Tuesday, 24 March 2009

48. Back Home...at last

Hooray!! I made it home..in one piece(?)..or several rearranged pieces anyway.

The sun is shining and my garden has blossomed with a beautiful week of sunshine. I can now enjoy my hard work and relax (??!! I 'will' know what this feels like again one day).

Thank you for your well wishes, your thoughts, I had a good operation and the results are brilliant! Some of the nurses said it was the best reconstruction work they had ever seen so that's reassuring. I think I am about the same size as before but it will take some time for things to settle.

I feel relieved though - not something I can explain here and now..I feel free of the worry. It is truly something I never thought I would feel and I have to sit and think about this some more.

Its good to be home but it is even better to be without my drains. I had 10 drains, 2 from under the breasts each side and 3 from the back where the latissimus dorsi muscle was taken out for the reconstruction. I don't want to detract from the gladness of being home but I am in pain. They sent me home with paracetamol and ibuprofen which often feels like a joke but they take the edge off enough to stop a lot of wincing. I can't lift anything, I can't dress myself, I can't get up in the night and put on a dressing gown..it is a nightmare. Having no arms sucks. The operation means the muscles from your back are tunnelled under your skin, under your armpits and the bruising and ache is hard work. My poor disabled hubby deals with his own pain and now he has to run around after me too. Nightmare..but it will get easier..it will.

It seems like such a mammoth journey to write down at the moment and so I will save the full detail write up for another day when I have the brain power (fuzzy does not begin to describe my memory, speech or concentration right now). My darling hubby has taken lots of photos to document the process, the healing, the changes that occur and I will post these privately on BRCA Umbrella when I can.

I have followed lots of blogs and seen lots of photos of other reconstruction work but not ever really found anyone who had the back muscle reconstruction work done. Most women seem to opt for the implants or TRAM Flap (tummy muscle) option. Everyone seems to say it is not that bad and the drains will be out and things will feel better but with the back muscle (see below image of Latissimus Dorsi muscle) and the site of the drains, you have to sleep and lay and rest on your wounds and drains.

I cannot tell you how uncomfortable it has been and still is. I am not pretending that it is easy. I got no rest without morphine, I constantly shifted my body through pain to ease the pressure on my drains in my back (long tubes under my skin attached to vacuumed bottoms to suck out the weep (sorry for the gross description but that is what they do). It was relentless and I am exhausted from lack of sleep and the pain. The drains, although everyone says that you just breathe in and the nurse tugs them out, were a nightmare to pull. I had 5 each side of me trailing off the bed and put my hands on them trying to lift my body to move and shift, tugging them. My back was so drum tight where so much skin was taken (a large eye shape each side) and the drains touched nerves and my skin was bruised and sore from lying on them all coiled under my skin. This was never going to be a pretend everything is cool site, the enormity of this operation is not to be underestimated..it is tougher than I imagined.

This has to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life but everyday it should get easier. I am plateauing at the moment where my body is healing now I am more rested without all the nurses coming in and out, checking blood pressure, emptying my catheter, giving me pain relief, feeding me, offering water, seeing how I am, visitors, cleaners..it is relentless. Home is where you heal and rest - hospital is where they put you back together and give you a headstart, care for you at the very core.

I watched the amazing nurses of Primrose Ward, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth work flat out, juggle priorities as they constantly change, meet the demands of their patients, share a moment with me, hold my hand, wash my body, ignore the irritability, the tiredness, make me feel safe. I am humbled by the beautiful women they are, they work with their own disabilities like MS, joint problems, single mothers juggling family life, working shifts, being short staffed. They are paid nowhere near enough for what they do - they are amazing and they do an relentless and tiring job. I wonder how many people say thank you to them - tell them they are brilliant? I did, I made sure that I thanked everyone for tolerating me, for helping me, for caring for me, for sharing with me, for feeding me, for cleaning my room. I have shed tears at how stunning these people are, the ones that help people get well again. They have touched me deeply and my week in hospital, for all the pain was worth it to have my faith in humanity restored, to jolt my life back into perspective, to allow me to see the beauty in people again.

I felt like Neo in The Matrix.. I could see all the positive in the process, I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to live a longer life - and I am ever grateful!



Sheiks said...

Have you thought of taking arnica for the intense brusing and poss hypericon for the wounds. I took arnica after this recent wrist op and am convinced it helped the pain immeasurable. Only a small thing up to what you are going through but I am sure it would help.

lingoliz said...

I hope you continue your healing process at good pace LeighAnn, and we are all wishing you the best from Norfolk xxx

Anonymous said...

Glad you are home :) x

Vivian said...

Great forum! I recently ran into The Patients Advantage when looking for a breast reconstruction surgeon. They have a great way to find the best surgeons and it is completely free. Check them out (www.ThePatientsAdvantage.com).