• Jeanine Mewburn

My Lipoedema Journey Part Three

On the 28th May I had my second surgery with Dr Ramin Shayan in Melbourne.

It went well, same but different as we shall say.

Being pescatarian probably has not helped my low iron situation but though I took iron tablets leading up to the surgery I don’t think they made a huge difference. After this surgery I had a lot of post-op bleeding, my iron and haemoglobin levels plummeted, a large haematoma formed on my left leg at the drain site, and I was frequently dizzy. In the end I received two blood transfusions which made a huge difference, and my recovery was much improved after that.

On day 4 I was discharged from hospital though the doctor was somewhat reluctant as he still wanted to monitor my haemoglobin levels. Staying in Melbourne during a COVID lockdown made things harder, my husband did all the manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) as an MLD therapist was unavailable. After two weeks staying in lockdown near the hospital my dressings were removed, and the wounds were healing well. I had visible sutures that would need to be removed as dissolvable sutures had not held well and it had been difficult to pull the tissue together this time.

The doctor approved my return home to QLD – given the changing shape of my legs. I bought off-the-shelf grade two compression stocking (a better fit than my old flat-knits and much better to travel in) and once lockdown lifted, we made a dash for the QLD border. As we could not fly, the ‘dash’ meant a slow drive through NSW. A week travelling by car unable to put my leg up for hours at a time did not help the post-op swelling. Despite that, when we started running out of clean clothes, I was beside myself with joy when I was able to buy off-the-shelf jeans that fit. I couldn’t believe it, and immediately bought two more in case it was a dream.

The bruising to the back of my left leg where the drain tube had been removed remained hard, swollen, and badly bruised even though it was massaged constantly. The sutured wound healed very well though and 3 weeks after surgery the sutures were removed with no discomfort and no infection. Over a month since leaving, it was wonderful to be home.

After 6 weeks off work, I returned to a uncompromisingly heavy workload. Every day I’d come home, and my leg was swollen, and eventually the right leg went out in sympathy and started to do the same. I ended up reducing the length of my shifts so I could elevate my legs and follow the recovery orders properly. Weekly MLD appointments also resumed and always alleviated the discomfort.

When most of the swelling was gone Jeanine encouraged me to get a new pair of custom flat knit compression, and I’m pleased to report they are working very well. The haematoma swelling to the back of my left leg has finally resolved but fifteen weeks later the bruising is still visible, fading a little more every day.

I am still healing - sometimes there’s swelling and occasional healing pains. Surgery hasn’t fixed everything – it hasn’t cured my lymphoedema, and though the pain and hypersensitivity has been reduced I still have areas of numbness and get pins and needles occasionally. The damage to my knees is permanent; perhaps that could be different if I’d done this a decade ago. Regardless, I’m confident in saying things would be much worse if I had not had the surgery, and I’m so happy I have done this now.

It’s an awful lot of money and I hope Medicare will recognise lipoedema so women can get the treatment they need without spending their retirement as I have. I regret nothing.

I can help my daughter if she needs it. I love my new shape and the world of regular clothing that has opened to me. I bought UGG boots knowing that one day I could wear them, and now I can! My gait is much improved, I can move much more freely than before, and I am confident that I will wear shorts one day. I love not feeling uncomfortable about my body and I am so excited about my future.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us Katherine. I am sure that everyone reading this blog is grateful to you for the information, as I am. Should you like further information or have any questions about this lipoedema journey please don't hesitate to reach out.

In twenty years time, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do. Follow your dream, trust your instinct, do your research and go for it.

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