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Category Archives: wet to dry bandages

Why I Hid My Surgical Complications

When I wrote this post: breast-necrosis-photos I mentioned that, as the necrosis was developing, I kept the extent of the damage from my husband and my family as long as I could. There are a few reasons. They may not make much sense but if you’re going through this, I think perhaps you can relate.

1) “I don’t want to be a burden”. No one wants to cause problems for their family. As women we generally put everyone else’s needs before our own. When we’re sick or hurt we usually keep it to ourselves until it’s really bad. Even then, most of us hesitate to ask for what we need for fear of being a burden.

2) “It’s my fault. I’ll handle it myself.”. My big guilt trip for the longest time was that somehow, this was all my fault. Because of that, I was going to deal with it myself. I’m a big advocate for personal responsibility. Since I felt responsible for what happened, I was bound and determined to handle it all on my own.

3) Fear. When I was in my late teens my mother went through something similar to what I have gone through. My father had an extremely hard time dealing with it and it drove them apart. I was stark raving terrified that if my husband saw what was happening to my breasts, he would leave me.

4) Sheltering. My husband led a pretty sheltered life before all of this. I wanted to protect him and shelter him from the trauma so that only one of us really had to deal with it. I put up an extremely good facade too. 99.9% of the time he had NO idea that I was in a mental and emotional Hell.

For those reasons, I kept the necrosis hidden. He was not allowed in the bathroom during my bandage changes. He was also not permitted to see me when I showered. I gave him updates after my check ups with the plastic surgeon but he was never permitted to see. Not until much later when I had absolutely no choice in the matter.

Some people call this bravery. Since it was fear based, I still think of it as self preservation.

 

The 200th Post

As the title says, this is the 200th installment of BoobCast. Today I am writing about you, dear reader. Today’s installment is all about the support and the stories that people have shared with me since I first started this blog on Oct. 11, 2008.

When I first started writing this, I was also fairly active on a website called All About Plastic Surgery (http://www.allaboutplasticsurgery.com). When I posted what had happened to me it didn’t take long before I was inundated by questions about various aspects of the surgery. You can find that entry here: http://boobcast.net/2008/10/14/questions/ People expressed a great deal of concern about how well I had checked out the surgeon, what indications I might have had and what legal recourse I might have taken. During that period so many people gave their support and I am grateful for it. So my thanks goes out to the women of the All About Plastic Surgery forum. They were the ones who inspired the idea for BoobCast.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Gee Maria, why do you call it BoobCast? Were they wrapped in plaster or something at one point?”

No, dear reader. There are reasons this site is called BoobCast.  In 2007 the podcasting community lost a precious member by the name of Joe Murphy. He died of a vicious type of cancer that took him quickly. During his medical treatments he talked in vivid detail about what was going on, the testing and all of it. His strength inspired me. I wanted to be as strong and as brave as Joe Murphy. So I planned to podcast what was going on with my breast necrosis. The name of that podcast was going to be BoobCast.

I never met Joe but his life inspired me. It just turns out that I’m not that strong or that brave. To honor that bravery I have kept the name.

I also owe thanks to a very dear friend, Tee Morris. When I was trying to find the strength to create BoobCast, He was there for me. He gave me mental and emotional support by letting me know that I *could* do it. I’m sorry I disapointed you Tee but want to thank you for being a friend when I needed one.

In the time I’ve been writing BoobCast I have had people email me directly for advice. Of course, after reading the email, my advice was always “Contact your PS (plastic surgeon) and ask for [fill-in-the-blank]. Whether it was about bruising, skin texture or pain, I advised talking to their doctor. If they couldn’t get a decent answer from that doctor, talk to another one.

The one that really broke my heart was the husband of a woman who, a few days previous the email,  had the same procedure I had. According to her husband, the pain pills her PS had given her weren’t doing much and she was in constant pain. She couldn’t eat or sleep and she was suffering. I told her husband to call her PS immediately and insist on different pain meds and not take NO for an answer. i explained that, right now it was his job to advocate for his wife since she couldn’t do it herself.

A couple days later I got an email from him saying that her PS had changed her meds and she was doing MUCH better. It’s emails like those that made BoobCast well worth the emotional pain of writing those early posts.

I also want to thank everyone who talked to me about BoobCast at DragonCon last year. Being told in person that I’m making a difference means the world to me. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

Finally, my thanks to Carol Montoya, Lolly Daskal and the Woman At Denny’s. I promise that once I’ve had nipple reconstruction and recuperate from that, I WILL write the book. The foundation is in the works already.

My thanks to you all for reading, commenting and talking to me. Here’s to another 200!

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2010 in anchor breast lift, Anxiety, barter, boob job, Bra Fitting, bra sizes, Bras, breast, breast cancer, breast health, breast implants, breast lift, breast reconstruction, breast size, breast volume, Cash fees, checkup, chemotherapy chemical, clogged surgical drains, communication, complications, compression bra, compression dressing, cortisone, cosmetic surgery, cryotherapy, debreiding, debridement, deformity, dehiscence, Depression, Drain, Drugs, emotional healing, emotional scars, Excise, excise fluid, fear, Flashbacks, flourouracil, Fluid, granular tissue, granulation tissue, Healing, Hospital, Hospital fees, Hosptial Costs, implants, Incisions, Infection, Insurance, interferon, Invisibility, keloid, keloid scars, laser, Latissimus flap, latissimus flap reconstruction, malpractice, mammogram, mastopexy, Medical, Medical Insurance, memory, Nausea, necrosis, negligence, Nipple prosthetics, Nipple reconstruction, Nipples, Pain, Pain Management, plastic surgeon, plastic surgery, Plastic Surgery Disaster, podcast, Post surgical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Prescription Drug Addiction, Prosthetics, PTSD, radiation, Reconstruction, Recovery, Scars, Seroma, serous fluid, Sex, silicone sheets, situational depression, Sleep, slow healing, suicide, Surgery, Surgical complications, Surgical drains, Surgical Fees, Ta Ta Tuesday, Uncategorized, V.A.C. machine, Vacuum assisted wound closure, wet to dry bandages, wheelchair

 

Misty Watercolor Memories

The human memory is an odd creature. Or at least mine is. I have been trying to remember incidents from the first four or five weeks after the initial lift and implant insertion surgery. I’ll try to zero in on that time and then my mind will slip sideways as though the memories had a silicone shield. Everything just slides right off. Non-stick memories.

I’m guessing this happens because I tried so hard to repress and not think about what was happening WHILE it was happening. I just dealt with one second at a time, did what I had to do and cried about it afterward.  I was on what amounts to auto pilot. Either that or I detached and focused on the anatomical details. Although that really started more after the second surgery.

I wonder how much of this is a coping mechanism. Avoidance used to be a major part of my modus operandi. From what I learned when I was (briefly) a psych major, avoidance isn’t considered a healthy way of coping. Though I’m not so sure I WAS avoiding. I was changing the wet to dry dressings twice daily and going to my regularly scheduled doctor appointments with the HiQ.

I have to wonder how clearly people remember incidents of severe trauma. Does our brain initiate a response that allows us to be protected from the harshness of those memories? Is it some sort of conscious mechanism in which we tell ourselves that “this gets filed back here and we’re not going to remember this any more”. Rather like sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALALA!!”

***WARNING – VIVID DESCRIPTION AHEAD***

And then…sometimes I get some vivid memories back. Like one of the times I was pulling off one of the wet to drys and a big chunk of flesh the size of a quarter came away with the necrotic tissue and I felt like Imhotep from “The Mummy”. Or a Zombie.

I actually spent a moment or two trying to put it back in the spot. You know…like when you’re a little kid and you break your favorite toy. You try to put it back together and it won’t go but you just can’t figure out why it won’t go back together.

Yeah, I think I was a little insane for a while.

 

Packing Up

Even after the debridement the HiQ still had me packing the area with saline soaked wet-to-dry bandages. Every time I asked why this happened his reply was the standard “I don’t know”. When I asked him what was next, his standard reply was “We’ll just have to wait and see.”.

After the debridment I told him that “I don’t know” is no longer an acceptable answer. I let him know that I would accept “I don’t know but I’ll find out” and that I would expect an answer at my next appointment. When he DID finally give me an answer it amounted to “Sometimes these things just happen and we really don’t know why”.

Emotional meltdowns were a regular occurence. Ken still wasn’t allowed in with me. I wasn’t going to expose him to the horror I saw twice a day.

After the debridement there was just raw fatty tissue and flesh. Granular tissue started filling in some of the areas.  granulation tissue the newly formed vascular tissue normally produced in healing of wounds of soft tissue, ultimately forming the cicatrix. A Cicatrix is a scar resulting from formation and contraction of fibrous tissue in a flesh wound So I was starting to heal.

Since the HiQ had removed all the necrotic tissue that he could, the next step was the other bad news. There was no way the implants were going to stay. They had to come out. So they scheduled me for the second surgery on November 2nd 2007. And lucky me, I got to pay for the cost to use the surgical center. Yes. You read that right.

In the next post I’ll talk about the shocking reality of law suits for malpractice.

 

What Is The Sound Velcro Makes?

This is going to be a slightly more graphic than usual post about wet to dry dressings and what necrosis looks like as it develops. So those without strong stomachs are cautioned. I will do my best to inject humor into this as I go. Humor and my support system are really the only way I survived this in the first place.

That, and I rediscovered the analytical part of myself. I mentally separated myself from the situation at hand. I used the phrase “THE breasts” as opposed to “MY breasts” and I never looked at myself in the mirror. So I dissociated to some extent while I was changing the wet to dry bandages.

Initially I didn’t really understand HOW wet the gauze was supposed to be. I was told by the nurse that the gauze should be damp. *I* thought that meant it should be dripping just a little bit. After a couple days I noticed there was little to no progress with the wet to drys. Progress would mean the removal of dead tissue. I was pulling off the occasional fleck here and there but nothing meaningful.

Let me explain a bit more about wet to drys. Once the gauze has been dampened in sterile saline solution, it is laid flat in one or two layers over the area to be debrided. It is molded to the body part so when it dries it is a bit like plaster. A successful pull makes a soft sound akin to velcro being pulled from its fuzzy moorings.

When I went back in for the next check up a couple days later the HiQ complained that there was not enough progress. I explained what I had done and was given the moisture level corrections. It seems that instead of dripping slightly, the gauze should be just slightly damp. Previous to this I had done what is called “packing” where the area is kept moist with wet salined gauze. Thus my confusion, I suppose. We’ll go in to packing later when things have gotten REALLY bad.

Once I had been given better information I was sent home for a couple more days. I was also told that I should only be changing the wet to drys one to two times a day. I HAD been changing them 3-4 times because that was what I had done when I was packing. No one told me to do anything different as far as changing went. Isn’t it amazing how nothing changes when there is no communication?

With the new changes I was getting more dead tissue off. When I pulled off the dried gauze it was definitely pulling away the blackened tissue. The HiQ had me do that for about a week and a half. In that time I still forbade Ken to come in during bandage changes and showering. No one should have to be exposed to that.

I had started crying at least every other day at this point and I was really depressed for obvious reasons. Pulling bits of dead flesh off your own body tends to do that. I was angry because I couldn’t get a straight answer out of the HiQ. The man had all the bedside manner of Dr. Mengele. Which was pretty evident by the “don’t scream” comment when he was sewing cadaver skin onto me and telling me that it was an extremely expensive treatment.

Really folks that all I can manage for today. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you the Valium story.

 

Pins And Needles

During the first few weeks after the initial surgery, there is another incident that stands out strongly in my mind. Personally I think that I spent the first 2-3 weeks after the initial surgery in shock. Like the kind of shock they talk about on ER or House, MD.  That and the fact that I really don’t want to remember, might have something to do with this.

So why am I doing this if I don’t want to remember? I’ve talked before about how silent people are when it comes to botched plastic surgeries. People need to know and understand that even with an amazing surgeon, things can go wrong. Plastic surgery isn’t an instant fix even when it DOES go right.

So here I am, talking about it.

It was the appointment after the HiQ gave me a cream that was supposed to improve circulation. I left Ken in the waiting room because I was bound and determined that I wasn’t going to expose him to what was going on unless I absolutely had to. Quite honestly I was also terrified that if he saw what was happening to my body, he would leave me and I would be alone because I had insisted on having this done.

I still have a small part of me that blames myself for the entire snafu as regular readers know. Even two years after the fact I carry a part of that blame. I don’t know if I will ever shake the idea that, on some level, this was all my fault.

I remember sitting in the exam chair. The HiQ took a long needle from a steripack and stuck it directly into the blackened nipple tissue on my right breast. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel anything. I also didn’t really understand what was going on. The HiQ never said why the needle stick. All he said was “I’m sorry.”

I understand now that the reason for the stick was to see if the necrosis was just topical or if it had affected the underlying tissues as well. If the necrosis was topical, there would have been a droplet of blood from the stick. There wasn’t anything.

I didn’t understand what was going on. I wasn’t being told anything. I didn’t know what questions to ask because of all that. So I was just my usual, kind, cheerful self. It’s amazing what ignorance can do. It’s also amazing how rapidly the old defense mechanism of avoidance popped in. For the last 10 minutes I have been looking at how to create a website on iWeb so that I can finally get the BoobCast website up and running.

That may not seem like avoidance from your perspective. Trust me. It is. I was avoiding talking about what happened at the HiQ’s office that afternoon.

I checked my photos and unfortunately I don’t have anything for the four week span between October 9th and November 11th. I wish I had taken some pics during that time period. That way I could have better chronicled this story.

See? I’m doing it again.

So… Here I go. After the needle stick, I THINK that’s when the HiQ first mentioned debriding. That thought terrified me. I kind of knew that it meant having tissue cut off, and I anticipated a great deal of pain. I’ll talk more about it soon. It’s emotionally really rough but physically there isn’t any pain at all.

He said that he wanted me to start doing wet to dry bandages. He didn’t say why though. I had to figure that out on my own. Wet to dry bandages gently pull off dead or dying tissue. What you do is you take a gauze bandage and pour saline solution on it. Then you squeeze it out so that it is damp and spread it on the area to be debrided Then you put dry gauze over the top so that you don’t get your clothes wet.

I did that all on my own for a week. I forbade Ken from being in the bathroom when I was changing dressings or showering and I ALWAYS wore a surgical bra when I was around him. To my mind, I was not ever going to expose him to that as long as I could help it. Unfortunately, that would come back to haunt me in about a month.

 

Briefs

***I’m STILL waiting for a call from Dr. Elliott regarding the whole weight loss/losing boobie volume issue. This is really the first time I’ve actually been truly disappointed with him. He didn’t call last week nor did his PA. Needless to say I’m somewhat miffed. I’ll be looking for an explanation when I call on Monday. I know he sees patients then.

***I heard back from Paul about the prosthetic nipples. He said he can do anything I want. So NOW all I have to do is decide what I want. Not as easy as it sounds. If I decide not to opt for surgery, these babies are my nips for life. Or until the wear out and I have to get new ones.

Mail order nipples… Now THERE’S a modern concept for ya.

***A friend of mine from another site who just recently started reading my blog said that I need to “pull myself out of the Abyss”. Someone else pointed out that the word “survivor” is frequently used as a crutch. Now THAT took the wind out of my sails.  Those two comments have me wondering just how much of this blog consists of me whining about how truly awful things have been. I would LIKE to think that there is some helpful information in all of this. As for pulling myself out of the Abyss, THAT is what this blog is about for me. I have been in some very dark places since this all began. The things I’ve been discussing are surface issues by comparison. I know I still have healing to do.

There are times when I’m not very good at recognizing my limitations and boundaries. This is one of those times. I’m still somewhat enmeshed in the misery I suffered. Some days it clings to me like cobwebs. I wonder how much longer this sorrow will be with me. I suspect it will be years more because I have a book to write.

I also have allowed a few people to have a great deal of influence in my life. I wonder sometimes how much I’m doing just to make them happy and how much of what I do are things that *I* want for me. It’s difficult when I can’t seem to separate my desires from theirs FOR me. Not long ago I was explaining to someone that I tend to analyze the crap out of everything. So I am. It’s just part of the “Maria” package.

***That troublesome spot on my back has mostly scabbed over. Now it’s just a matter of time before it completely heals up. The wet-to-dry bandages really helped. The other side that had separated and scabbed is healed up now and has blended into the rest of the scar line.

***Intimacy has the most beautiful bras and panties for DDD+ cup sizes. The engineering that goes into these bras is phenomenal. Unfortunately, their customer service is HORRIBLE! I’ve had to keep calling multiple times to check on a back order. I called three times and left two messages before someone called me back to let me know that my original fitter was no longer with the company. Then it took 20 minutes for them to find my original back order paperwork and verify that those items were ones I still wanted.  At that point, after being placed on hold for about 5 minutes I was told they were out of stock but would be getting them in soon.

Six weeks later I got a message saying that my back order was in. So I called back, ended up leaving two messages in a week and FINALLY got a human being a week after that. It took another 20 minutes to find and verify my back order ONLY to be told that they were out of one item that I ordered and it would have to be shipped from the Boston store.

If Intimacy could just get their act together customer service-wise, they would be more popular than Victoria’s Secret. Intimacy’s lingerie is better made, more supportive and will last longer. PLUS they offer life time tailoring. If you lose a substantial amount of weight, they will tailor your bras to fit as many times as you want.

 
 
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