I’ve blogged before about getting treatment for my self harm scars, and the other day I had a procedure called fat grafting on them. So here’s a lil update on how that went, what it involves, and what happens next!
I didn’t know much about the procedure at all before I rocked up to the hospital to be admitted for it, but during my pre-op appointment with the surgeon I found out a little more. When I’d looked it up online, I found out the procedure could be done under local anaesthetic, but I would be under general anaesthetic. This is because harvesting the fat to use in the surgery can be painful. As it was general anaesthetic, I would have to fast from 3am and could drink water up until 7am, and I’d be nil by mouth after that.
I had swabs taken from my nose and groin, took a pregnancy test and had my height and weight taken. The surgeon asked how long it had been since I’d last self harmed, and he took a brief medical history and medication list, talked through the risks associated with the surgery and I signed the consent forms.
The next morning, I had to remove all jewellery and nail varnish, put on compression stockings and a dashing paper gown, and remove my bra and hair grips because of the wiring/metal. A junior doctor of some sort comes in to draw arrows on my arm (why do they do that???) and stares dumbfounded at my scars for a while before asking if I minded telling him how I’d got them. The surgeon pops back in to ask if I’m all set, the anaesthesiologist comes by and the consultant I’d had my initial assessment with last year breezes in and does a lot of “hmmmm’ing” before saying hopefully they can help and giving me a pat on the back.
I was BRICKING IT about going under general anaesthetic. The nurses ask me a lot of questions as we head down to theatre, trying to keep my mind of it. I am petrified as I climb up onto the operating table, blink around at the room full of blue scrubs and blue masks and blue hats, and feel my brain go funny and my eyes go blurry as someone presses a mask to my face.
Someone tells me I will feel a sting in my hand. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I remember that my hand is very, very sore before I do.
Fat grafting involves taking fat from a donor area of your body and injecting it into an area that’s lacking in it. In my case, an incision was made in my tummy and a tube inserted to suck out the fat- 60mls of it. The fat is then ‘cleaned’ before it is injected into my arm in a series of diagonal lines. The hope is that the fat will ‘puff out’ the parts of my arm that have become indented and disfigured as a result of self harm.
I’ve been told 50-75% of the fat injected into my arm might stay, and that it will take months for any difference to become apparent. If it is successful, the treatment can then be repeated a few more times. There’s no guarantee it’ll work (it’s still a relatively new treatment), and my scars will still be visible even if it does because of the colour difference between them and my skin, but it will hopefully give it a smoother appearance as it’s currently quite ‘bumpy’.
I come to when faintly hearing my name called. I am back in my room and there is a flurry of people in blue scrubs holding charts. The first thing I notice is the pain in my stomach. Someone says I’ve been given morphine, which I think is unlikely, given that I am IN PAIN. I am shaking and shivering violently and my teeth are chattering and someone notices this and tucks my blankets round tighter. I am covered in wires, which I will become dimly aware of when I try to go to the toilet several hours later, but I will only register this fact when I am home and discharged and keep finding ECG clips stuck to me. I still have an oxygen mask on and my nose is very, very itchy. I remember willing the people in the room to LEAVE, because I think it would be rude to go back to sleep while they are still here.
Someone tells me I am wearing special spanx, when I check, I am mortified to discover that my knickers have been put back on over them, which means someone must’ve had to take them off first.
I drift most of the day. Someone changes the oxygen mask to a nose cannula after a while and nurses come in and out all afternoon to check my obs and for bleeding through my bandages. I am given coedine and anti nausea medication throughout the day and fed sips of water through a straw. After a while, I try some toast. I manage a bite and have to lie back down. I throw up after attempting to go to the bathroom and suddenly there are nurses in cleaning it up and passing me tissues and sick bowls and rubbing my back. I am suddenly very, very hot. Someone sets up my fan, and it whirrs until I am discharged the next day. Every time someone comes in, they ask if I’m not freezing. I’m not.
When my room is quiet again, I hear a radio playing quietly, can hear the songs, but cannot determine where they are coming from. My head feels cloudy and when I talk the words come out slower and thicker than I am saying them in my head. You know in cartoons when someone gets hit over the head with something and that little circle of stars spins round their head? I feel like that.
At dinner time, I try some ice cream, promptly throw it up. I lie there and smell the sick up my nose and taste it on my breath and cannot get up to do anything about it. It is 10pm before I am brave enough to get up to pee again.
I sleep like a log, am woken for obs and wound check, shuffle back to the bathroom and stumble back, sweat on my forehead and dizzy and shaky and sick. By morning, I am better.
The next stage
I’m back home now, still in a lot of pain (though mostly my stomach, my arm just feels that kind of achy you feel after having stitches), still very sleepy, still a little nauseous (but nowhere near as bad the day I got out of theatre!) and a little emotional.
For the next week I’ve to keep wearing those special spanx, keep my arm bandaged, my dressings unchanged and my arm elevated. A lot of liquid has gathered in my belly and I can feel it sloshing around when I walk. Sleeping is a bit of a challenge as I usually lie on my side, but can’t because of the pain in my stomach and needing to keep my left arm propped up on a pillow. There’s a bit of bruising poking out the top of my bandaged arm and I can’t tell what’s iodine and what’s bruising on my stomach! It hurts to laugh, to bend, so sit upright. Peeing is a hassle and I’m avoiding showering until I can figure out the best way to go about it without getting these dressings wet!
I have a wound check next week at the big hospital, and I’m hoping then I’ll get a look at my arm! After that, it’ll be a few months before my next check up to see if there’s been any change and where we go from there.
I’ll keep blogging my journey with this, and hopefully at the end of it all I’ll have a before and after picture to post! I’m keeping realistic with my expectations- I’m not hoping for any wild transformations- I’ve been warned from the start there might be no change at all, but sure we’ll see!