After many years of pain, surgery, yukkiness and feeling rubbish from suffering from a condition called Hidradentitis Suppurativa I was sent to St Thomas’ to see a plastic surgeon to be assessed for an operation on my armpits….yes, my armpits!!!!
After a consultation, a photo shoot (of my pits) and several tests I was approved for the procedure. I felt so happy that I could start again with fresh armpits!
I know it sounds silly but for many years I had suffered from this horribly debilitating condition. It made me feel more self conscious than normal and as I’ve gotten old there reoccurrences became more frequent n I practically could not cope, not just because of the physical side but also the mental side as well as worrying about where my daughter would stay when I was hospitalised. In late 2016 and early 2017 I had three separate operations to remove the abscesses in a matter of months at Lewisham Hospital, it got so that the consultants recognised me. By the third removal the consultant was annoyed that I had not been sent to plastics before, it took me a while to realise what he was talking about. Plastic surgery on your armpits?? Really??!!!!
When I had an abscess under my pits, I couldn’t lift my arms, hold things, sleep, get comfortable, move my upper body, etc. It was absolute agony. I started to get them when I was about 11 but was not diagnosed until I was in my very late 30’s, I knew it was happening to me but I had no clue what it was and just assumed it was just ingrown hairs but in my early 20’s I got one that kept on growing and would not burst which resulted in me being admitted to hospital to have it ‘lanced’ as they call it!! After so many surgeries my pits were filled with scarring and lumps. It’s never been proven but I always associated the abscesses with my stress levels.
Due to my daily disability I had the District Nurses visit my home to dress the wound daily which was beyond painful, I would have rather have given birth to be honest (I loved giving birth to my babies). There was some issue with management about this as they felt that as I am ‘young’ I could make it to the doctors surgery daily which with my condition was not possible at all!! I got to seeing them so offer that I started to form a lil friendship with them, like having a friend over for a tea n biscuits except it was dressings, blood n screaming!!
Due to the persistent reoccurrence of the abscesses I visited my Doctors surgery and begged to be referred on. I had been going through a long bout of stress, anxiety and depression at the time (story to follow) so that further added to my belief that stress brought the condition on.
When my appointment finally came through to see the Dermatologist at Kings College Hospital I was getting to the peak of my depressive state so I wasn’t in a good place, I went in there believing I was seeing the Plastics Consultant so I was very disappointed. The Dermatologist tried to say that I should carry on with the previously proposed line of antibiotics which I had halfway tried and it hadn’t worked. I had to make it clear that I wanted to go straight to plastics as that is what the Consultant who had done my operations at Lewisham had recommended. I left that appointment in tears as I have had nothing but battles with every illness I’ve got and it’s tiring n heart wrenching when your not listened to as it all seems to come down to money and budgets not mental and physical well-being.
Anyway, back to the here n now! It has been proposed that they would operate on my left pit first as it was the most damaged and the right would follow once the left had healed. As the time drew near I started to get unexpectedly frightened (I’ve had surgeries before and never felt like this), I even said ‘goodbye, I love you’ to be children!!!!
On Friday 9 February 2018 at 7.30am I was admitted and by 9.30am I was being prepped by the anaesthetist. When I woke up I heard this funny noise n felt a tube, I seriously thought they had fitted a catheter….I was on a lot of medication, in and out of consciousness!!!! It was only when I tried to leave my room to go to the toilet I realised I was attached to the wall!!!! Turns out the weird noise was a pump and the tube was attached to my pit, it was then that I remembered the Plastics Consultant had mentioned something about Suction Therapy which I had no clue what that meant….but it that instant I got it!!!!
My New Accessory
The staff and nurses on the Somerset ward were amazing, reassuring and comforting so I had a nice stay aside from the obvious discomfort. The view from my window was the London Eye, it was an amazing and breathtaking view, especially at night….I actually slept in the dark with the blinds open (long story). It was explained to me that the Plastics Nurse and District Nurse would come to my home for my first change of dressings.
My son came and collected me and took me home on Saturday afternoon (it’s usually a day surgery but I was kept in for observations) along with my discharge letter and medication. That night my good friend and her son came and spent the evening with me keeping my spirits up, catching jokes and chatting to the early hours which was lovely.
The days that have followed have been unimaginable pain even with the medication n as usual I did too much so by the Monday I was floored!! When the nurses came on Tuesday I put on my usual brave face and lay on my couch ready for the dressing change!! Lucy, the Plastics Nurse was so reassuring and gentle but I still screamed from the pit of my tummy….I didn’t even realise it was coming from me. I got through it though, and I got through today’s change of dressing with my ever so funny District Nurse who recognised me from the three previous abscess recoveries but I am dreading next Tuesday.
I know in my heart that it will all be worth it in the end, as through the growth I am going through with the work I am doing in regards to my mental and physical health I will be accomplishing something for myself.
I feel blessed n privileged ❤️
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is
A chronic skin condition that causes abscesses and scarring on the skin, commonly around the groin, buttocks, breasts and armpits, although it can affect other areas as well.
The HS Trust believes that between 1% and 4% of the population has HS.
Living with a chronic skin condition like HS is not just about managing physical symptoms and flare-ups. Living with a recurring, painful and sometimes visible condition can have emotional, social and interpersonal effects. It can also affect the way you see yourself, the world and the future.
Our staff at the HS clinic specialise in diagnosing and managing HS. We are able to offer you the best in support and guidance, because we understand how debilitating and life changing this condition can be.
Guys & St Thomas’ NHS