I had abdominoplasty on May 22, 2013. This is “Phase 1” of the belt lipectomy procedure that I’ve written about. Commonly called a “tummy tuck,” the goal is to remove excess skin from the front of the body and tighten the abdominal muscles. This post is one in a series following my recovery from the procedure. At today’s visit, the doctor inspected my incision, removed one of my drain tubes, set my next appointment for 10 days out, and paid me a great compliment. I feel so fortunate to have time off work and school to dedicate to recovery and follow-up visits!
Arriving a little early, as usual, I bumped into an old friend in the elevator. More and more, people do double-takes when they see me, if they recognize me at all. In the doctor’s office, I didn’t even have a chance to pick up a magazine before being called back. The folks there are all very friendly, know me by my name, and make each visit a pleasant one. Laid back in the chair, the doctor and his assistant peeled apart the Velcro on my abdominal binder, looked over my incisions, and inspected my drains. I had forgotten to bring my drain record, although I was familiar with the output — less than 30 mL per day on the right drain, over 150 mL per day on the left. The doctor decided to remove the right drain, which he had foreshadowed on my last visit.
The official name for the drains that were put in me — Jackson-Pratt — is often abbreviated as simply, “JP Drain.” It’s a perforated tube that lies within my abdomen that exits below my incision, connecting to flexible rubber tubing terminating at suction bulbs that look like little grenades. All cinched up with the drains pinned to me, I look like I’m wearing an improvised explosive device.
The drains carry away fluids that would otherwise collect in my midsection and require removal by syringe. As inconvenient and at times uncomfortable as wrangling these drains is, the alternative would be considerably worse. Maintaining the drains is very simple. Once a drain fills to more than half capacity, you squeeze the fluid in the tubing and encourage it down to the bulb. Then, you open the stopper on the blub, squeeze the fluid into a measuring cup (provided), sterilize the stopper with alcohol, squeeze the air out, and plug the stopper back in. Where the drain connects to the body, that gets cleaned with peroxide and dobbed with antibacterial gel. Finally, the output from the drain is measured and recorded on a paper log which gets submitted at doctor visits.
Removal of the drain involves removing the suture that holds it in place and sliding the tube out of my body. I’ve read accounts online of this being one of the simplest parts of recovery, and I’ve read nightmare accounts of hot, spiked pokers being dragged through a patient’s midsection. Unsure of what I was to expect, I laid back, took a few breaths, and the surgeon began by removing the suture. I felt nothing. He tugged a bit on the tube. I felt nothing. I was ready for him to start when he rotated on his heel, flipped the lid of the trash can open, and slung my drain in. He had slipped it out without me knowing it had gone. Here’s hoping the second one comes out as easily. I was left with a hole where the drain had been, which he covered with gauze. When I got home, I put additional ointment on it and covered it with a Band Aid.
While I was still reclined in the doctor’s chair, I asked, “How does it look?” His response was, “pretty good!” This wasn’t the phenomenal “couldn’t look better” answer I got on my first visit, so I followed up with, “What actions can I take to make sure healing goes well?” He essentially told me that I had been doing everything right and that the key was to continue to relax. If I sit in a car or at a desk, I need to walk around every couple of hours. Otherwise, I need to keep my feet up to prevent swelling.
As he cinched me back up and returned the chair to its “exit” position, the doctor paid me a compliment. He said, “You’re our most informed, most compliant patient. I wish everyone was like you.” My response was, “Well, when you spend this kind of money on an investment, you should do your research on it and then take good care of it, right?” Apparently, not all of his patients view their surgeries the same way I do.