The next step in the tram flap reconstruction process is nipples, and four weeks and a day after my original surgery, it was time for that step.
This surgery was done in the surgery center connected to the plastic surgeon's office, under a local anesthetic. Dr. Geter almost need not have bothered with that, since I still have basically no feeling in my boobies.
That leads me to a digression of sorts, called "Things No One Told Me Before This Surgery."
1. I was told I was going to be given blood thinners in the hospital, to prevent blood clots. But no one told me they were going to be in the form of a shot administered into my stomach.
2. No one told me I would have utter and complete numbness around both incision sites. My stomach is numb from about three inches below the incision to three inches above it, starting at my sides. When I put my hand on my belly, I feel pressure, but that's it. It's as though there is a thick, leather pad over my stomach. Except that it's warm to the touch. The breasts are numb starting just below the chest. And here's the kicker: I've now been told that it will most likely always be that way. I knew it wasn't going to be the SAME, but I was not expecting this.
3. No one told me that having your arms stretched out Jesus-on-the-cross style for a 12 hour period during surgery would have such a lasting effect. While I was still in the hospital, the nerves in my left hand would cause my index finger to jump around and tremble. Both arms trembled for over a week after the surgery, and even after four weeks, my handwriting still isn't quite right.
4. No one told me that insomnia is a side effect of anesthesia. Up until a week ago, I was only getting about 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night and not even napping during the day.
5. No one told me that the process of the tummy tuck, a by-product of the reconstruction, itself had a by-product. It wasn't until my hair started growing back in (and I had been shaved from my chest to my crotch, so you know what I mean when I say "hair") that I realized that the top edge of my pubic hair was higher than it used to be. Apparently, when Dr. Geter yanked the skin on my tummy tighter, he pulled it from both directions, nearly giving me a beard. I always thought the danger of wearing really low-rise jeans was that your butt crack might show, but that is now the least of my worries....
Back to the nipple surgery, which was a very casual affair. The doctor, two nurses and I chatted while the radio played in the background (Alice 95.5, music to make nipples by). Dr. Geter DID warn me that the new nipples would be bigger than I expected but not to be alarmed, because they would shrink down to a normal size over the next three months. It took him about half an hour to do whatever it is he did to make a nipple on the right side, then he moved to the left. While he was working on my left side, I tried looking in his glasses to see if I could see a little of what he was doing in the reflection. I couldn't, but the nurse saw what I was doing and told me I could look at the completed right side. She threw back the drape and what I saw made me blurt out, "It's hideous!" The new nipple was HUGE and had little black threads sticking out all over, making it look like a cocklebur. Dr. Geter looked a little crushed, but he continued and, hopefully, at least made them match.
When the surgery was complete, Dr. Geter snipped holes in the middle of multiple squares of gauze and threaded them down over the new, gargantuan cocklebur nipples, finishing with plain gauze squares and taping the whole thing down with wickedly strong paper tape, telling me not to get them wet and to leave them on for an entire WEEK. It reminded me of the movie Gremlins ("never get them wet and never, ever feed them after midnight"). God knows, I don't want them to multiply, so every measure will be taken to keep them dry.
Watch out, Jennifer Aniston. I'm halfway there!