WARNING: graphic images
On the operating table, Dr. Jew’s task complete, Dr. Korentager inserted the ‘tissue expander’ as the first part of my breast reconstruction. Attached inside the incision is what is called the ‘Jackson-Pratt’ drains. They expel the excess fluid from the surgical site. (The video link is very informative but graphic.)
Two small plastic drains (bulbs) called Jackson-Pratt® (JP) drains, each the size of my fist were placed inside the incision. The drains collected fluid that normally develops under the skin after surgery. The recovery nurse talked me through the instructions how to handle them. They usually remain in place for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery hooked onto narrow tubes. I went home with the small tubes inserted inside the mastectomy void, barely aware of what to do next, except sleep. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to this.
The photo shows where they hang, a close up what they look like while connected, and the drainage. Pardon if it is disgusting, imagine how I felt. I was fast gaining new respect for doctors and nurses’ jobs. To me, the bulb drains were grosser than sticking a leech on a fish hook. I cringed. But they’re necessary. And I was self-conscious that my husband was tending to this. Ed took charge the first day, helping empty the dark pinkish fluid that had drained from the mastectomy incision. I marked the proper milliliters on the paper the nurse gave me (thus demanding I pay attention ) from the get-go. She called me every day to make sure I was okay, progressing well, which was a relief in itself.
That first time, unwrapping the elastic frock revealed large bandages that I had to change. There was not much leakage. Both nervous, we unfastened the frock-top. I also had to change my gauze bandage pictured here. The nurses had me very securely bandaged up. My doting husband carefully then unplugged the full bulbs and cited how many milliliters to write down and dumped the fluid in the sink. Grateful for his caring involvement, at first I tried to cope by assumed this task was not so different from handling a game animal like when we hunt. I mean, we both clean our wild game, both get our hands and clothes covered from time to time with fish slime or entrails, blood is blood right?
Simply hunting is an act for food, and of death. Being traditional hunters, our motto is “one shot, dead”. That means: killed by one shot. Painless. No mistakes. “One shot, dead” is permanent — no suffering. But one principal fact is we are human, a deer’s blood is not. With a heart shot, the blood flows onto the ground — we are prepared for blood-stained grass — that animal knows no companionship, shares no love, no intellect of behavior aside from its own survival. Now therein lies the difference between the game animal’s blood and mine. We have emotions, we feel belonging and a purpose and talk with more than a grunt. I was wrong to presume, trying to simplify us as mammals in order for me to deal. Now the stakes are my survival because my blood means life, therefore, my blood is not the same as when we’re handling a game animal. My life is not game. So boy was I wrong. I didn’t undermine Ed’s feelings after that.
Even under the heavy influence of my pain meds I noticed how abruptly he dumped out the fluid. My bloody fluid. YUCK. I sensed his discomfort although he had no hesitation, felt duty bound as my husband to participate in this bloody mess-of-a-chore … I saw no need to dump the task onto my lovey dovey trying to take care of me.
I decided to take charge. The next bulb change came around, he rose from his chair with a barely audible sigh. Intervening, I laid my hand on his shoulder, assuring him I would do it myself. He contained it but was silently relieved — he had tried. From then on, I dealt with the bandages and such myself. I treated the drains like I was doing a sort of biology experiment for myself by disengaging my emotions, not to get nauseous. It was only a few days, just under the surface I cringed anyway. This was much different than cleaning a Largemouth bass or gutting a wild Eastern Turkey which I was very adept at. Those drains were yucky.
With my two weeks follow up Dr. Korentager (Dr. ‘K’) removed the empty drain tubes, no longer collecting fluid. I was very relieved that that small part of my care was done.
Before my surgery I had no idea about the procedures, but I learned quickly. I was also learning to attend to my own needs rather than everyone else’s as I had for years. 💞