Friday, January 24, 2014

The low down on tissue expansion

I don't know exactly what I was expecting at the doctor's yesterday, but it wasn't what I got. It was training so much as education about the whole tissue expansion process. And there were a lot of pictures. Oh my. I had to take a lot of deep breaths and force myself not to start flapping around the office and yelling. I'm not sure I'm ready for this and I'm not sure H. is ready for this, but then I don't think we'll ever be ready, so now is as good a time as any.

Here's the deal for those who don't know about this procedure. Tissue expansion is used to create new skin to surgically replace skin that is compromised. That can be skin that was burned or poor skin grafts or, as in H.'s case, skin with nevus and/ or sebaceous skin. The benefits are that it is the patient's own skin, so there is no risk of rejection, the color matches, and both nerve cells and hair follicles remain intact and are present. The new skin is grown by the use of expanders and then the poor skin is removed and the new skin moved over to replace it. While it doesn't sound terribly fun, it seems pretty straight forward.

Until you see the pictures and try to imagine your child with the expanders in and fully filled and your mind starts to reel a bit. At least mine did.

This is because the expanders when fully filled are pretty enormous. This of a moderate sized balloon and then imagine it under the forehead or scalp of your child. Just take that size of object and imagine what it would look like under the skin. Yeah. It's going to be long three months and I wish we could just fast-forward to the second surgery.

The results after the expanders are removed are truly extraordinary and that's what I have to focus on. H. is not going to be thrilled by it all, but she is pretty easy-going and resilient so in the end I think she will do OK. Plus, she really, really wants the nevus on her forehead to be gone and this is the only way to do it. I'm not sure I'm cut out for all this medical stuff. February 10 is the beginning of all the fun.


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