From Stephanie, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
(Medical concierge support provided by Cosmetic Surgery Travel)
Stephanie keeps a blog and wrote this entry while in Bangkok. She gave her permission to publish it here.
Day 1, day of surgery - 7:00 a.m., at the hospital
I silently practice my yogic breathing, IN ... two ... three ... four… OUT... two ... three ... four… IN... two ... three ... four… OUT... two ... three ... four…
As I lie on the surgical table, I know this is the ONLY way I am going to survive these next few hours.
IN ... two ... three ... four… OUT... two ... three ... four…
I can't believe I am actually doing this, that I am actually carrying through with this. C'mon, it's only eyelid surgery.
The thoughts race through my head as I lie in the O.R., looking around at the room. All the unfamiliar equipment, the sterile equipment, the nurses dressing one another into their sterile garb.
They drape me in green sterile sheets, wrap my head, all except my face, and leave a small opening above my tummy for the little bit of lipo the doctor's going to do so he can take some of my fat and inject it into my frown lines.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see him - Dr. Chartchai - plastic surgeon extraordinaire - arms raised as the O.R. nurse helps him with his gown and his gloves.
This is all so foreign to me. I have been fortunate enough to never have had a hospital stay, let alone time in a surgical environment.
I look up at the monitors to see what my blood pressure reads. Yeah, it is up slightly from 20 minutes earlier, before I got on the table. Not surprising, huh?
Oh, a chilly feeling all over my face and my tummy as I'm "swabbed" down with an antiseptic wash.
Dr. Chartchai had told me when I first met him that he likes to talk to his patients while he is working. We had already agreed on the music he would be playing. Coltrane, yes, I like Coltrane. Or maybe Dizzy. He said he liked Santana. Very cool.
(The guy probably thinks I am a bit loony as I also asked him what he would be doing the night before he worked on me. I wanted to make sure he wasn't planning on being out late, partying till dawn…I remember reading somewhere that I, as a patient, have every right to ask my doctor such questions. After all, I am placing all my trust in him. I am at his mercy when I am on that table!)
Dr. Chartchai is very good about telling me exactly what he is about to do, and if it will hurt. I had forewarned him that one of my big fears was needles, and getting shots! But today, just as in our consultation, he reassures me that the pain of the shots is nothing that I cannot survive just fine.
IN ... two ... three ... four… OUT... two ... three ... four… IN... two ... three ... four… OUT... two ... three ... four…
I keep returning to this breathing pattern, concentrating hard, focusing not on the pain of the needle but the rhythm of the breath…
Suddenly, I realize he's begun the procedure. I can't FEEL what he is doing but I can HEAR him working! It's an odd sensation. I have the feeling he is threading my eyelid.
Some time later, I hear the "clip, clip" sound… I can only guess that he is cutting the skin at that point. But thank God, no pain, just the sound.
Little did Dr. Chartchai suspect, I am sure, that we would be talking so much throughout the procedure. I am by nature quite the conversationalist. This, coupled with nervousness, is making me talk, talk, talk.
He's a good sport…our topics range from, What made you pick this area of medicine, to religion, to hobbies. Turns out he has a love of cars, just like my husband. So I talk on and on, about my husband's car projects, car shows, classic cars, etc.
Not only am I having my eyes done, but he is also cutting out two deep moles on my face and putting in fat in a facial crease.
We're done. I can't believe that I have been in here for over 3 hours! I can almost say that time flew by.
The nurse immediately places a cold pack over my eyes and I ask if it's in the right place…I can't feel the cold below my eyebrows. Then someone reminds me that I am numb!
Dr. Chartchai hands me the mirror to look at myself, and quips, "You look like a raccoon!" And yep, I sure do! Purple, swollen, not a pretty sight.
As the nurses help me off the table, I realize I am a bit wobbly in the knees. Not from the surgery, but from the residual valium they had given me before surgery.
I sit in a wheel chair and am wheeled out to the waiting area. Independent me thinks, I shouldn't have them moving me about in a wheel chair…I can walk. But I try to stand up - guess it was a good thing I didn't jump off the operating table.
Oh yes, I ask Dr. Chartchai, before he leaves, how many shots did he give me this morning? I want to tell my husband. I know he won't believe me! Dr. Chartchai says, Well, I don't know, I didn't count but maybe 8 or 10 all together. I know they won't believe this back home!!! What, me so brave?
As Julie meets me, she so sweetly looks at me and says something like, You look great! She introduces me to the nurse, a lovely and gentle Thai woman, who will be visiting me the next couple of days.
We make our way to the cafeteria for some lunch before I go back to my hotel. I feel pretty good, just a little wobbly from the valium. But no pain in the face.
I feel ok being out in public as I had brought with me some very large prescription sunglasses, bought especially for this surgery. I knew I wouldn't be able to wear my contacts for a couple of weeks.
Just about the time we are leaving the hospital for my hotel, I start feeling a bit of pain in my face, a heavy, dull pain that seems to be below my eyes, more on my cheekbones.
Dr. Chartchai had given me some Tylenol to take home. As soon as I reach my room, I pop one and very soon the pain is gone. I remember someone saying that the more I iced my eyes these first 2 days, the quicker the recovery and less swelling. So armed with two ice packs, I get comfy in my bed, with icepack over the eyes, and listen to CNN on the TV.
2.00 p.m., at the hotel
No sooner am I settled than my Thai nurse arrives, armed with gauze for the icepacks and some bottled sterile water for my face. She shows me how to clean my eyes twice a day and apply the anti-biotic cream that had been prescribed.
Being a news junkie, I am happy just to lie in bed, ice over my eyes (oh, it feels good) and listen to CNN.
I keep waiting to start feeling some pain. But I end up never using any more of the Tylenol. (I had heard from 2 other women who have had eyelid surgery done before. One in particular had warned that I should get some heavier painkiller for afterwards. Both had said that I should expect some "weeping" of the eyes those first days, and some itching as well. These things never happened.)
I sleep off and on through the afternoon. In the evening, I feel fine enough to go downstairs and bring back a sandwich to my room.
I can't wait to look at myself in the mirror this morning! Hmmm, I wonder, What will I REALLY look like after all the swelling has gone?
I very gingerly clean my eyes, just as the nurse had instructed. Then it's back to bed with the ice pack!
My longtime girlfriend, who has been living in Kuwait and whom I haven't seen in about 3 years, is flying in this afternoon to spend a few days with me. She is a nurse so I am anxious to hear her comments about my eyes!
Around 11 this morning, Julie's nurse comes by, looks at my eyes, and gently helps me clean them a little more. Her touch is soft, delicate, and careful. What a joy to have her here.
Julie arrives just a little while later, with a beautiful package under her arm! Ohhh, I love gifts, especially surprise gifts! We don't really treat our friends and family often enough with these unexpected treats.
Do you mind? I ask Julie. Can I open it? I tear into the beautifully wrapped package and find a wonderful, white, waffleweave cotton robe with slippers to match! The Saturday Night Live line popped into my head, It's not how you feel, it's how you look!
My friend arrives and can't believe how chipper I am! We rest (I, with more ice and she, with jet lag) and later that evening go out window shopping and to have dinner. I'm surprised again that I really don't feel more pain. And where's all that "weeping of the eyes" I had been warned about?
After I ice for a couple of hours in the morning, we hit the trail to go sightseeing! We're out most of the day; I'm not self-conscious at all, as I am covered pretty well with my super-star sunglasses! But I must admit that it does feel good when I ice again in the evening. I keep those ice packs working overtime as long as I'm in my room. Maybe in a few days, I'll use the concealer makeup Julie brought me.
Hmmm, not bad…the purple eyes are turning more into that greenish, yellow bruising. Swelling is down a lot! But I'm still icing as long as I am in the room. I remember that sometime during the night I had awoken when I felt myself touch one of my eyes. Maybe it had itched. I don't remember. No harm done, though.
Big day…stitches out! I am reassured by my American nurse friend that it shouldn't hurt at all. I am anxious to hear Dr. Chartchai's reaction to how I look. Am I really healing well?
In his office, I'm on the examination bed. I start breathing, start counting. IN ... two ... three ... four… OUT... two ... three - done! It seems I'm on and off the table within moments. Stitches are out. I DID IT!!!!
I have to say it's such a sense of relief that I have actually had this done. I have been researching for almost 2 years about this procedure, about hospitals and doctors in Bangkok. It had been very easy to read all about cosmetic surgery. There's more than enough out there to educate even the most resistant patient.
I knew I couldn't afford to have this done in the US. And there had been such positive articles and stories coming from Thailand. The hard part had been choosing a doctor and hospital.
I came to Julie Munro and to Dr. Chartchai through such a circuitous way, I feel very pleased that all turned out so tremendously well. If it hadn't been for Cosmetic Surgery Travel with the handholding they gave me before I came to Bangkok, and with Julie's care and attention to detail once I got here, I may have chickened out.
But I didn't, and now I am finally ready to tell friends and family that I did it!