications. Understand complications can and do happen even under ideal circumstances, with a brilliant surgeon, and the most compliant patient — complications can even happen to you. So have a plan in place for how you will handle a complication and tuck some money aside for that.

What's next for me? Self exploration and growth... Change... Confronting matters I've been afraid to confront... Love... Pushing my physical limits... Happiness... Christmas in Canada with family... and Springtime in Argentina to welcome my new grandchild into the world (s/he will be a Pisces-Aries Cusp child like me). Continued blessings to my daughter for a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery (((hugs)))!

$7k of PT/OT/ortho and my arm remains damaged

Can it really be this expensive? I mean, the arm lift didn't even cost this much. I got a call from the hospital the other day and it seems that I have two bills, one for more than $3k and the other for more than $4k. All that I had done there was physical therapy, occupational therapy, an x-ray, and three visits with the ortho.

The ortho said that he did all that he could for me and that the rest was up to my plastic surgeon to fix. I still have limited range of motion, loss of strength, scar tissue that is pulling forward my shoulder, and pain at night in my right arm. I would have expected a better result before being released from treatment. After all, there are more aggressive treatments to treat frozen shoulder. At the very least an MRI should have been ordered to see the capsule. All along I have been asking for manipulation under anesthesia and it could have been done more cheaply than $7k, which my insurance won't even cover, and restored my full range of motion immediately. Instead, I have this debacle. The attached photos show the range of motion I was able to achieve with months of therapy. It is not impressive.

I will have new insurance next year and will be finding a new doctor.

Good news on several fronts

Good health news...
My contracted scar in the right arm pit finally has stretched to the point it is no longer acting like a cast on my arm. And the pain that was rather intense at night is suddenly gone. I am in the process of getting in with an orthopedic surgeon for an MRI and evaluation for manipulation under anesthesia to break the capsule if needed, as well as how to address the remaining scar tissue that is pulling forth my shoulder.

Good financial news...
The hospital bill was $3100 for the PT/OT/ortho, not $7k... curious as to where the person that I spoke to on the phone previously had gotten the misinformation that there were two bills totaling $7k. Even better, the hospital reduced the bill because my insurance would not cover any portion of the fees. And this year I have a much better insurance policy (and it was less expensive, too!).

Good personal news...
Oh I saw my daughter at Christmas and she is carrying a large baby boy!

No adhesive capsulitis

The normal reaction would be to be angry... but I feel that I heal better when I am positive. So here is the story... I recently got the results from the MRI of my right shoulder and I do not have adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder). If you've been following my story, you know that I had suffered a contracted scar after my brachioplasty in 2013 that limited my range of motion. Not less than 4 doctors told me that I had frozen shoulder (or partial frozen shoulder) including the orthopedists treating me. The only doctor who told me that I could not have frozen shoulder was Dr. Capella.

In order to diagnose adhesive capsulitis an MRI must be done. However my former orthos took an x-ray and, since my insurance did not cover an MRI, there wasn't much I could do except believe my doctors were right. This year I chose another insurance plan and another orthopedic surgeon and got the MRI. His nurse phoned me recently and said there is no tear or adhesive capsulitis in the shoulder. I am scheduled for a followup with my orthopedic surgeon to discuss the results. Stay tuned for that.

Concurrently, I saw another plastic surgeon here in Indy this year. Dr. Coleman is a chief over at IU Health and I'd seen him once previously to rule out a seroma after my tummy tuck. He wants to do a skin graft on me, and that is something I just cannot agree to. It is a major procedure where he would take skin from another part of my body and replace the skin under my right arm where the contracted scar is. I asked him about just putting tissue expanders under my skin (under the arm to stretch it) and he said that is a possibility. I have put off getting my paperwork into his staff as something inside me doesn't feel this procedure is right for me. No offense to Dr. Coleman, he is a very good surgeon and caring doctor. Believe me that I have learned the hard way to trust my intuition through this! I am going to have the follow up appt with the orthopedic surgeon before moving forward with anything.

Last year I had consulted with a plastic surgeon, a chief at another hospital here in Indy, and he was going to do a series of z-plasties and treat the scar with laser. His nurse told me that he would probably use Alloderm, but since he did not say that to me I am not taking it as the gospel truth. I think she may have been making an assumption. Anyway, it is moot because while I was awaiting insurance approval for the surgery the surgeon cancelled my surgery. Curious the way that one worked out...

BTW I am not keeping the orthopedic surgeon's name a secret. Its just that I don't remember it! I have seen lots of doctors and I just cannot keep them all straight! Anyway, the last time I spoke with him, he said that I had regained a good range of motion. He said the degree to which I can get my right arm up my back, while considerably less than what I could do before the surgery, is actually about what is normal for most people. He said that I just happen to have exceptional ROM. The worst part of my range of motion is moving my flexed arm to the side. He told me one option is to just live with it the way that it is, otherwise, have the plastic surgeon do some work to loosen the scar and then return to physical therapy for more stretching. My assumption is that scar tissue is causing the problems. I will let you know once I find out.

So I am debating how much longer I want to fight the complication as it has been nearly 18-mos. The complication as it seems will never fully resolve. I think what may be best for me is to have the scars treated with laser to lighten them and get rid of the hypertrophy but nothing more to address the loss of range of motion. I don't have much pain to speak of, only if the arm is contorted in such a way, and my range is pretty good. I've thought on this a lot and my feeling is that the time and energy required to keep pursuing therapy and surgery is better put towards something uplifting and fun in my life. That sounds like a pretty easy choice, actually.

I have pondered why it is I had this complication... what was I supposed to learn from the experience or what was it that I was supposed to teach others? I have an assumption but I want to further think on this before commenting.

A young friend of mine who just had his surgery with Dr. Capella tells me that he doesn't know how I can live with this every day. Trust me, trust me, this is not a lot to deal with. The many people I saw while I was in PT were so very broken that it was heart-wrenching... and the people I see every day when I drive by the kidney dialysis building on the corner, the people who've had legs amputated, well these are the people who have a lot to deal with! Sure my complication was VERY anxiety-provoking when I was in the thick of it. That's how all crisis are when we are in the midst. But I've had a nice level of recovery and while I do have permanent injury it really doesn't impact my life in a substantial way. The most concerning part for me is that visibility of the scars as I am not comfortable wearing short sleeves because of it. I am speaking to Nurse Triste at Dr. Winslow's practice on Monday. Dr. Winslow is my facial plastic surgeon right here in Indy and her aesthetician Shannon said she could treat my arm scars with v-beam laser, although she cannot predict the results she said they would be improved. I am confident that I will have those scars treated successfully.

I've also seen a naturopathic doctor recently and he may be able to do something via chiropractic manipulation to help my arm range of motion. I am seeing him for something else so if he wants to work in a little something for my arm while he is treating me then that's fine.

And an update on my grandson, whom I mentioned in my previous post. Aiden joined the physical world early and was born in mid February. He is a happy and healthy little boy! God continues to bless my daughter and her family and keeps them safe.

Many blessings to all.

The choice is yours, and yours alone...

I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Klitzman, this afternoon to discuss the results of my MRI. So, the good doctor (and I mean that in every way possible), told me that I do not have frozen shoulder at the current time. However, he said that I did have frozen shoulder previously -- based on my medical history as written by his colleagues (they're all in the same practice). In my previous post I misunderstood that when the nurse said that I did not have froze shoulder that it meant that I never had frozen shoulder. Dr. K said it was caused from immobilizing the arm for so long owing to the contracted scar and later the z-plasty that kept opening. My arm was not completely immobilized but motion was restricted for about 9-months.

Dr. K strongly advised against any shoulder surgery and I discussed with him the various treatment modalities offered to me by several professionals, from skin grafting to cutting out the scar to z-plasty to tissue expanders to laser to more physical therapy to chiropractic to stretching and exercise. I told Dr. K that I am not willing to go back down the emotional path with this complication again. And my decision, which Dr. K supported, is to work with my trainer at NIFS (my gym) on building the muscle in my back to pull my shoulders back further into proper alignment due to postural kyphosis that in part caused me to fail a Functional Mobility and Stability test (FMS). The postural kyphosis is not caused by the plastic surgery but the exercises to improve that will correct the remaining "scar tissue" in my chest that is from the brachioplasty. Dr. K explained to me that this is not big bands of scar tissue but some fibers that needed to be broken up. It also may improve my range of motion of my right arm, but Dr. K said I really did regain a lot of my range from the PT. Indeed, I believe that my arm is even improved since the last time I saw him. You can see the overall improvement in the attached photos -- I'd say my right arm can go a little higher up my back than shown in the photo in which I am wearing a green sweater as I can get my thumb over the top of my bra strap. Even the left arm has far greater range of motion -- I can touch my left shoulder blade with my left hand so that my forearm and upper arm touch! And I didn't even have a problem with the left arm. I also told Dr. K that I want to move forward with v-beam laser to lighten the scars in both arms, with the aesthetician Shannon at Dr. Winslow's office, my facial plastic surgeon.

As I alluded to in my previous post, happiness is a choice. Every one of us has the power, the obligation, to make our own choices. I can choose to see the good in a situation, in a person, in myself and be grateful for that. And I can choose to face challenges in situations and relationships and myself and use these as opportunities to learn and grow. I have walked through fire and rainbows on my journey and coming through it I am a far better person. Transforming body is as important as transforming mind and spirit.

I grew a lot during my plastic surgery journey. I became much stronger and authentic and able to be vulnerable. I don’t hide who I am or what I’ve done. It’s all out there in the blogosphere for anyone to peruse. I am not worried if people might judge me for it. I will do the things I want, be in the places and with the people who move my soul, rather than look back in regret for never having tried because I was too inhibited to take the chance. I truly have emerged from the chrysalis.

Some people would regret having had the brachioplasty and marked their review "not worth it." I am not a person who believes in regrets or one to make "I wish" statements as in "I wish (fill in the blank with whatever it is you'd like to change about the past). Why do I not believe in such things? Because we simply cannot change what happened in the past. Therefore the only powerful choice is to move forward. So many people hold themselves back by taking their past and putting it in their present thereby ruining their future. I have come to learn that situations are neutral and it is we who put meaning around them. As I said, the choice is yours, and yours alone.

I also believe that there are no coincidences or accidents in life. My complication experience does not exist in isolation but rather it is part of a sequence of events that in turn have meaning and purpose within a bigger context of relationships. I hope that makes sense; suffice it to say that my complication did not affect only me. My permanent injury, well it is the yin of the yin yang overall whole and complete nature of life. Or, if you prefer, you may simplify all of my philosophical insights to: Sh*t happens. Ha!


Scars 19-mos post op

My scars still get lighter and darker depending on the day. They are looking pretty good today. I think I will begin laser treatment next month as I am a bit self conscious about these scars, particularly the right arm that opened up.

BTW I did not use scar treatment or compression. Scars are very individual from what I have seen and there are many factors that come into play. For example tension and blood flow, and my arm scars and tummy tuck scars are dark and thick while my breast lift, butt lift scars are thin and light. My thigh lift scars are a bit thicker than the breast lift but thinner than the tummy tuck, and they are white.

I am working with my naturopathic chiropractic doctor on other issues and he did a treatment to my arm. It hurt like all heck but I've really built up an ability to endure pain after all this surgery, PT, and not to mention a body piercing. After just one treatment I saw vast improvement. However it went away and so I think that after several treatments it will "Stick."

Vast improvement

So Dr. Tom, my naturopath/chiropractor, was working on my arm this past Friday. I was lying there silently enduring the pain and so he asked, "Can you feel that?" Now, understand that Dr. Tom is extremely sweet and upbeat and positive and clean-cut. My response to him was, "Are you f*cking kidding me? It hurts like hell." He and I laughed our heads off.

Well, the great news is that Dr. Tom is giving me vast improvement. After two treatments I can get my arm up to my shoulder blade now! When this all began last year I couldn't even bring it to my waist band. Yeah! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Laser Treatments for My Scars

Now more than 2-years out from my brachioplasty, recently I've begun laser treatments to correct the scarring. I had my second treatment of v-beam laser on both arms this week. The treatment is to both lighten the color of the scars and flatten them as they are hypertrophic. I go back for a third treatment in 3 weeks. My aesthetician Shannon is very happy with my improvement.

I am so very grateful to my facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Catherine Winslow, for taking care of me! Love her! She has a full suite of services at her practice. And she is one of the very few plastic surgeons that offer v-beam laser therapy. Shannon is awesome. She has been with the practice for 9-years. Apparently the v-beam can be painful and Shannon was concerned for my comfort. I have absolutely no feeling in the scars so the laser is completely unnoticeable.

I will post photos of the final results.

My other shoulder was injured from the brachioplasty -- back to PT and more!

Oh wow, I cannot believe I never posted that my other shoulder was injured from the brachioplasty, too. It was last year that this happened.

In exactly the same pain and limited range of motion that I'd had from the original injury in the right arm and shoulder, my left shoulder and arm was -- and remains -- affected. I went back to physical therapy. I went through therapeutic massage. I went for chiropractic. I went for acupuncture. I went for cryotherapy. I went for float tank magnesium therapy. Every healing modality that I could think of, and still my full range of motion has not been restored and the pain has not been eliminated in my left shoulder, although it has gotten much better than it had been, which was excruciating at times.

How did this happen 2 years after the surgery? Well, as all these healthcare professionals unanimously explained to me, all the tissues and muscles are connected, so why happens to a muscle on one side of the body can effect muscles and tissue on the other side of the body. The constant pulling on the muscles in my right shoulder and breast and back and neck eventually pulled on the muscles across my body and caused the same damage there. The physical therapist said to think of a sheet on a bed, and what would happen if you were to scrunch up one corner of the sheet in your hand, and how that creates a ripple effect that messes up the bigger part of the sheet, not just the corner you scrunched up.
Dr. Joseph F. Capella

3 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
3 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
2 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
Was this review helpful? {{ voteCountOthers + ' other' + (voteCountOthers == 1 ? '' : 's') }} found this helpful