Helen Tidswell

Helen Tid


My Surgery Diary Why?
After a huge and quick weight gain from the onset of Polycysitic Ovarian Syndrome in my late teenage years I began a massive struggle with my weight. I managed to lose some before I became pregnant with my first daughter but then gained it back on more. After the births I felt so unhealthy and couldn’t stand what I saw in the mirror. I set to work by following Weight Watchers and exercising and aimed to lose 5 and half stone. In just 15 months I obtained my goal and felt fit and healthy and certainly looked a lot better. But under my clothing I was left with a droopy sack of skin scarred with huge stretch marks which made me look like I had tiger stripes!! About a year later I became pregnant with my second daughter where I managed to keep some weight control but still put some on. After the birth again I worked hard and the weight came off but only to leave an even worse chunk of loose skin on my stomach.No matter how much exercise I did on my abdominal muscles I couldn’t shift the “jelly belly” and it depressed me so much. The rest of my body looked slim but I felt like the skin stuck on the front didn’t belong to me.Through my successes with Weight Watchers I was chosen to appear on the front of the Nationwide magazine and again a year later modelling shoes. Each photographer told me I was a natural in front of the camera and suggested I pursue modelling. As great as this sounded they did not know what lurked beneath my clothes.Loving being in front of the camera I decided to have a portfolio taken, ensuring my stomach wasn’t on show. The pictures turned out great but I knew any agency would not be able to book me a job with my wobbly belly.I researched the internet for abdominoplasty and read about other peoples experiences and saw many before and after pictures and witnessed the dramatic changes that can be possible. I so longed for that to be me. I even watched the entire operation being performed on Youtube and I still felt I wanted to undergo the surgery. I booked a consultation with a UK based medical group where the surgeon said I was an ideal candidate for the surgery and said the coast would be approximately £6000. I knew this was something I would never be able to afford and so my dreams felt smashed.Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fund the surgery myself I turned to my GP who referred me for the operation on the NHS, as my weight gain was due to a medical problem. The funding council would not agree my surgery so once again my heart sank. I knew that my only opportunity would be if I could enter a competition to have the surgery for free. I had read magazines where they sometimes would run the competitions and I entered but I never heard anything. I entered a few online competitions but found them to be fake.When I found the competition with cosmetic-plastic-surgery.info I couldn’t believe my eyes and set straight to work typing out my story. From the moment I pressed submit I couldn’t think of anything else and hoped and prayed that the judging panel would see me as a worthy winner.The moment I read the “congratulations...you are a winner” e-mail I felt so elated and felt as though all my dreams had come true. I couldn’t believe that finally everything I had hoped for was actually going to happen.Sun 17th May The story begins ...My journey to Prague started with the hardest thing I have ever had to do...leave my family. Having only ever been apart from my children for night, I knew it would be difficult to leave them and I would miss them terribly. After many tears, kisses and cuddles with me children and my partner I finally walked out the door to begin my journey of a lifetime.Unfortunately the flight was delayed by 2 and half hours due to a technical fault which gave me time to think about everything and for the nerves to kick in. Unable to fix the original plane we finally boarded a replacement aircraft, much to the relief of my mum who came with me for support. After a smooth flight, we collected our baggage and were met by Pavel, joint owner of cosmetic-plastic-surgery.info. A very friendly and welcoming reception from Pavel, along with some pictures of our arrival to Prague. Pavel drove us to our apartment at Residence Karolina which gave us a look at Prague at night. The apartment was stunning, very contemporary and I knew that I would be comfortable recovering in the apartment after my surgery. Using the free Wi-Fi connection we contacted home via webcam to let them know we had arrived safely. We had a quick meal and having arrived so late into Prague, we went straight to bed as we had an early start the next day. I went to bed with a mixture of nerves and excitement for the next day and was looking forward to getting the surgery over with.Mon 18th May MY BIG DAY!!!I awoke at 06.30am feeling as though my stomach was a washing machine full of butterflies. I was tired after only 4 and half hours sleep and had to be ready for my filmed interview with Pavel for 07.30am so got showered and ready. I enjoyed a few extra minutes in the shower knowing that it would be the last one I could have for about 14 days!!Pavel and the cameraman arrived at 07.30am and we set straight to work. Although feeling nervous for my impending surgery, the filming was fun and I enjoyed explaining my reasons for wanting the surgery, it took my mind from my nerves for a while and we headed outside for some pictures in the street. At 08.30am we head off to one of Prague’s state hospitals to have an Echocardiogram examination of my heart as one final check that I was healthy enough to undergo the surgery. The results, thankfully, were all clear and so we headed to the Lekarsky Dum Clinic in Prague 7 to start my pre-operative tests. The journey to the clinic was a great chance to view the lovely buildings of Prague but I also felt my nerves take over and began to feel quite shaky and anxious. I knew 110% that I wanted the surgery but having never undergone any anaesthetic before I was very frightened of being put to sleep. I kept looking at my horrible wobbly tummy which reminded me exactly why I was doing what I was doing.I was met by one of the nurses where I had some blood taken, blood pressure checked and an ECG trace carried out. It felt very re-assuring to have all these tests done as I knew the clinic had my health and well being as a priority. After completing a health questionnaire I was shown to the bed ward where I had to change from my normal clothes into very flattering gown and rubber shoes!! Julie, who was now with us, then took my mum to her accommodation which was just a few streets away. It was re-assuring to find the staff to be extremely well spoken in English which I think is always a concern when you go to any foreign country. Being left alone for the first time in the journey made my mind run wild with thoughts and scenarios and I couldn't even glance at the pictures of my children and fiancé without bursting into tears. The nurse fitted the cannular to my arm where I was connected to a hydration drip as I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything 12 hours prior to surgery and the drip would ensure my body was fully hydrated for surgery. The hunger wasn't too hard to deal with but the thirst was difficult, so the drip was welcome as it seemed to relieve my thirst. I was then called to see the GP where she carried out a medical examination and confirmed that my blood tests were all clear. I was given a clean bill of health and so all I had to do now wait for my consultation with my surgeon Dr Kulhanek MD.My mum returned to the clinic where she also had to change out of her clothes and into sterilised overalls. I felt that this standard of hygiene was excellent and much better than the standards seen in many hospitals in the UK. I was happy to see the return of my mum as she provided much needed support and reminded me why I was having the surgery when I became nervous. At 14.00 I was shown to Dr Kulhanek’s office for my consultation. This was filmed by the cameraman and the surgeon explained operation to me. He then examined my stomach and made some pen lines to show where the incision line would be. He also said that I would benefit from liposuction to my hips to give a smooth appearance overall. After he had finished, I had some before pictures taken and I then sat down to ask a few questions. I asked what result I could expect and he said that he would expect a completely flat stomach and I also asked if I could achieve abdominal muscle definition and he agreed he thought I would. I then asked about the shape of the new belly button, as having researched other people’s surgeries, I have found a massive difference in the shape that different surgeons do. He said that he made v shaped incisions as round holes looked un-natural and I agreed that this is what I was hoping for. After signing my consent form I nervously returned back to the ward.Back on the ward I was an emotional wreck and found it hard to hold back the tears. I was extremely frightened of being put to sleep and what pain to expect afterwards and just wanted to get everything over with. I grabbed the chunk of skin on my stomach and said a thankful goodbye which again made me realise how much I wanted the surgery. 3'oclock arrived and after a long hug with my mum and kissing the pictures of my family and my children, the anaesthetist walked me down to theatre. I felt incredibly guilty for putting my mum and family under the worry for me especially as my mum has had see my brother off to theatre several times for serious heart surgery and I knew it would be bringing all the feelings back. The support from my family and friends was fantastic regardless of their concerns as they realise how important and life changing the surgery would be for me.I lay on the operating table here the anaesthetist told me that I would be asleep within 5 minutes. I was crying and the last thing I remember was seeing a mask coming towards my face which smelt terrible. For some bizarre reason I said “no” and moved my head away, it's not like I wanted the surgery done awake!! That was the last I remember and was in the land of nod!!!In what felt like a split second later I awoke being told it was all over, which I felt relieved. I felt the tight binder belt being fastened around my tummy and the nurses had to push my legs down as I had a natural urge to draw them up with the pain. I was transferred to my bed and covered with covers, a blanket a duvet and an electric heated blanket. Even with all this I felt unbelievably cold and could not stop my body from shaking. The nurse reassured me that the shaking was a normal reaction after anaesthetic and it would pass. The shaking made the pain in the wound very uncomfortable and after a drip of painkiller I had to ask for something stronger. All I wanted to do was sleep but with the pain I couldn't settle. The nurse gave me an injection in my thigh which gave excellent pain relief and made me sleep.3 days post operationI awoke in the night only to ask for pain relief and strangely the most intense pain was from the surgical stockings digging into my toes. About every hour the nurse came and re-adjusted them. Not what I imagined I would have been complaining of!!My first trip to the toilet in the night was painful and I was assisted by the nurse, but with every trip it felt easier. I felt so relieved that my surgery was over and I was now in the recovery process. I couldn't wait to see my new flat tummy.Dr Kulhanek visited me to see how I was and said the surgery went well. I asked how much repair was needed to my muscles and he said that it wasn't necessary. I couldn't believe it as I had two large babies and thought I had damage to the muscles. All those sit ups at the gym had finally paid off!! Dr Kulhanek said he would visit me the following day.Tues 19th MayI woke up feeling hungry and ready for breakfast and a cup of tea!! I was happy the worst was over and surprised by the level of pain. My expectations of the pain were much worse than what I had but I think after childbirth there isn't anything that can really compare!! My stomach felt tight and tender as though I had continually spent a week in the gym doing abdominal and hip exercises. I have two drains that come out of my body just above the pubic bone. I must admit that the sight of them does freak me out a bit and I had to cover them when I ate my breakfast!!The nurse came in to ask if I was ready for breakfast and so she brought me a cup of tea, yoghurt and some biscuits, it was very well received. The nurse advised me on the best ways of getting out of bed and advised me to avoid using my stomach muscles when moving around. I got up to freshen up and managed a little walk around the room which is good for circulation to prevent the possibility of blood clots. The nurse advised me that although eating was important if I didn't feel like it, but drinking water was. She said I needed to drink between 2-3 litres of water to help healing. Now feeling fresher I was looking forward to mum visiting and I think she will be surprised to see me looking so cheery and well.5 days post operationAfter lunch I was joined in my room by another lady who was from Scotland called Alexis. She was having a breast reduction and it was lovely to have someone to chat with.My mum arrived and was happy to see me recovering, moving around and in fine spirit. We chatted with Alexis and when dinner arrived my mum returned to her apartment.Dr Kulhanek came to examine my stomach and said everything was looking good. I was very anxious to see my stomach and hoped the view would live up to my expectations. I think the only words I could summon were "wow"; I was so pleased to see the wobbly chunk of skin gone and in its place a smooth flat stomach. The scar looked neat and didn't travel as far around my body as I thought it might. Dr Kulhanek said he would return the following day to check me again and remove the drains.That night, Alexis returned from the surgery and I phoned my fiancé and children for an emotional chat. I was already missing them all immensely. Andrews (my fiancé) words of encouragement and support were great to hear and spurred me on in my recovering. During the night I was constantly plagued with an intense throbbing pain to my right side for which I had to ask for pain relief. The nurse explained that it was normal to experience localised pains and sensations after surgery. After the pain relief I had a lovely sleep. I was surprised to sleep so well in strange surroundings but I presume that it is a lot to do with the anaesthetic.5 days post operationWed 20th MayThe nurse woke me very early at 05.45 for a blood pressure check and brought me some pain relief. Dr Kulhanek then came to remove my drains...the last event I was dreading. I had heard from other people’s experiences that the removal of the drains was extremely painful although quick. I just thought I had better take a deep breath and grit my teeth. The drains were quickly wasn't that painful, it was more an unusual dragging feeling through the skin under my stomach. I actually felt much relief once the drains were out and I was able to move around much more freely. Breakfast was then very well received by me and my new roommate Alexis. Our new day nurse was really lovely and no request was too much for her. All the staff have been lovely, kind and helpful.Today was spent resting and chatting with Alexis. We watched DVD's to pass the time and my mum spent the afternoon with me. My movement was much more improved although I still had the stoop of a 90 year old woman as my stomach was tight and I couldn't stand up tall. I was really starting to look forward to getting back to our luxury apartment in Prague with the possibility of seeing some sights next week.Today I have tried to not have too much pain relief as it really was only mild discomfort. I felt that the main discomfort actually came from the liposuction areas rather than the tummy tuck although my tummy feels a little swollen since the drains have been removed but overall I am surprised at how well I feel.6 days post operation

Part2:
Thurs 21st May I had a great night’s sleep and I didn't have any pain medication. After a check over with the nurse, a cup of tea, a biscuit and a brief snooze. Dr Kulhanek came to check on me at 7am. He changed the dressings and I got chance to have another peak at my tummy. I expected it to be much more swollen but to my surprise it wasn't too bad. Dr Kulhanek said that everything was healing very well and I asked him why I did not need the abdominal muscle repair. He said that the muscles were in great condition and that I have a very small waist. I asked how much fat he had actually removed from my hips and he said it was about 300g from each hip. That’s 1 and half pounds in total!! He said that I was fit and well enough to be discharged although I was able to stay in the hospital if my apartment wasn't available. The apartment turned out to not be ready but I was happy to have one more night in the clinic. My roommate, Alexis, was also told she was free to go, much to her relief as she didn't enjoy being a patient. It was sad to say goodbye to her as we had had lots of chats and had helped each other along in our journeys and recoveries. Having done much more walking around today I have found myself more able to straighten up which gave relief to an achy back.8 days post operation Pavel and Nad'a from cosmetic-plastic-surgery.info came to visit me which was lovely after many e-mails to and from Nad'a I was finally able to put a face to them. I think Pavel saw a much different Helen today as the Helen prior to surgery was very nervous, where as today I felt relaxed and happy and was chatting away about my experience. My mum visited me this afternoon who returned me to human by washing and blow drying my hair!! I hated not being able to shower and wash my hair, so I felt like a new woman!! Being the only patient in the clinic I had my own nurse. The staff have been wonderful which comes in stark contrast to that seen in many UK hospitals where it can be very rushed. The cleanliness is also excellent where I have seen my room mopped out 3 times per day. Many people have reservations about hygiene standards when coming to a foreign country but now having seen the standards I know that I would much prefer to have surgery abroad as it is much better. Today I have struggled with my emotions a bit. I have found myself yearning for my children and a cuddle from my fiancé, I miss them intensely. I couldn't even glance at their pictures without my eyes filling with tears. I know the next day will be easier as I will be able to chat with them all at lengths in the apartment via a webcam.8 days post operation At the end of my 3rd day post op, I feel comfortable, relieved and happy. And I can't quite believe I have had the surgery that I have so longed for, for so long. Fri 22nd May After a great night’s sleep and not having the need for any pain medication during the night I was looking forward to getting to the apartment. I was really looking forward to getting out and breathing some fresh air and to see a different view.  I was to leave the clinic in the afternoon hours. When Pavel arrived around 5p.m. I felt quite emotional to leave as I had felt so looked after by my nurse Milena. I took a photo of myself and her together before leaving the clinic. It was lovely breathing in the fresh air out of the clinic and I felt as though I was taking the first steps of my new life as the Helen I always wanted to be. It was wonderful to step into the apartment, which although was smaller than the first time we had stayed in, was lovely and had everything we would need for a very comfortable stay. I logged onto the computer as soon as was possible so that I could see my children and Andrew on the webcam. At first sight of them it was very emotional to see their beaming little faces and to hear their voices; I unsuccessfully tried to hold back the tears!! It was hard to hear my eldest daughter asking me to come home when I knew I had over a week left in Prague. After Andrew had put the kids to bed and I had unpacked my case I logged back on and had a lengthy chat with Andrew and swapped stories of what both our weeks were like. I felt as though I was half way closer to home being able to see them on the webcam.9 days post operation Today was the most physical day I had had since the surgery, even though not done much, I felt very tired and knew I would have no problems falling to sleep. Sat 23rd May Unfortunately we were woken at 5am by an extremely noisy toddler in the apartment next door, and after listening to a chair being pushed around the room for half an hour we resulted in shouting "shut up" which seemed to do the trick!! We dozed off for a few more hours after this. When I finally decided to get out of bed I found I didn't really feel pain but just felt stiffness around the lipo areas. The bruising is spreading around my back now and even down my bum!! There is strangely a significant amount of more bruising to my right side than my left and I think this could be due to the binder that has a tendency to bunch up on one side so I'm going to take extra care to check that it is straight. We had a very lazy day today as my mum and I both felt very tired. Our main activities for the day were really just talking on the webcam, making food and sleeping!! I am actually very surprised at how tired I am as prior to the surgery I thought that due to my fitness that it wouldn't affect me too badly but it just shows what major surgery an abdominoplasty is. I had another "wow" moment today as I took my binder off stood up and so it was the first time I had seen it in the mirror. I could see that I had swollen up quite badly as my waist looked thicker and the usual arch in the bottom of my back when viewed from the side had gone. Even with the swelling I was still amazed by my new flat tummy. I am slightly anxious about the height of my scar which I intend to discuss with the surgeon at my next appointment. I have seen a lot of pictures where the scar is low but I know that everyone is different and it is all dependent upon their starting point. I think the swelling gives a misted view of where the scar and belly button will finally be as the swelling pulls the skin. I have been taking pictures so that I can monitor my progress and see the changes. I feel it is very important to have realistic expectations and remember that everyone is different and that the search of perfection could be endless as there will always be something that you feel unhappy with.11 days post operation Sun 24th May A beautiful sunny day in Prague and I am dying to get out and see some sights. Dr Kulhanek had advised that I was to have complete rest and the first trip out could be Monday. I am a good patient and do exactly as I am told as I want my result to be the best it can be and the surgeon knows what is best. I felt that the swelling maybe increasing today but felt well and after a lovely coffee and croissant breakfast my mum changed my dressings. I felt it was better my mum should do it so she could wash her hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial hand wash. I also brought with me a supply of anti bacterial hand gel as I was aware that my wound would be at risk of infection and if caught it could create bad scar tissue. By my mum doing the dressings it reduced the risks. It was great to have a few minutes out of the binder as it was getting rather hot!! Today, again, was a day of rest and I spoke to Andrew and the girls. In the afternoon I received a text from one of the other competition winners, Clare, to say she was in her apartment and that I was welcome to go down for a coffee. From the moment we found out we were winners, we had exchanged many e-mails back and forth and I was looking forward to finally meeting her. After just a few minutes of meeting Clare she showed me her new boobs which were so pert and looked brilliant and I could see that she was really happy with them. I showed her the pictures of tummy which looked quite gruesome as my bruising is so dark at the moment, but she thought it looked good. We spent the next hour chatting about our surgery stories and about each other’s clinic and surgeons. We ended up chatting about all sorts, such as the Katie and Peter split to houses we had both renovated!! I could have sat there chatting all day long!!13 days post operation Getting back to my apartment was a tiring experience as I called the lift and it appeared to be stuck on another floor so I had to hike myself up 3 floors which were 6 flights of stairs!! When I first arrived at the apartments prior to surgery I ran from ground floor to the very top of the building without having to stop or being out of breath, but this time I could tell that I had to take it easy after feeling short of breath after climbing just the first floor!! When I finally got back to my apartment I spent the rest of the day and evening resting. One thing that I have noticed today is the feeling of numbness across the whole of my stomach. A very strange feeling, it felt as though I was carrying a slab of concrete on the front of my body!! I presume this is due to the nerves being disturbed and will return later. Mon 25th May Today is my first day where I am allowed out and to take short walks. I have an appointment with my surgeon at the clinic at 2pm and Nad'a has arranged for a taxi to collect us at 1.30pm. We spend the morning slowly getting ready, putting on makeup and doing my hair which makes me feel like me again and I feel better with everyday. The stiffness is still there and maybe a bit of tenderness but I wouldn't say that I was in any pain. The weather so far in Prague has been very hot and so the ride to the clinic was a hot and uncomfortable one and I felt the need to protect my tummy with every bump in the road!! It was lovely to meet with Alexis at the front of the clinic who also had an appointment with Dr Kulhanek. She had been out sightseeing and so it was good to hear about her ventures and about how she was recovering.15 days post operation Dr Kulhanek seemed pleased with my progress so far and replaced the strips that covered my scar. The scar appears to be everything and neat and goes up slightly in the middle. I mentioned to the surgeon about my scar being slightly higher up than I expected and he explained that once I was laid on the operating table there just wasn't enough skin to enable him to make the incision any lower. He said the reason for the scar going up in the middle was so that he could cut away all of my old belly button. The side which is the most bruised has quite a large hard lump under and Dr Kulhanek explained it was a collection of fluid and blood under the skin and advised me to roll a bottle over it to flatten and disperse the lump. He said he would see me for my final appointment on Thursday at 9am. Before I left, Dr Kulhanek asked what I had been doing since I left the apartment and I said I had done exactly as I was told, to rest. I think he was testing to see if I had been out sightseeing!! The nurse, Milena, who had looked after me on the ward, was there and she said that she would be up on the ward on Thursday so I wouldn't see her again. I felt quite emotional and thanked her for her kind and gentle care during in my stay. We had an uncomfortable ride home where the driver would not allow any windows down and would not cool the air conditioning. I guess taxi drivers are the same all around the world...awkward!! After resting in the apartment we decided to have an evening stroll. It was slightly cooler out, but still very warm. It was great to be out of the apartment, although a short slow stroll was all I could manage. We found Tesco, which was just 5 minutes from the apartment, so we did a small shop. Tesco’s was very busy and I felt very nervous that someone was going to knock into me and so we hurried around the store and got out as quick as possible!! I wished I had a sign on me saying.."move back, just had surgery!!". We took a slow walk back to the apartment and I was thankful of my fitness, I kept thinking about how people manage who are not fit prior to surgery. 15 days post operation I had a lovely long chat with my children and my eldest daughter entertained me with some songs that she had learnt at school. I missed them sooooo much and longed for a cuddle with them and my fiancé.

Part3

Tues 26th May Hotter than ever today!!! But we felt ready to venture out for some sightseeing. We walked to the river which is just a 2 minute walk from the apartment and then to Charles Bridge. We decided not to venture across the bridge as there was some building work going on and the crossers were walking in single file and I felt I would be at huge risk of being knocked in my tummy as the crowds were huge. The view from the river was satisfactory enough for us so we set off through the streets towards the Old Town square. The streets were lined with shops which became more expensive the closer we got to the square. After we had reached Old Town square we went for a bite to eat where afterwards I unfortunately misread the map and we walked completely the wrong way, so we got a little lost!! I felt tired and was aware that I had probably done a little too much for our first venture out. Prior to surgery I could quite easily have run around the streets of Prague but now I could tell I needed to get back to the apartment and rest. We bought an ice lolly at the mini market near to our apartment and enjoyed a long rest. After a chat with home, it was an early night for us but the weather had other ideas. We encountered a huge long storm that night which kept us awake with loud thunders and flashes and unfortunately the loft window in the kitchen leaked through quite a lot of rain. The accommodation hot line said they would send a technician the following day to have a look at it.22 days post operation Wed 27th May Well the weather has turned!! Its grey, cold and nonstop rain!! The storm seems to have caused problems with the Wi-Fi so I am unable to speak to my children and Andrew. I am quite upset by this as it is a lifeline connection to home for me. Reception has said they are dealing with it and hope to have fixed later today. We decided to stay in today as the weather is so bad and we are going to wait for the technician to come and look at the leaky roof window. We spend the day reading magazines and resting which I think is the best thing for me after our getting lost yesterday and doing lots of walking. The technician came in the afternoon and LOOKED at the window but didn't do anything to fix it so the when the rain came down hard it still continued to leak, but it didn't really cause us any major problems so we didn't bother saying any more about it. We had arranged for one of my mum’s friends to visit who was from Prague and whom she hadn't seen for 17 years. She came to the apartment and it was lovely to sit and chat. She brought us some Studenska chocolate which was absolutely delicious and we vowed to take some home for family to try. It was lovely to chat with her and she was telling us all about her life in Prague and about the old house that she was renovating slowly. After about 2 hours, Dagmar had to catch her bus home so we said good bye. Clare came to visit in the evening for a cup of good old English tea!! She had had her final appointment today so she was telling me all about it. We chatted for about an hour and then later in the evening I managed to get intermittent internet connection to home which was better than nothing.22 days post operation Feeling much more mobile today and finding I am pottering around the apartment doing things for myself more, much to the relief of my mum. My mum has been absolute rock for me throughout my surgery and recovery and I feel family support is vital when you undergo this type of surgery. It was lovely to spend so much time with my mum as my home life is very hectic and it is rare that we get to have a conversation without interruption from my children. Thursday 28th May After receiving a text message from Nad'a the day before saying my appointment was now 8.30am, we had an early start and rushed around getting ready for our 8am pick up. Not being used to having to get up since my surgery, I felt tired and slow. We arrived at the clinic and met Alexis who was also there for her final appointment. We decided that after our appointments that we would all go in our taxi together back to the apartment and then go for some lunch. I had prepared a list of questions for Dr Kulhanek as this was to be my last appointment. He checked my dressings and said the bruised lump was looking better. The nurse took some after pictures of my tummy, hips and back for their records. I was then fitted with a new secondary undergarment as the one I tried on before leaving the clinic proved to be too big and not provide enough support. The new one was much better and although tight, it felt as though it supported my tummy much better. We moved to Dr Kulhaneks office where the cameraman filmed our final consultation and my questions. The surgeons answers fulfilled my questions perfectly and I was reassured that if I encountered any problems upon my return to the UK that I could contact them with pictures etc and they would advise the best remedy. He also said that, although unlikely, that if I needed any revision then this would be arranged. At the end of the consultation Dr Kulhanek thanked me for being a good patient and he felt satisfied as a surgeon with the outcome. I thanked him for changing my life. Overall I have been completely happy with Dr Kulhanek from the beginning to the end. His English was excellent and all my questions have been answered and he has obviously created my lovely new flat tummy.1 month post operation Before leaving, I went up to the ward to give Milena some chocolates that I had bought her as a final thank you for her lovely care. If I was to ever consider any surgery in the future I would certainly be returning back to the Lekarsky Dum. We returned to the apartment in the taxi along with the cameraman and Alexis. We were meeting with Pavel at the apartment who would conduct my final interview for the camera. After the interview and a coffee I said my final goodbye to Pavel and thanked him for giving me the opportunity to change my life. My mum, Alexis and I got ourselves ready to go out for lunch and took a slow stroll through the town square. Alexis took us to a restaurant that she had eaten in a few days before and we were amazed to get a drink a meal and dessert for just £6!! We then had a slow wander around the shops where my mum bought a cashmere/silk scarf for just £6, we couldn't believe the prices!! After wandering around, we strolled back to our apartment where the three of us drank coffee and chatted until 7pm that evening!! We felt a great connection with Alexis and it was as though we had known her for years. It was a sad and emotional goodbye and we promised to keep in touch via Facebook. Clare also came to visit and say goodbye as she was flying home on Friday and again this was a strange feeling to say goodbye as we had both come along this journey together. The Wi-Fi connection seems to have been fixed now so it was relief to have a lengthy chat with my children and Andrew that evening. Andrew was looking forward to having me home and he was tired from looking after two very lively children on his own. His support through all this has also been amazing and knowing that he is with our children at home is very reassuring. I miss him terribly and I know that without him I would not have been able to get through it all. Again the support of your partner is so important not only whilst away but I know he will be supportive when I get home. Friday 29th May Today, another rainy day!! What has happened to the weather in Prague?! I can't believe how cold it is now in comparison to early in my trip. We decide to stay at the apartment today, resting, as yesterday was a long hectic day. We venture out only to the local mini market for a few little bits. We have found a new love whilst in Prague. Biscuits called BeBe Dobre Rano. I had a lot of them in the clinic as they are apparently high in fibre and vitamins and are yummy as well!! We are hoping to be able to get them at home as they are great with a cup of tea. A day of reading magazines and doing puzzles today and chatting to home. Feeling better again today, but still some stiffness. The swelling is quite minimal in the morning but as the day goes along I can see it increase. I seem to been flat to belly button level but them the swelling pops out like a ridge to my scar. I do hope this flattens out. It’s difficult not to assess and judge the result, as I am dying to know what I will look like in a few months time and I can't help wondering about the ridge. I presume that it will disappear in time. Saturday 30th May Our last day in Prague...and still raining. Even though it was a grey rainy day outside we decided to wrap up and have one final wander around Prague. We stumbled across a market near the town square where I managed to buy a few little presents for my girls. We stood and watched the hourly clock change in the square and then spotted a Starbucks so went for a coffee to warm up. Today we spent our day giggling about all sorts, which was fun. Although the giggling made me very aware of the bruised feeling in my abdominal muscles. Every time I laughed it felt tight as though I had been doing sit ups, this also goes for coughing and sneezing!! The more I giggled the more I ached!! I really could feel the difference in my recovery today as I walked around. I didn't get quite as tired and moving around was much easier. It’s amazing how quick the recovery progresses in just a few days. After a few purchases, and a cashmere/silk scarf for me, we wandered back to the apartment slowly. We had our evening meal and got everything packed up so that we could have an easy day tomorrow before our flight home. Dr Kulhanek had given me the all clear to have a shower so today was my first in nearly two weeks!! An end to washing my hair in the sink!!! Showering was strange as without my binder on it made me very aware of the numb feeling on my tummy, especially when the water touched my tummy. Feeling refreshed and changing my dressings, I was ready for home to see my children and fiancé. Sunday 31st May We had a leisurely breakfast and I styled my mum’s hair for her, I think she deserved a treat after her hard work over the last two weeks. When it was time to leave, we had a slight problem when our suitcase was locked in our room, but reception quickly came to solve the problem. Our flight was on time, thankfully and I was surprised to feel quite comfortable on the plane. I was aware of making sure to keep my legs moving and took a stroll and stretch as I was at higher risk of blood clot after surgery. We had a smooth flight and landed back to a strangely hot and sunny Leeds Bradford Airport. We slowly collected our baggage and were taking for a bags scanning on the way out, we must have looked suspicious. I was desperate to see my fiancé at the other side. I called him so he could drive through to the pickup point and it was an emotional reunion. He couldn't believe how flat my tummy looked and my smaller waist even though I knew I was swollen after the flight. We drove to our friend’s houses that were looking after the children. It was so emotional when I walked up the path and they realised I was home. My eldest daughter was careful not to squeeze me as she knows I have been away to get rid of my "jelly belly". She was desperate to see the plasters!! So I showed her the binder and she thought it was the biggest plaster she had ever seen. It was wonderful to be at home with Andrew and the girls. The final words ... My whole journey has been a rollercoaster of emotions and it all feels quite surreal. I can't believe that the surgery I have dreamed about for so long has finally done and I can be the Helen I know I am. I have met some wonderful people during my trip and it has been a brilliant experience that I will never forget. I know I still have a long road of recovery ahead of me but I know that I have my support at home and the professional advice from my surgeon and clinic. For me, the surgery was not necessarily just so that I could look pretty in clothes but to close a chapter of my life that was very hard to deal with. At 14 years old I was scouted by a model agency but put on 4 stone within the next year, so my hopes were dashed. I found being overweight to be very depressive and hard to deal with and my saggy stomach was constant reminder of those days. I felt like I carried a piece of someone else around with me and found it so frustrating that I couldn’t do anything to get rid of it after I had worked so hard to lose the weight. I can finally feel confident about myself and love myself in my own skin and hopefully now pursue my modelling hopes. I look down and finally see something I can be happy with and I really do feel like I am finally closing the “fat” chapter of my life and starting a new “thin” chapter that I have strived so hard to achieve. Helen TidswellBefore and after the surgery the winners of the competition were accomodated in luxorious private PragueCityAppartments providing maximum comfort and absolute tranquility with amazing proximity to the historical centre of Prague.

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