The physician's assistant was at my bedside early the next morning to look at my incision and check me over. When he opened my binder I saw my new tummy for the first time.
My beautiful flat tummy was smooth and the skin looked like it belonged to a young person. Gone were my stretch marks from pregnancy and scars from the gastric bypass surgery. Gone was my "tire tube" of fat around my upper abdomen. Most of all, gone were the big apron of skin and fat that hung below my tummy, and my protruding fat and saggy pubic mound looked normal for the first time in my life. I stared at myself in wonderment. It was as if I were looking at my stomach from yesteryear when I was a teenager.
The incision looked like a pie crust. It was raised above the surface of my skin and carved from hip to hip, dipping down to my pubic mound as it rounded the front of my body. It was a very large incision of about 30 inches. The P.A. told me it would take 18-months to flatten and fade to a line or a seam rather than a pie crust.
He said it would go through three phases of roughly 6-months each:
1. Red stage: The skin looks read and "angry" as it creates scar tissue
2. Purple stage: Scar tissue is created and the body continues to heal
3. White stage: The purple scar begins to turn to white or flesh colored as it lightens and fades
The pie crust incision was used because it is stronger and does not place the tension on the incision itself.
I had been pretty comfortable the evening after my surgery. I would say the pain level was a 4.5-5 on a scale of 1-10, and going up to a 6 in that last hour that I waited for my Percocet. I also had a local anesthetic in my tummy, which surely helped. However, I really began to hurt once the P.A. opened my binder. Even though he refastened the binder, the pain persisted.
Before I could be released from the rehab, I had to meet three criteria:
1. Eat solid food.
2. Walk to the toilet and urinate.
3. Have a doppler ultrasound done on my legs.
When the aide came in around 8:30 am and asked what I wanted for breakfast, I ordered soft proteins: a cheese omelet and a side of cottage cheese. I had been directed to have soft foods the first day. And protein will help the body to heal. I was not able to finish the entire meal, although it was quite tasty. Don't force yourself: Listen to your body and let it guide you.
I remained in bed waiting for the doppler ultrasound to arrive. The nurse said that I should not walk until I had the test in case there was a blood clot in my leg. Walking potentially could loosen a clot, which could be fatal. So, I lay there watching the news coverage of the manhunt for the remaining Boston Marathon Bomber. I wished I had packed something in my suitcase to occupy my time.
The rehab was great about accommodating my dietary requests (no red meat, gluten-free, no grains) and lunch was baked fish, vegetables, and chicken broth. I focused on eating the protein and skipped the veggies. I did not have much of an appetite.
Sometime after lunch I walked to the bathroom -- or rather, I hobbled, hunched over, to the bathroom. It was very slow going. I only could take 1/2 a step at a time. Fortunately I was able to urinate with no problem. The aide said it can be very hard for people to do that so I was doubly pleased at my success. Plus, it felt good to have the catheter out.
As well, the nurse showed me how to empty my drains, which were filled with blood. At my first attempt I squirted blood all over the toilet and onto the walls and floor. I am not a clumsy person; I blame my lack of coordination on the narcotics. I was glad at least that this happened in the rehab rather than my home. I wiped the toilet and wall but there was no way that I could bend down and get the floor clean. My apologies to the housekeeper.
Eventually the technician arrived and performed my doppler ultrasound. I was fine -- no clots! I could go home.
Continue to part 8 of this article.