“My transplant story started when I saw an episode of grey’s anatomy. The has a breast cancer survivor with lymphedema that was having surgery to alleviate the symptoms.
I had stage 3a breast cancer. Right breast and a large amount of lymph-nodes removed. I went through chemo and radiation, but it was during my reconstruction that my right arm started to look like it belonged to Popeye. I went to my oncologist and after a few tests was told I had lymphedema. Months of therapy and wrapping at night, compression sleeve during the day and extreme low sodium diet. I managed for 4 years, carrying my wrappings and compressor all over the world I travel a lot as an engineer.
I started researching Dr Chang about 2 years ago. He was in Houston at that time and the work was experimental. When I checked back last May, 2014 he had moved to the university of Chicago and the were getting more approvals than ever to perform the surgery. I made the appointment and my family and I went to Chicago. I met with Dr Chang. Nice man. He explained I was a good candidate for the bypass and transfer. I was told each state is different for the coverage on this surgery and that they would submit and let me know. I got approved quickly. I scheduled for December 2014-during my winter break. James-my patient advocate was very nice, the only stress I had was discontinuing the tamoxifen for the two weeks prior to surgery. Dr. Chang indicate it makes the blood thicker and could interfere with the surgery.
We arrived the day prior to the surgery and went to the university of Chicago for pre-surgery stuff. I was able to have my arm measured in Texas to bring with me. Dr. Chang took before pics and other details. We went back to the hotel and went to bed early. Had a 5.30am surgery so we were up at 3 am. Family packed up and went by cab, you do not use cars unless you live there. We were first into pre-surgery and got a bed quickly. I went in about 7.30am and stayed way longer than expected. I went into recovery at 2pm. My recovery was supposed to be 30 minutes but I stayed in there until 9pm. I had breathing complications I wanted to hold my breath:). My family finally saw me at about 7 pm and left for the hotel. I was moved to a room and told that I was on bed rest until they determined if I needed further surgery. Therefore the catheter had to stay in and a no food order was given. I was miserable. I had not be told to take a laxative prior to surgery and I wish I would have. I had a machine hooked up to my arm to determine flow, a Doppler. It sounded like a heart beat. I also had a machine for pain medication. I did not use at all and pain was not bad. I was told my bypasses, I had 3, were working well. I also had the node transplant from my neck. Very long scar, just another badge.
I had to stay in the hospital Friday through Monday and stay in town until Wednesday. They wanted to make sure there was no complications. We flew United into Chicago. No cuts in fees.
Many doctors came in daily to listen. I had a complication, the drainage from my neck was not clear and it was determined that I could no longer eat fat until the drain was removed. I am currently low sodium, under 1000 mgs a day. They took fat away from me and I lost 12 lbs in 3 days. When my diet was changed, I got no explanation why. I had to find out on the Internet. In fact they cancelled all of my food orders and I got no dinner one evening. The nutritionist popped by but did not understand lymphedema so I sent her on her way!! I finally got to see the arm when the physical therapist stopped by. It is smaller, I am happy to report. Oddly the docs that came by never checked it. It was a bit depressing to take a wrapped arm home.
I was finally released. I had two drains to come with me. One under my right arm and one in my neck. I was able to get around but tired easily. Our Travel day was Christmas Eve. I called tsa cares the day prior to leaving. They were not great but they connected with the tsa at the Chicago airport-who was amazing. I was so concerned they would try to unwrap me or try to pat me down. They did not. They met us and escorted us through, they even walked us to our gate. I cried in relief
We got home… tubes dried up over a few days and my husband removed them, Dr. Chang showed him how. About two weeks later my husband removed my sutures. I did have a deep suture that created a bump but is going down. No driving, lifting or sex for 4 weeks. I am past 4 weeks now. Arm is still wrapped. I unwrap an hour a day for showers. I will be measured for a new sleeve in another 3 weeks. I am told the transplants could take up to 1 year to work.
My arm is looking good. I am still low sodium.
Learnings: take a laxative prior to surgery, ask about required bed rest, stay on your diet and wrapping prior to surgery.” By Kim
Thanks Kim for sharing this with us.. Could not agree more re the laxative as would have been much more comfortable post surgery!!! It is great for everyone that we share our experiences… Helen
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