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The Unvarnished Truth About Plastic Surgery - Part 1 - Pre-Surgery & the Hospital (Shake it up baby)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

There are going to be at least three of these, perhaps four or even five as I sort out and process everything that is continuing to happen to me. But I want you to know -- while it is fresh in my mind. You need to know this, and I need to tell you. I NEED to tell you.

Some things are going to be alarming. Some will be gross. It is very personal. But I want to -- I insist -- on laying it out for you. This naked, shivering truth.

I had the following three procedures done on the 15th: breast lift, umbilical hernia repair and tummy tuck. Of course most people don't have all three done at once or even at all. I've been thinking for quite a while about whether if, knowing what I know now, I would have done all or most of these things, and whether I would have done them all at once. Today, my conclusion is that I'd still do it. Same way. But there have been many times I've thought of doing things differently in the past few days. Anyway, here's my tale.


I went in for a consultation about six months ago. I was interested in breast reduction, actually, and didn't even know I had a hernia. The doctor took one look at me and said, if we reduce you, you'll end up looking like a teenaged boy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not how I wanted to go. Hence I decided to go for the lift. The bottom line, even though, of all three procedures it's probably the one most informed by vanity, the lift is something I want because I've had sagging breasts for twenty freakin' years. I looked middle aged when I was still young. Now that I'm middle aged, I'd like to look young. Or at least younger. Hey, humor me. :)

So I said yes to all three.

Before going to the hospital, I did the following: I packed an overnight bag. VERY IMPORTANT: I included a top and sweat pants that were too big for me. I was a Medium before I walked into the hospital. The top was an old 2X and the sweats were XL. Also, we arranged for my parents to come up on Sunday. This would assure that they'd be around to take over for my husband so that he could return to work, plus he does not drive so they would be able to help with emergencies. And to keep him company and spot him. It's too much work for one person.

We also cooked some bean soup in advance and bought some easy foods like deli sliced turkey and little individual Greek yogurts. I cut up tons of produce for future salads. We were set.

Our expectation was that I would not even stay overnight. Ha! How wrong we were.

Oh yes, one more thing. Because I am looking for work, I arranged for a job interview (an in-person; I had already talked on the phone to the Hiring Manager) for today. Insane.


We arrived early (we walked to the hospital; it's that close). The doctor was there and I changed into the lovely attire they give you. And then the next thing the doctor did was, he grabbed a purple magic marker and marked me up. Lines on my breasts. On my belly. Around my navel. Under the breasts. To the sides of my hips. Purple everywhere.

Then I met the anesthesiologist and signed more consent forms.

I'd like to right now acknowledge all of the amazing people who cared for me: Dr. Richard Silverman (my surgeon); Dr. Derek Keller (anesthesiologist); Tom (surgical nurse); Kaye (ICU nurse); Katie (overnight nurse, both nights); Leanne (day shift, first day, first shift); Jackie (day shift, first day, second shift); Courtney (fill-in nurse, both days) and Kelli (day shift, second day). See all those days? Oh yeah. My plan to be outta there without an overnight stay was, shall we say, overly optimistic.

Back to our story. I signed the forms and they wheeled me in, or at least I assume that's what happened, as things get foggy. Shots in the arm, in the IV line. Lights out. I learned later that Dr. S. did me from the top down. And, for the breast surgery, I was up on my elbows a lot, so they hurt later.

I woke up in ICU. Mr. Jespah was there; so was Dr. S and Kaye. Dr. S told me he'd removed six pounds of flesh. The entire apron of skin around my belly was gone. He had stitched down my abs. I was wearing a soft truss and a kind of surgical support bra. Inside the bra were the ends of two drains, attached and hanging down on the right side. Everything was taped up snugger than a Christmas package.

Kaye kept talking to me. She was unbelievable. She did whatever was needed. Mr. J would come in and out (I don't think he was allowed to constantly stay in the area). Kaye, of course, had to stay. I could hear machines and the other ICU nurse, Carol, talking to the patient in the next, I dunno, area. They aren't really rooms. More like booths, I suppose.

Then Kaye tried to get me to sit up. We were all still of the opinion that I might head home that night (it was getting late, 8 PM?).


If you were wondering about today's blog song and why I chose it, here's why. The song, if you cannot get to Youtube, is The Beatles' "Twist and Shout".

Because that's exactly what I did.

I have never felt such agony. You don't know what your abs do until they hurt like THAT.

Kaye and I tried to move me. I screamed. Ixnay on THAT. I then apologized. She said I didn't have to. I said, I just don't want to alarm the person in the next room. And it's true. I never knew their name or even if they were male or female. But I hope I didn't scare Carol's (the other ICU nurse) patient. Things are scary enough.

The decision was immediately made for me to stay overnight. Kaye called Marco to wheel me to seventh floor West in the Seton wing. St. Elizabeth's Hospital is a Catholic hospital, so the wards are named for various prominent Catholics. Seton is of course Elizabeth Seton, the first American Catholic Saint. I asked Marco if he was an immigrant from Italy. No, Costa Rica. He got me in, safe and sound and wished me well.


This is where I met Katie, a pretty, young woman, probably in her twenties. It was maybe midnight on the 16th. I did a lot of sleeping, of course, as is to be expected. The first alarming thing was being unable to urinate. Not a happy thing. Not at all.

If you are reading this and you can urinate on your own, I know this sounds silly but, flush an extra time and think of people who cannot. Because, let me tell you, when you can't, it is just awful. Not just the feeling of fullness. It's also the feeling of utter helplessness. Yes, Katie had the unenviable task of having to catheter me.

Leanne took over in the morning. Leanne is the kind of person who calls everyone honey and love and dear. We went through all sorts of pain medications. Oxycontin (yes, that's what Rush Limbaugh is addicted to). Celebrex. Percocet. Over and over. No real relief. I was never truly pain free. They asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, with ten being agony. Trying to move in ICU was a damned 11, I swear. But during the day, even doped up, I was at a six or so.

The urination thing was still at issue. Leanne brought in Jackie. They talked. Then they brought over the Resident on call, who introduced himself and shook my hand with a grip of iron. That would have been fine if I'd been interviewing him. But lying there in a hospital bed, that just hurt like the Dickens. Yes, you use your abs to shake hands. Jackie insisted that I get cathetered again, and they stop this nonsense.

She eventually won out and came up close to me and whispered. "It's because I'm a b----." That made me smile. But no laughing. Because, you guessed it, you use your abs to laugh.

Jackie took over for a while, and was in and out with Courtney. Courtney was another lovely young woman. Jackie and Leanne were both a bit older, maybe my age. I think they were all Massachusetts natives. Mr. J was around by then (yes, for the second cathetering, too, a sight that must have been a wonder to behold). The doctor had been in, too, and his verdict was, I had to pass two tests: urinating and walking (hopefully not at the same time!). If I could not do both, I'd have to stay.

Mr. J left again (he needed to clean house and set up the downstairs couch for me, plus he needed to email my interviewer and tell them I wouldn't be able to make it). I again attempted urination. Sitting there for an hour was just not a fun time at all. But I was otherwise more alert, eating meals and talking with the staff. The phone rang a few times. I talked to my parents and my brother. Eventually Mr. J returned and I again made the attempt (this was on a commode chair so that I wouldn't have to walk much). With the water running in the bathroom, and with a lot of straining and prayer, suddenly there were happy sounds.

Mr. J wanted to gently high five me but, of course, you use your abs to high five.


There was a football game on, and so Mr. J turned it on without the sound. Even though I no longer had a roommate (when I'd first arrived, there'd been a Filipino woman with some sort of lung function issue, and diabetes -- I kept hearing Katie talking to her about her sugar numbers -- but she was gone by then.), the door was open and we didn't want to disturb the other patients. Dinner was served. Good Lord, coconut cream pie. The first pie I'd had in two years. Weird.

Naturally I did not count calories or log a damned thing. I drank scads of water, and the first thing I had after surgery was a small can of diet ginger ale that Katie gave me. Wow. The best stuff I'd ever tasted. I figure my calories were pretty much in line with what I've been eating, since there were no snacks. It doesn't matter.

I finally sent Mr. J home late that night. He needed the sleep desperately; I'd seen him dozing off in the chair.


The next day, my arms were really starting to hurt me. This was because, since I could finally eliminate on my own, I was getting up every few hours to do just that. This involved using one of those things over the bed -- I forget what they're called. But they look sort of like one of an Olympic male gymnast's rings. I'd pull myself up, swing over as well as I could, and then flop onto the commode, do whatever, and then the return trip was harder as the ring was not in a good position. Back and forth, forth and back, over and over again. Since I could not push hard (those pesky abs again!), I could not eliminate much. Hence all of the trips. But, every time I did it, things got better, or I got faster.

Kelli came in, and we decided to do some walking. We took a tour of the floor and then she got me to the Interfaith Chapel (next door to my room), where I read the bible a bit. Joseph and his brothers. I know the story but it reminded me of dreams and their meanings. And my gosh, Jacob's family was quite a blended family. But the Brady Bunch they were not.

I had accomplished my goals. I could urinate and I could walk. It was time to go.


Mr. J of course came for me. The guy who needed to wheel me out seemed to be going fast; that was scary to me. It's odd what you're afraid of, but that terrified me.

We got into the cab. The World's Most Wonderful Cab Driver helped me in. I didn't know the man, of course, and held his hand like a long-lost friend. The ride was short, cost maybe three dollars. Mr. J gave him a ten. Here, keep it all.

Going up about a dozen steps to our home was easier and faster than I'd feared. The open sleeper couch looked amazing. My parents were enroute. I was exhausted and fell into bed and awaited the next part of the adventure.

If this ending seems rushed; it is. I cannot sit still for too long. More to come in a few days. Thank you for reading.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow! Thank you for sharing this! I had a hysterectomy when I was 35 and all these years later I still remember the pain of my abdomen and the praying to urinate. You are my hero! emoticon
    1362 days ago
  • no profile photo ARMYMOM17
    Ohhh my!
    1473 days ago
    Me too! Hope things are going well for you!
    1739 days ago
    It's now 2016 and i just read this. Had to hop on and check emoticon your ending(not that ending)
    Thanks for the moment to moment writing method!! You would of been best friends with Nora Ephron had you ever crossed paths : )
    Thanks for sharing. I'm contemplating about my hernia and excess skin too!
    Thanks for the "lift" today!!
    Hope your doing well!!
    1884 days ago
    Jespah, you are a very brave woman. Just reading your story I felt like I was right there with you. I'll keep up woth your blogs as I have subscribed to them.You are emoticon
    1977 days ago
    emoticon blog! Honest and informative. I've been involved as a student in this kind of surgery as well as bariatric. I do believe that the majority of folks who know about these surgeries only through magazine covers think they are easy peasy. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Is anythng about weigh loss easy, I wonder?) Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Thank you also for your discussion of the nurses. I'm in nursing school right now, exhausted and hating it. Reading a story about the difference nurses can make gives me strength to endure another year of torture.

    2049 days ago
    Thanks so much for being so open and honest with everything. I have almost 200 pounds to lose and although I'm drinking tons of water a basting in cocoa butter lotion for stretchmarks I'm sure I will need surgery when I've reached my goal.
    2322 days ago
    Thanks for posting this amiga. Be blessed!
    2464 days ago
  • JIBBIE49
    I'm glad u had it done. I plan to have a tummy-tuck, so it was interesting to read. I don't care about the boobs at this point. BUT, getting the abdominal muscles fixed is what matters as with age they would have stretched MORE and you would have had serious back issues. (Reason I am going to get them done when I'm at goal weight.) When I had my gallbladder out in October the surgery went through my navel and he did tell me that my ab muscles are pulled apart , which I know came from my having a 9# baby turned FACE UP and pushing for 3 hrs to get him out. (I pushed my guts out.) He was the 4th one so they didn't think I'd need a c-section.

    Well, glad it went well. I'd have left the cath in longer and not did the bathroom trips right away. When I have mine done I will have to have bladder surgery to "lift" it as I have problems with that, too.

    Glad u are doing well. I'm so happy for you. Now u will be able to do ab exercises and strengthen your back. Look at Pilates exercises as they are good for us.
    4154 days ago
    Yeesh...wincing my way through this, but SO appreciate your unvarnished truth as I have been kicking this idea around but mostly giving myself a thumbs down on surgery as I'm so squeamish and have so many concerns about complications.

    Yet the thought still lurks around...

    If I might ask...were you able to have this covered by your health insurance...?

    Thank you SO much for sharing such a VITAL part of your journey!

    4154 days ago
    Glad to see you are home. I've had you in my prayers. Hopefully the pain lets up soon! I can't wait for you to get all healed up and tell me how that 9 inch radius off makes your clothes fit :) I'm proud of you. You are an inspiration. Hang in there sweetheart! emoticon
    4156 days ago
    I came over here to thank you for commenting on my blog then read YOUR blog. OMG. Reminded me of my surgery only I did not have much pain. Hurry and get well!!!
    4157 days ago
    What an experience! Thanks for sharing another amazing journey. I've had plenty of surgeries (skin grafts and reconstructive from burns) and can relate to this post on many levels. But you can always be humbled without totally losing dignity!

    Speedy recovery wishes, looking forward to those pics. And how many pounds of flesh! Yikes yowee and that's a heck of a way to lose the pounds, my dear!

    4159 days ago
    Hey jespah, glad to hear everthing is getting better for you. as usual a very funny and interesting read. get well soon

    4160 days ago
    Thanks for your story. Very interesting. I have saggy boobs, and elephantitis of the abdomen due to gaining 50 pounds with my pregnancies. Once I lose the weight and if I am still saggy, I will seriously consider this, that is, if I had the money.

    I am wondering how the pain compares to c/s pain. But it does sound worse.

    Here's to fast healing!
    4160 days ago
  • LAURIE5658
    Wow! I just found your story via a Spark friend via Friend Feed. I am now subscribed so I can follow this amazing story of YOU! Thank you for taking time to tell it to us!
    4160 days ago
    Whew! Hoping you have a speedy and quick recovery!!! I'm late on checking back up on ya, but glad to know you made it through semi okay!

    4160 days ago
    Oh - one other comment. Once the cathetar is in, don't let them take it out until you're absolutely sure you don't need it anymore. Trust me on this one . . .
    4161 days ago
    Oh, just be glad you didn't have to pass the poop test. Usually you have to POOP and walk after surgery before they'll let you out. I can only imagine how THAT would have felt.

    Just to make you feel better, I will share my latest humiliation: I have second degree burns on my butt. Yes, it's true - I spilled soup the other night and ended up sitting in it for a all of a nanosecond, which is all it took to fry my a**. I, too, gave the 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 response when it came to rating my pain. Oy vey, it was bad. And you haven't enjoyed the ER until you realize that everyone working to assist you is trying not to LAUGH the entire time.

    Hey, I'm glad I brought a smile to their faces. Right now, it's all I can do to stay pearched on a donut-shapped pillow.

    Hang in there!

    4161 days ago
    Wow! I knew that people get quite bruised up with breast surgery and that abs work HU-U-U-RTS! Peeing and eating without vomiting are those keys to get out of the hospital kingdom. The recoup time will still take awhile! You did some good prep. When I had a string of surgeries starting with a partial thyroidectomy, I had to spend time preparing myself to be a good patient! Now it's your home challenge.
    May each day be a healing one!

    4162 days ago
    Regarding the scary ride in the wheel chair. Percocettes and Oxy have codienne. codienne is drying and it can screw up the balance system, which makes wheel chairs, gurney's and etc. a very scary situation. My balance is fubar regularly and when I am in hospital usually it is worse (allergic to the anti-biotic spray and cleaner) so I let the gurney drivers know to take it easy on my poor dizzy head..

    I was terrified after my last surgical experience (Cardiac Cath which I aced by the way) riding home in the car and all I was on was morphine and benedryl. i have recovered. but I know to watch out how much of the good stuff. (I find pain occasionally better than spinning)

    I hope you recover with great speed and are soon on your way to your interview and able once again to yuck it up as you are prone to.
    4162 days ago
    Best laid plans, huh? Sorry that you had such an awful time...but I am enjoying the read. Welcome back.

    A's called a trapeze...
    4162 days ago
    Oh my dear Jespah I am so glad you wrote all about it and I want to see the other chapters to come.
    Ow. Sympathy pains.
    Good healing girl. Glad your parents are available to help. Don't rush it. Small steps just keep stepping. Gotta move your limbs and your circulation and your lungs. Gotta. Really.
    4162 days ago
    I'm like Marit. No surgery, unless you count wisdom teeth. And there's a reason (lots of 'em in your story) why I'm afraid to subject myself to knives. I'm glad you made it through and are on the downhill side of recovery. Thanks for sharing your story. But I think I'm glad that this isn't a vlog! A big (careful) hug to you and a high five to Jay for taking good care of you!

    Look forward to the next chapters!
    4162 days ago
    Wow, that sounds like quite an ordeal. I had to be catheterized once - "wait, you're going to do what?" - but it was for a very short duration. I've never had abdominal surgery but have heard from others about learning that you use your abs to do just about anything.

    It sounds like you had an excellent team taking care of you. I am glad that you did and that you happened to find the world's most wonderful cab driver. It's nice to know that you sometimes can rely on the kindness of strangers.

    I hope that you feel better soon.
    4162 days ago
  • JLITT62
    Sending healing vibes your way. Hope you are feeling much, much better soon.
    4162 days ago
    Healing hugs! I haven't had surgery in my life, and can't imagine that pain, but hope you're keeping yourself medicated. Hang in there and get better. emoticon
    4162 days ago
    Thanks for sharing that. I think it is important for people to know. I'm sure it will get much better from here, with only a few horrible things left, like the changing of dressings etc.

    I had a very large uterine fibroid blasted with silicone particles about 5 years ago. I was also cathetered as part of the procedure - it was my first and I was deathly afraid of it (The nurse had a very hard time doing mine too. Oh joy!)
    I wonder why they did not give you morphine for the pain. I got intravenous morphine and it was heavenly, let me tell you - utter peace in a bottle. BUT later, at home (I didn't stay overnight), I was supposed to take my morphine orally and I barfed it up - the tablet formed for some reason caused me a lot of dizziness and made me upchuck. Boy I was NOT a happy camper. The pain was incredible. My poor dh who is a doctor, was stunned by my screaming I think. Later I finally was able to take a Gravol suppositories and that made me able to keep down the morphine. I was ok within a few days and I still have a lot of morphine pills left, but I can't think of anything that would make me touch them. Once a doctor gave me some kind of sedative for airplane travel and taking that was a big mistake too. I hope YOU find some kind of pain killer that will keep you comfortable.

    PS there was an article in my local paper today about women who get botox earning an average of, hmm i think it was 10cents per hour more than women who don't. Maybe the surgery will pay dividends on your job hunt too! Hope so!
    4162 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/20/2010 1:19:04 PM
  • no profile photo CD4749243
    As a surgical veteran--I won't belabor the details, but I've had several--it sounds to me as if everything's moving on track.

    Take it easy, stay on top of the pain--you won't get addicted because you'll run out of pills or need to take them soon enough. Don't flush 'em though. It's bad for the environment.

    Smile as much as you can--it'll make the Mr. feel better and he needs to know you're OK. Good going Red Rider. You'll be fine and happy that the excess is gone--the memory of pain evaporates rather quickly which is a mercy. : )
    4163 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. I hope you are feeling better and better every day.

    I envy your bravery/decision to get a breast lift. I have had sagging breasts pretty much from the get-go. Having had thyroid surgery two years ago, I'm not sure I would go under the knife again just to improve them even though I like the idea of them looking better.

    I have to tell you, I saw something in your status last week about having an in-person interview this week and I thought it was a mistake, like a typo. Otherwise I would've warned you that you were not going on any interviews this week. I'm surprised your doctor wasn't able to fill you in on what to expect, at least to that extent.

    You are brave and you are strong. Good luck with your continued recovery.
    4163 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. I'd meant to wish you luck before your surgery, but it got away from me. HEAL FAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't wait to see the photos of the New You!!
    4163 days ago
    I have only had surgery once and it was done laparosopically (tumor in my ovary). It was an outpatient thing, and it hurt terribly. My first thought upon waking up, "I am suppose to go home like this". Yours sounds worse. Yet, being that I have sagging skin myself, I understand why you did it. I hope you feel better soon. Thanks for sharing.
    4163 days ago
    Your story so far is what I thought it would be.It is a lot of pain and recouping involved.But once all the healing is over it will all be worth it.Hang in there.Each day will be a little better.
    4163 days ago
    I'm thinking about the breast lift.....
    4163 days ago
    OMG, what an ordeal! And yet you'd do it again. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story! emoticon
    4163 days ago
  • LIV212000
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us!
    4163 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate you and your experience. As for you lift, I wouldn't call that vanity. I myself have always had sagging breast. I was a DDD by the time I was 12 years old, and from experience I know that the sagging also causes the same problems as lose skin. You were not vain at all!!

    I'm glad your pain has dropped down, and you are lucky to have wonderful parents who are there to help take care of you. I can't wait to read the rest of your post so that I can know what to expect when I hit my goal. I myself will have to have a full body lift plus more.

    Take Care!!!
    4163 days ago
  • no profile photo CD3248497
    Glad to hear you are doing OK, well I know not OK, OK, but you know what I mean. Well at least all this pain is not for nothing. I must say you are a strong woman b/c many would of chickened out to do all those procedures like you did!

    Miss you!!!!!
    4163 days ago
  • no profile photo CD6156797
    Wow.. wht a crazy adventure! I always wondered what it may be like after those surgeries! You would think the doctor would tell you not to get them all at once.
    4163 days ago
    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more about your experience. You are very brave for sharing like this:-)
    4163 days ago
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