Expander Fail

Last week (Friday before last) as I began to change the bandage on my wound, I was horrified to see that it didn’t look right at all.  It appeared dark underneath, and the only thing I could think was “Oh my God, it’s going necrotic.  The tissue is dying.”  Fear swept through me.  My appointment was the following day at 4:15 pm.  I hardly slept.  I stared at the ceiling for hours imagining losing the expanders, having to have a graft, all kinds of crap.

I finally dozed off and slept fitfully for about 5 hours.  I called the doctor’s office and told them of the changes in the area and asked if I should do anything different or continue applying Bacitracin and changing the dressing throughout the day until my appointment time.  They told me to go ahead and come in.    On the drive there, I imagined all the scenarios that could play out.  My biggest dread, of course, was that the doctor would tell me that the expanders had to come out.

When I finally got there, the look on the nurse’s face was enough.  Please don’t give me the scrunchy face, I thought.  Yet there it was.  When the plastic surgeon finally showed up, he explained to me that what I was seeing was not necrotic tissue but the bottom of the expander.  It was trying to come through my skin.  I asked my husband for the box of tissues.


He said he wanted me to come back tomorrow morning for surgery and he would remove them, flush out the area, clean the incision up a bit and insert the implants.  He said the only reason he wouldn’t put in the implants is if he found a massive infection in there.  I’d not had any thick or colored discharge, no fever, no outward signs of infection.  He seemed very confident that I’d leave after surgery with implants.  Part of me was sad that I wouldn’t get any further in the expansion process, but part of me was relieved.

I showed up the next morning, with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.  Despite the plastic surgeon’s optimism, I felt I would be leaving the hospital looking like I did after the mastectomy.  He came by the pre-op area and did his marker job on my skin, explained to me what he was going to do and after about an hour or so waiting, they wheeled me back.

When I woke up the first thing I heard was “He couldn’t insert the implants.  You had a massive infection and it disintegrated the slings.”  Apparently he’d shown my husband photos of what was left of the surgimend (the material they use to make the slings that hold the expanders in place).  In my husband’s words, “It looked like a dog had chewed it to pieces.”  The other side had been completely eaten away and there was nothing left to remove.  So of course, everything had to come out.  I woke up as I feared I would, sans breasts.  Back to square one.  My heart sank.  I was very surprised to hear, however, that the plastic surgeon felt that if everything looked good in 6-8 weeks, that we could reinsert the expanders and try it again.  In the meantime, I was back to sitting on my ass, ordered to do nothing for the first 2 weeks, back to drains and looking at myself with no breasts.  I tried to remain positive, as there are many who have things far worse, but it was still so disappointing.

They kept me at the hospital for 2 days, giving me fluids and IV antibiotics.  The culture they took of the infected area came back negative.  He explained that this could be because I have been on antibiotics for weeks now, and that they would keep checking the sample.  As of my discharge from the hospital, it was still showing negative.

After expander removal

I am terrified of the same thing happening again.  All I can do is hope, pray and take care of myself as best I can.  I keep thinking of the day when everything is fine and I have breasts again and can go back to my life.  All of this sitting around and having people take care of everything for me is getting to me.  I appreciate all of the help, I really do.  I just want to get back to some sense of normalcy around here.  A lot is up in the air now.  Will I be ready for the new pup I have coming in the fall?  Will I be ready for California in September?  When will I be able to show my dog again?  When will I be able to pick up my little one again?

Nothing to do but wait and see.


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