I will soon be traveling to Chattanooga, Tennessee for surgery. People often ask why I am willing to drive seven hours for something that could, presumably, be handled by a local doctor. Truth is, it was a local doctor that caused my issues in the first place.
Because I’ve had four C-sections, I have dealt with a lot of painful internal adhesions. At one point, my kidneys adhered to my spine. In 2012, the doctor said they would have to make a large abdominal incision in order to do the repairs, and commented that if I ever wanted a tummy tuck, this would be the time. I had never given any serious thought to plastic surgery, but that sounded pretty good!
When I went to meet the surgeon, I began perusing the brochures, and decided to inquire about breast augmentation. I didn't hate my breasts, but after five kids and a lot of nursing, I thought it would be nice to perk them up a bit. I never made that part public because I didn’t want to be looked at differently, but people need to hear my story.
Very few know the full nightmare of what I experienced with elective surgery. And other than medical practitioners, no one saw the full scope of the damage done to my body. Breasts, stomach, hips, sides, and even my groin were all botched.
In addition, while in the operating room I picked up the pseudomonas bacteria. The surgeon kept insisting there was no infection, and that the green fluid oozing from my incisions was "common in smokers.” I had never smoked a day in my life.
I ended up in the ER with a fever of 104 and the lower half of my breasts being "eaten" away. No one could confirm whether the bacteria had made its way to the implants. They could only tell me that if it happened, I could quickly become septic and my life would be at risk.
Every day for two months, I made a ninety minute round trip for two hours of IV antibiotics. An infectious disease specialist became my "regular" doctor. I wore a wound vac. I had medical supplies regularly shipped to my house. Changing the dressings was a precise process that took a great deal of time each day.
For six weeks, I had a drainage tube that I cleaned daily while measuring and recording the fluid levels. I couldn't use public restrooms. I couldn't care for my children. I couldn't raise my arms. I had to cancel three trips that had been intended for the kids to see their dad.
I wore surgical bras and a binder on my stomach for so long that I forgot what regular underclothes looked like. I was very sick for months. So sick that I had to give up my book publishing contract because I couldn’t meet the deadlines.
When it was all said and done, the scarring was horrifying to me. I compared myself to Frankenstein’s monster. Everything was uneven and misshapen. The scars in my cleavage were thick and ropey. The undersides of my breasts were masses of gnarled scars where new flesh had tried to form. For the first time in my life, I truly hated my breasts.
The scars ran to my sides where "dog ears" formed. My hips have odd points on them. The skin on my stomach protrudes over my belly button like Homer Simpson’s upper lip because the surgeon placed the belly button too low. The list goes on...
In 2012, I was still intimidated by doctors, and afraid to speak up when things didn't seem right. At my final appointment, I mustered up the nerve to express disappointment in the scarring. The conversation went like this:
Me (hesitantly): "I'm just...well...I'm a little disappointed in..."
Doctor (interrupting me): "Don't tell me you're disappointed. Do I need to show you the before pictures?"
I was humiliated that he thought this disfigured body looked better than it did before…when I was just my natural self.
I called two lawyers, but the process of filing a lawsuit, repeatedly telling my story and showing pictures, was embarrassing and emotionally exhausting. The statute of limitations is very short in Indiana, otherwise, I would file now.
Last week, I drove to Chattanooga to meet again with a man that I personally consider to be the world’s greatest plastic surgeon. He has already done a large amount of the revision work, and soon he will finish repairing the remaining areas. Neither my body nor my psyche will ever be scar free, but I cried tears of happiness when I left his office. He gave me a great deal of hope. That is why I am driving seven hours for surgery.

Ginger Lumpkin is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook (Ginger Claremohr), find her on the web: www.gingeretta.com, or contact ginger.columnist@gmail.com.