18th Mar 2018 | 7 minute read

A Skin Graft, an Origami Nipple and the Grateful Undead

I’m now getting messages from people (women) asking for the name and contact details of my dishy consultant. Back off bitches- he’s mine! You really think I went through all this shit in order to give him up now? If you haven’t Nearly Died it’s unlikely that he would be interested anyway, he has very refined tastes don’t cha know?

Now that we’ve got that cleared up we can get on with the story of how I Nearly Died, I hope you’re sitting comfortably.

In the last blog post I told you about the vac dressing and having to move in with my mum and dad while I was on bed rest. The multiple operations that I had, plus the drugs and the emotional strain of it all had knocked me for six and it took a while for me to get back on my feet. I pretty much relived my days at university and stayed in bed for two weeks, this time minus the tins of Carlsberg, the rollies and the ginger guinea-pig (RIP Sir Rodney Weevil).

I am so grateful to all the people who visited me during this time. I was of course under no illusion that they had come to ogle my breasts and so I willingly obliged, despite their loud protests to the contrary. My mum lives about five minutes from the college where I work and despite their heavy timetables and unmanageable workloads, I had comrades from Team 254 popping in to say ‘Hi’ which meant a lot. I had been off work for eight months due to maternity leave and it was great to see some of my work loser buddies and to catch up on all the news. Stinky Sue was a regular visitor during this time as was Fake Friend, Pug Mum and Mrs Books. I also received tons of massively inappropriate cards and messages from those who knew me well but couldn’t be arsed to visit (and less inappropriate ones from people who didn’t know me as well and couldn’t be arsed to visit).

My breast feeding counsellor, Polly, whom I had first met at my NCT classes when I was preggers with Frog, was a huge support. She had helped me through a couple of cases of mastitis when I was breastfeeding Frog, and given me tons of information when I was breastfeeding the Baldy Rats, so I had taken great pleasure in texting her horrific tit pics from my hospital bed. Once I was out of hospital Polly texted me on an almost daily basis checking in to see how I was and making sure that I was staying chipper. I am incredibly grateful to her for both her immense kindness and her practical suggestions during this time, and since. In fact Polly, if you are reading this- we definitely need to get together over tea and cake to examine the photos of my exposed milk ducts. Let me know when you’re free.

A plethora of other kindly randoms took it upon themselves to look after Porl and the kids by cooking meals, getting bits of shopping in and even more amazingly by taking the kids out for hours and sometimes even whole days at a time. My NCT buddies FINALLY pulled their fingers out and started offering the free babysitting that, let’s face it, is the ONLY reason anyone signs up to NCT classes, and Frog had some brilliant days out at Birdworld and Legoland, and a couple of mediocre days out at Petersfield Heath. My Fake Friend went to no actual effort at all, she just let Frog run feral in her garden, but fortunately for her, Frog was too small and stupid to realise he’d been shortchanged.

Porl multitasking by babysitting our children and walking Charlie dog whilst I was in hospital.

All the time I was at my mum’s I didn’t see much of the kids at all and it was really tough not being a part of their everyday lives. When Frog, Thug ’n’ Grump did visit, it was like stepping back into Edwardian times- I’d be propped up in bed on multiple cushions, the bedroom door would open softly and the children, with their hair neatly parted and wearing their Sunday best (complete with stockings and ruffs) would be ushered in, one by one, to enquire after my health. There was to be strictly no jumping or shrieking. The no jumping and no shrieking rule lasted all of five minutes of course which is why their visits were restricted to no more than an hour or so at a time.

It upset me that I couldn’t hug them properly or pick them up but it was lovely just being able to spend time with them. I’m always writing on Facebook about how much the children annoy me- and they do- but they also bring me great joy- more so of course when I only see them for an hour a day.

After a couple of week’s of bed rest at my mum’s I was feeling much stronger- largely thanks to my mum and dad looking after me so well. The nurseys from QA at Home were brilliant and incredibly professional when they came to change my dressings and check my obs. They had all been intensive care nurseys who had turned to mobile nurseying for various reasons and I loved hearing all their horror stories about other (lesser) patients who had Nearly Died. They kept reassuring me that I was the rarest case with the biggest proper clever dick entourage though so I didn’t get too jealous.

Soon I was well enough to move around and leave the house and I decided it was time to go home. I would still have the nurseys coming out but now only every two or three days and by this time I was pretty familiar with the different dressings so I was confident that I could change them myself if I needed to.

And so, with my fatshake pet in tow and with a cute little black handbag to hide him in, I finally moved back home to Petersfield and life slowly started to get back to how it was before I Nearly Died (not sure if I mentioned it, but six weeks prior to moving back home I had Nearly Died). The Baldy Rats were nine months old by this point and not walking (thank god) so as long as they were coralled in one room with some tupperware and a couple of breadsticks for company they weren’t too hard to look after. In fact, this was the second best thing about having twins- the fact that they had each other and could amuse themselves with limited parental input. The very best thing about twins of course is that they are not triplets.

I was still on maternity leave at this point- I wasn’t due to return to work until March 2017 and so I decided to make the most of the time that I had left and started going to baby groups again and reconnecting with all my mum friends. I really enjoyed being back in Petersfield, it’s a lovely town with a big community and I’d made a lot of friends in the seven years that we had been living there. This meant that I had multiple pairs of fresh ears to tell about how I Nearly Died and I set to work with enthusiasm.

I enjoyed a resurgence of the celebrity status that I had had in the hospital especially as I was still attached to the fatshake and could whip it out of its little black carry case whenever the conversation turned to mundane things like other people’s children. There is nothing more boring than anecdotes about other people’s children, much better to chat about Nearly Dying and to amaze people with inspirational tales of pulling ‘dripping’ out of plastic tubing. I made a lot of new friends during this period, although sadly not many of them accepted my Facebook friend requests or my invitations to coffee.

I was pretty much back to normal in terms of my health by the time the vac. dressing was removed and the feeling of being free of the fatshake was immense. I still had lots of dressings and padding and still had to take super strength painkillers but I was pretty much recovered. QA at Home stopped their visits and I was discharged from hospital care and became an outpatient.

The skin graft operation was scheduled for 12th September and would be the last operation I would have to fix the wound. This was six weeks after I had first been admitted to hospital and although I don’t like to talk about it, it just shows you how quickly the body can recover from even something as traumatic as Nearly Dying.

After the skin graft operation had taken place it was a case of then having reconstructive surgery to make my left breast look like a breast rather than an empty bean bag- but these were to be a further six months to a year down the line.

The skin graft operation was scheduled for day surgery so I had to be at QA at 7am- if you have young children you’ll agree that this was a lie in- by 7am I have usually been up for at least two hours. The operation went well and my dishy consultant was happy with the results so I was kicked out of the hospital (under protest) and I went back home to my mum’s to recover.

The skin grafts had been taken from the top of each thigh, 4 strips of skin in total and had been placed over the wound in my breast to allow for my breast to heal. One part of the graft had also been origamied (I’m pretty sure that this is the correct medical term) into a fake nipple. My dishy consultant said the skin origami nipple only had a 50/50 chance of survival so we sent our thoughts and prayers.

The actual breast itself where the graft had been placed was sore but nothing too painful. I was on painkillers but not the high doses of tramadol that I had been on before. The donor site however, where the skin had been taken from formed a long graze on the outside of both thighs and was really sore. I had lots of dressings on but even the loosest of my top quality George joggers felt tight so I spent quite a bit of time just in pants and a t-shirt- again very much like my uni days.

Hacking out on Helen with Tash and Brim.

The skin graft took a while to heal and I had to go to regular plastic surgery outpatients clinics to get the dressings changed, but by this time my general health was good and my dishy consultant said that I was fine to do pretty much anything I wanted in terms of exercise and physical activity. This was good because all the time I had been in hospital and carrying around the fatshake I hadn’t been able to horse ride or take Charlie dog for proper walks, two of my favourite things to do. Getting back in the saddle especially was a hugely significant thing for me and this more than anything marked the end of my illness and the start of my recovery. The first time I went out for a hack on Helen with Tash and Brim was really special and I felt truly grateful to be alive. (Sorry if that sounds cheesy or smug- but I really did feel grateful- there’s nothing quite like Nearly Dying to make you truly appreciate being alive.)

In the next blog post my dishy consultant pronounces me healed (Amen) and explains the next stage in my epic journey- the start of the reconstruction process.

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