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I must say, I was a little reluctant to share my experience with getting a tummy tuck. But, I thought about it and thought, I ended up getting mine after finding several other brave people who shared their story. They inspired me to research, ask questions and be diligent when it came to choosing my surgeon. Not only did I get a tummy tuck, I also got a breast reduction.
My Plastic Surgery Story
I got the tummy tuck because after my first child I had serious diastasis recti, loose skin and a full abdomen full of thick wide stretch marks. After my second child, I lost 45 pounds which added to my already super saggy tummy skin. I got the breast reduction because my breasts ballooned up to DD’s and stayed at that even after losing all that weight. Plus I hated that my nips pointed to the ground! The weight of my large breasts caused back issues and I got cleared by my doctor to have a breast reduction to relieve the pain. My medical insurance covered the breast reduction portion of my surgery, but not the tummy tuck part.
If you’re thinking about getting a tummy tuck, do your research. There is SO much information out there. Know that this is a MAJOR surgery. It requires a LOT of healing time, patience, and support. It’s not cheap and it really (excuse my language) fucking hurts! It was more painful than having kids. I was prepared for it to be painful, but holy crap! I honestly didn’t even notice the pain in my breasts from the reduction because the pain in my tummy was so severe.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes. In fact, I did it twice. Because I had so much extra skin my surgeon couldn’t get all my skin the first time. I ended up having a revision to get the rest of the excess skin. Another part of the surgery I wasn’t quite prepared for. But it does happen. And honestly the recovery and pain the second time around were so very minimal compared to the first time. I will definitely go into more detail about my surgery, recovery, and revision in another post. Below are my 17 Tips and Tricks for Dealing with a Tummy Tuck.
Have Someone To Take Care of You.
I know there are people who think they can take care of themselves during this time, but trust me, you’re going to need help. Get your husband, significant other, friend or whomever you can to help you out. You’ll need assistance for at least the first week. You aren’t going to want to move much, but you’ll need to. You’ll need help getting to the bathroom, someone to make you food, make sure you’re taking your meds on time, and to make sure you are comfortable. This will help tremendously in the healing process.
Don’t wait for the pain to be unbearable before you take your pain medication.
When you wake up after tummy tuck surgery, your abdomen may be very swollen, it may be throbbing, you may be in some very serious pain. It’s vital you take your pain medication on time because that stops the pain before it gets too bad. You will actually use fewer pain meds if you take it on time than if you wait for the pain to become severe. Know that pain interferes with healing, as well. There is absolutely no reason to be tough and suffer through the pain. Trust me on this!
Follow Your Surgeon’s Post-Op Instructions.
This should be a no-brainer but trust me, there are people who don’t follow instructions. When you leave the hospital or surgical facility, you should receive a list of post-op instructions and general recovery advice (i.e. changing dressings, taking sponge baths, restrictions, what signs to watch for in case of infection, etc). Read over these carefully and make sure to ask any questions you may have before leaving. Better yet, ask all recovery questions before your surgery.
This is normal. Abdominoplasty involves loosening the skin from its previous attachments and re-draping it. That action, along with the incisions, means that some nerves were cut. Sensation will usually come back gradually over the course of several months. Sometimes, the first thing you will feel in areas that were numb is itchiness or tingling. There is the possibility that sensation in the skin will not come back completely. It’s really a weird feeling, especially when taking a shower.
Take your temperature regularly.
Stay on top of this, or have whoever is taking care of you do this regularly. An elevated temperature could mean an infection.
Take antibiotics on time.
Take the whole prescription and don’t cut it short for any reason, even if you feel well. Not taking antibiotics for the prescribed number of days can cause a drug-resistant infection.
Sex & Birth Control.
If you are taking birth control pills, some antibiotics can interfere with them, so in the event that you have sex, use another form of protection as well. Don’t have sex until you get the go-ahead from your surgeon! It could cause complications such as suture popping, wound opening and infection.
Elevate head & shoulders.
Sleep with your head and shoulders elevated for the first 7 – 14 days or as directed per your surgeon. Also, you will want a pillow under your knees when you sleep. A bolster is great for this. You won’t be able to stretch your abdomen and this will help
The trick for Getting Out of Bed.
Getting up and down from a sitting position or in and out of bed will be difficult and will hurt. Here’s a trick: First, roll on your side close to the edge of the bed. Then, let your legs drop over the side of the bed. At the same time as you are letting your legs drop, push your upper body upright with the arm underneath you. This way, you spare your abdominal muscles some strain. Remember, everything will continue to get easier as the days pass.
Your sutures may be removed 5 – 10 days after surgery but may be left in for 2 weeks or more. Parts of your incision may heal faster than other parts, so your surgeon may take some sutures out and leaves others in a little longer. While the incision is still open, do not smoke or use nicotine patches or gums. These interfere with healing. Better yet, quit smoking altogether – it’s killing you!
Your doctor may advise you to wear or may provide you with a support garment around your abdomen. This may be in the form of a wide binder that goes around your abdomen or a girdle-like garment that pulls on or zips up the side. Either will compress your abdomen a bit and help in healing and control the swelling. You may even wake up after the surgery with an abdominal binder already on. You might want to have two or three of the binders or surgical abdominal support garments on hand while you heal so that you can wear one while you wash the other. Some need to be line-dried and are slow to dry, so having a second or third on hand is a good thing. My compression garment was a must-have item.
Surgical Drain Tips.
Empty your surgical drains two or three times a day. When you empty the drain, there is often liquid in the tube leading to the bulb. You can run your fingers down the tube to squeeze this liquid into the bulb each time you empty the drain. The liquid in the drain may be pink, reddish, or brownish and may have a bit of some solid material in it. It will look icky, so expect that. If you suddenly get a lot of very bright red blood or if what comes out smells very foul, call your surgeon. You may be asked to keep track of how much fluid collects in each drain each day and your surgeon may give you a chart keep a log of that information.
The drains are going to be a pain in the neck, but they are absolutely necessary to a good outcome. When you empty the drain, squeeze it before you close it again so that it has a little bit of suction or negative pressure that helps with drainage. Each of the grenade-like bulbs has a tab that you can put a safety pin through and pin the bulb to your clothing. Some surgeons tell you to pin the bulbs below the incision to help with drainage. If the drains need to be lower than your incisions, you can pin them to the bottom of your binder. I wore really big sweatpants to accommodate the drains while I had them.
You will be told if you should change the dressings over your abdominoplasty incision and how often. If you stayed in the hospital for a day or two, one of the nurses may instruct you on how to bandage your incision. If you go home the same day as your surgery, you may be given a sheet of instructions on how to change the bandages. As the incision heals, you will gradually need less and less bandaging. Usually, the outer ends of the incision heal first and the center last.
Ask your surgeon when you will be allowed to shower. You will probably be instructed not to take a bath or use a hot tub, since sitting in standing water before your incision heals is pretty much asking for an infection! (You will probably be told to avoid swimming until the incision heals, too.) Some surgeons allow you to shower 2 to 3 days after your tummy tuck surgery, while others only allow sponge baths until a week afterward.
If you are allowed to shower, you may be asked to wear your support garments, or shower under just a light trickle of water, or with your back to the shower spray. Ask your surgeon for specific showering instructions. Remember, you may feel a bit dizzy or unsteady on your feet due to medications, so be careful in the shower. You might want to have someone assist you or just be in the bathroom with you the first time you shower. You can also buy a shower seat, which is a small stool or chair that fits in the tub.
Recovery Time Variances / Resuming Normal Activities.
You will probably be “out of commission” for at least 2 weeks after your tummy tuck surgery. Your doctor will tell you when you can return to work and to regular activities. However, the more extensive your surgery, the longer the time off from work and other activities will be. Recovery time from tummy tuck varies from person to person. You may need up 6 weeks off for proper healing if you had a very extensive abdominoplasty and other surgery.
Another factor is what kind of work you do. If you sit at a desk all day, you can probably return to your job sooner than if you are a gym teacher or in outside sales or a letter carrier. You should not resume exercising until your surgeon says you can. Usually, this is at least 3 weeks or more after your abdominoplasty surgery, depending on the extent of your surgery. You may also be able to do some exercises or sports before you are allowed to do others. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself. Actually, you probably will not think of exercising for at least a few weeks.
Walking around after tummy tuck surgery.
You will be encouraged to do a bit of walking every day in the first week and more as the week’s pass. Do it. Walking around helps prevent blood clot formation and ease swelling.
Pain medications (among other drugs) can cause constipation and other digestive problems and can back everything up. You may feel bloated and sometimes even have some intestinal cramps. Drink plenty of water! This is a big help in keeping you regular and in helping with bloating and other distress. I cannot stress this enough. Some surgeons suggest a mild stool softener like Colace or even natural remedies such as eating daikon (also called Chinese radish) or a high-fiber cereal after you are finished with your medications. This helps with getting your digestive tract in working order again and helps flush out residual medications and whatnot from the “pipes.”
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