***Scary post-op photos below; view at your own risk***

I just wanted to announce that I was discharged from the hospital at about 11:30 a.m. today and am typing this from the discomfort of my very own home office chair.  It felt like they were in dire need of vacant beds because the attending plastic surgeon, Dr. Louie (who did my DIEP flap reconstruction), the charge nurse and then the various other attendings all came to see me within a 2 hour window, all asking, “How do you feel about going home today?”  I knew my recovery was going well enough to leave, but a lot felt safe about staying in the hospital for one more day.  Plus, I was hoping that they’d take 3 out of 4 drains if I stayed 1 more day (but they only took 2/4).

I finally did get a chance to have someone from OT help me shower and “teach me” how to get dressed with my limitations.  After both of those experiences, I am pretty confident that any literate child over the age of 10 would’ve done just as good of a job “helping” me with these things.  My OT basically helped me get undressed, sat me on the shower chair and reminded me of all the various ways I couldn’t move my arms.  This would be helpful if I actually had the ABILITY to move my arms (or torso) in any of those directions and I really needed to back off of doing so.  But, at the moment, I look a lot like a Johnny 5 getting around anywhere.  My arms are so close to my sides (because of the discomfort and inflammation) that I can barely lift either one more than 10 degrees from my side or in front of me.  “Teaching me to get dressed” was much of the same.  She laid my clothes out on the bed for me and said, “Remember your limitations; now go ahead and try to get dressed.”  I brought my surgical camisole (which is a zip front and has drain pockets), a button down shirt (because I can’t lift my arms), sweat pants, and a pair of TOMS.  I thought all of these would be pretty easy for me to get into/out of during my recovery.  But I didn’t think about how much my limited range of motion would effect me. I was only successful in getting my shoes on unassisted.  The rest was just a short lived disaster.

When I put on a button down shirt, I basically get one arm through a sleeve, and then reach behind me to get my other arm through.  Because I can’t reach anywhere even close to behind me, I had to sort of pull my shirt up way too far on one side, and try to toss the excess over my other shoulder.  It was and is a total bullshit.  She was quick to add a lot of “No, no.  You’re going to hurt yourself!”, but nothing much else in the way of successful, pain free (or even pain light) techniques.

I feel like I hit a lot of milestones today for a lot of “can do” items.  I walked  a pretty significant distance from my hospital room, to the hospital pharmacy, and then to the car with Cate.  I didn’t wear my seat belt home (naughty, I know) because just the thought of that kind of pressure across my abdomen and my chest made me curl my face up.  When we got home I was able to walk up our entry way stairs, and up all of our stairs, unassisted.  I’m standing almost completely upright, but my skin across my abdomen is still pretty taught.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be standing up straight.  It hurts my lower back to be hunched over all the time, so the faster I’m upright the less I have to deal with back pain. I also stripped my drains by myself (which took me a surprising 15 minutes/side), was able to feed myself, put together a medication chart, go outside for a short walk with the girls while they rode their bikes, and got into and out of bed only 1 time unassisted.

I hurt myself trying to get out of bed alone after my nap today.  Those hospital beds being set at a pretty big incline make it so much easier to bring my knees up to my chest, sort of roll half onto my side, and then put one leg down, sit up a little more, put the other led down, then sit up straight.  Our bed is pretty low and even with the menagerie of pillows, I used my core too much and felt like my dermabond was going to split wide open.  Mike had to come in and help me up by pulling forward on my shoulders.  Other than that, I really felt tremendous pain two other times today at home.  The first time our cat, Kameha, jumped up on my back.  He has done this since he was a kitten.  It was cute when he was 6 months old and weighed 2 pounds.  But now that he’s 6 years old, weighs 9 pounds, and I can’t use my arms to get him off of my back (and the instant weight on me was killer, too), it was truly horrific.  I yelled for help until Cate was able to come and get him off me.  But, instinctively, I put my hands behind my back to pull him off.  This caused a searing pain across my chest, into my sternum, and throughout my abdomen.  I was sure I was going to start seeping blood from somewhere.  I had to just stand there for a few minutes and cry and then collect myself.  I have never had this experience with pain before.  Another complicating factor is that it hurts to cry, cough, breathe deeply, or even yell.  This is because the surgeons had to remove a small part of my ribs to reconnect the veins in my chest to my DIEP flap.  So my ribs (and sternum) are going to be pretty tender and very delicate for at least 4 weeks.  The second time I was in a lot of pain was unfortunately not too long after Kameha jumped on me.  I came downstairs to sit at the kitchen table and to have a glass of water.  I asked Mike to help me by putting his arms underneath my armpits and lifting straight up.  Either I didn’t explain well enough how his had to happen, or Mike missed the point.  He put his hands under my armpits and started to squeeze my ribs together as he was lifting up, and I immediately started crying and asked him to put me down.  I think I still hurt from this one, or it’s just a build up of both incidences.  I’m hopeful that I’ll feel better tomorrow and have zero occurrences like either of these.  Tomorrow is already looking much better than today.  My sister, Alyssa, arrives in the morning for a week to help me out during my recovery.  I can’t wait to see her.

As far as taking care of the girls, I still very much need assistance.  I can’t even hug them right now, which was pretty devastating to Olivia when I first came home.  We told them to be gentle because I have an “owie”, and I just showed her my bandage on my abdomen and nothing else.  She forgot a couple of times later in the afternoon that I was still out of commission and would cry that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pick her up or hold her.  Cate, my friend and our nanny, has been doing such a tremendous job with the girls.  It really is hard to express the depth of my gratitude for taking such good care of the girls and making the time pass so quickly with fun and outings when I was in the hospital.

Finally, I am posting more photos of how my body looks during this recovery time.  I’ll probably try to make a Flip video of myself getting around the house and out on walks just so other women can see how the range of motion is limited (hard to pick up your feet when your core is so sore).  I have very little to almost no bruising, which I was told I can thank my breast surgeon, Sara Javid, for using her delicate touch during the bilateral mastectomy.  My abdominal scar incision is a little off kilter.  I’m not sure why, but will ask Dr. Louie at my follow up visit in a week.

Other than that, the pictures just look a lot like I feel.  Uncomfortable.  Now would be the time to leave the blog unless you’re into looking at post op photos, seeping wounds, swelling, and all.

Frontal view of incisions, dermabond, DIEP flaps.

Right side of my body, 5 days post op.

Right side image of my body, 5 days post op.