I am back home, resting after a very exciting few days in Seoul, having my stem cell ‘top up’.
Not everything went to plan of course… I was hoping to meet with Evelyn, the lady who is coming over from the USA to have her op, but her insurance approval was delayed and our paths failed to cross at that point.
We are, however, in daily contact and she is heading over this way very, very soon.
The other lady who had her operation in September is thrilled with her results and the three of us report into each other on a regular basis.
So – back to the 28th October….
A chilly bright day at 9am in Gangnam and what a joy to see some familiar nurse and caretaker faces, welcoming me back into the ‘family’ hospital.
Everything felt so homely and I knew I was in the best hands. My room was the same one as last time, but with a nice new window to block out night noise and a pretty blind. Someone was missing though… Ajumma! Do you recall her trying to force her way into the bathroom when I was ‘busy’ so she could fill her bucket of water…. ?!
I still have this hilarious vision of her arm pushing the door as hard as she could to get in- and me standing there with certain parts of me exposed to all!
She had been given the sack for her feisty mop wielding activities and little decent cleaning. Sorry, Ajumma – but you had to go! The new lady is absolutely lovely and very friendly, like everyone else. She also does a much better job.
I had my pre- op photos taken and the measurements showed a general increase of around 2cm in my thigh and knee areas since my last measurements. I’ve put on about 5kg, half of what I lost. ( …and Christmas is coming…..)
Dr Shim noted 3 areas of fat deposits (I have Lipedema, too) over my knee, behind my right thigh and on my left calf. The latter is the area where I am alleging a surgeon cut through my healthy lymphatic system during a cosmetic surgery operation. The case will conclude on my return to the UK, so I’m not saying too much just now.
We had agreed that I would have a small amount of fat (1500-2000cc) extracted from my upper arms to use to create around 50 million stem cells, using the Korean Huricell machine. This is fully patented and approved for use under the Korean Food and Drugs agency. Half of these would then be injected into my calves and the remainder returned as an infusion, to whip around my system, in the theory that those injected would stay in situ, supported by a new hydrogel solution that was added to the ‘magic broth’.
But this kind and compassionate surgeon also said he would move the aforementioned lumps, too, so I had a neater finish and a true tidy up.
I then had a thorough ECG, blood and urine tests and an xray. This body was ready for action! A drip and intravenous line, with a pre- med injection in the buttocks for good stead and I was in my Korean hospital PJs….both excited and nervous.
The clock ticked around to 10:50am and I was escorted down to the theatre. The prep went on around me and my nerves rose a little high. That third area on my calf was ringing alarm bells, so when Dr Shim appeared all gowned up, I asked him to leave that one off the list of touch ups. He fully understood and there was no problem. I had got it into my head that it may be further damaged for some reason…I’m sure it would have been fine, but I relaxed as he realised it seemed important to me to leave it as it was.
The big theatre lights shone above me and I felt the soothing sleepiness creep up my arm as the anaesthetic entered my bloodstream….
And a mere 90 minutes later, I surfaced back in my room, with my wonderful husband and Dr Shim smiling and chatting together. All was well and the results were good. I was bandaged up, but felt so comfortable and drifted back in and out of sleep, with Steve holding my hand, laughing at my deep snores!
It wasn’t long before the drugs finally left my system and I got up and went to the bathroom. A cold drink of water sip by sip revived me and Dr Shim popped back in to check my recovery progress.
I have to say, Dr Shim is a very approachable and understanding person, with a deep passion to help those with Lymphedema and a true skill at reducing those swollen limbs to a normal size. If you don’t have Lymphedema, I can’t explain to you how the desire to look ‘normal’ over rides everything. No more stares from people, no more- ‘what did you do to your leg/arm’ questions, no more behind the back sniggers about fat legs.
Being average beats standing out in the crowd for me!
And if those stem cells do the repair, no thick, hot tights to be worn every single day would be my golden crown…. The holy grail….
A couple of hours later, those stem cells came back home me via this machine and I silently prayed they would work, for me and for all those with this miserable condition, who came to Dr Shim for help.
“Go, little stem cells- do your best!”
A good night’s sleep, and a tummy full of restaurant quality Korean food prepared and delivered by the nutritionist and I awoke at 5:30am, a little stiff, but fairly pain free. I looked down at my left hand and was horrified to see how big and puffy it was! My heart sank…. Had I given myself Lymphodema in my arms now? Maybe I really did have a weak lymphatic system after all…I anxiously loosened the bandages and visibly watched my hand deflate back down…… oh – the relief! It was just all the padding and bandaging, which were all changed at 9am.
There were of course, some rainbow bruises, but nothing spectacular revealed by my bandage change, but on the whole, I felt pretty good! Steve kindly took charge of my suitcase and he brought some packs of fruit for the lovely staff. I gave the nurse a big hug and thanked her for looking after me so well. I missed the other nurse at staff change, so I hope the message was passed to her, too.
Dr Shim told me he had been in conversation with a lady who had been to Germany to a very famous Lipedema surgeon who also carries out this process, ( but not for Lymphedema ) and she had felt she had totally wasted her time and money and had been given poor results. Only a minimal amount had been taken and she was expected to go back and have each half of a limb done in a number of sessions. Her lipedema fat returned within a very short time.
Dr Shim’s method is to do the whole lot, in one go. Results seem to be much more permanent.
He said the lady had tried another surgeon in Europe and had a second attempt, which at this point seems to have worked for her.
He also showed me his new toy! A really clever device that automatically rolls bandages, It’s so simple and so clever. I had a little play myself and loved it. If you are a person using 10+ bandages a day, this is a must, so much time is saved!
“So simple, so useful!”
Today is day one and I am struggling to wrap my own arms up with bandages. I thought legs were difficult enough! But I’m getting better at it. The bandages are needed for the next 10 days or so to compress the skin back down and give me a neater finish where the fat was removed for the stem cell supply and to keep the stitch areas clean. I have 2 stitches per arm and 2 on my right leg. They can come out in about 10 days. I have medication for 3 days and then over the counter pharmacy medication can take over if I need it. Ah well- its Halloween and I have my bandage costume ready- here comes the Mummy!
My dog and I have walked for a couple of hours, around 8.5 km. We usually manage 10-12km, but moderation is required…
I have to say, my legs feel totally fabulous! I have my normal compression tights on, but everything feels lovely… they are very comfortable. My arms are a little sore and prickly, but even being pulled along by an enthusiastic squirrel chasing dog hasn’t caused me any problems.
I will avoid carrying heavy bags and be most careful not to add to the lymphatic load for the next 90 days or so…. I don’t want to undo any potential new cell growth or repair. No big hills, no big staircases, no running, no hot baths, no overtight clothes- moderation in everything.
There’s something to be said about being a lizard- how come they manage to regrow a whole tail or a limb?!
More in a couple of days….