Yesterday was the day! First, I could finally take a T shot after over three weeks without. Then, I had my appointment to take off the huge stack of bandages I had wrapped around my chest and got to see my results for the first time. Here’s how my surgery and recovery went.
Day 1: Surgery. I showed up with my father and wife at the surgery center in Jamaica Plain first thing in the morning. As instructed, I came in sweats with a button-down shirt. I got undressed and in the gown, and they set me up with an IV. I met everyone on the surgical team (seemed like a lot of people). Dr. Bartlett came in last. He has a very warm and friendly bedside manner, and after some small talk, he had me lower my gown and began (as he put it) designing a deck on my chest. I was less nervous the day of surgery than the night before, but still had these lingering feelings of finality. It was hard to think that after they knocked me out, I’d wake up with some body parts missing. The last thing I remember is the anesthesiologist assistant rolling me down the hall and joking that she hoped I didn’t remember that part, because she was terrible at steering.
When I woke up, everything was hazy. I remember the doctor couldn’t get ahold of anyone on the phone, so I was trying to give another phone number, but nobody could understand me. They told me all went well and the surgery lasted 3.5 hours. I also had no drains, due to Dr. Bartlett using a new technique. This was a relief. I had a really good cocktail of drugs pre-surgery, so I remember only a slight creeping pain. They gave me a little morphine and I dozed back off. My wife and dad were eventually let in, and I was released by mid-afternoon. I spent the rest of the day lying around.
Days 2-3: Post-op haze and Thanksgiving. The next few days, I was groggy, but I had very little pain. In fact, I had no use for the narcotics at all, and I took only Tylenol. I had been warned about nausea, but fortunately, I didn’t experience this either. The day after surgery I was able to enjoy a full Thanksgiving meal with my family. I had a lot to be thankful for! I mostly just wanted to hang out in bed when I wasn’t eating. (Not sure that’s different from most Thanksgivings, anyway.) Here’s me in all my padding:
Days 4-6: Discomfort mounts. I never really experienced pain, but the discomfort of the padding increased as time went on. It felt like a bear hug, but under my armpits especially, the padding started to dig in and make things very uncomfortable. I’m not a back sleeper, so trying to sleep in and upright position on my back was causing sleeping problems and a sore lower back. My Dad took me on a few daily walks to get some fresh air and get the blood flowing and that seemed to help. But I was anxious to get out of the wrappings. My wife and daughter had to leave Boston to go back home. It would be sad without my daughter’s energy and my wife’s support, but I was coming up on the home stretch.
Day 7: Reveal. I returned to Dr. Bartlett’s office one week after the surgery to get all the wrappings off. This was the most nerve-wracking part. I was scared to look down because I thought I might freak out and have a last-minute regret. So I looked straight ahead, then glanced down. Then took a picture to send to my wife (who was in the appointment with me via Facebook). The results were better than I feared. I didn’t look like I had a cadaver’s chest. The scar didn’t go all the way across my breastbone. The nipples looked like they were taking and were the perfect shape and placement. After it sunk in, I let myself go home and take some more mirror selfies. I took a LOOOOOOONG shower and felt like myself again.
Day 8: Freedom. Now, I’m experiencing more pangs of pain than I have before as I regain sensation across my chest. I’m glad I’ve decided to take another week off work. I have more range of motion, but I still have lifting restrictions and enough discomfort to make it hard to concentrate. When I’m not reclined, I get tired (healing uses a lot of energy!) and I like being able to nap during the day and limit my energy expenditures. I am really looking forward to recovering next week at home with my wife and daughter. Only 5 weeks until I can try to pick her up again.