13th Mar 2018 | 6 minute read

Fat Shake and Vac.

Thanks again y’all for the huge positive response to the first couple of blog posts. I now know exactly how JK Rowling must have felt when Harry Potter was first published. In fact the mind boggles to think what the response to Potter would have been had Rowling written about blackened witches’ nipples rather than boy wizards. She’s probably kicking herself.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blogs you’ll know that by the end of the second blog I was on the slow road to recovery and it was looking unlikely that I was going to die after all.

To be honest- I was a bit upset about this- I quite liked all the fuss and the celebrity status and having a proper clever dick entourage and my own personal microbiologist who I never mention. I wasn’t looking forward to being demoted to a yawno, dullsville, run-of-the-mill patient who wasn’t Nearly Dying, and I was quite tempted to pull a couple of the tubes out of my arms in an attempt to get back onto the A list.

I needn’t have worried though. My condition had been so serious (I Nearly Died after all) and so rare that even though I wasn’t likely to Nearly Die again- I was still on the endangered list and managed to maintain my celebrity status. Although my proper clever dick entourage diminished slightly at this point I clung on to all the best ones and to my deep joy I was permanently assigned to my favourite (and dishiest) consultant who was a plastic surgeon. (You know you’re winning at life when you have your own plastic surgeon).

I was however, distraught to find that now my blood counts had normalised, my own personal microbiologist who I never mention had been reassigned back to his creatures in the lab and would no longer be required to see me every day. I was genuinely upset because Andrew was awesome and I really enjoyed our daily chats. We mostly discussed faecal transplants, gerbils and the safe disposal of biohazardous waste and I was concerned that whole avenues of interest would be lost to me if he was redeployed.

As it was, it turned out that Andrew was just as upset about losing the opportunity to talk shit to someone as I was and he kept on visiting when he could. By the time I was finally discharged, we had become good friends and when I was proper better he took me and Porl on a tour of his lab and showed us the fridges where he stored all the shit. It was awesome. Then later we met up for a coffee in Petersfield but this time without the shit.

Anyway, I digress, let’s get back to the story of how I Nearly Died, even though as you know, I don’t like to talk about it.

I was out of intensive care now and minus some of my proper clever dick entourage but I was still quite a long way from being proper better. I had a gaping hole in my left breast, no nipple and I was in a lot of pain. I was also at high risk of re-infection because of the open wound and the fact that the antibiotics had wiped out my body’s immunity. It was important that the wound was closed up as soon as possible and this meant that the next stage of the procedure was invoked. I like to think that my dishy consultant strode into the hospital one morning, gathered his team around him and said in his most assertive voice ‘IT IS TIME TO INVOKE LEFT TIT PROTOCOL’. I don’t think this actually would have happened but it doesn’t hurt to imagine it, does it?

Whether he actually invoked left tit protocol or not, the result was the same. He came to see me and outlined the next phase of the procedure. He needed to close the wound and the only way that this could be done was with a skin graft. The wound was far too large and deep to close naturally on its own and so he would have to take a large area of skin from the top of each thigh and stitch it over the hole in my breast to close the wound.

I was surprised that he wanted to take skin from the tops of my thighs because as you know, my thighs are exceedingly dainty and I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough skin to go round. My dishy consultant assured me that there would be plenty of spare skin and asked if the drugs were making me delusional.

Before he could slice strips of skin from my legs though he needed to fit me with a vacuum dressing. I had stopped lactating thanks to the hormones I had to take but the wound was still very wet and because breast tissue is full of fat and fluid the site was not able to support a skin graft until it had completely dried out.

So I went under the knife again and had a two hour operation to clean out the wound, neaten up the edges, remove any tissue that was dead or in danger of becoming infected and finally to fit the vacuum dressing itself.

The vac dressing is horrible. It’s brilliant in terms of wound care and the results from patients using it are phenomenal, but, as a patient actually having to wear one- it’s not nice at all. First the open wound is packed with a type of sterile foam and sealed tightly with a black plastic wrap which goes right over the wound and over the surrounding skin. A vacuum pump is then fitted to the black plastic wrap and hooked up to a vacuum pump which has to stay on 24 hours a day, constantly pumping out the unwanted fluids.

Any fats, pus, water or blood are sucked out of the wound via a clear plastic tube and into a large, clear container which the patient has to carry around with them everywhere. It was my new baby. I’d managed to swap the twins for a vat full of fat and pus which most people seemed to agree was a pretty good trade.

My fat shake vac. Better looking and more charismatic than the twins.

You have to sleep in it (the vac dressing not the fat-shake) and once the vac dressing is on, it can’t be removed. The pump makes a whirring/buzzing noise all the time it is working and when it stops working or the fat-shake tank needs emptying- the machine beeps continuously. So it’s impossible to sleep and it’s really uncomfortable to wear. As the fat-shake tank fills up and the wound starts to dry out, the hole gets smaller and then the dressing needs to be replaced.

Quite often the fat, pus and blood would congeal in the thin plastic tubing and the pump would get blocked and stop working. Then I’d have to turn off the pump and unblock it by pulling out long, mucousy strings of what I called ‘dripping’. It was gross but fascinating.

Because my wound was so large and deep, the only way to change the vac dressing the first time without subjecting me to immense pain, was to do it under general anaesthetic and so I had a further operation to do this before I was discharged. I think this brought the total number of operations I had by this point up to six.

Once my dishy consultant was satisfied that the vac dressing was working and that the wound had closed enough to allow for the dressing to be changed without the need for a general anaesthetic, he allowed me to be discharged and I was told that I could finally go home on 19th August, just under four weeks since I had first been admitted.

My journey was far from over though- I had to wear the vac dressing for four weeks because my wound took a long time to dry out. Every time the vac dressing was changed I had to take crazy doses of morphine because the pain was so intense. Once the vac dressing could finally be removed completely I had another three weeks of having to wear ‘normal’ dressings and bandages, again these had to be changed every couple of days by a nursey and only after I had chugged on a lot of morphine. Having the dressings changed was by far the most painful part of the whole ordeal. It was really bloody painful and I was on very high doses of tramadol topped up with morphine for two months. This was not good for my mental health and it was a pretty crappy time.

In bed and looking sad but secretly I was happy because I had no children and a ton of drugs.

I was far too unwell to be around the kids for longer than about an hour at a time and I couldn’t be left on my own. Porl’s employer had been brilliant and had allowed him a huge amount of compassionate leave, but Porl really needed to go back to work. So I moved in with my mum and dad, and Porl’s mum and dad moved in with Porl. The kids were looked after by an ad-hoc mix of family, friends and nursery and everyone was just amazing in how they all put themselves out to help us during this period.

The QA at Home nurseys came out to see me at my mum’s twice a day to change my dressings, replace the fatshake tank, check my obs and keep an eye on my medication. I was not able to leave the house although I could now go to the toilet by myself which was nice. I wasn’t allowed to have a shower because of the vac dressing and I couldn’t bend, lift or carry anything. I was also on very high doses of tramadol and also taking morphine, paracetamol and antibiotics. So I was pretty wasted and not much good to anyone really.

But, I was out of hospital and out of danger and, more importantly, I could now start telling people the story of how I Nearly Died.

In my next post I’ll tell you all about what happened when I moved back home and was reunited with the kids.

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