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Breast implants: patient experiences
As women send me their experiences, I'll add them here. As for my own, I had mine done during SRS. I recommend this, since you can save money and will be immobilized anyway. Plus, you get really good drugs with SRS, so recovery is much easier.
[note: I have seen and felt M's implants and was extremely impressed. She has the best result in terms of natural feel that I've seen. --AJ]
I had breast implants in 1983. Before getting implants I did a lot of research. I also consulted with half a dozen surgeons. None of them knew of my post srs female status. After much reading and looking at photos, it was apparent that the subpectoral technique with periareaolar incisions might be best for me.
I also researched the implants themselves. I sent by mail for catalogs from Heyer-Schulte, Meme, and Dow-Corning. I discovered that Dow Corning made an implant with a double lumen shell and a thicker silicone material for each layer of the shell. It was amazing to me that few, if any, surgeons used that type of implant. It cost just a little more than the single shell, thinner version!
I settled on a Harvard Med. School surgeon who practiced from a Harvard Med. School Hospital in Cambridge, MA. He was willing to order the implants that I found in the Dow-Corning catalog. I had to play the difference for the implant cost and the cost of a third implant, in case there was a problem during surgery. I would recommend him highly, but he no longer performs breast augmentation surgery. He currently limits his practice to facial surgery.
I arrived at the hospital the morning of the surgery at about 6 A.M. My surgery was as an outpatient procedure. I would sleep at home that night. The surgery was performed under general anesthesia. The hospital was a medium sized, suburban facility. The surgical suites were in its basement. A clerk directed me to the nursing station there. First I completed some paperwork. Then they asked me to undress in a special room the surgeon had for his patients. Then I donned a hospital gown. A nurse inventoried my clothes and kept them for later.
I was asked to get onto a surgical bed in a small pre-operative, preparation room. The nurses took my vital signs, did blood work and asked the usual health history questions. She asked when I had my last period. I lied and said two weeks ago, since it was irrelevant, as far I was concerned. After the blood work and history they gave me a mild sedative. It relaxed me and made my skin feel cool and pleasant.
After a long wait, the surgeon arrived. He breezed through and said he would see me in the operating room. A few minutes later they rolled my bed down a long hallway, through a set of doors into a longer hallway, all the way to the end, through some double doors into an operating room that appeared to be at the corner of the building. I was awake there while the staff buzzed around in scrubs and masks.
The surgeon arrived and examined me one last time, with gloved hands. He seemed to smile beneath his mask while he summarized the procedure. He pointed to a pair of sterile bowls at the side of the operating room. He said that once the implant cavities were created, the implants are removed from their sterile packages and immediately placed in sterile saline so that no contaminants from the air settle on them. He said that they would go from the saline immediately into the implant cavities. He said that it takes while to squeeze the implants through the small incisions around the areolas. Since I have large areolas this would not be a problem. He placed the incisions on the inner side of my areolas 180 degrees around each circumference. Since I have gel filled implants, this is a bit a trick. The implants are large and the incisions are small. He said the implants are pushed in little by little, while a nurse continually wet them with saline.
He said that the pain from the surgery might be significant because the pectoral muscles must be detached from the ribs beneath them. He assured me that I would get all the pain medication I wanted. After his explanations and pleasant reassurances, he left the operating room. Then the anesthesiologist put me to sleep.
I woke in the operating room, as the nurses called my name. Then my surgeon was there. I was laying down exactly where I went under. I was really groggy and don't remember getting from there to the recovery room. When I became aware of myself in the recovery room I was sitting up in bed. My first sensation was that I didn't want to move a single muscle. Even breathing was excruciating. I sad nothing. I sat there and tried to relax. But I must have looked as white as a ghost. I keep my breathing slow and shallow. Across the room, a very old woman was recovering from hip surgery. She was moaning and groaning. The nurses acted as though she didn't need much assistance.
Once a nurse noticed that I was awake she approached my bed. Her reaction to me was very different. She seemed to figure out that I was in extreme pain. I could feel my body shivering a little against the agony. The pain was a sort that only absolute still could help. I didn't cry or say a word. It was too shocking. A sob would have hurt more than silence anyway.
The nurse told me that they would get me something for the pain as soon as possible, but that it required the doctor's signature. I waited for what seemed like an eternity. When the pain medication arrived, it was a huge dose of pure morphine! It was a great relief. It helped a little. For the most part, it just made me drowsy. I think I dozed a little as the afternoon progressed.
Sometime during the afternoon, I figured out that there weren't any bandages on my breasts except for two small pieces of gauze, one over areola. The doctor said he felt this was better than bandages, since gravity could start working immediately. I looked down and my breasts were beautifully placed and shaped. I think they are exactly that way today, all these years later. I felt more pain on the left than the right. Later I would discover that my surgeon had made the lower, outer side of left breast pocket a little larger and lower than the right. I could feel that distinctly during those first hours out of surgery.
After a few hours in the recovery room, I felt better enough to go home. The nurses helped me put on my smock, a Danskin ballet wrap skirt, and some little flat jazz style shoes I had worn.
A friend of mine, Dennis, brought me to the hospital and took me home. He was great. He almost wanted to carry me up the few stairs into my apartment building. Thank goodness it had an elevator. I lived on the top floor. Dennis was one of those friends you can trust with almost anything. We were both college students. Although I owned a car, we took a cab to and from the hospital that day. Dennis commanded the cabby more than once to drive slowly so that I would not be jostled. Every tiny rut in the streets seems to echo through my vibrating chest. I held my arms tightly to my sides with my arms around my stomach below, trying to remain and still as possible.
After I settled into the bed, Dennis went out to fill my prescription. Thank goodness the morphine was still working, sort of. Her returned with a bottle of Percocets. He made me bowl of Lipton's chicken soup and fed me, so that I wouldn't have to use my arms. Later I fell asleep. I can't remember many details about those first few days. I remember that I did not use my arms much at all. I vaguely remember various friends dropping by throughout each day to help me. Even a week later when I had to keep some appointments, I was very tender, and sat with my hands wrapped around my stomach, holding myself still.
The results of the surgery are beautiful overall. My breasts are as soft as natural breasts. Having compared a little with other women who have had implants, I don't think people should expect to have breasts as soft was mine. The surgeon told me that he was able to achieve his results because he took a lot of time to carefully dissect the implant cavity with minimal tissue trauma. The surgeon required almost three hours. He said he worked carefully through a single fascia layer beneath the pectoral muscle. He also explained that the implant cavities extend downward below the bottom of the pectoral muscle as well. He said avoiding loss of sensation depended on the path of the incision into the breast tissue and carefully avoiding many small nerves there.
For a few months following the surgery, I had partial numbness on the far outer and middle inner side of each breast. It felt like the tingling sensation of novocaine as it wears off after a dental procedure. My genetics gave me very large nipples and areolas. The nipples are very sensitive. The areolas are more sensitive on the outer sides, away from the incisions, than on the inner sides. The incisions around the edge of the areolas are undetectable for the most part. Not one lover has noticed that I have breast implants. They just love my breasts.
During the years after the surgery, my natural breast tissue continued to grow. Today when I lift my arms high above my head, the natural breast tissue is visible protruding a little more steeply than the implant curvature toward the outer edges of my breasts. I would urge any recent srs recipient to remember that breast tissue growth and other body shape changes continue for at least a decade after srs. Also, it took about a year of doing arm stretching exercises to hold my arms straight up in the air above my head. During that time the pectoral muscles slowly stretch until that is possible. Think of it as breast dilation.
I don't think that my breast implant result is typical. My breasts are far more soft than average. My large areolas and good areola pigmentation made it easy for the surgeon to use the techniques he chose. The sensation in my breasts is good, but I think I lost a little sensitivity "edge" because of the surgery. It was long ago, but I think they went from zing to sing. The slight asymmetry, the lower left breast, is also an imperfection. I am glad that I researched the implants themselves too. During a recent check-up with a plastic surgeon, I was informed that they should last indefinitely. It has already been sixteen years.
I think it is important for people to realize that no result from plastic or reconstructive surgery will to be perfect. Even the best outcomes have some minor imperfection. This seems to apply to variations with srs, facial surgery, or breast implants. Most of the women I know who have them, both genetic women and post srs women, are glad they have them.
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