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  • Katie Aspin

My Tummy Tuck Experience

Updated: Jun 29, 2019

The thought of having any type of surgery can certainly be scary, whether you need to have the procedure done for medical reasons or you decide to have something done cosmetically. When it comes to plastic surgery, there are some that think if you decide to put yourself into that situation, you don't have the right to complain about it afterwards and I don't necessarily think that should be a fair assessment. Everyone certainly has the right to their own opinion but we are each responsible for our own body, choices and happiness so why should we let other people influence our decision to be happy with ourselves?

As you can probably guess by now, I recently made the decision to have cosmetic surgery but believe me, making the decision to go under the knife was not made quickly and it certainly wasn't easy. I have mentioned this previously, but I spent the majority of my life being overweight and obese until I finally made the decision to do something about it and take care of myself. I have been able to get down to 150 pounds and am proud of myself because I don't ever remember being this small but after losing 83 pounds (my heaviest was 233), my stomach and upper arms were left with excess skin because of how long I carried the weight around and no matter how hard I worked on those particular areas, they weren't getting any better. While I constantly hid my loose skin by wearing long sleeves and tucking it into my pants, I frequently got frustrated because my body wasn't reflecting all of the hard work I was putting in anymore.

I initially started contemplating skin removal surgery a couple years ago but didn't know if I would have the strength to go through something like that because besides having my wisdom teeth removed in the summer of 2004, I never had surgery or stitches before. I thought about what could go wrong, what people might think of my decision and how I would be able to handle everything afterwards both mentally and physically. On the other hand, I knew that if I did go through with the surgery, clothes would fit me better, I would feel comfortable in my own skin and I would finally have a shot at having the self-confidence that I have never really had.

In April of 2018, I had an appointment with my family doctor and I told her that I had been thinking about skin removal surgery but that I was hesitant. When I mentioned that I didn't even know if I'd be a good candidate for surgery, she looked at my stomach and skin and thought the majority of the flab there was in fact excess skin. Hearing that from her gave me the confidence to call the office of the plastic surgery that I had been researching - Dr. Chris Robinson with Snodgrass & Robinson Plastic Surgery Specialists - to at least schedule a free consultation and once I got in my car after seeing my family doctor that day, that's exactly what I did. I scheduled my consultation for August 16th, 2018 and while I could have made it earlier than that, my mom was going to be visiting from Michigan at that time and I thought I'd feel more comfortable with her in that appointment as well.

Walking into my consultation, I was excited to hear what Dr. Robinson had to say but I don’t think I had quite grasped the enormity of the situation just yet. I am someone who likes to plan and prepare in advance so prior to my appointment, I did some pretty extensive research on what actually goes into the abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and brachioplasty (upper arm lift) procedures, experiences from those that have actually gone through it, items that I would need following surgery, and even Dr. Robinson himself. As I did my research, I came up with a ton of questions and while I’m sure he gets asked the same questions over and over again, Dr. Robinson answered every one of them directly and honestly without a hint of annoyance or boredom. His demeanor was professional, caring and nothing short of phenomenal. After looking at both my stomach and upper arms, he concluded that I would be an excellent candidate for both procedures but due to safety reasons, he would not be able to combine them. To him though, it did not matter which procedure I wanted to have done first – that decision was my choice. When it comes down to it, having a good surgeon is absolutely crucial and after my consultation was over, I knew I had a big decision to make but I also knew that if I were going to move forward with the surgery, I would not even need to meet with another surgeon. Without a doubt Dr. Robinson would be performing it.

After discussing everything with my mom, I scheduled a tummy tuck with Dr. Robinson on December 11th, 2018 to remove excess skin on my stomach and tighten my abdominal muscles. When it came to choosing which procedure I wanted to have done first, I honestly wanted to have my upper arm lift done first because it’s always been the feature that I have been the most self-conscious about. However, my mom convinced me that having my stomach done first would more than likely be the better choice simply because it was (probably) going to have a longer recovery period and be the more difficult of the two procedures. While I can’t compare the two procedures just yet (I’m hoping to have my upper arm lift done this fall), I do not regret my decision to have my tummy tuck done first.

Having the surgery scheduled was a bit nerve racking but since it wasn’t going to be until the end of the year, I wasn’t overly worried about it just yet. However, the closer I got to my pre-op appointment on November 29th, the worse my anxiety got. While I did plenty of research and had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, the fear of the unknown was legit freaking me out. My brain was on overdrive and I constantly thought about what being operated on was going to feel like afterwards and if there would be any complications. I even had a panic attack a couple days before my appointment to the point where I got sick and let me tell you, that was not fun.

Sitting down with Dr. Robinson at my pre-op appointment seemed to help my nerves and I couldn’t have been more thankful to him and his staff. Dr. Robinson answered my last-minute questions, gave me my prescriptions for pain and nausea and issued a pre-op booklet which had directions for the night before and morning of surgery, frequently asked questions, what I could and couldn’t do after surgery and things like that. Dr. Robinson’s staff took a blood and urine sample to make sure I wasn’t pregnant nor had anything in my body that shouldn’t have been there. I also basically signed my life away but overall, it was pretty painless and the next time I was in that office, it would be day of surgery.

The morning of surgery, I was a ball of nerves. I had to be at Dr. Robinson’s office at 8:15 am so I woke up and took a long shower before heading over there because I wasn’t sure when I would get my next one. When I got there, I checked in and was almost immediately called back. Aren’t doctors supposed to be behind by like 20 minutes no matter what time of day it was? Anyway, when I walked back, I changed into a gown and a pair of those lovely blue underwear they gave me and before I knew it, I was on the operating table and surprisingly, it was comfortable. A nurse started an IV and I began talking with the anesthesiologist. He asked about my anxiety and depression and told me that he was going to give me something to help calm my nerves and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery.

When I woke up, it was around 12:30 pm and I was groggy but not really in any pain; I just remember that my stomach felt incredibly tight. The nurses and Dr. Robinson all told me that everything went great. In fact, I apparently was hungry because the first thing I asked when I did wake up was if anyone else was hungry but I have no recollection of that. Before going home, one of my nurses had to show me how to empty the one drain that I had and make sure I could go to the bathroom because with all of the muscle tightening that was done during the procedure, it could take a while to “let go” and let me tell you, she wasn’t lying. I think that process took about 10 to 15 minutes. Once everything was taken care of though, my nurse helped me into my mom’s car to go home where the real recovery would begin.

When it came to recovering, the process was not exactly easy but it was certainly manageable. Everyone’s experience is different but I was never in that much pain per se; it was more discomfort than anything. When Dr. Robinson called to check up on me the night of my surgery, I even asked him if I was supposed to be in more pain than what I was. I honestly expected my stomach to hurt way more than it did but the only time I was in actual pain was a few days after surgery when I had a small coughing fit and I cried because it seriously felt like my abs were being ripped apart.

Besides having a good surgeon, the best thing you can do for yourself if you are thinking about this procedure is to have someone you trust stay with you for at least a few days following surgery. While I hated not being able to do the things I am used to doing on my own, I realistically knew it was not possible and that I was going to need help. I was lucky enough to have my mom here from Michigan to take care of me for just over a week and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. Besides driving me home after surgery, she helped me go to the bathroom and take a shower (thank goodness for shower chairs), made meals for me, dealt with the small amount of mood swings I went through and made sure to get me up every 3 to 4 hours to walk around. While I knew that I needed to walk around to prevent blood clots from forming, it was pretty difficult to do so at first because I had to get used to walking slightly hunched over. Again, because of the muscle tightening, Dr. Robinson said that my abs would need to heal for a week or so before starting to stand up straight again. However, I don’t think I was actually able to stand up straight until about 3 weeks post-op, which brings me to another point: comfort.

Getting comfortable after a tummy tuck is very important but can be frustrating because I knew that wherever I set up shop, I was going to be there for a while. I was told that instead of lying flat, I had to stay elevated so I knew that my recliner was going to be the best way to go. I was basically stuck in the recliner for about two weeks, which caused a great deal of back pain so I was glad I had a heating pad on hand. From some of the recovery stories I read, some individuals were able to prop themselves up in their bed following surgery but when I tried, it was too uncomfortable so I stuck with my recliner. I just made sure to have one or two pillows under my legs to help me stay elevated along with a neck pillow to prevent any neck pain.

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate sitting around and doing nothing so I had to make sure I had plenty of things to do in order to keep my brain occupied. I read a few books that I purchased prior to surgery, colored in an adult coloring book, put puzzles together and watched six full seasons of the Golden Girls. I also had to make sure I set my alarm for every four hours to take my pain meds (I had Percocet) on time. Funny story…2 days post-op, I woke up around 1:30 am to take my meds and almost as soon as I took them, I felt my room begin to shake and I didn’t know if it was actually shaking or if it was a side effect from the medication. After about 10 seconds, the shaking stopped and I fell back asleep. Come to find out, there was an earthquake in Tennessee and that’s what I felt – even though I live in Georgia. Talk about craziness.

On January 3rd (3 weeks post-op), I was finally cleared for light workouts and I was so excited to just be able to do something. I knew my stamina was going to be but I didn't care; I could finally go for walks, get on a stationary bike or hop on an elliptical. On January 31st (7 weeks post-op), I was then cleared for all workouts, but had to just be careful about exercises I did involving my ab muscles.

Making the decision to have surgery was definitely not easy but I am so glad I did it. I didn't realize how weird it would be mentally to see myself in the mirror with a flat stomach because it's not something I ever thought would happen but I am completely happy with the results and would not change a thing.

If anyone has any questions or would like to know more about the process, feel free to leave comments below or send me an e-mail.

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