fortheveteran

For The Veteran... By A Veteran
Provided by SSG (Ret.) Mike Mills

 

SURGERY AND RECOVERY NOTES:

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In February of 2007, I had the first of what is the beginning of my reconstruction surgeries. Since my left hand was more damaged, we decided to do that one first. The objective was giving me more gripping ability, web space between the fingers, and the ability to better straighten my fingers. The Dr. removed the burned scar tissue from the palm of my hand which was preventing me from straightening. She used INTEGRA, which is a synthetic material that is often used in severe, deep tissue burns, instead of using the patients own skin because of the amount needed. Large harvest areas take a long time to heal, are very painful, and risky for infection. That surgery went very well. Now that the deep layers of skin are in place, for the next surgery the Dr used skin and fat from my stomach area for the graft and also made incisions in the web spaces of my fingers and where my thumb was. We were all very hopeful that it would take; I was looking forward to being able to use my hand more. Unfortunately, the graph didn't take, but the increased web space between my fingers seemed to. Over time, the area by my thumb started to contract and I lost some of the space she created. I was a little disappointed, but that didn't get me down. I still kept the same positive attitude that I always had.

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On the 27 of April 2007, the third and final surgery of my left hand was done. The previous surgeries took place as same day and I got to go home when it was over. I guess the assumption was this one would be much the same, maybe staying over one night. We were way off base there. The surgery was much more in depth than the others and I stayed in the hospital for 5 days. My Doctor said this procedure has a 95% success rate. I'm optimistic, but not getting my hopes too high.

This surgery consisted of taking skin from the top of my foot, placing it on the palm of my hand which created a "flap" and thus enlarging the palm area. To replace the open area on my foot, Dr. took skin from my thigh. If you're confused, you're not alone. It is difficult to understand unless you can look at the areas as I explain it.

Not only am I non-weight bearing on my left foot (for 6 weeks), I can't use crutches or a walker because of my left hand. My wife needed to get on the phone first thing Monday morning to find someone to build a temporary wheelchair ramp out front so I could get in and out of our house. In a small town, it's possible, especially when it needed to be done by Wednesday.

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It is now the middle of July and the surgery was a success! I still have some swelling which is normal and could take up to a year to go down. The Dr. created a nub and I am able to hold larger items such as a water bottle or a deck of cards. I've got some good strength too. The therapist gave me large clothes pins to use so I can work on getting better dexterity, more strength and increased movement in my finger joints. I use them more to see how many I can pin to my wife without her knowing it!!!

All in all, my recovery so far has been right on track. I'm not planning any more surgeries until later fall when they will do some tendon repair on my right hand.

As far as facial plastic surgery, I'm just waiting until I'm fully healed from the hand surgeries and go from there. 

If you have any questions about any of my procedures, please don't be afraid to contact me. I have no problems with talking about any of my recovery.

GOD BLESS!



Please note that the pictures below may not be suitable for everyone. We felt it was important to post them as it shows the stages of recovery. By clicking on the picture, you can enlarge it.

   
May 14th 2007
   
May 14th 2007



   
May 21st 2007
   
May 21st 2007



   
June 10th 2007
   
June 10th 2007

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Surgery and Recovery Notes from UCLA Medical Center in California:

In February (2009) my wife and I were flown to UCLA to meet with Dr. Miller and his staff. Once we had all the information and were comfortable that we had asked all the right questions, we flew home to MN to decide if this type of surgery was right for me and my family. The children had reservations in the beginning, not fully understanding how I was going to be under sedation. That has been a troubling area for them as in a few past surgeries, I have had some issues right after recovery. We assured them there has been every step taken and changes made to avoid those past issues. All of us in agreement, we contacted UCLA and gave a thumbs up.

Because the kids where still in school we needed to wait until the summer for any surgery date. The first surgery took place on June 16, 2009. Dr. Miller created a "flap" by taking skin from my forehead and twisting it down, attaching it in the shape of my new nose. When you see the pictures below it will be a bit easier to understand. He also took some extra skin from under my left eye. After a few days I had to wear "stints" or rubber tubing in each nostril to keep them open. Our stay in CA lasted for 10 days. For the next 6 weeks I recovered at home with Suki and the kids as my health care team! Every two weeks or so we would take digital pictures and email them to Dr. Miller so he could check the healing progress. We also made a visit to our regular doctor so he could make sure there were no signs of infection and also because he has always been very interested in any and all medical procedures I have had.

Surgery number two was on August 4th. It was at this time Dr. Miller cut away the "pinnacle" or the area of the flap that was supplying blood to my new nose. He also did a little "tweaking" as he calls it, closing any open areas. He took a bit more skin from under my left eye again. My forehead was healing on its own so he saw no need to do anything there. A good job of care from my health care team!!! Again we stayed for 10 days and then back home.

Number three...September 3rd. This time it was just Suki and I that went to CA. I was in and out of surgery in about 45 min. Dr. Miller closed a section on the left side of my nose that didn't close earlier and took the center piece (between the nostrils) and moved it up because it sloped down. If you ever want to really want to hurt someone, hit them there. Man, I normally don't have any pain with surgery but in this case I did need my pain meds. During this visit I also received some tattooing. I got hair! I know it sounds crazy but seriously were I was burned on my head and the hair won't grow back, Laura, who is a medical tattoo specialist, tattooed black dots so it looks like hair. She also tattooed a line on my upper left eye lid (no, it's not eye liner!) because some of my lashes are missing and by adding the line it creates an illusion I have lashes.

As of today October 2009, I don't know if there will be any more surgeries. I have a check-up in the beginning of November and will know more then. I will also receive more tattooed hair and some other corrections.


Please note that the pictures below may not be suitable for everyone. We felt it was important to post them as it shows the stages of recovery. By clicking on the picture, you can enlarge it.

   
The picture on the left is just after the 1st surgery. On the right was taken a few days later in the motel.
   
This is just after surgery number 2.



     
These 3 pictures were taken at home after the 1st surgery. If you look at the first picture on the left and notice the top of the nose where it is "hooked", that is the pinnacle. The last picture shows the "triangular" shapes flap where the nose came from.
   
These pictures were taken a few days after the 3rd surgery.



   
I hope you're able to see the "hair". In the reddened areas is where she was working.

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