I haven’t written about it on this blog, though I’ve been talking about it a lot elsewhere. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to really talk about something so personal in such a public way. But since it is dominating my whole life at the moment, I decided to try and write about it and let everyone know what’s been happening the last few weeks.
At the beginning of September, I finally (after about 15 years of indecision) booked myself in to talk to a plastic surgeon about getting a breast reduction. My chronic back and neck pain have been especially bad the last few months, and I have become so top heavy that I couldn’t exercise or even keep up with my kids. With over five years of constant pregnancy and breastfeeding, my boobs needed an overhaul. I was physically AND mentally in need of relief.
To my astonishment, my insurance approved the surgery VERY quickly, and things moved fast. I was booked for surgery on September 23rd. I was in equal parts ecstatic and terrified. I did my research, and I asked a lot of questions of my plastic surgeon, so I knew that it would be about 6 weeks of recovery, and I wouldn’t really be able to pick up my children during that time. If I’m honest, that was the one thing that scared me the most – not being able to hold my kids. But Mark and everyone else reminded me that it was a short term problem for a long term solution. I’d be a better mama to my kids if I wasn’t in so much pain all the time.
I went into the surgery with a big smile on my face, excited that I was about to change my life. Mark took some time off work so he’d be there to take care of me for the first several days. The surgery went well. I woke up in recovery, happy and amazed at how tiny my boobs looked. I was sent home with printed instructions and some pain relief, and I settled in to relax and recover.
But things didn’t go to plan. Within the first 24 hours, I developed a fever. When it reached 101, I called my surgeon’s office. The on-call surgeon told me that it was probably nothing. Anesthesia can sometimes cause fevers, and I shouldn’t worry. I felt a bit stupid for calling, but my instructions had said any fever over 100.4 should be reported. I took some ibuprofen to try and help, but over the next few hours, the fever grew. I spent a night delirious, shouting and singing and not really knowing what was going on. I clutched my phone in one hand and a thermometer in the other, and every few minutes I went from boiling hot to freezing cold. By the next day, my fever was over 103. This time, Mark called the hospital, and once again the surgeon on call told him that it was nothing. My skin wasn’t red, there was no vomiting, and without those things, it was obviously not an infection.
That day, I had been told to go ahead and have a shower. I slowly and painfully got undressed and climbed into our shower. But I was so sick that the room started spinning, and I nearly passed out. It was awful. I yelled for Mark, and he came in and got me out. I went back to the couch, still sick and feeling awful. At one point I told him, “I really think I might die.”
On the third day at home, I had a bit of relief. My fever broke. I felt exhausted, but I didn’t feel too ill. My temperature fell to 99. I thought I was past the worst of it. Mark took the kids to the gym so I could have a nap. I slept for several hours on the couch, only waking when he got home. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew things were bad. Sure enough, my temperature had soared to over 104. Once again, Mark called the doctor on call, and his response (if you can believe it) was, “I think your thermometer is broken. There’s no way it is that high.”
By this point, I was throwing up violently into a cardboard box, even though I had not eaten anything for three days. We decided to head to the ER.
As you can imagine, they took me a little more seriously there than the on-call doctor did. I was admitted right away. My fever was still very high, my heartrate (even though I was half conscious in a wheelchair) was nearly 150 bpm, and my blood pressure was worrying. It was obvious to everyone I had an infection. Several lots of blood were taken from different parts of my body, I had an IV, and I was taken for a CT scan with contrast so that they could rule out a pulmonary embolism. Mark took the kids home and got his mom to babysit so he could come take care of me, and once they confirmed I would be admitted, he got me settled in my room and then left for the night.
A slew of doctors and nurses were taking care of me, but I was in so much pain and so sick I wasn’t really able to keep track. At some point, the surgeon in the ER had stabbed me in the boob with a needle and taken a bunch of fluid out to check it. He seemed torn about whether it was normal or not. He mentioned that I’d be put on antibiotics, and he said that the worst case scenario would be that I’d need to have more surgery.
Unfortunately the worst case scenario turned out to be my scenario. I was woken up early the next morning by the surgeon saying, “Mrs Reed? We need to get you back in the OR.” I asked when it would be, and he said, “Right now.” I had about five minutes so I could call my husband and let him know. He was distraught. It was too early for him to be able to get a sitter, so he wouldn’t be able to be there for me. I told him not to worry and to call my mom to let her know. I told him to kiss the kids for me.
As they lowered an oxygen mask over my face in the operating room, I breathed as deeply as I could, wishing to be put under as fast as possible so I didn’t have to deal with anything anymore. I just wanted it to be over.
Thankfully the second surgery found the infection and fixed it. I woke up feeling a lot better and was even able to eat. I spent three more days in the hospital before being allowed to go home.
After over a week, I returned for a check up, and they removed the drains from my breasts, which was an incredible relief. But within a few days, I began having further issues. Various parts of my breasts were opening up. The drain holes weren’t closing. I was still leaking a ton of fluid.
A few nights ago, I was laying in bed, when I noticed a squishy bit in my right breast. When I pressed on it, it started to squelch like a boot stuck in mud. I pressed again, and it sounded like my boob was – for lack of a better word – farting. I pressed once more, very gently, and a gush of liquid erupted from underneath. I was scared and disgusted and didn’t know what to do. I was too afraid to move. I was too afraid to look. So I just ignored it and went to sleep.
The next morning I noticed a tiny hole had opened up at the end of my incision. Presumably this is where the liquid had come out. It seemed weird, and I was sad but I didn’t figure it would be a problem. By this point I had been putting tons of surgical pads and gauze in my bra to catch all the random blood, pus and fluid that was leaking. I changed them once or twice a day, depending on how bad the drainage was.
The next day (yesterday) I went to change them and noticed that that TINY hole that had opened was now a MUCH bigger hole. It was about ten times the size it was. I quickly placed my bandages on and ran to call the doctor. The receptionist said I could make an appointment for a few days from now or I could take photos and email them in for the doctor to look at. I resignedly decided to send in photos.
I have been taking photos of every stage of recovery, so I was able to show the tiny hole as compared to the larger one less than a day later. But when I went to take a photo, the hole had opened up even more! I had also had a minor fever for a few days, so I was obviously worried about infection.
The doctor’s assistant called me back and said it was probably fine, but she agreed that I could come in if I wanted to. I wanted to.
Mark came home from work and drove me up, and by the time we got there, the hole had split again and was now TWO big gaping holes. My heart fell. I felt like I was falling apart. Splitting at the seams, very literally.
Thankfully the doctors told me that I was not infected. He explained that the squishy feeling in my breast had been a pocket of trapped fluid. When I pressed it, it had been forced out through the tiny hole, and that area of the breast was weakened. It had opened up, and we needed to keep it open so that the inside of my breast could heal first. He taught us how to pack my breast with gauze to make sure the outer skin doesn’t heal before the inner tissue does.
As you can imagine, it is an incredibly unsettling experience to have a giant gaping wound in your body that you have to knowingly keep from healing.
So that’s where I am now. I have run the gamut of emotions from elation at finally having small, perky boobs to humiliation, anger and fear at the awful recovery I’ve had. Today is three weeks since my original surgery, and I go back and forth between regret and hope every few minutes.
I’ve been video blogging the whole experience since I found out I was getting the surgery, so if you’re interested in watching, you can view them here or watch below.
At the end of the day, this experience has been indescribable. I did not anticipate any of these complications, and I am pretty sure that this is not a normal recovery. But since it’s been a huge problem in my life lately, I didn’t feel it was something I could ignore. I would love it if others could benefit from reading about what I’ve been through because I know I spent a LOT of time reading other people’s experiences before I had my surgery.
Here’s to the next stage! Hopefully I will get some good news soon.