Putting on the Finishing Touches (Literally): Nipple Reconstruction

Laura Zigman Health Guide
  • Three weeks ago I had some follow up plastic surgery to the double TRAM flap reconstructive surgery I had almost a year and a half ago: nipple reconstruction procedure, which I could have had four months after my original surgery. When my surgeon suggested I schedule it last March I did, but then I cancelled it. I rescheduled it again for September, but cancelled it again. Despite the fact that it was just a day procedure, I couldn't fathom having any more surgery.


    But I finally figured it was time to finish the job. Time to have the nipples reconstructed. And the shape of the reconstructed breasts refined. I met with my plastic surgeon in the impressive new surgical suite at the Faulkner Hospital and we went over the procedure: she would make some small adjustments to the breasts themselves: minimize the aureoles, slightly reduce the left breast with liposuction, and construct nipples from small pieces of skin taken from somewhere on my body, probably the "dog ears" at each hip left over from the large incision of the tummy tuck.

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    Every time I have met with my plastic surgeon I have, at some point during the consultation, felt nauseous and faint to the point where I thought I was actually going to pass out. Every single time -- from that first appointment in her old office when she was explaining the various reconstruction procedures (TRAM or implants), to the minutes before the big surgery in an examination room adjacent to the operating room, to both post-op appointments -- she has had to stop the appointment, get me a glass of water, and let me lie down on the table to get the blood back into my head. For some strange reason, the descriptions of the surgery -- all the moving and cutting and reconstructing -- have made me queasy, and each time, despite her lovely and gentle manner, I have had some kind of strange emotional shut down when coming face to face with the surgical particulars.


    But this time I kept my appointment. As it was day surgery, I was told to arrive at the hospital very early in the morning, with a completely empty stomach. Just as I had done a year and a half before, I was dropped off curbside in the dark at 6 a.m., and when I got out of the car and walked into the hospital and toward the operating floor, I couldn't help thinking how glad I was that The Big Surgery was long over and that this, in comparison, would be nothing.


    Prepped for surgery, I was visited by my plastic surgeon in the pre-op area. She took another look at me, made her markings on my skin with a pen, and told me the surgery would be about two hours. Two hours later, I awoke in the recovery room, groggy and nauseous from the anesthesia but otherwise fine, with only some slight physical discomfort and the mild dread of having to deal once again with dressings and discomfort and stitches that would have to be removed. But once I got home, slept off the anesthesia, and realized I wouldn't be able to sleep on my sides for a few days, I quickly realized that this was, indeed, nothing by comparison. And I was glad I finally did it.

Published On: March 19, 2008