My DIEP flap procedure -full account (graphic content in parts)

I wanted to write a full account of everything that happened whilst in hospital for my surgery. If you don’t like reading about vomit blood or toilet habits then I suggest you don’t read. This is a true and honest account of how I’ve found this surgery. Me a 35 year old average woman with average fitness levels. Although I am very strong in my abdominal muscles and my legs.

Let me take you back to the morning of Monday 27 April. 

I arrived at the hospital excited but very nervous. I was an hour early but I sat there and wondered what other operations the guys in reception were having.

By 7:30am I was take to surgery reception and was given a gown paper knickers and those stockings and was told the surgeons would be in shortly to draw on me. My surgeon Mary came in, sweet kind and so relaxed she drew over my tummy and breasts with marker pen. I told her I had a pizza the night before so I should have enough fat and she laughed and said she felt stuffed as she’d been at a Indian friends house eating with her husband (an all you can eat soirée) the night before. I can’t remember if she held my hand or hugged me, I think both. She was amazing  and I felt at ease by this point. 

So it was all happening very fast and I was wheeled in to theatre on a bed and I met the big guy- aka  the anaesthetist. He puts a cannula in my hand and gives me this stuff which makes me woozy, I did not like this at all as I had no control. I guess this was like sedation. Then he must have given me the hard stuff. There was no counting down, I simply don’t remember what happened.

I woke up at 4pm with an oxygen mask on  with other beds around me. This was recovery.  I didn’t feel pain I just drifted in and out of sleep. I was then moved to critical care unit and stayed there until Wednesday afternoon.

 In the unit you have 1 nurse per patient who constantly watch over you and aren’t allowed to leave you alone. I had a morphine drip called a PCA which was used to self medicate by pressing a button. It’s impossible to overdose on this as it releases small amounts and cuts out for a while if you overdo it.  I have a love hate relationship with opiates. The pain relief and relaxation they give is amazing but it makes me feel sick and very itchy. 

Every time I woke up from sleep I’d need to vomit. I can assure you that vomiting when you have a wound hip to hip hurts a lot!  This went on for two days and nothing was really coming up as I’d not eaten. I think I cried a few times as I did when they kept injecting saline and anti sickness through my cannula. I don’t know what was going on but this really hurt like a mofo- the vein was far too tight. Then one nurse I gave a very hard time to kept trying to get blood out of me via another cannula which hurt so much. This was while I was on morphine remember! I just kept thinking soon this will pass and I will be ok. I also had a headache for 3 days which was no fun.

By Wednesday I was moved to a normal ward and was feeling  much better. Barring the headache. They kept asking me what my pain score was and truth be told I didn’t feel pain so I said 2/10. I stopped all pain relief barring paracetamol on Wednesday and I felt more human. I started walking around going to the toilet by myself although I had a catheter for a couple of days. I had 3 drains coming out of my breast and right and left abdominals. These were filled with blood fat and fluid. Pulling out drains from inside of you is a rather interesting sensation but actually not painful

Thursday and Friday I felt stronger still and I thought how bloody well I was coping with the surgery.  I expected it to be horrifically painful but in fact for me it was not at all. It’s tight and uncomfortable yes but there’s no pain as such. other ladies were having a harder time and struggling to walk and experiencing a lot of pain, but I’ve realised that I am much stronger than I ever imagined.

Now it’s 5 days since the op and I’m home. I have bandages on my breast and a closed wound on my tummy. I’m being naughty and lying down too much using my stomach muscles to pull me up. It’s hard to get comfortable and impossible for my dad to move me around every time I need to move. Plus it doesn’t hurt just pulls a little.

if you’re considering this op I urge you to get your bowels moving as quickly as possible after surgery.  

 The opiates and anti sickness meds constipate you. Add  not moving around much and eating meal after meal, every day you don’t go the worse it will be. You need laxatives and to drink lots of water. After not going for 5 days and with laxatives I had a horrible horrible time. I would say it was worse than the op itself. Then keep on top of things. Fresh fruit and prunes and whole grains. You don’t want to get piles from straining or rip your bum which is a thing people.

So there was my experience. It’s early days and I’m pretty bruised 😓

  but my tummy is flat (and there’s still lots of swelling). I don’t have a clue what my new boob looks like yet but all will be revealed soon…

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