True Story: One Woman’s Tummy Tuck
“It hurt when I ran,” says Heather, age 37, a recent patient of ESANA’s Dr. Pan. “After having my twins, I found my stomach had stretched, and the muscles weren’t the same. My husband was sick of my complaining about it.” Heather found she needed layers of tight clothing around her abdomen so that the skin would not bounce up and down. By the time her twins were two, she started thinking about tummy tuck surgery.
Not only did she feel uncomfortable running; as a singer with a band, she felt less confident on stage, as well as during meetings with clients for her photography business. Heather found that running and her regular workouts had no impact on tightening the extra skin around her stomach. “I’d work out but didn’t get any results,” she explains. “It was very depressing and hard to stay motivated. I often thought, ‘What’s the point?’”
Heather heard about ESANA’s Dr. Pan from an ad on NPR and set up a meeting. “I trusted her immediately,” she says. “I just had a feeling about her—and I was right!” After Dr. Pan explained the procedure to her, Heather decided to wait until her two-year-old twins were five since it would have been hard to avoid lifting her sons while she healed.
In October of 2015, Heather scheduled the tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty. Before the surgery, Dr. Pan explained the procedure and recovery in detail. She would fix the muscles, so Heather would have the same muscle configuration as before her pregnancy. Since Heather was in good shape, Dr. Pan would remove loose, excess skin and pull the stomach skin tight, without liposuction. Any stretch marks below the belly button would also be removed. While Heather normally researches “the heck out of everything and asks a million questions,” she was satisfied with Dr. Pan’s explanation of the surgery. “I just felt like I could really trust her,” she says.
The tummy tuck procedure
The procedure itself took about an hour and a half. Dr. Pan made the primary tummy tuck incision above the pubic mound, from one hipbone to the other. She placed sutures in the fascia of Heather’s abdominal muscles to pull them into a tighter position. Next she lifted and redraped the abdominal skin and removed the excess. Finally, Dr. Pan created a small hole through the redraped skin and sutured it around her navel. “The surgery went very well,” says Dr. Pan. “Heather was the ideal patient. She is healthy and in great shape. This is not a surgery for patients who are overweight or obese. This is not considered weight loss surgery, but more of a body contouring procedure. Since pregnancy can undo the work on the muscles, it is also best that patients have had their last child before the surgery.”
Since the procedure took less time than was scheduled, the medical center actually returned some of Heather’s deposit. Afterwards, she woke up without the severe nausea she had felt after previous surgeries. The patch prescribed pre-surgery kept her comfortable in recovery. “I actually felt hungry when I woke up and wanted a cup of coffee,” says Heather.
Heather explains that with her post-surgery medications, she never did feel pain, just a feeling of tightness since Dr. Pan had pulled the skin tight to ensure a flat, pre-pregnancy stomach. “I was off pain meds by day three and slept in a recliner for about two weeks,” Heather explains. “The worst was the boredom from doing nothing. I was paranoid that I would hurt myself–I didn’t want to damage her work!”
Singing with the band by week six
Heather’s husband and family were able to take care of her twins during the recovery period, especially during the first two weeks. By week four, Heather was walking around normally, although she was never off her feet after surgery. By week six, she sang with her band for a performance. “I didn’t dance as much as I normally do, but I felt ok,” says Heather.
She also photographed a Bar Mitzvah six weeks after the operation. While she felt exhausted, Heather carried all of her own photography equipment, although it “took a few more trips.” For the first nine to ten weeks, she continued wearing the required compression garment so that the body would heal appropriately. Now, three months after the surgery, Heather still occasionally wears a Spanks garment if she is lifting something heavy just as a precaution, even though it is medically unnecessary.
Motivated to stay fit and healthy
In summing up her surgery and recovery period, Heather is enthusiastic: “My surgery was easy. Other people talk about infections or massive drainage. Some complain about continuing swelling. I didn’t have any of that. I feel amazing about my body.” She also takes her responsibility to stay in shape seriously. “I want to make it last,” says Heather. “Now, when I work out, I see actual results as more muscles build. I feel motivated to stay fit and healthy.”
Heather continues, “My husband is very happy, and my confidence level is so much better than before. Now I can just focus on singing without holding in my stomach. When I meet with a photography client, I can just focus on the person without worrying about how I look.”
Heather is so satisfied with her procedure that she has discussed the surgery openly with friends on social media. “In the beginning, I thought I wasn’t going to tell anyone because I thought people would judge me,” she says. “Now I want to tell everyone because of my great experience.” Heather has found friends very supportive on Facebook and has shared before and after pictures on RealSelf, a plastic surgery review site. “I’m not going to hide it,” says Heather. “I feel fantastic!”