The Other Side of the Drape

By a NPS Staff Member

When you work in healthcare, there’s the assumption that you “know everything.” Especially in this day and age where our practice has become so specialized. So, as a nurse working in plastic surgery undergoing plastic surgery, I was like “I’ve got this.” For the most part I was right, I had it, but there were some surprises along the way.

I had seen enough cases of liposuction to know the procedure and what to expect (or so I thought). I was in good shape, I had maintained my ideal weight for over three years, I had just run a marathon so I figured why not go for it. During my marathon training my diet underwent some pretty drastic changes in order to support my performance. In prepping for surgery that was my first challenge.

There’s all this buzz about anti-inflammatory foods, and how we should have them in our diets. Between the added sugar and preservatives, the American diet definitely doesn’t use food as medicine. I decided prior to surgery I was going to follow an anti-inflammatory diet to try to make sure my body and immune system was ready for the healing process. Over the next few weeks, I gradually removed processed foods, red meat, dairy and alcohol. I replaced them with whole grain oats, brown rice, berries, leafy green vegetables, organic chicken, turkey and tofu. I know, it doesn’t sound appealing but when you notice you have more energy and less bloating you keep going. Cutting out the alcohol was also a game changer. While training for the marathon there really wasn’t much time for cocktails since most weekends were spent running and recovering so it was easy to eliminate it. Alcohol is one of the most common causes of sleep deprivation, bloating, intestinal issues and swelling. All things I did not want my body to deal with while I was healing.

Fast forward to the day of my surgery, it was like an out of body experience. I went through the motions of preoperative phase, I signed my paperwork, had my escort, changed into the patient gown, had my markings done then it was time to walk in. In the operating room I had my IV started, the mask came over my face and mouth and I began to deep breath and then…lights out.

My biggest fear going in was that I was going to wake up in pain. To my surprise, I felt none. But what I did feel was extreme exhaustion, I could barely keep my eyes open. While I know this to be normal, I kept thinking to myself “how I am going to get out of here?” And like I tell my patients, I had to reassure myself that with time I will feel better. Well, that didn’t happen either, but after two hours in recovery I decided it was time to go. The exhaustion was wild, I could barely keep my eyes open, my legs felt like they weighed 100lbs each, but I took my time, moved slowly and was assisted into my compression garment and I was on my way home.

Let me tell you, swelling is real post liposuction, and not just in the area where you had surgery. My face, hands, fingers and toes looked foreign to me, getting up to go to the bathroom felt like the most challenging workout. One thing that surprised me about the liposuction was the stiffness. I was so stiff that I found myself getting up every 2 hours to stretch and move around. I found myself pacing the apartment in the middle of the night just to get some circulation going. I continued the anti-inflammatory diet post op, began my massages (which were definitely not comfortable but beneficial). During the marathon training I learned how to meditate, I found this practice helpful when beginning the lymphatic massages. Let’s just say there was a lot of mediating during my first few massages. Your body is tight, sore and swollen and having some massage you is the last thing you want. Some areas hurt, some tickled, but my masseuse assured me this was all normal. With each session things got easier.

Returning to work was tough, being on my feet for 10+ hours was exhausting, and despite wearing my compression garment all day I could feel the swelling pushing up against the constraints of the garment by the end of the day. So, for the first few weeks, I went to work, and immediately went home to rest. Work, rest, massage, repeat my go to schedule.

Fast forward, I’m now over 6 months post op, I get regular lymphatic massages to upkeep my results. I’m working out more regularly than I have in years, my diet is better (however, there’s always room for improvement). In society there’s a huge emphasis on selfcare, I think that means different things for different people. For me, having liposuction and seeing how my body can look has inspired me to take better care of myself, and for me that means, moving my body for at least 30 minutes a day and following a modified anti-inflammatory diet. In life we all need a little inspiration to fuel us to the next level, the start of my inspiration was my procedure.