There are at least a couple reasons plastic surgeons may not talk with you about everything you might experience during your recovery. First, chances are good they have not had plastic surgery themselves, so they have no first-hand knowledge. Second, and probably more to the point, they don’t want to scare you. Most don’t hold back on purpose, exactly—after all, they don’t want you to have a bad experience. And in all fairness, most women don’t have much real trouble recovering. But surgeons know if they describe every possibility in detail, your eager anticipation of the new you might be erased by fear of the road from here to there.
In heart-to-heart conversations with several women about their recovery, I’ve found most have less-than-fond memories of the process of waking up after their procedure. Many recall how jarring the bright lights of the recovery room can be. At the same time, some say the surgical team didn’t bundle them up well enough and they felt frozen from the double whammy of anesthesia and chilly operating room temperatures.
I often hear how difficult it is to experience discomfort and profound grogginess at the same time right after surgery. Patients may have a raw throat from the breathing tube, a severe headache, pain at the surgical site or just discomfort from bandages and sutures. But whatever they feel, lingering effects of anesthesia often make it next to impossible to speak up. It’s common, in fact, for patients to be sent home long before they can walk unaided or say more than a few words. This can be unsettling; at very least, many women say this is when they first appreciate how important it is to have a friend at their side.
Some plastic surgeons don’t take enough time to describe how you’ll look right after surgery and reassure you. Women having breast surgery usually find their breasts are very high and tight on their chest afterward. Women having facial surgery find themselves bandaged like a Q-tip. Some women discover they have drains they weren’t prepared for. Many say that no matter how many handouts they were given, they would have benefitted from more discussion about what to expect.