This is part 2 of My Bariatric Life plastic surgery with Dr. Joseph F. Capella, Capella Plastic Surgery, Ramsey NJ.
Once the plastic surgery is scheduled patients generally feel very excited. I know that’s how I felt. I’d wanted bariatric plastic surgery since 2006 with Dr. Joseph F. Capella (Capella Plastic Surgery), renown for plastic surgery after weight loss. I was super excited finally to be making that dream come true. Until one day I got on the emotional roller coaster and never got off. It was a wild ride for me, and I do not mean that it was in any way good.
Bariatric Plastic Surgery, a Dream Come True
Bariatric plastic surgery affects each patient’s emotions differently. One patient may have a fairly gentle kiddie ride on the emotional roller coaster. Another may ride Six Flag’s El Toro version of the emotional roller coaster. I think I rode El Toro without a safety harness and both arms flailing in the air.
I had full on panic attacks that persisted the four months leading up to my plastic surgery. I had spells of lightheadedness and shortness of breath accompanied by blood pressure spikes.
I became friends with a fellow bariatric patient who scheduled her plastic surgery to take place just a week after my body contouring plastic surgery with Dr. Capella. She and I supported each other emotionally before and after surgery. People who have not been faced with bariatric plastic surgery just cannot understand the range of emotions we go through. She was so afraid of the pain of recovery that she’d have heart palpitations. I had full on panic attacks that presented about two months after my stage 1 plastic surgery tummy tuck and persisted the four months leading up to my stage 2 plastic surgery total body lift.
Panic Before Bariatric Plastic Surgery
I had spells of lightheadedness and shortness of breath accompanied by blood pressure spikes in the months leading up to my body lift. My initial perception was that these were related to pain from my tummy tuck, which I’d had a few months earlier in April. Then I later thought they were panic attacks because I had suffered a traumatic event related to my tummy tuck, which is when my symptoms began. My endocrinologist is actually the one who picked up on this. He asked when my symptoms began and I told him June. He then simply asked what changed for me in June? Well, I’d had my tummy tuck 6-week post-op exam with a local plastic surgeon in the midwest who was not affiliated with Capella Plastic Surgery in New Jersey, and that doctor sexualized my exam… as well as a follow-up exam.
Following that revelation by my endocrinologist, I questioned if my panic attacks had a physiological cause. Because if psychologically-driven then I assumed the Ativan that I had been prescribed because of the traumatic event would have resolved my anxiety. Unfortunately neither I or my doctors at the time knew that I was suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and which is not alleviated by Ativan. I sent this email to my PCP:
What I am about to say will not sound rational, but I will tell you anyway. I am very intuitive and I keep getting the feeling that I am going to die or come close to dying during this surgery. So I would like to be screened for anything that might be causing these symptoms which might put my well-being at risk during the surgery. Of course I acknowledge that these symptoms can be explained by pre-surgery anxiety.
To say that I had been stressed would be an understatement. I phoned Dr. Capella twice in hysterics and tried to cancel the surgery over relatively minor things.
My PCP and Endocrinologist screened me for a few rare diseases that could impact my safety during the surgery. With Pheochromocytoma there is a concern for cardiac arrest during/after anesthesia. With Addison’s disease the patient can go into coma or die from anesthesia. This all took place in the week before I left for my trip to California, to visit with my children before I headed to New Jersey for my plastic surgery with Dr. Capella. So it was quite dramatic, a real nail-biter for me. My emotions continued to spiral out of control.
Releasing the Trauma from It All
To say that I had been stressed would be an understatement. I phoned Dr. Capella twice in hysterics and tried to cancel my surgery over relatively minor things. Dr. Capella was compassionate and calming each time and resolved these matters. I did not know it at the time, but I still was on an emotional roller coaster and headed for a collision. When I had to get an MRI, unrelated to the bariatric plastic surgery, I began crying when shown the mask that need be worn over my face and the narrow coffin-like tube into which I would be placed. I had to be sedated.
That was the last straw for me, and I finally made a conscious decision to let go. My emotions had been spiraling out of control. It took me an entire day to process the letting go. My stomach was in knots the entire time, even through a two-hour pampering at the salon. My decision coincided with the elimination of all caffeine from my diet and my PCP doubling my dosage of an ACE inhibitor. I got off the wild ride on the emotional roller coaster. Or so I thought.
My PCP and Endocrinologist assured me that I was safe to proceed with the plastic surgery. Tests were normal aside from my cortisol levels being high. So the Endocrinologist planned to screen me for that when I returned home from surgery.
Even though I trusted Dr. Capella with my life, I was concerned that I might have a panic attack the next day as we prepared for my bariatric plastic surgery.
High cortisol levels may have exacerbated the reason I was freaking out: “With this ‘haze’ of hormone that is always high and active in your bloodstream it creates a nightmare existence for you. It is an emotional haze, too. It’s not in your head, it’s zeroed in and targets your entire emotional structure. And unless you are on top of this uncontrollable anxiety emotional state, you live a life in Hell. And so do the people who are associated with you.”
Back on the Emotional Rollercoaster at Capella Plastic Surgery
I was calm during my vacation in California with my children, until just four days before surgery when I received a curt email from Capella Plastic Surgery. The admin did not have my medical clearance or EKG. My surgery could be cancelled. Well, that email put me back on El Toro again. I went batshit crazy and lashed out for the admin’s lack of competency and its consequences to me (she is no longer employed at Capella Plastic Surgery). Fortunately, Dr. Capella and his physician’s assistant (P.A.) were compassionate as always, and Dr. Capella once again removed the roadblocks to my bariatric plastic surgery. He scheduled two pre-op consults with me to ensure all of my questions were answered and I was prepared for surgery.
One of the many things that I admired about Dr. Capella were the great number of hours that he spent consulting with me about my plastic surgery. I dearly wanted body contouring plastic surgery with Dr. Capella and yet I had at times gotten so riddled with anxiety that I tried to back out of it. That is one of the reasons that Dr. Capella gave me so much time in the pre-op consults right before surgery. I believe each consult was 2-hours long. I am truly grateful that Dr. Capella supported me through those tough times. I would not have made it through surgery without him. I don’t know if any other plastic surgeon would have gone to those extremes for me. I remain ever grateful for Dr. Capella’s compassionate nature.
Of course, I did get through my plastic surgery with Dr. Capella, but to get to that point was very hard. The situation got more difficult to deal with, and I was afraid I’d have a panic attack in the OR. I made Dr. Capella and his physician’s assistant aware of this at my pre-op consults. All three of us talked for a long time in that little office of Capella Plastic Surgery. And it was incredibly hard when the P.A. asked me the reason for the panic attacks; I hung my head in shame and could not look at him. Time seemed to stand still until, finally, I looked up at Dr. Capella and said, “You know why.” He replied, “The other plastic surgeon?” And I said to Dr. Capella, “Why didn’t you believe me?”
I had told Dr. Capella months prior that the other plastic surgeon had sexualized my exams but his P.A. had been unaware — or so I thought. It was very difficult to discuss this sensitive matter with two men, even if they were my trusted doctors. It was equally difficult for me to tell Dr. Capella that his innocuous emails and phone calls to me leading up to this day had been bringing on panic attacks. Even though I trusted Dr. Capella with my life, I was concerned that I might have a panic attack the next day as we prepared for my bariatric plastic surgery.
To put the final nail in the coffin, the day before my bariatric plastic surgery was simply horrible. First, I found out that the admin mentioned earlier had gotten confidential records from my doctor’s office that contained information about the physician sexual assault. Not only that, the entire staff at Capella Plastic Surgery as well as the some of the hospital staff were made aware of what had been done to me. This was an inexcusable invasion and I left Capella Plastic Surgery after yelling at Dr. Capella, went to my hotel room and cried myself to sleep. Later I was awakened by Dr. Capella’s phone call and we spoke for 45-minutes. He was concerned, perhaps that I would not show up for my surgery. But nothing could deter me after all I had been through. I was about to grab the brass ring.
That night I came down with a sinus infection and fever. So I ate an entire bottle of gummy vitamin C to try to fight it off so that my plastic surgery in the morning would not be cancelled. Last but not least, I began menstruating heavily. Obviously tampons cannot be worn during the plastic surgery. I was mortified as I envisioned myself spread eagle for the thigh lift while menstruating as Dr. Capella and his physician’s assistant were up very close and personal.
But that evening I spoke on the phone with my husband. It was our 30th wedding anniversary and he had supported me through all of this mess. A calm came over me and I slept like a baby.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life