Recovering From Abdominoplasty And Gynaecomastia Surgery – First 3 Days
I talked about the night before preparing for, and the day of my tummy tuck and my chest reduction surgery. Now I want to talk about the first 3 days of recovery from my abdominoplasty and chest procedure.
Waking Up From Surgery
The procedure finished around 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon. It had been about five to five and a half hours. My memory of being put back into my bed is very vague and hazy, that’s all I can recall.
It took a couple of hours after that for me to actually fully wake up.
That was around 4 PM.
I was still a bit drugged so feeling a bit groggy and dopey. There wasn’t much pain but I could definitely feel where my fresh wounds from surgery were.
I was too dazed to move to just lay there to gather my thoughts for an hour or so.
Since I was left alone, I assumed everything had gone fine.
Moving scared me though.
I could look down and see the bandages and support garments covering my wounds and just thought I have no idea what is going on here so I’m not going to touch anything or move at all.
My lunch was next to me and while I was still reluctant to reach my arms out, it was close enough that I could use T-rex arms to be able to grab it and eat it.
I wasn’t that hungry but given I hadn’t had anything to eat that day, I felt like I should have something.
And as my phone was within reach, I video-called my family too. They had called a couple of times during my procedure to check in and a nurse called them afterwards to let them know I was out and everything went well.
To the best of my recollection, that was the first time I received confirmation that everything went as planned.
A nurse arrived shortly after and engaged in a conversation about the procedure, confirming its success without complications, as the surgeon expressed satisfaction.
The nurse assessed my blood pressure, inquired about any pain or discomfort, ensured proper dressing and coverage of my wounds, and assisted me in using the toilet for the first time.
That was a terrifying experience.
I couldn’t push myself up with my arms so had to roll on my side and hope to land on my feet, and there was a very definite sting coming from where my wounds were.
I worried that the wounds might come undone while I hobbled around, leaving me stuck with an open skin flap.
Bandages wrapped around my body at that point, blocking my view of the wounds.
Even though I was dehydrated and didn’t have an immediate need, I opted to take advantage of the available assistance.
The nurse assisted me back into bed, elevating my chest and legs in a V-shape due to fresh wounds.
I randomly started binge-watching Downton Abbey, made another video call to my family, had dinner, and then the night nurse took over.
She gave me some more painkillers, and let me know she would check on me a couple of times at night and otherwise I was free to do what I wanted.
I suppose I was still slightly under the influence of drugs, so I slept quite well, with only interruptions for blood pressure checks.
The Day After Surgery
I was a bit dopey but was up bright and early.
The first thing I noticed was that the front of my right thigh had been shaved. I didn’t notice that before and yes, I know it is a weird thing to pick up on all of a sudden as soon as you get up the day after surgery.
The surgeon came to see me first thing and started to talk about how the procedure went, and I interrupted him to ask about my thigh.
I didn’t 100% get the answer but it was something about needing to attach a metallic plate to a smooth patch of skin. Apparently, it is a common practice.
Once we cleared that up, the surgeon helped me up and undid my bandages so I could see some of my wounds for the first time.
Most of them were still covered in tape, but I could see their positions, which was nice. The waistline and abdomen appeared smooth, while my reconstructed belly button had added protection, limiting visibility.
And my abdomen area stayed pretty numb for a good few weeks after too.
The main stitches under the chest were as expected but a bit asymmetrical.
The asymmetry resulted from removing more tissue on one side, but the contour remains consistent.
My nipples made me squeamish due to grafting and additional external stitches that unsettled me.
And the only other thing was a row of external stitches below my chest, over my ribs, which were there to help with scar positioning for my main chest wounds.
And that was a bit terrifying. Looking at metal wire threading through your skin is not a nice feeling, to be honest!
Then that was it. The surgeon double-checked everything, got my support garments back on properly, and helped me get back into bed and that was it.
The nurse then brought me some breakfast and said I can leave at whatever time my family can come to pick me up. They were going to come in the afternoon so I had a free morning, which was mainly spent watching Downton Abbey.
This was when I also started letting people know I had the procedure done. I didn’t tell anyone before because I didn’t know it was happening until the afternoon prior, so I wasn’t keen to start answering questions about it yet.
But now that it was done, went well, and I was in recovery, I felt ready to talk about it.
The swelling around my wounds was now also starting to pick up. It was very noticeable around my abdomen. I was wearing my support garment and the swelling started to feel like it was trying to burst out of that. It was also asymmetrical and much worse on my right side than on my left.
The middle of the chest was fine, but the sides, leading up to under the arms were worse.
The swelling is still there as I write this, around 6 months post-op. But it isn’t anywhere near as bad and the asymmetry has gone.
As my family were on their way to pick me up, the nurse went through the care required for the next 48 hours:
- No shower so my fresh wounds could stay completely dry
- Painkillers for 48-72 hours and then as needed after that
- Laxatives in case the painkillers caused constipation, which they have been known to do
- Wearing the support garment day and night
- Sleeping on my back with my chest and legs elevated
- And booking my follow-up appointments
My first follow-up would be after 48 hours to remove those extra chest stitches. And then at the 1-wee and 2-week mark after that.
Any follow-ups after the 2-week one would be done with my surgeon directly at his own clinic.
When you have this kind of procedure, if you will be getting in a car you will need an extra cushion for support between your body and your seat belt. My family brought that for me. I sat in the back seat clinging onto it for dear life.
When we got home, I got myself up the stairs and went to my room. There was no real problem with lower body mobility or tackling stairs. The only issue I really had in walking around. Swelling in my body caused me to hunch over, making walking for more than 30 or 40 seconds painful in my lower back.
Beforehand, ensure that you take care of certain aspects of your home setup.
I am fortunate that I was staying with my family for this so I had extra help and my mum was home so I had someone with me. And I think having someone at least available to help for the first couple of days is important. You might not need them for much but it’s one of those scenarios where you’re better off over-planning.
With the chest procedure, I wasn’t going to be able to reach my arms past shoulder height for a few weeks so I needed to have button-up and zip-up tops within arm’s reach so that I would be able to dress myself.
I also needed extra pillows on my bed – under my shoulders and under my thighs. That way I would be lying on my back in a V-shape. This would keep the strain off the wounds and stop them from getting pulled.
I did a lot of my own meal prep beforehand and put those tupperware boxes in the freezer. That meant I could just grab them and heat them up when I was ready to eat.
And I had an extra chair in my room so I could sit somewhere that wasn’t my bed.
Sitting and standing from a chair was actually fine throughout – I don’t think I ever had any issues with that. Getting up from and into bed was much more challenging.
First Night At Home
I didn’t sleep at all during the first night at home.
Sleeping on my back was something I couldn’t get used to, and I struggled to find a comfortable sleeping position. If I wanted to adjust my pillows or position I would need to roll myself out of bed, use my restricted arms to try to adjust my pillows and then try to roll myself back into bed.
In terms of pain, the main stitches were actually fine.
It was the extra ones under my chest that were causing me a lot of grief. They felt like little spikes digging into me every time I tried to breathe.
Getting Settled At Home
My first full day at home, so 2 days after my procedure, was completely uneventful. I stayed in my room mainly. My family checked in on me a few times. And I watched more of Downton Abbey.
I couldn’t shower properly. Antibacterial wipes were a godsend to get some sense of feeling clean.
I still didn’t have that much of an appetite but at least it was starting to come back a little bit, so I did eat a bit more.
I also drank a lot of water, aiming for over 2 litres of water a day for 3 reasons:
- It helps with swelling
- It helps with constipation
- It gets me up and walking when I need to go to the toilet, which means I don’t sit for too long
You’re not bedbound at any point but it was helpful to have that extra prompt to keep getting up.
It also helped with digestion.
I was still taking painkillers but I didn’t need them much for my main wounds. The ones that were causing me maximum grief were the ones under my chest. The only relief was knowing they would be coming out the next day.
Second Night At Home
I didn’t sleep well during my second night at home either.
I still couldn’t get comfortable and the extra stitches hurt still.
And I am not sure if it is just a normal symptom of going through the recovery process but my body was really feeling temperature extremes. Warm felt really warm and cold felt really cold.
2 Days After Surgery
The next day felt largely the same, but just a little bit more comfortable.
I could walk upright for 2-3 minutes without back pain, allowing me to get my own food.
I had limited reach in my arms, experienced swelling, relied on painkillers, and was unable to shower.
Today was my first follow-up appointment to remove the extra stitches. A taxi took me and I had a friendly, smooth ride.
I brought along the extra cushion, and my appetite was improving. I also updated my colleagues on my surgery as they were curious.
48 Hour Follow Up
Normally the first follow-up, except in an emergency or something urgent, would be around 1 week. Due to those external stitches, they had booked mine for 48 hours.
I was just glad they would be coming out now.
The nurses were absolutely fantastic. I was still squeamish about the stitches but they were very calming. Removing them did sting a bit, as expected, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
Removing metal wire from your skin is unpleasant, but I suppose it was tolerable.
They replaced the surgical tapes and examined my wounds, content with the healing progress. I finally saw the uncovered wounds.
My nipples unsettled me as the external stitches were visible, so I avoided looking at them.
But the rest was fine.
They confirmed the date and time of my one-week follow-up appointment, and off I went.
I slept a lot better that night. I did still find it hard to get comfortable and I did still need to get up if I wanted to adjust my position.
The absence of those extra stitches made a significant difference, and I greatly appreciated not experiencing that stinging sensation every few minutes.
That is a pretty concise recap of the first couple of days after my surgery. We’ll also be covering 1-week, 2-week, 4-week and a few months of recovery so keep an eye out for those.
Please refrain from considering anything in this post as medical or professional advice. If you have any questions, please speak to your own physician.
If you do have any questions on my own experience though, feel free to get in touch.