How do you fill a huge hole in your head? My plastic surgeon had the answer, a Latimas dorci free flap….
As I came out of anaesthesia once again I looked for clues to get an indication of how the operation had gone.
I tried to focus on the wall clock. It was saying 11 something.
That didn’t seem right, but maybe that was just me being confused.
What was a fact though was I felt rough! I had been put under plenty of times now, but never felt like this?
I had gone into surgery at 9.30am, I was told to expect a 4 to 6 hour operation.
How could the clock only say 11, that means I’ve been in theatre for an hour?
As the mist cleared it was explained that there had been complications, and that I had in fact been under for 13.5 hours! A bit shocked and worried I tried to make sense of it.
I thought of Sue who I know would have been calling for updates as soon as the 4 hour mark had passed!
To go for 13.5 hours there must have been something awful to have happened.
I checked myself as best I could as I was very sore. All correct and present. I called Sue from the hospital phone at 12am to put her mind at rest, and she had already spoken to my surgeon who had explained the problems they had to overcome, but she was calm and pleased to hear my voice, as I was hers.
We said goodnight until the morning.
All I wanted to do was sleep, I threw up, it wasn’t pretty.
I couldn’t sleep as I had to be tested every half an hour to monitor the transplant and make sure it was surviving. A nurse would wake me, and then prick my newly transplanted skin with a needle to see if it bled! (They did also use a gadget that listened to the blood flow which was a little less archaic) If it showed signs of failing then it would mean immediate surgery.
Morning came and my new skin looked like a pepper pot!
I am pleased to say that the early signs are really good. I am very sore, my face is numb, my back has a searing pain whenever I move. I had an odd sensation “downstairs” and peering under the sheets I find I have a cafeter inserted, which was a bit of a shocker. I also have drains fitted in my neck and back to drain off the excess fluid that the body creates, this reduces the swelling and infection.
I was moved to a ward which was really entertaining, with the other inmates there brightening my day with their antics. I stayed there for a week, I still had my cafeter, and another bottle for the drained off fluid, so when I had to do a number 2 I had to shuffle off to the loo with my handbag of pee and flask of puss soup.
It doesn’t look much now but once the stitches are healed and and the swelling subsides it should look like me again, but for now here are the results
It looks a bit rough now, but it will settle. you can see the lighter skin over the eye, that is the skin colour from my back. The scar down my face follows the path of the vein the surgeons fed through to the artery in my neck. Again they say this will heal nicely.
The thing is that this is not quite the end yet. Where I had titanium implants screwed into my skull to hold a prosthetic eye in place, well they have to be re-bedded once the transplant has healed, and only then can they start on the new prosthetic eye. This will be some months away yet, as the healing time will have to pass, and then the operation to re insert the implants, further time to wait for that to heal, and only then can the slow process of creating a prosthetic eye start.
I suppose looking at myself and feeling the pain and discomfort I feel right now, it is easy to ask “was it worth it?”. I had already gone through the worst kind of surgery and over the 2 years I had healed and felt better (despite the hole) my nice prosthetic made me look like me again, surely that was ok for getting on with my life?
I wanted to do this right for me. I didn’t want to grow old with a huge hole in my face, and though the wounds are sore now, I know that the pain and the scars will fade, and I will live a long and happy life now this is all behind me.
After a week I was allowed to go home. The drains had been removed, which made everything more comfortable. My back felt like really bad sunburn, and I could only sleep in a certain position for weeks. The surgeon had explained that the procedure would affect my strength on the left, and I expected a very limited use of my arm. The limited function of the arm was less of a problem than I expected, and it just felt bruised. I have a 12 inch scar down my back now. Maybe I should go into character acting… Frankenstein maybe…
I had a marathon to train for, but I allowed myself 6 weeks of doing nothing to stretch, pull, split any stitches. I was advised not to go to the gym, or build any muscle. I must say I excel at doing nothing, and eating rubbish so I did pretty much that for 6 weeks.
After the 6 weeks, I did start training for the marathon, I only had 3 weeks til the big day, I went to the gym and pulled my blobby belly back to shape. I was pleasantly surprised at how much strength I still had. Again, I expected much worse.
The rest of the marathon story is told in the next edition of man V life!
This is my experience of this transplant surgery. The reality for me was that it was pretty painless, and the idea of losing mobility or strength didn’t happen. I say painless, this is mainly the result of my nerves in my face being cut, and the transplanted skin and muscle having no nerves attached. I have some mean looking scars, and a lot of swelling down my cheek, but it didn’t stop me running a marathon some 8 weeks after the operation.
I still have to clean my nose out daily with the douche bottle, I guess this will be a permanent procedure.
The scar and swelling caused my mouth to not open properly on one side, This affects me eating (not that you’d notice!) but I am now almost able to smile without looking like a gurning Elvis.
I look forward to being normal again. iGoggle is launching and I know that there is a demand for quality eyepatches.
I have 4 sons, Dylan, Seth, Harry, an Thom (sues son) and I can finally look forward to seeing them all grow, and help build a life with Sue for all of us, what ever it takes…