Lipo and TT Revision - Tijuana, MX

I have been following multiple doctors as well as...

I have been following multiple doctors as well as my final doctor of choice for some time now. Nevertheless, I have concerns about privacy on Real Self (more about that later), and so I finally decided to create a new acct before ultimately participating in a more thorough way. I am so very, very grateful to the many brave members who have honestly shared their experiences that I feel I should do the same to the degree that I can be comfortable. So now that my surgery date is very near - I'm ready.

So close now and feeling very prepared

At first I thought the date would never get here, and now it's right in my face! Sure, I'm a bit anxious, but I'm mostly very excited. I want to say a few things about how I am preparing based not only on what I learned from my doctor but from other doctors and other Real Self members. Dr Cardenas wanted me off of all hormone replacement. It was a wise choice on her part, and it made me wonder why none of the other doctors mentioned it even though all my medications were disclosed on all my paperwork and consults. I did a LOT of consults! I stopped the hormones a couple months ago, and I stopped all vitamins/supplements at least two weeks ahead. (I really miss the magnesium and calcium!) I don't know when I get to start those up again. I purchased the required compression socks on Amazon but got the open-toe ones, because for some reason I can't sleep with my toes smashed, and I've been instructed to start wearing them, day and night, two days ahead of surgery. These ones are the appropriate weight/compression for surgery I've been exercising (always do anyway), but I've had a greater level of commitment to keep healthy. I always eat well (more on that in the next post about BCRH). I also bought a Franato based on another member's recommendation (different doctor). This Franato has nothing to do with upcoming surgery, and it's not a medical grade garment at all. It's just a typical body slimmer that some people found helpful after the full-compression phase. It will be many weeks (months?) before I'm ready for the Franato, but I wanted to wrestle into the thing now, *before* I might be too sore to try. And I can say I successfully sized it without needing a return. That item is here: I have most of my essentials packed, I bought a couple magazines for when I feel coherent enough to read during recovery, I've loaded my phone with a couple movies, and I'm bringing my earbuds so as not to disturb others during their recovery. I've got my phone carrier arranged for calls and texts to/from Mexico and my US number. I've informed my credit card company and bank of my travel dates - even though my surgeon and BCRH request cash. I just really don't want to get stuck without being able to use my cards if necessary. So, I'm pretty much ready - until I start to think I'm ready - which is when I start to think I may have forgotten something. [wince]

Beauty Care Recovery House - Food

Confession: I'm one of those low-carb, no-sugar people. I'm at a normal weight now, but at one point in my life I weighed over 200lbs. I know, very well, what I can and cannot eat to maintain even just an average weight. At the same time, I'm not someone to complain. I never ask restaurants to change menus, etc. If I'm traveling, I shut up and eat like a traveler. I figured that while I was in Mexico, I would graciously accept whatever they serve me - and I packed digestive enzymes to help me along the way. Then I get a note from the recovery house that says something like 'Be prepared to change your eating in service of your health and recovery [...]' And then here is an exact quote: "We do not serve pasta, flour, or bread." AWESOME!!!! How did I get so lucky?! Yeah! Let's hear it for the recovery house!

In TJ now, and surgery is tomorrow

Drove the approximate three hours here from southern California this morning. We (husband and I) arrived at the doctor's office, paid the balance, signed paperwork, and then we went to the hotel to settle in. Surgery is early in the morning, so the instructions are to not eat heavy meals, and to not drink or eat *anything* after 9pm. I must say that the early dinner, 4pm-ish, was excellent at Villa Marina. It's popularly known as the best seafood in Tijuana. I would easily go back again. I don't speak any Spanish outside of a simple greetings and thank you, but it's really not a problem here. So far, each time I eat at a restaurant, if the waiter doesn't already speak English they assign us another waiter who does. Service is good, friendly, and generous. I think Mexico has great potential for more medical tourism, and now I wish I had made it clear in my first post that I'm a non-Spanish speaking patient traveling here (albeit not as far as others) for these procedures.

Day three at BCRH

I'm recovering well, and I have taken thorough notes each day on paper, so I will share more later. Right now, it's just a little challenging to write much using my phone. However, this much must be said now: the nurses at BCRH are like saints.

Two+ week post-op, and very happy.

I continue to recover well. So far, I've suffered none of the depression that I hear about from others, though I'm at times rather bored with limited movement and being housebound. I still have one annoying drain tube. I've been managing the drain at home for 10 days, and I get *close* to the required numbers (cc) that I need in order to remove it, but I just can't quite reach those numbers. I'm supposed to be *below* 25 cc in a 24-hour period, for two days in a row. But I've been AT 25 cc for the last 5 days - ugh. Today, I'll post the overview of my procedure and recovery from notes I kept in a notebook.

My experience in Tijuana and The Hospital

I want to share some details which might help others who are contemplating Tijuana and "medical tourism," especially with Dr. Cardenas. First know that I am a particularly anxious person, so I notice when even small cultural differences cause some confusion or discomfort. But I have also traveled a lot, including in developing countries, and I have studied cross-cultural encounters. Therefore, some of what I have to say are about micro-observations that go completely unnoticed by some people but which may also be disorienting to others. If you are susceptible to anxiety in unfamiliar territory (literally or figuratively) then it is very helpful to learn about these cultural differences. Please note that I had an overwhelmingly positive experience with this procedure in Tijuana, so when you read my criticisms they are just subtle *observations*.

1) Arrival Day
I already posted about arrival day above, but I’ll repeat that we drove early in the morning from the Los Angeles area. The doctor’s office was very quiet on a weekday morning compared to the busy Saturday when I had my in-person consult. I’m relieved by the more quiet atmosphere. We meet with one of Dr Cardenas’ assistants and handle the business matters of the surgery. They confirm that I’m wearing compression socks, and they helped me understand that it will be easy to recognize the driver, whom I have never met, as he arrives in a blue minivan with clearly marked signage “Beauty-Enhance.” Then we check into our hotel and prepare for an early dinner out. No eating late before early morning surgery.

2) Surgery Day
I wake to an early alarm and prepare to take what may be the last shower for a few days. As planned by email and confirmed when we were at the doctor’s office the previous day, the driver will pick us up in front of the Marriott sometime between 6:15am and 6:30am. I’m even standing in front of this large, modern hotel with wet hair as I anxiously didn’t want to be there a minute past 6:15am. But this is Mexico, not Switzerland, and of course the driver isn’t there. Now it’s 6:45, there is still no driver in sight, and I’m worried. My appointment at the hospital is at 7am. My husband reminds me that I’m being overly anxious and that he’s not the least bit worried this timing. I check my phone, and I find an email that was sent 10:30pm the previous night requesting to confirm the transportation to the hospital. Ten-thirty at night, I was long asleep by then, and now I imagine I botched things by failing to respond to the email. Anxious, anxious, anxious. But not to worry – just at that moment the blue minivan arrives at almost 7am. And you know what? I was still at the hospital by 7am! All of that is to say, I was easily freaked out for no reason whatsoever and this is just the beginning of remembering that some things are a little more loose in Mexico. Right. I should know this.

3) Surgery Day, Continued
I hadn’t seen the hospital before, and I am pleasantly impressed. It’s very clean, modern, and spacious much like Dr Cardenas’ office building. Language barrier is no problem here – at least so far – and the doctor’s assistant is there with us again to walk us through the steps. There are many, many other Americans checking in for a wide variety of procedures with various doctors. My only minor regret takes place here during prep for surgery. Dr Carmina asks me if I want some fat grafting as it was complimentary to my procedure. I said, “no.” Now I wish I had had an in-person appointment with Dr Cardenas to discuss these details the day before surgery. At the moment she asked, while I’m already prepped for surgery, medical equipment monitoring things all around me, other people getting prepped on the other side of curtains..., I’m so anxious that I can barely figure out my name let alone make a life-long decision about my body. I should have trusted her on this, but I stayed with my “no.” I’ll say more about this later. Meanwhile, I get wheeled in for surgery and the anesthesiologist takes over. Later I would find myself recovering in my own private hospital room. I have had both elective and non-elective surgery, including emergency surgery in the US, and I’ve never had this much privacy, space, and quality care.

4) Staying the night at the hospital
When I went into surgery we were told that if the room I would be staying in for the night was available my husband could wait for me there during surgery. He much preferred the private room to a waiting room. However, there was a slight problem here, and it may have had something to do with language or communication problems. Many hours later, my husband starts to ask if I’m okay. He gets vague answers and not a lot of response. He asks again and wonders why I have not joined him yet or why he has not heard from the doctor. He’s told that someone will get back to him. More vague answers and more time passes, and he starts to fear there is bad news. All along, I’m actually resting and recovering in the hospital room next door!!! They had put us in different rooms! Surgery went very well, but somehow the connection between us got lost in translation. All was well once they took him to the correct room. The hospital room has a flat couch that doubles as a sleep surface and he was invited to stay the entire night with me. Here is where I noticed another small cultural influence. We declined the invitation, and I know he was looking forward to returning to the hotel where all our things remained from the previous day’s check-in. We had reserved the hotel so that he would remain in Tijuana until I was comfortably settled at Beauty Care Recovery House (BCRH). There was a sweet dismay on the face of nurses. Like, “Really? You’re not going to stay here with your wife?” They never said such a thing, of course, but you could see their confusion. I think with Mexico’s traditional focus on the family they were surprised that he sit there waiting for me all day and would leave now. Nevertheless, again all was well and communicated clearly, and he returned to the hospital early the next morning (with Starbucks coffee! :) ) to sit with me until they were ready to transfer me to BCRH.

Recevery House - some details

Here is more information (with photos) taken from my notes while I stayed in Tijuana for a week of recovery at BCRH. August appears to be “low season” for surgery in Tijuana. At first, I nearly had the recovery house to myself. Later, two more women showed up for their pre-surgery stay and returned another day later after their hospital stays. By the end of my week I would encounter only 4 other patients who stayed there, and they were all pleasant people. Maybe I was lucky, but my stay at BCRH was clearly one of the smartest things I did! Regardless of the number of occupants, the nurses are remarkably compassionate and generous with their time and care. Frankly, I’ve never been cared for so well. This may be one of the best things about medical tourism. This level of attention would be astronomically expensive in the US. And honestly, everyone needs help after surgery. The way they send people home on the same day in the US is nuts! Stay the full week at BCRH. Just do it! Buy the whole package, it’s worth it. I paid for the all inclusive package and didn’t need half of what that provided. I didn’t need a boppy pillow, nor did I need blood boosters, iron infusions and I only needed transportation in one direction. All those things were included, and I didn’t need them, but it was still best to just buy the all-inclusive full week and not worry about those things. I did see other patients need them, and they were glad to have purchased the whole package. The nurses help you bathe, they manage your meds, they feed you home cooked food, they change the bedding each time you are showering, they report any symptoms to the doctor, and they are simply kind and caring when you are under such stress. The doctor visits almost daily, and you’ll never see anything like that level of care somewhere else. The showers were easy to use, the toilets had risers, and they do your laundry. It’s remarkable.

Five+ Weeks

Five weeks was a huge jump in the recovery for me. I still cannot do long fitness style walks, but I'm definitely able to do most routine things like grocery shopping, errands, and house work without excessive swelling or discomfort. The last drain hole is slow to heal but it doesn't hurt. There are a couple of small locations on the incision that are struggling to heal. It seems there are stitches very near the surface there and both locations are right on my hipbones too. Sometimes I wonder if the compression garment is irritating those areas, but I also still need the comfort and general support of the garments. At any rate, I'm still amazed by the over all results.
Mexico Plastic Surgeon

Dr Carmina Cardenas is an exceptionally competent and highly skilled surgeon. With doctors like her in Tijuana I cannot imagine ever having another surgery in the US. From my personal experience, (as well as observations of other patients at the recovery house), I would say that she is especially gifted with the lower portion of the female body. She also has the rare gift to understand what different individuals want from their procedures. Check out my notes and posts about my procedure with her to learn more about how she works and about my experience with doing this outside of the U.S. I highly recommend Dr. Cardenas.

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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