November 22, 2011

Surgical drains (and other TMI)

Ahhh, relief!  I got three of my surgical drains removed today. Unfortunately, I still have one left in for a couple more days. Some of you were asking about the drains, so I'll do a quick explanation.  After abdominal surgeries, most doctors insert a number of drains (number depends on the extent of the surgery), a tube that rests inside of your abdomen for about 6-12 inches or so, and comes through a tiny incision (held in place with a single stitch, so it doesn't slide out) and then there is a few feet of tubing that leads to a grenade-shaped bulb.

Any fluid that accumulates in your abdomen (blood, pus, saline solution that was used to irrigate during surgery, etc) goes out through the tubes and into the bulbs. It was my job to record how much fluid came out (there are measuring lines on the bulbs) and empty the bulbs by removing the little cap and squeezing them into the toilet.  I had to do this a few times a day. It's not as gross as it sounds, honest.

This is what I looked like today after my shower--wearing my compression garment, with drains coming out the top of my pants and clipped to the waist band of my pants.

The drains aren't really painful, but they are VERY annoying to lug around with me everywhere. Especially in the shower. I can get totally naked in the shower, but I have four tubes coming out of my groin and hip areas. Jerry (or my mom) has to stand there while I shower and hold the tubes so that my hands are free to wash myself.

You'll notice that the color and amount of drainage varies in each drain. That's normal. The one on my left hip hasn't drained anything since about two days after surgery.

The compression garment I have to wear is bothersome sometimes, but it actually feels good to have everything feel like it's being held together. Sometimes I worry that one little sneeze or cough will make my whole incision pop open. Or it'll make this new "girdle" of skin pop open and my stomach will look like what it used to (not that it's possible for that to happen).

Even with the compression garment off, it feels like I'm wearing some sort of girdle. Everything feels so tight and compressed.  I have to wear the compression garment 24/7 for at least 6 weeks. To give you an idea of how tight it's supposed to fit...

Yes, Dilaudid was flowing through my veins, thankyouverymuch!

This was a few hours after surgery, so I look like I was busting out the seams of the garment. Now it is definitely looser, and my surgeon actually had me order a size small (this one is a medium) to wear since the swelling is going down. 

The point of wearing the compression garment is to help the skin adhere back to the muscle wall and keep it in shape, which can take 5-6 weeks. Like I said, I like it because it holds everything together. When I'm really swollen, it can be hard to take a deep breath though, because it is so constricting!  My abdomen feels SO WEIRD all the time--it's completely numb, but when I press on it, I can see the fluid retention underneath, so it looks "puffy". The doctor said this is normal until the skin adheres back to the muscle.

As far as dressings for the incision go, it totally depends on the surgeon. My surgeon didn't have me use any dressings, which was FANTASTIC. There weren't any stitches on the surface skin--she used internal stitches that my body will absorb, and then she used some sort of glue for the surface. I didn't have any dressing to change, I just have to wear the compression garment at all times (except showering). I actually haven't had any problems at all with the incision (thank goodness!) and it's healing really well. I've been following my surgeon's instructions to the letter for everything, and it's definitely working.

So about the drain removal...

I was terrified. I've read from some sources that it doesn't hurt and just feels "weird" but from other sources that it was excruciating. For the past couple of days, my hips have been hurting, and I think it was from the drains in my hips. They passed right over the bone, which was a very weird feeling and very achy.

Anyway, my appointment was a 3:15, and Jerry drove me. It was about 40 minutes away, which is much closer than the hospital or the Detroit clinic. They had me undress from the waist down, including my compression garment. It was so uncomfortable while waiting for the doctor to come in--I hated sitting there without the garment on, because it felt very tight and weird.

When the doctor came in, she said, "Let's remove some drains!" and I was so excited that she was going to remove all four of them. She looked over the record of the drainage output, and decided to leave one drain in (my left groin) until it puts out less than 30 cc's in a 24 hour period. She said probably Thursday or Friday.

She did my most annoying drain first, my left hip. I was the most nervous for this one, because my hip bones have been so touchy--just weird feeling--lately. She told me to take a deep breath and then blow out hard. While I was exhaling, she pulled it out. Honestly, it didn't hurt at all--just felt VERY VERY strange. Next, she took out the one in my right hip, and same thing--very strange, but no pain. Then she did my right groin, which was the weirdest one of all, because it was SO LONG. I exhaled and it was still coming out, so I took another breath and exhaled again. Finally it was over. I felt so relieved after that!

She checked out my incision all the way around and said it's healing just as expected, so that's good. She told me two more days of lying down or standing (no sitting up). She also cleared me for exercise! She said I can even run if I feel like running--just for the record, I DON'T. She just said no ab-work for a couple more weeks. I've never done ab-work in my life, because there was no real reason to. She said I can sleep on my stomach, if I'm comfortable--hopefully that will cure my insomnia! I hate sleeping any way other than on my stomach. She again stressed the importance of eating a lot of protein for at least the next 5 weeks.

I came home and had a pumpkin brownie that I baked earlier--NOT from scratch ;)

So Robin, one of my readers (she doesn't have a website to link to, otherwise I would), is a graphic designer, and she very generously offered to make me a blog title banner for my page. I sent her a bunch of pictures, and she sent me 3 different banners to choose from. So if you visit my blog, you'll see that I have a new look up top :)  I think it turned out GREAT.  Can you tell I'm getting bored with all this time on my hands?!


  1. Glad to hear everything is going so well post-op! Love the new banner. :)

  2. Also, that brownie (not from scratch) looks amazing! Will have to try it!

  3. OKay, when I first looked at the "drains" photo of you wearing the brown pants/compression garment I seriously thought those were your clothes laying flat on the floor. Then I realized that was teeny-tiny YOU wearing the clothes! My gosh, you look amazing!

  4. Thumbs up for the new banner and getting the drains out. I thought that you created a body shaped drainer display on cardboard, and was like, how did she do that? Duh!
    Have a happy Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for your blog! ;)

  5. I love the new banner Katie! I noticed it right away. I figured you were feeling better and bored. Looks great!

  6. Thank you for giving me kudos on the banner. You haven't been the only one with extra time on their hands. It also helped that this was a fun project to do. :-) Congratulations on the drain removal, too!! Now all I can think about are those brownies!!!!! Did you ever figure out the calories for them and do you use your special Peanut Butter for the top?

  7. I have to say, the ladies that have said that they thought the picture with your drains were on the floor or on cardboard are totally right! That's what I thought at first glance too! That was trippy, your so tiny! Yay!!! I really like your new banner. Great job Robin! : )

  8. I swear I thought the same thing (about the drain-wearing mannequin)! I did not expect for you to show us EVERYTHING! My girlfriend had reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy and she said the drain removal was excrutiating. maybe your's wasn't so bad because of all the nerve damage from the actual surgery?

    New banner looks good! And who would put lemon zest in a pumpkin peanut butter brownie? Strange.

  9. LOVE the banner. The drain removal play-by-play has left me feeling a bit queesy - lol. I am such a baby with this stuff. When I was 17 I had a brain tumor removed and they packed my nose with gauze to soak up some of the blood draining from my head (lovely) anyways, when they pulled out the gauze it was like 20 feet long and they told me the same thing - big breath but it just kept coming. Ok, sorry if that was TMI, I'm really queesy just remembering that!

  10. I immediately noticed the new banner, it looks great! I am glad you still have the cookie, it is my 2 year old daughter's favorite part when I am reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your life with us! I tell you about you like you are a friend of mine, even though we have never met.

    I am planning to make your brownies for Thanksgiving. I agree.... who would put lemon zest in a brownie??


  11. Love the new banner. I noticed it right off. It looks very professional.

    I'm so glad you're healing well. For the record, I also thought the photo was of clothes on a hanger at first glance!

  12. I <3 the new layout, I noticed it right away! I think you look fantastic! I am so happy you can walk on the dreadmill.

  13. @Anonymous

    Oh my gosh! I thought the same thing - that Katie's clothes were hanging on a closet door or something! I was thinking - that's weird that she puts the drains on the clothes and then puts them on! LOL

  14. The new banner is great :) Glad everything is healing up good and that you were cleared to exercise and do some of the things I be your itching to do.

  15. Weird note that you might already know.. did you know that your drains have a name? Jackson-Pratt in fact! I was so scared of them in the beginning of nursing school, but they're not scary at all! I'm glad you're down to 1 instead of 4! I'm glad you were cleared for exercise... even if running doesn't happen for a while it's good to stay moving a little to help with healing! BTW... I have had a couple of abdominal surgeries and the numbness went away!

  16. Love your new banner! You look fantastically thin and trim. I am amazed at your fearlessness. You are a great inspiration to me.

  17. Oh your banner looks great!

    Gah, the drains coming out FREAKS me out. I could almost feel it myself :/

    You look great, though!

    Wendy (Madwin)

  18. Yup, I too thought that first picture was on some flat cardboard type mannequin. :) Glad you are healing well. Ans so relieved that you aren't going to go for a run. I read that part and my jaw dropped.

  19. Okay, I have to say that I'm really glad you're blogging about this whole surgery thing, because I've really considered getting my stomach repaired after I finish losing weight and after reading about the drains, I know I just can't go through with it. Yow. Power to you for getting through all that, but I'm squeamish just thinking about it. I know I'd going crazy having tubes in me like that. That's one of the few phobias I have.

  20. I really like your new banner! It's interesting reading about your surgery experiences...makes me wonder if I will ever have it done. As of now I'm too afraid of surgery. Having surgery of any kind freaks me out!

  21. I'm really squeemish about the drains, so it's good to know what's what, thank you for posting the details. I really really want the surgery when I've lost my weight but the whole idea of the pain and the 6 weeks recovery scares the heck out of me, especially as I'm a single parent and don't know how I'll cope (even though my daughter will have started secondary school by then). Thank you again for posting so much information for those of us that are considering doing it too.

  22. Ha, I totally thought they were your clothes on a hanger too! Yay for tiny waists, drain removals and great new banner! So happy it's healing well!

  23. The banner looks FAB!!! :)

  24. 1st: The banner looks great!

    2nd: I said it before, but I think it is worth saying again, thank you so much for posting the details from your surgery! I feel like I am hearing about it from a friend, and because you document daily, we really get a good idea of what you are going through. It really gives me hope that when I lose all my weight, if I choose to persue that option, I will really know what I am getting into!

    Thank you again for sharing with us!

  25. Oh snap! That banner looks awesome. I'm also a graphic designer and would design for you anytime for anything! I do have a facebook page for my designs actually.

    Thanks for sharing all this info about the lift. all so fascinating to me and just makes me that much more certain i never wanna do it. lol.

  26. I really love your new banner! It looks great! I was actually really interested in the drains too, it looks like it would be annoying. Probably would be a great reason to have a fanny pack lying aroun, so you could wash hands free :)

  27. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience and the facts. I can't believe you're already cleared for running! I have a feeling there is no way I'd be ready to get back to that yet, either.

    Love the new banner!

  28. @Robin

    Robin, I cut the brownies into 24 pieces (they are pretty thick and VERY dense, so a small piece goes a long way, even for ME)--and they have about 100 calories each. That is using "real" peanut butter, and not the PB2. I'm not sure how the PB2 would work in this recipe!

  29. I LOVE the new banner. It was the first thing I noticed today. It looks great!
    I'm glad the drains came out without any pain. 3 down, 1 to go (although it sounds like you may have it out already...I'm clearly behind on reading.)

  30. I was wondering how long it actually took you to start running regularly after this surgery. I will be having an abdominalplasty either the end of this year or next due to losing 135 pounds and 3 pregnancies. I am worried about not being able to run after. My surgeon said 6months which is kinda freaking me out since I have been running regularly for a year now. Your story is very inspirational. Someone posted your website on a group I'm in on facebook.

    1. I started running just shy of 4-weeks post-op. But of course you should listen to your surgeon. Many doctors don't allow running until 6 weeks post-op. My surgeon cleared me after just 8 days. So it depends on the doctor.

  31. Thx for the info. I'm an ER nurse so I will probably play it by ear. Good luck on your continue maintenance.

  32. This site is helping me so much. I am post op day 5 and had been freaking out about the numbness and tightness in my abdomen, butt and thighs. I feel much better now.


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