Crazy long blog... My last six weeks of pain from a botched surgery...

Monday, February 04, 2013

Long blog… bit of a rant… bit of a freak out… issues I didn’t plan on with losing weight.

So I lost almost 100#... great. Along with that I had amazing health benefits, more confidence, looked great, felt great…. And extra skin. It happens to a lot of us. I decided to get my arm skin reduced because it was the worst issue I had. My arms were always an issue. I was always self conscious about my arms. So… I got down to 180. Felt great. Finally plucked up the courage to see a plastic surgeon. Found one with good reviews… went in – and BAM! Problem solved.

Except as we all know, the more weight you lose, the more you begin to look at yourself in a mirror. The more you begin to become hypercritical of every pound of fat on your body. Is that a collarbone popping out? Is my wrist skinny? Wait, is that a gap between my thighs? This of course happens to almost everyone going through a plastic surgery procedure too. You shell out thousands of dollars and you think that you will be perfect at the end.

Well… things don’t always work out. After my first surgery I healed up… started working out again… and noticed things weren’t quiiiite right. My left elbow was significantly fatter than my right elbow. You could definitely tell a difference. And on my right side, my incision decided to form a little armpit nipple off the side of my body instead of laying flat. It was weird looking. It was small, but it was weird. So I was going to have a revision on my left elbow – get rid of my extra nipple at the same time. No big deal right?

Well apparently it has become a massive deal. Let me start out by saying my left side looks great. Straight scar… very small… skinnier elbow region. All good. No problems. No pain, most importantly.

Now the right side. This side has literally been in almost constant pain since December 11th. It has been in some form of almost excruciating pain since December 22nd. Yep. Over a month.

What I didn’t realize when I had the surgery, to remove the armpit skin triangle, he had to completely excise my existing armpit scar, and make me a new one. I thought it would be a simple nip and tuck, but apparently the scar tissue is so delicate and easily torn, they had to back up the margins to healthy skin before pulling it closed again. So he did that… and I apparently talked to him while he did it since I just had a local anesthetic… and not general anesthesia…

I don’t know what was different, but these stitches gave me almost constant pain since they were put in. They were worse than I remember the first surgery being – and let me remind you, I had two arms fully done with the first surgery. This time around, for some reason, my right armpit was just in constant pain. The stitches literally hurt me. They looked inflamed. I thought it might be infected, so I made a special appointment to see him a few days early just to check because the pain was so bad. He said, looks fine… no problems… you’re just healing.

So 11 days after my surgery I went to see him again. The stitches hurt. It was almost Christmas, so I asked him if it was okay to take them out. Aaaand I wanted to get in a hot tub with my BF over X-mas… and you can’t do that with stitches. He agreed, let a nurse do it, and left. She took them out – it hurt (common word in this blog!) and then she went… “hmm... Its pulling apart a bit, I wonder if he should look at this before you leave.” *NOW I know I should have said – “Go get him, please.” But it was late… I was tired… and I was happy the stitches came out. So I never saw the doctor.

The next day I finished packing up my car, and went home for Christmas… but my arm hurt. Now I just thought it was a little painful… and I was making a big deal out of it. But I had my sister who’s a doctor look at it, and it was apparently ripping itself open…

***Nows the part where it gets gross… do not read on if you don’t want TMI***

The eleven days of “healing” after the surgery, slowly ripped itself open over the next three painful days. Per my sister/doctor’s orders we did 3-4 wet to dry bandage changes a day. This entails putting wet gauze on top of the open wound. Letting it dry… and then ripping it off. Literally ripping the top layer of the wound off to heal. This is exactly as bad as it sounds. Worse so for me.

Through this all my sister, mother, and boyfriend helped me with bandage changes and all the grossness that goes along with it for the next few days. On the 26th, I called the doctor, and I saw him again on the 27th. Apologies… I don’t know what went wrong. He agreed my sister’s plan was appropriate and I was told to continue it.

So I did… and then I saw him again on the 3rd or so… Again. Wound nasty… pain… similar story…. Keep doing what you’re doing. Same for the next week… and the next week… so we decided to wait two weeks until the next appt.

During this time, we asked. Well… can you just stitch it back up? Close it? Force the skin to grow together? Should I wear a sling? Etc… No to all… apparently since this was an open wound, even though it was not infected in the bad sense – it was colonized. Aka my exterior skin bacteria was in there. If we closed it – I would be putting exterior bacteria INSIDE and that could lead to a very nasty infection. It would be better to let it heal on its own. Also according to my sister this is true.

So two weeks go by. Its painful as f***. My mood is worse because of this. I feel crappy because of this. I’m having trouble at work because of this. I have anxiety because of this. I’m annoyed that I can’t wear cute clothes because of this (legit annoyed!). I hate feeling useless. I hate feeling weak. I hate having to rely on others, and then failing at things when they are not around… Its been a vicious six weeks psychologically. I’m trying to stay positive, willing this to heal, waiting, following doctors orders to a T. And on Friday I had the worst appointment ever with my doctor.

Two weeks previous I mentioned I was almost fainting changing bandages. He didn’t offer help or ask me further. Just said it was me. I went to see my GP because I legitimately almost fell in the shower on multiple occasions and was afraid I was going to hurt myself. I had my blood pressure checked (it was 115/65!!! The lowest number I’ve ever seen! I used to be 150s/90s btw) – that was healthy normal! I had my blood sugar checked. Also normal. He told me the long wound was just messing with my autonomic nervous system – and I just needed to alter my routine to be safe.

Following doctor’s orders, I have to get up earlier than I need to. Eat something or drink something with real sugar (aka calories). He suggested juice. I compromised with a soy/protein/chai drink. So I get up earlier… I eat calories I normally would avoid. And I goof off on the computer sitting up – all so that I don’t pass out when I change my bandages and shower.

At this past Friday’s plastic surgeon appointment, I mentioned this to him. I also had my mother with me because she was in town to help me pack up my stuff and clean my house since I am literally crippled and can’t do that. No heavy lifting… hell no lifting my right arm much at all. Apparently those two things, plus me finally breaking down and crying because I was so frustrated with everything and the pain and the stress… made him kind of flip out on me.

Yep. He b1tched at ME! In the past two weeks since he saw me, apparently my wound was visibly larger and worse looking. According to him I had been healing two weeks ago, and now it was worse. He insinuated that this was my fault. That I had done something, and if it was so bad I should have not skipped my appointment the week previous.

When I said, it just looks horrible and I’ve always been this miserable, he also didn’t like that answer. Basically – I told a plastic surgeon I was horrified with his work and he flipped out. My mom mentioned that she was worried about how much pain I’ve been in. This has been the worst part. In the last two weeks I’ve developed severe pain in my arm below the incision. His response to my genuine pain declaration: “well I don’t know why that’s happening.” I basically described my nerve pain to him and he blew me off. Ignored that I brought it up. I didn’t ask for Percocet. I didn’t ask for pain meds… he just disregarded my pain completely.

By that point I was emotional wreck. His demeanor just kept pushing me off the sane edge into emotional disaster zone. So apparently he also hates tears. He then told me, and this is a direct quote: “Now if you remember, you’re the one who made me do this surgery.” Luckily my mom was quick to respond: “Yes, because it NEEDED to be done. There was a problem that needed to be fixed from the first surgery!”

So we have reached the point in the appointment where he tries to GUILT me? Somehow this whole fluke accident is MY FAULT? He then agrees to do surgery ASAP. So now he’s going to close it and I will have to wear my arm in a sling, restricting my movement completely for 3-4 weeks, and oh by the way you’re having surgery in less than a week. The end. So I got the details from the scheduling nurse. And left. A wreck. I was literally sick when I left. I started crying again… having a mild panic attack/anxiety attack… I just couldn’t understand why I had been treated like that + the fact that my wound had gotten WORSE was just too much to handle. I was sick/shaky/upset all day.

My mom and I went out for Mexican for lunch. I needed a drink and chips and cheese. So I ate horribly to comfort myself out of a sickening pool of despair. And it helped. We called my sister, asked her opinion on the situation, and I sent her more recent photos. At her practice in Kentucky, one of the other partners has experience with wound healing. She suggested a few treatments and strongly advised against surgery.

Around this time I also called to cancel the surgery. I mean, within 30 minutes of getting home I cancelled the surgery. I CAN’T have my arm in a sling for a month right now at work. I have serious experiments going on and a thesis to write. February is a bad month. March would be better.

So after lunch, and work, and talking to my sister, I called the doctors office back at 3PM to tell them that I had gotten a second opinion, this was the treatment suggested, what did my doctor think? Could he call me back and discuss this option? They suggested a wound vac treatment. Basically I would be carrying around a vacuum pump that would pull on the wound to drain it and keep it clean and healing. AND it would only require one bandage change a week. Sold!

And then I got a phone call from the plastic surgeon. He just sounded like he was in a pissy a$$ mood. I can’t quote all of the horrible things here, because I really do need to go to bed, but the short story highlights include:
“well its your right to get a second opinion, and you can get a third too”
“its unfair for someone to diagnose you from across the country”
“You could have this treatment, but its very expensive and I doubt your insurance would pay for it”
“That’s just a horrible idea, you have no idea how it works, and good luck getting it to function properly with where your wound is”
“You think surgery will be bad? This will be just as bad”
“Pfffft – I don’t think they know what they’re talking about”

And many, many, many more… So of course I’m trying to stay composed, and trying not to cry again… which I start to anyway. So now by talking to other doctors, he’s assuming I’m questioning his ability to practice medicine? I was just being a responsible person, getting more information on possible treatment options since he was so dismissive about my concerns and my pain earlier.

Then he tries to FORCE me into surgery. Apparently what he didn’t want to do in the morning, is now the ONLY option. It’s the only option he is willing to discuss with me. So I get off the phone with him as fast as I can so I don’t lose it completely… and then proceed to lose it completely.

Cue all of the anxiety/stress/sickness back again in full force. I’m so nauseous I can’t think… my chest is tight… its just all around bad news. AAAAAND I’m out shopping at Home Depot for all of this BTW.

I call my sister/doctor and talk to her about this a bit. He’s apparently just acting like any normal god-complex surgeon would, and plastic surgeons are apparently the worst of that bunch.

Now my family is talking lawsuits and I just don’t even want to add that to my pile of things to get done… I don’t know if I can take it.

Saturday morning the plastic surgeon called me. Much calmer. Much nicer. I don’t know who told him to call me back and play nice, but he did. He accused me again of keeping him out of the loop – but I when I try to keep him in the loop and discuss fainting *he ignores me and I have to see another doctor to get a treatment plan. Now once again he ignored my pain *so now tomorrow I need to make ANOTHER doctor’s appointment to talk to someone willing to listen to me…

He upped my bandage changes to 4 a day if possible. I’m managing 3. I can’t even begin to describe how bad these have become. Because of the nerve damage in my arm. Yep. I’m pretty sure I have an exposed nerve someone near the wound. There’s a certain section near the middle that’s the hardest to remove. When I do my entire arm lights up like fire. Like lava – excruciating burning pain that travels a defined path down my arm. Except in the past two days its gotten worse. I had sciatica before, so I know nerve pain. This is horrifyingly painful. I’m not joking when I say it can get up to 8 or 9 on the pain scale out of 10.

I was out to lunch with TJ today and I had to stop moving for a minute. My arm went to a full 10/10 on the pain scale for a good two seconds. He said he saw my eyes instantly tear up and he thought I was going to burst into tears at the restaurant. All in the middle of a normal joking situation.

So tomorrow I’m going to my GP to try and get some neuro drugs. I thought I might have some Gabapentin left over from my shingles episode three years ago, but I apparently tossed it. Ibuprofen doesn’t help, and at this point, I’d only take the Percocet for the oxy… So I’m avoiding it.

So where do I go from here? I’m at an 8/10 on the pain scale right now. I can’t fall asleep… and I not only have stress and anxiety, I also have pain. Pain that is becoming unbearable, possibly due to nerve damage.

So now that it might be serious, and I could have serious damage… do I need to talk to a lawyer? I think frivolous lawsuits against doctors are one of the major problems in our healthcare system… but with the way I’ve been treated lately coupled with the possible nerve damage… I just don’t know what to do.

I’m not asking for advice per say, and heaven help you if you actually read all of this… I just am at my wits end with this. The pain is bad enough today, and his treatment was bad enough on Friday, I figured I’d share the whole story with you… Its bad… I don’t know what to do…
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I agree that frivolous lawsuits are one of the #1 problems with the healthcare systems these days. But your problem is not frivolous. I strongly suggest that your primary care physician refers you to a surgeon or something. But I would contact a lawyer because besides the pain your suffering, you may end up paying for things that are not covered by insurance in order to get this problem resolved. I think that since he ignored the situation instead of acting, that he should have to pay for any treatment not covered by your insurance. I really hope you get better soon. I can't imagine having to go through that & I'm so sorry that you have to.
    1838 days ago
    Yes, we read every word. And I agree with everyone else, get an OUTSIDE opinion. And do document everything and whenever possible, take a witness with you to appointments. Do what you need to do to take care of YOU. Your health is the most important thing. Later, if you decide a lawsuit is the way to go, I don't think anyone could consider it frivolous! I'm pretty sure someone advised that doctor that he gave you good cause and that was why he called you. He was "playing nice" to try to stall any action against him.

    Hugs, prayers, and best wishes to you,
    1839 days ago
    Oh, I'm so sorry. :(
    I'm glad your gp was able to give you meds that are actually helping! Good luck at your appointment tomorrow. Keep sticking up for yourself and get second and third opinions. I don't know that the doctor did anything wrong in the surgery itself, but he DEFINITELY was wrong to ignore your symptoms, blow you off, and then try to blame you like a giant sulking baby man. I'll be thinking of you and hoping he wears his Big Boy pants tomorrow.


    1841 days ago
    My GP gave me some good advice, and some nerve pain meds = which are helping. So hopefully my appt with the plastic surgeon tomorrow goes better.
    1841 days ago
    emoticon I don't have all the medical expertise, but I say find another Dr!
    1841 days ago
    This is quite disturbing, and I'm so sorry that you had to go through with this. I don't agree that the doctor should have talked to you that way, and, in fact, I think he was on his "high horse", which made things worse. However, no one is perfect. I wouldn't file a law suit unless I absolutely had to, because things may get complicated and THAT doctor may get nasty (if you know what I mean). Like, if things get worse, or your pain continues for too long, or you don't heal in a decent time, I would definitely say yes you should file.

    You are not at fault and you should not have been made to feel that you were. I do say for next time, definitely see the doctor before you leave if the nurse advises you to. Health always come first. And please keep taking care of it as best you can! Give us an update and we'll be praying for you!!!!!
    1841 days ago
    Dear God!! He has no excuse to talk to you like that, if you have a legitimate concern it his JOB to listen and help you sort it out!! It is what you pay him for. I am a doctor and reading your story has seriously made me think about my bedside manner. My opinion would be to see another plastic surgeon. Hang in there dear emoticon
    1842 days ago
    I have no mouth was opened in awe the whole time reading this. I would be feeling exactly like you in the anxiety & stress department. I hope you get through this sooner than later. my heart goes out to you girl emoticon
    1842 days ago
    I am so sorry you are going through this kind of pain. What's even worse is having your surgeon belittle you like that. There is NO excuse for that and you are well within your right to question what he has said and done.

    I think healing up is your first priority. I would definitely get a 2nd or 3rd opinion. Maybe find another surgeon to help. Because if it were me, I would not let that surgeon anywhere near that incision again. It does not sound like he has your best interests in mind right now. He's just trying to save his own bacon, which might cause you more pain and damage in the long run if he chooses the wrong treatment option.

    You are in legitimate pain, that kind of open wound that is not healing sounds absolutely ludicrous to me (though to be fair, I'm not a doctor), and it's completely understandable how you feel. If I had to live in that constant pain every day and go through those bandage changes, I'd be in worse shape than you are. I admire how strong you've been during all this.

    Wait to see a lawyer until you feel emotionally able to handle it. This is not frivolous by any stretch and don't feel guilty about it. You have every right to be angry. One thing I would recommend is to take pictures of your wound and document every single conversation with your doctor and what was said. Take pictures of bandage changes. Create a timeline of the surgeries, treatments, and the changes in the wound and add dates, times, places, etc. Document EVERYTHING. Bring a witness to any doctor's visit or surgery. When you consult with a lawyer, that is the kind of stuff he/she will want and it will help your case. Plus it will be harder to remember it all when asked on the spot, so having it all documented will ensure the lawyer has all the information.
    1842 days ago
    I just feel awful for you. This has been such a lengthy, horrible process. I think your doctor sounds like he has about the worst bedside manner possible. You SHOULD be talking to someone else. There is someone out there, I'm sure, who can relieve this situation for you. I don't think a lawsuit would be frivolous if that's what you decide.
    1842 days ago
    Hey Sara,
    You are doing the right thing by having your mom come to appointments to act as your advocate. Every state has different malpractice laws with most of them not as friendly for the patient. You may want to contact a lawyer for a free consultation and then evaluate whether the emotional strain of a lawsuit is worth it. Keep your head up and take care of yourself!
    1842 days ago
  • SLEE103
    wow....just wow. I'm so sorry. I am sorry your surgeon was a complete jerk face and I'm sorry about your pain and I'm sorry you may pursue a lawsuit. You are completely right about getting other opinions...I have my own health issues, have for years, and what I've learned is you need to be your own advocate. Which you are! Just like what you put in your body, what you do to it is completely up to you, if you don't think another surgery is necessary, than don't go through with it (the NERVE of that doctor). So, I also agree in getting second, or third...opinions on how to heal and manage this. emoticon
    1842 days ago
    emoticon I'm so sorry this happened to you. Your surgeon sounds like a butthole. I would definitely get that third opinion from someone.

    Keep us posted.
    1843 days ago
    I'm so sorry it's been such a hellacious experience.
    1843 days ago
    I am so sorry you are going through all this. No one deserves to be treated the way you have been treated. I am not usually one for lawsuits really, but you have a legitimate case here. I sincerely hope that you are able to get something to lower the pain when you see your GP. emoticon
    1843 days ago
    If you do file a lawsuit, which it sounds like you might want to, do it after you graduate
    ! There's no way a human could go under all that at once.
    1843 days ago
    Well, this really took lots of energy and guts to write... I'd probably be curled up in my bed crying like a baby for the whole time, so I really admire your strength. I'm not sure what else to say, since I'm not all that good when it comes to advices. On the other hand, you have your family to give you advice and support, and I bet they'll help you the best they can.
    I can only say what helps me in tough situations: this too shall pass... I know it's not much, but it's something to start with... Some day soon the pain will end, and you'll feel great. I hope and wish for you that day comes really really soon!
    Good luck with everything! And don't forget you have all the moral support you need from your friends here. emoticon
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    1843 days ago
  • SARAL72
    My dear Sara,

    I really feel for you, I had my share of horrible medical issues.
    Pain is really an awful thing.

    If it was me, I would try to find a decent plastic surgeon, one with bed side manners....may be one specialized with people burned in fire, because they do have nerve damage too, and excruciating pain.
    And also contact a pain center, those facilities who know how to deal with pain, could be an idea too, they might have the right medication/advice.

    But for sure, I would not think about lawyer right now. Get better first, start a battle in your condition is not going to help. Your health and well being is more important than going to court right now. When your issue will be a bad memory, you will have time to drag that awful "doctor" (some of those people just do that for money, for sure) where he belongs. Keep just all papers, photos, testimonies.

    Just thinking...did someone take a swap of your wound, to analyze what's there exactly? one of my surgeon did that when I was having issues once, funky/scary stuff they found, but at least they gave me the right antibiotic right an was that bad.

    Hang in there, it will get better. The body is resilient, sometimes it just needs a little push in the right direction.
    emoticon emoticon

    1843 days ago
    I read every single word, and I really wish it was possible to give you a hug. And if you did decide to file a law suit against them, I definitely would not think it would be frivolous. If they caused you to have nerve damage, then it is THEIR fault, and THE should be held accountable for it. That doctor is an A** who should be punched in the nose. Please keep us updated on how its going.
    1843 days ago
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