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Choosing a surgeon and Days 1-3

It's Sunday night and my surgery was Friday morning (1/12/24). My gastric sleeve was 3/24/23. I lost almost half the weight before my Gastric Sleeve surgery.

I chose to have my surgery in Tijuana, Mexico because of the cost and I have a friend who lives about 45 minutes away in Mexico and my father lives about 2 hours away. I started my research reading about Medical Tourism in general to get advice on what to look for and what questions to ask. I started my search with Realself.com and chose surgeons with 4+ stars,10 or more years experience, and who said they were part of the American Board of Plastic Surgeons or the American or International Societies of Aestetic Plastic Surgeons. I read all the reviews I could find, noting all the bad things said, and verified they were actually listed on the board or society sites. One of them wasn't. I made virtual appointments with 3 and chose Dr. Rodolfo Casillo Calderon, who is listed on both the American and International Societies. He originally told me I had to wait until a year after my surgery, but I reached my goal and my weight stabilized in early October so I was able to move the date up.

I uploaded a bunch of pictures to myTouchMD and when we did our call he explained in detail what he would do, complete with drawings on my pictures. He explained possible problems and what could be included in my package and that I would have a patient coordinator to walk me through it and answer questions. I had told him I wanted a 360, breast lift with Gummy implants, and a BBL (i've always had dents in my butt and got called board butt in high school). He told me he didn't think I had enough fat in the area he was working for a BBL, especially since some of the transferred fat would die, but he would see what he could do. I asked for the best medicine package and told them I didn't need transportation to/from the airport since my dad and friend would provide that). I also told him in the future, I wanted my inner thighs, maybe my arms if I could get a good price at the same time and a face-lift. He told me that was too much to do in one surgery, that the face-lift would be one and the thighs and arms another, and they had to be at least 6 months apart.

He sent me a quote for the 360, breast lift with implants and Lipo and said it included the mons reduction and lift but not the BBL. The quote included the surgery, labs, cardiology evaluation, compression garments, meds, hospital stay of 1 night, and 6 nights in a recovery home that has 24/7 nursing staff and food. $12,699. I paid a 20% deposit and paid the balance during my pre-op lab appointment. I also filled out paperwork and met my coordinator.

When I talked to Dr. Castillo in person, he took the pre-op pictures and told me again that he didn't think I had enough fat for a BBL, but he would see what he could do. I was disappointed, but trusted his judgment. I woke up after surgery in recovery, and they took me to a room and bolstered me well with pillows. I had a catheter, so I didn't have to move. My right toes felt numb and I couldn't feel my left toes, The nurse said it was from the anesthesia and would wear off and it did. I could feel and move my toes again. I had good service ar CER Hospial and spent the evening eating, drinking and watching TV. I asked for a snack and they got me some crackers (the cafeteria was closed and I didn't want jello).

The next morning (Saturday) Dr. Castillo came in and talked about my surgery. He put 320cc in my right breast and 240 in my left and explained it would take a while for them to drop. He also told me he did a little fat transfer to my butt and gave me instructions to reduce death of the fat and stressed that there wasn't enough fat for a ful BBL, but he did what he could and it mostly came from my hips. Then his nurse came in and gave me my meds and instructions for aftercare. My patient coordinator from his office also came in and told me I'd get picked up by Casa by Linda's driver at about noon and asked if I have any questions. Shortly before noon they took my catheter and IV out and the nurse helped me sit up and helped put the compression garments on me, then I got dressed.

The drive was a bit scary. The driver said it was like driving in New York with people pulling out and changing lanes without enough room. He told me interesting stuff about Tijuana and prohibition, how the margarita came to be made, and about Rita Hayword's history, getting discovered, and changing her name. I was helped out of the car and to my room, which has a queen hospital bed. The head was inclined and my space was pre-padded. I got in bed and they explained the remote and how to call them and asked if I had questions, needed anything, and if I was hungry. They brought me lunch and my friend came with my backpack and Snacks. I was able to get out of bed and put my stuff away. My laptop, tablet, and snacks are all in reach.

Sitting up is the most painful. Lying down in my nest of pillows is not as painful, but hurts pretty bad. To get up, I put the foot of the bed down, the head up, and roll to the side, then use my arm to push myself up. To get back in bed, I get on the bed on my knees and position my knee at the far side of my nest, then lower myself sideways and roll into the in the nest. My breasts aren't hurting at all. The compression garments has an open crotch, so you don't have to mess with it to go to the bathroom. The staff here respond quickly to requests and bring me my antibiotics and pain meds, and so far the pain is tolerable and I've been able to walk. You walk hunched over and slow.

Linda has come in several times to check on me and see if I need anything. She is originally from Canada and is a US citizen, married to a local. This morning, after Breakfast, I took a shower. One of the staff helped me with my compression garments (it hooks down both sides) and got the Water ready. There is a seat in the shower with the shower head within reach. I hosed myself down and she handed me a washcloth and put soap on it. I didn't have to ask her for help as I was able to bring my legs up to wash them (it wasn'teasy). After I rinced myself off, she put antiseptic on gause and applied it to my incisions. I dried myself and got into bed to wait for the return of my compression garments (they washed the blood out). When she returned with my compression garments, she put gause in my new belly button and over the incisions in the back that had bled, then she helped me hook the garments up, putting a square of gause over my nipples. Nothing else to report. Unlike Friday and Saturday, I slept most of the day.

Edited by GMaJen

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I just edited it to add how I get back in bed.

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This is the absolute best written account of Medical Tourism for plastics I have seen. Thank you for the thorough description. Also congratulations and speedy recovery ❤️‍🩹

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Day and night 4.

I'm getting better at getting in and out of bed. As long as I am taking my time and remembering to bring the foot of the bed back down, it's almost painless. I've started getting back in bed by doing the reverse and it does hurt.

I haven't pooped since a couple days before my surgery, so I asked for stool softners twice. Morning of day 5 and still haven't, so will ask for more.

Adjusting position on the bed is challenging. By using both feet and my elbows and being careful not to use my stomach, I can move up, down, left, or right without pain. I can't sit up more or even pull the hair out from behind me without hurting though. If I want to add a pillow so I can sit up straighter to eat, I have to get up.

During the night the bra compression garment started cutting in painfully. I also have a couple spots that have begun to itch.

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This is all really informative. Thank you for providing so much detail OP. I hope you recover really well.

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Day and night 5, food and Meds

The website said everyone speaks English, but 2 of 3 assigned to me don't speak much of it. We use Google translate, which is close enough to get it across.

I didn't take a shower yesterday because I didn't like being helped with it and I figured since I sat in bed all day, at worse, I had a few crumbs. I suggest you do shower every day to keep an eye on your incisions. The really itchy spot turned out to be a blister. I've never been alergic to tape, but I have a couple blisters under the tape they used to hold gauze on.I'm able to get in bed without hurting now. I'm hoping it isn't just because I'm on pain meds.

Starting day 3, I've been walking 2 or 3 times a day for a few minutes. Today, I walked for 15 minutes. Needless to say, I walk slow and hunched over. They gave me compression socks at the hospital, and I thought I put them in my bag when I got dressed, but I didn't.

I tend to sleep most of the day and work and watch TV at night and go to sleep for the night after midnight meds.

Before coming, I sent them dietary needs and asked if I could bring my own breakfast. I told them I'd had gastric sleeve and can only eat 6oz at a time, and no eggs or seafood. Unless you are adventurous or bring your own food as a backup, I suggest you be specific as to what you want to eat. I've had chicken or turkey, potatoes and salad 3 times (OK); Soup 3 times, veg, chicken veg with barley, and veg with a big meatball (OK); tostados with weird stuff on it twice (not OK); I'm missing one meal, I think I told them I wasn't hungry and they asked if I'd like ice cream (I said yes and they brought a small bowl). For breakfast they make what I brought for breakfast, Protein oatmeal and add a scoop of collagen with the added missing amino acid (they always use too much water).

In addition to the oatmeal and collagen protein powder, I brought cheese and crackers, pure Protein Protein bars, and beef jerkey (I'm a rebel. It's low in fat, high in protein, low calorie, I spit out gristle, and if they ever have to cut a ball of gristle from my stomach then I'll give up beef).

In the hospital, my doc gave me meds. The 2 antibiotics were to be taken every 8 hours, but not together and with food. The pain pills was take #1 and if it isn't enough take #2 2 hours later. #3 was only 3 pills and were the strongest and only to be taken at night if the pain was excruciating. I turned them over to the nurse at the house. They give me both #1 and #2 pain pills every time (6am, 8am, 2pm, 4pm, 10pm, midnight). I didn't object because I want to be as pain free as possible and they don't make me fuzzy). When they wake me up at 6am they give me fruit or Peanut Butter toast so I have something in my stomach. They don't bring food at the other times, but they know that I eat my Snacks between meals.

Edited by GMaJen

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Spaghetti! That's what I forgot.

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Days 6 & 7

Yesterday was just another day. I slept around meds and feedings until about 3pm then binge watched Netflix. I'm still sore, but managing.

Today I had my post surgery follow up with my surgeon, Dr. Rodolfo Castillo Calderon. He said I'm moving extremely well and warned me to take it slow and not bend. I found out I was using the BBL pillow wrong. He didn't transfer much, but I'm hoping I didn't kill it. He had told me I didn't need a BBL pillow since I work from home and have soft cushions and explained how to use pillows, but my pillows kept shifting at night so I wanted a BBL pillow anyway. You are supposed to support your weight on your thighs and let your butt hang. I chose the circular pillow and it puts pressure all the way around, including fat transfer spots. The BBL pillows are more like yoga blocks than bed pillows, very firm.

I also got another lecture on the importance of belly button cleaning and stuffing it with gauze to keep it dry. He was annoyed that the staff at my recovery house used tape to hold the gauze when the compression garment would have held it in place without. He put some antibiotic on the open blister and covered it. If I were staying longer I'd have another follow-up or two. The stitches will dissolve and he didn't use drains.

The pain meds I was given are available here over the counter, so I asked the staff to call the pharmacy and order me a couple boxes. I have the written prescription in case they stop me at the US border.

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Day 8

Returned to my Dad's in S.CA. I asked a couple times about my med pass. The doctor said the recovery home would have it. Linda said my driver would have it. Don't take anything for granted. The first thing I did when the driver got there was ask if he had my Med Pass. His response was "You don't have it?" I asked the girl who walked me to the car if she had it and she said "Your doctor didn't give it to you?" She got in the car with us and called Linda, who had gone out of town for a few days. Linda got back to her promptly and told her it was a QR code and the driver had it. All of us thought it was a printed pass. The driver did have it. Mexico is still making improvements for Medical Tourism, maybe the QR codes are new. We drove by all the cars waiting in line at the border. The med lane ends close to the front of the line. It took us about 30 minutes instead of hours to get across the border.

I had the driver drop me off at Starbucks at The America's Outlet Mall right by the border ($60 US) and my Dad picked me up there about 20 min later. We had a 2 hour drive to his house. I leaned back the best I could during both drives and at Starbucks, but my stitches were hurting when we got there and I was glad to lie down. I didn't pull a stitch or anything, it was just a lot of activity, bumps and a few quick stops.

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Day 9

I didn't wash my compression garments yesterday because I just didn't feel up to messing with hand washing them. I had ordered an extra one from Amazon and had it delivered to my Dad's so I could take my time, but it didn't fit. I have another from a different brand that should arrive tomorrow.

I did wash it today after my shower, but didn't get the blood out with the spray and wash. It wasn't a lot. Little dots along the incision line in the back and a bigger spot from the blister. My dad went and got me Neosporen and non-stick gauze. Maybe it will heal now if removing the gauze doesn't tear at it. I had to soak it just to get it off.

I was surprised at how much it hurt without the compression garment. It wasn't terrible, but my new belly button had never hurt before, just the incisions in the front and my blister from the tape. I just feel tension on the back part of the incision. Didn't think I'd be happy to finally put it back on after it came out of the dryer. This particular brand can be washed and dried, which I didn't realize until today because the staff at the recovery home would take it away as soon as I took it off then immediately help me put it back on when they brought it back.

Unless something noteworthy happens, I will probably not post for a few days.

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Glad your trip back to the States went smoothly and I hope you continue to rest and heal!

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Day 14 - Flight home

The flight home was unremarkable. I asked for assistance on Southwest's app and when I got to the airport I told someone I had asked for a wheelchair and He got one and pushed me to my gate. First one on, last one off because the wheelchairs weren't there yet when we arrived, but they were by the time the non-wheelchair passengers got off. He pushed me to the next gate and I sat and waited. First one on, First one off, but I had to ask another passenger to get my backpack down and carry it for me because they didn't come in to get me this time. He wheeled me to the street (no checked baggage) and hubby picked me up.

I suggest you either check your bag or get a carryon with wheels. I used a backpack because I thought I'd be able to come back with less than 10 pounds and fit it under the seat. It was 12 pounds without my tablet and food for the trip, which I put in another bag. It was also stuffed so I couldn't put it under the seat. Half of the volume was my regular meds since I brought all the prescription bottles, plus my dad had purchased gauze and non-stick pads for me which are bulky. I'd read reviews that mentioned tearing stitches flying home from Medical Tourism, so I was determined not to lift more than I was allowed, so having that backpack meant I had to stay put and couldn't go buy Water. I could have put the backpack in my wheelchair and pushed it to the store, but then I'd look like I didn't need the wheelchair and just wanted to get seated first. In retrospect, I should have known not to use a backpack.

When I got home, I showered and took the tape off my incision, which had been peeling, but I wanted to leave it on for the extra protection during the flight. The incisions are dry and look pretty good except for one spot that looks kind of ugly, but isn't particularly painful. Hubby took a picture of it and I've sent it to my surgeon to ask if that was normal.

It's good to be home.

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Thank you for this detailed accounting!! I hope you continue it as you heal so we can follow along. Glad it all went safely!! The recovery houses sound really great in concept for the first week after surgery. I think they have them in areas with a lot of plastic surgery, like in Miami too. It feels like a gentler transition than just sending you home or to a hotel with no care. Though I have heard the food is an adventure!! I wish you much ease with your continued healing...

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