I want to introduce another woman who has overcome many obstacles in life, and come out the other end intact, happy, and inspiring! I met Karen online one of our closed social media groups when I was having my own abdominoplasty surgery recently. She was a couple of weeks post-op; I was reaching out and sharing my surgery and experiences and so was she – we connected immediately. You know what it’s like – when you meet someone and they just ‘fit’, they feel like they’re part of your tribe. You’ve shared a similar journey.
So let me share Karen’s story. At 125kg and at 36yrs old, Karen tried to lose weight with diet, exercise and obsessive compulsive bingeing (mmmmm I feel like I’m looking in a mirror here!). In 2010 she had a lapband, however because it was making her life a misery by not being able to eat, she had it removed in November 2013. She then had a gastric sleeve in March 2014.
Over 6 years Karen lost about 35kgs (22kgs lost after the sleeve) and maintained a weight of about 89kgs for around 18 months. Although she still had a way to go, Karen decided she wanted to undergo surgery. She had tried to lose more weight but found that she became obsessive and miserable; it negatively impacted her mental health so her healthcare team all agreed that it was now time to focus on weight maintenance. Karen’s healthcare team includes her GP, bariatric surgeon, dietician and psychologist (that specialises in eating disorders). Karen says, “my plastic surgeon grilled me, especially about my psychological health. He made sure that I understood this surgery was not going to give me the perfect body. He made sure I was mentally ready for it.”
Karen says she had a decision to make with regards to her surgery and what she could initially do. She didn’t want to go under the knife any more than she had to but she had a few things she wanted done. Initially, Karen had to choose between having her boobs and arms done, or her arms and body. Her surgeon also suggested she might consider a lower body lift along with her tummy and that they could do the breasts another time. Karen says, “I’m fit, I’m healthy, I’m young enough to enjoy it, old enough to appreciate it, so it just felt that the time was right and I trusted in the surgeon’s opinion, so I booked it in. He did tell me that if I still wanted the arms the thighs done he’s not touching me for two years.”
Before the surgery Karen’s surgeon said it might be necessary for her to have a blood transfusion because her haemoglobin was unusually low. When she had a blood test it was 85 and he was concerned. Karen says, “I kept jamming beef and lamb into me, so on the day of surgery it was 115, although at the end of the surgery it was back down to 65.”
After the surgery Karen says, “I wanted to die when I woke up. I thought to myself, ‘this is the most fucked up thing I’ve ever done! No one should ever have to do this and I thought I was clinically insane. That lasted about 2 ½ days!”
On the day of the surgery Karen weighed 91kg. The surgeon removed 8kgs of skin from her tummy and back, 1.5 litres of fat via liposuction and 1.5kgs of tissue from her breasts. “Basically I got cut from above my belly button to my pubic line right around, and he pulled my sagging butt skin up and tightened it to ‘hug’ my glutes. I also woke up in a compression bra, but it was too big, it’s now a G down to a C. I just started wearing a soft cup bra from Target. I’m still wearing that now and it is so comfortable that I think that it will be my every day bra – especially as my breasts don’t sag any more and I don’t NEED underwires!”
Karen says, “For the first day and a half I was on endone, targen and morphine (pain killers), laying in bed, and on the second day the nurse said ‘we have to get you up and out of bed’, and she literally dragged me out of bed (with me literally screaming and crying, begging to be left in bed) and got me on a walking frame and stood me up and said ‘right move your feet’. I moved 1cm and that’s all I did – but she said ‘trust me that’s all I want you to do, next time it will be easier, I don’t want you to die of a blood clot’. I hated her at the time, but as soon as I got up I felt much better. I was really faint, but indeed I truly felt better, and yes, next time it was easier. It was probably day four when I got up and out of bed myself.
“I had three tubes – 1 in the pubic area, two in my back. I also had a catheter – none hurt coming out so that was good!
“Thank God for personal training and getting my arms strong, ‘cause I could just literally lift myself up and out of the bed using the monkey bar. My personal trainer was a rehab specialist and when I started talking to her 9 months ago, long before the surgery, she started working on me then. I was in hospital for seven days all up and every day just better and better. I actually didn’t want to leave (Canberra private) – it was like a hotel – yummy food and the staff were terrific!”
Karen loves her new body. She says her surgeon was an artist. “He’s exceeded my expectations. I was a size 16-18 two weeks ago, and he said that reducing two dress sizes is a good result. When he took off my dressings and changed them and it was the first time I was completely naked. I asked him if he minded if I have a look in the mirror. I just burst into tears and said “I’m so happy I can’t believe it – my husband was there and he saw the look of joy in my face and it was so great. I remember saying, ‘finally I can have a body I can love.’”
Karen wore a binder – marena brand – it goes from above the waist to just about hip line, so it’s just to support the tummy. “My dressings are around the lower hip, pubic line up and over the thigh, across the back and down to bum crack. Like an inbuilt g-banger!”
Karen says, “I’ve had no pain. My body has been numb – today is the first day I’ve really felt pain 12 days post-op) because of the muscle repair. Up to now I’ve washed myself in the shower and was aware of the pressure on my skin, but couldn’t feel anything.”
All up, Karen had a bi-lateral breast reduction, abdominoplasty, muscle repair, lower body lift, lipo, back lift and butt lift. Karen says all up she had a bit of change out of $40,000. This included some essentials that Karen thinks really helped, such as an electric recliner. “It’s great… really comfy. I shoved a whole lot of pillows on it and really rely on it during the day. I have my afternoon nap in it and it’s nice not to worry about getting myself up.” Karen says she also invested in a pressure pillow and toilet frame.
Karen also arranged to get a temporary disabled parking permit through her GP and considers this essential for anyone going through a similar surgery – even at 4 weeks post op her ability to move can be difficult and she still walks very gingerly and slow.
Well, we think Karen looks amazing and all her hard work has been worth it! Thanks so much for sharing your story Karen!