Deciding on which plastic surgeon to go with was literally one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my entire life. After deciding that plastic surgery was right for me, I thought it was going to be a breeze to find information on good doctors, and in turn find one that I clicked with and that I thought would give me great care before, during, and after the procedure. But since plastic surgeons are definitely a little less openly discussed than other medical professionals, a lot of the referrals come based on word of mouth or through friends or family who’ve had similar procedures. Since I don’t know anyone personally who’s undergone this or other types of plastic surgery in the area, it made it that much more difficult.
Before the Consultations
The first step for figuring out who to see was mentioning to my regular doctor that I was thinking about getting plastic surgery on my abdomen, and seeing if she had any recommendations of surgeons. She gave me a list of three to check out, one of which I had already been thinking about because I had heard good things and have a friend that works at the office. The other two doctor’s I hadn’t heard of, but I looked them up and was able to find some information online.
I did a ton of research on this procedure before moving forward with scheduling any appointments because I wanted to be as informed as possible going into the consultations. I also came up with a list of questions I wanted to ask based on this research before scheduling anything (which is listed at the bottom of this post). After feeling good about the questions, I went ahead and scheduled consultations with two of the doctors from the list, and a third doctor I found on my own.
Making those initial calls to set up the consultations was such a turning point – I was REALLY taking steps to make this happen! Each office does the consultation costs differently – the first office didn’t charge me at all, the second one charged a $75 nonrefundable fee, and the third held a credit card in case I didn’t show, but also did not charge for the consult. I was able to get in the next week with the first doctor, and then a few weeks later with the second and third.
During the Consultation
Each of the consultations went much the same – it started with filling out some paperwork and then going in the room to wait for the doctor. The doctor would come in with at least one other person (usually a nurse) and speak with me for about 15 – 30 minutes about what I was there for, what my expectations were, and what questions I had. After going through all that, they would leave the room so I could change into a hospital gown with just my undergarments on, and then the doctor and nurse would come back in to do the exam.
During this time, they would talk about their specific approach for the procedure while doing the exam, and answer any additional questions that came up. Two of the doctors took “before” pictures at this point, and one did not take photos during the consult. After this, they would have me meet with the surgical coordinator to give a cost proposal and talk about the different procedures that were recommended. The surgical coordinator is also who can answer a lot of questions and would put me in touch with former patients or give additional access to before and after photos that may not be on the public website.
Evaluating My Options
Though the processes themselves for the consultations were much the same, there were some stark differences between the three doctors.
To put it lightly, the first doctor blew my socks off. I felt like he really listened to me, completely understood where I was coming from and what my expectations were, and seemed to really care. He also made me feel very comfortable and said “You deserve this”, which is something that has stuck with me since. Everyone I met outside of the doctor, from the receptionist, to the nurse, to the surgical coordinator were also very sweet and made me feel cared for and important. I also liked how nice the office itself was and where it was located because it’s very convenient to where I work and live.
The second doctor… I just hated. He made me feel really bad about my body, seemed very bored and uninterested in me, and couldn’t seem to get out of the room quick enough, even though his reviews were excellent. He was also very cocky, and seemed annoyed by my questions. When I asked him why he said the procedure would take 2 hours instead of the 4.5 hours quoted by the first doctor (and later by the third), he said, “I just don’t go that slow.” Um, ok. I don’t doubt that he is a skilled surgeon, but just wasn’t the right one for me.
I was expecting to go into the third doctor and be sure about my decision to go with doctor #1, so I set the bar pretty low. I felt like since it was my third consultation, I was able to ask really good questions and have him give me answers to why his approach was slightly different from the other two doctors. He said I needed some additional procedures on top of the tummy tuck, but overall I liked him more than I was expecting to. The one thing I didn’t love was that when he asked how I lost the weight (gastric bypass?) and I told him Weight Watchers, he told me how his ex-wife worked for Nutrisystems so he really “got it” and thinks those programs all work really well. I can’t expect people to know Weight Watchers inside and out, BUT I feel like as a medical professional you should know that WW is a little different…
I left the third consultation feeling really excited, but also conflicted since I had two doctors that I liked. I am definitely an emotional and excitable person, so I was beaming coming out of that third consult, but I knew I should wait a few days to really look at the facts to make a decision. I ended up making a pro and con list for both of the doctors and found the first doctor had more pros and less cons. I sent a list of follow up questions to doctor #1 asking for him to clarify a few minor differences in surgical approach. I also made a phone call to the patient the first doctor had given me, which was a really amazing resource. She was around my age, had also gone through massive weight loss with diet and exercise, and answered every question I had in a lot of detail. After talking with her about her surgical experience, how pleased she was with her results and the office staff as a whole, it really sealed the deal for me to go with the first doctor I saw.
The surgeon I decided to go with is Dr. Paul Ruff IV from Ruff Plastic Surgery. I got such a great feeling when meeting him, saw many incredible before and after pictures of his work, and felt (and continue to feel) well treated by the entire office staff. The location is also very convenient, but speaking with his former patient was really the icing on the cake for me to feel certain about my decision.
This is the list of questions I went in with and Dr. Ruff’s answers paraphrased in MY words (with a month and half and two additional consultations in between, so take them with a grain of salt).
- Will there be complications if I want to get pregnant down the road?
No, you can absolutely get pregnant after having a tummy tuck. It’s recommended that if you’re in the middle of having children or plan to get pregnant soon then you wait, but as long as you plan to wait at least 6 months after the surgery you are fine. There is always a chance you might want or need a revision post pregnancy since we can’t predict exactly how your body will respond to pregnancy (just as they can’t with any person) but you definitely will bounce back BETTER than you would if you didn’t have this surgery because the excess skin and fat will be gone.
- What is the recovery like? How long should I take off from work? How long will I be completely unreachable after the surgery if a work emergency comes up?
Recovery is the most painful 24-72 hours after the surgery, but every person experiences recovery differently. After that, it’s 6 weeks until you’re returning to all your regular activities, but swelling can last for a few months. The scar fades over time and can take 2-3 years to be fully faded. We want you to start moving around as much as possible right away and walking to and from the bathroom from the get-go. You are good to take 1 – 2 weeks off from work after surgery (if you have a desk job), and you can expect to be unreachable for about 3 – 4 days. It’s more that you might not want to be reached than anything, though.
- How long do I need someone to stay with me 24/7 after the procedure?
At least 2 – 3 days according to Dr. Ruff, but Michelle, the surgical coordinator, said a lot of women are more comfortable with 5 – 7 days of full time assistance.
- Where will my incision be located exactly? Where will the drains be placed after surgery?
The incision will be located very low from hip to hip. It will go at least as far as the overhang of skin, and usually around 1 inch past that on either side for the best contouring results.
- Will any other body parts be affected from the tummy tuck?
Your whole body contour and shape will be improved (with the help of some lipo as well), and your inner thighs may be lifted too.
- At what point can I start exercising again?
Usually light exercise and cardio around 4 weeks post op, and then weight lifting at the 6 week mark. But again, every person is different.
- Is there any special diet I should be eating before or after the procedure for the best healing possible?
High protein has the best results for healing.
- Do you think I am a good candidate for this procedure?
You’re an ideal candidate. You are young, healthy, and deserve to be proud of the body that you’ve worked so hard for.