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READY, SET, GO... From Decision to Recovery: A Conversation with Natalie

Natalie is a member of the Marina Plastic Surgery team. She’s Assistant to Director Charlie Sheridan, and she also acts as a Patient Advocate and Patient Coordinator.

Natalie had a breast augmentation and breast lift with the Stevens Laser Bra by Dr. Stevens at the tail end of 2006. Given her passion for working with patients, she’s eager to share some of her experiences with you.

Natalie, how did you know breast enhancement was for you?

Even though I’m young, my breasts needed to be lifted. They’re somewhat large and had already started to sag over the years, so I knew I could benefit from a breast lift. I also wanted my breasts to have more volume at the top. I was frustrated that although I had large breasts, I did not have any cleavage.

But you didn’t sign up for surgery right away; what made you finally do it?

I had the same fears about surgery that some of our patients do. I was worried about the anesthesia, as I tend to get nauseated easily. I was also concerned about how much pain I would feel after surgery.

I soon found myself paying special attention to our own patients who would come in with body types and complaints similar to mine. I watched them go through the operative process, and really “tuned in” when these women came back in for their first post-surgery appointment. Patient after patient returned to our office with huge smiles and such gratitude and joy over their renewed figure. I saw them beaming and listened as they made comments such as “I’m thrilled,” or “I have my body back,” or “I feel so much more feminine and complete now!”

Basically, I saw people who made me think of myself. They often remarked on how they wished they had done this surgery sooner, rather than waiting for so long. I simply realized that, “what they had I now really wanted.” It was my time. I was done buying “big girl bras.”

So, with all the confidence I could muster up, I walked into my boss’s office one day and asked Charlie if I could get the Laser Bra and Gummy Bear surgery for myself.

How would you advise others to prepare for surgery?

Well, first, if you tend to be nervous about these things like I do, forget that for a moment and prepare to be thrilled! Take that nervous energy and re-channel it into excitement! I look at my “before” photos and can’t believe I waited so long. Now I can finally wear dresses without a bra, and I’m proud of how I look in a bikini.

What pre-op plans do people need to make?

The key thing is to have someone you trust to help you at home; they’ll be your only hands for a few days. My boyfriend did this for me. He made my meals, fed my family of three dogs and two cats, brought my medication; he was just great. If you don’t have someone who can stay home with you, the staff at Marina Plastic Surgery can make arrangements for you to go to a post-operative facility. It’s extremely important to have a dependable person to be with you following surgery.

You should also get your house ready in advance. I wanted my bed to have clean linens and lots of pillows, that sort of thing. I made sure I had ice packs in the freezer and healthy food to eat for the next few days.

Did you have a lot of pain after surgery? How did you prepare for that?

I expected the surgery to be extremely painful. Although Charlie reassured me that I would be comfortable, I did have my doubts. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised, Charlie was correct, I was very comfortable–thanks to the pain medication the nurse gave me.

I filled my prescription prior to surgery and made sure I had over-the-counter pain relievers as well. I only took the prescription medication for a few days, then tapered down to medication only at night just to help me sleep.

I also had some expected swelling that felt like light pressure on my chest. Ice packs helped tremendously.

Did you feel sick, as you feared you would?

No, I didn’t feel nauseated at all.

Did you stay in bed long to recover?

I rested in bed for most of the first few days, mainly because the medication I took made me feel sleepy. After a few days I was up and around, and I returned to work in a week.

But you didn’t recover in just a week, did you?

I recovered enough in a week for light work days, but I noticed I felt more tired than usual at the end of the day. Dr. Stevens told me I would feel this way, it’s normal. I felt a big difference when I hit the two week mark. My energy really started to return.

When can a patient expect to be back to normal?

It’s a process. At about three to four weeks most people can probably go shopping for new clothes and do other non-strenuous activities. You can most likely start taking short walks around that time too. You should expect to hold off on regular gym workouts and heavy lifting until about the six week mark.

What complications were you watching for?

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think about complications. Working here in the office, I’ve seen many patients go through their experiences. I didn’t worry because I saw nothing happen with our patients that concerned me.

Obviously pre-operative instructions and potential risks were explained to me, just as they are to any other patient. I felt I was prepared and well-informed about possible complications, yet I felt completely comfortable. Since I know firsthand the high level of expertise and professionalism we offer here I just didn’t think about complications.

Do you have any advice for others about preparing psychologically?

Don’t be surprised if one of your loved ones isn’t in favor of your surgery. My boyfriend said he liked me just the way I was and he worried about the same things I did. He didn’t want to see me in any pain.

Just remember, anyone who isn’t you doesn’t live your life. They don’t know how you feel about your body and how those feelings impact you. Once they do understand what your procedure really means to you, they come around. My boyfriend is thrilled to see me so happy!

Do you have any suggestions for those who may be preparing for a procedure or concerned about the recovery period?

The best thing you can do is choose your physician and practice wisely. You need an experienced plastic surgeon and an M.D. anesthesiologist, plus colleagues that will be with you every step of the way to ensure you feel comfortable and safe.

Even though I work here, I can honestly say there’s no other place I would trust. We really take the time to get to know our patients as individuals so we can make sure they feel informed and at ease.

How do you know your approach works?

Every day I see patients head into consultation with concerned looks on their faces, and yet they come out laughing and full of excitement. Dr. Stevens is not just a skilled surgeon, he has the ability to relate well to his patients and understand their goals and fears.

I know our patients end up feeling like part of the family here. They call us to tell us they’re getting married, they’re expecting a child, whatever their news is.

Can you sum up for us?

Be prepared for surgery by thinking about what you’ll need afterward. Have someone ready to take you home and make sure your home will feel welcoming to you when you return. Have someone dedicated to helping you for a few days. Make sure you can take about a week off work. Fill your prescriptions ahead of time.

Once you get home after the procedure, follow your doctor’s instructions. Take your medications and use ice packs, if recommended. And even if you’re feeling pretty good, get plenty of rest. Even if you feel well-healed on the outside, remember that you’re not entirely healed on the inside so don’t overexert yourself. Allow your body to fully recover internally as well, before taking on the weight of the world or running to Hawaii to show off your hot new body!

What if you’re talking to a fellow worrier?

I would recommend focusing on how great you will feel inside when you have the body you want. This is one time in your life when you’re doing something for yourself. Instead of worrying too much, enjoy the experience and look forward to the results.

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