After months of research, I’d decided to do my procedure at CER Clinic with Dr. Luis Suarez in Tijuana, Mexico. If you’d like more info on how I chose a doctor and recovery destination, visit my other journey blog here.
Watch my short video testimonial at CER Clinic here.
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Day before surgery, December 15th, 2016.
Our flight left Fresno in the evening. We flew into San Diego airport. We were to be picked up from the airport by hospital staff to drive us over the border and to the hospital, but our first driver got stuck in a thorough inspection, so they sent a second driver, Ira. She was very nice, and her voice was uncannily similar to Mrs. Dolores “Mama Toad” from the classic film Thumbelina. I’m telling you. UNCANNY. Once she picked us up, we were at the hospital in 30 minutes.
Rainy departure from Fresno to San Diego
Sun peeking through mid-flight
San Diego through the clouds
Coming in for landing
We arrived at the hospital where we were greeted by staff. The first thing I noticed is how bright and sterile the place looked. It was so white and bright with neon backdrops of every sign, along with the prettiest pale periwinkle wall color. We were escorted to the top floor where I got admitted, paid my balance, and escorted into our suite where we would spend the night.
Meals will be provided for you only. However, food is a delicious and ridiculously inexpensive commodity here. There are multiple places right outside of the hospital doors for your loved ones to grab a bite to eat. However, I must warn you, outside food cannot be brought back to your suite. Your loved ones can eat their food in the lobby, but they are not allowed to bring it to your room.
Day of surgery, December 16th, 2016.
The next morning, we were greeted by Dr. Suarez and nurses, where they took final blood work, placed my IV, marked my stomach, and went over surgical plans and expectations. Dr. Suarez was very courteous, respectful and made me feel comfortable. Well, as comfortable as I could be standing in the buff of someone I just met in person 3 minutes prior. Surgery was scheduled for 10am. I was wheeled down to the surgical floor where they got me all prepped for the procedure. They removed just over FOUR POUNDS of excess skin! I couldn’t believe it!
Surgery lasted about 2 hours, but I wasn’t brought back to my suite for almost 5 hours. If you’re bringing a companion with you, please prepare them for that. It may take longer than usual to be taken back up to your suite, but that doesn’t mean something’s wrong. Let your companion know to be prepared so they don’t worry.
I woke up from surgery with zero pain. My legs were not mobile yet because of the epidural. I didn’t start feeling discomfort until many hours later. The nursing staff showed up every four hours on the dot, even throughout the night while I slept, for my next pain med dose. Not all of the nursing staff spoke English, but between hand signals and my Google Translate app, we managed communication just fine. I recommend you download it for your trip. I also slept much better propped up using my travel neck pillow vs hospital pillows, so I highly recommend bringing one.
Day 1 post op, December 17th, 2016.
I slept well and was clear for discharge. Diana called my caretakers at Eureka Medical Recovery Guesthouse to come pick us up. Nurses helped me shower, get into my compression garment and get dressed. I was given post op instructions and 10 days worth of meds. Amanda arrived to pick me up and we were off to the beach house. The ride was bumpy, but bearable. Drivers are insane here, I’ll just leave it at that, hehe.
I spoke too soon, I suppose. I started to feel more and more pain as the day went on, but it wasn’t until about 35 hours post op. When we arrived to the guesthouse, I was greeted by Linda, a sweet Canadian-born lady and owner of Eureka. She was already prepping food for dinner. Linda and Amanda helped us get our room all set up and gave us the tour.
View from living room
Sunset during dinner
Trail down to the beach
View from our bedroom window
When we were settled and made our way to the main living area, we were greeted with great conversation and fresh Arnica tea while Linda cooked dinner. She was making carrot and ginger soup to help with swelling and circulation. She had many stories to share about her love of cooking and history in Tijuana. By that time, the pain had started kicking in and I needed to lie down. They brought me dinner in bed and made sure I had everything I needed. I didn’t have much energy to enjoy their company more, so I turned in pretty early.
Day 2 post op, December 18th, 2016.
I woke up to pee twice during the night. The pain was pretty strong. My bulbs are still draining plenty of fluid, and I made the mistake of sneezing. Well, it was more like a sneeze that was instantly interrupted with a loud, “Oh, crappppp, OW!” – I won’t be doing that again any time soon. I got to take a closer look at my new stomach and I am already very pleased with the results despite the swelling.
Linda had some wonderful and strong Mexican coffee and a fresh fruit waiting for us when we woke up, then she made us croissants and a veggie omelet followed by more Arnica tea. I enjoyed tea on the balcony overlooking the ocean in my cozy robe while Linda and Michael took her dogs on a hike to explore the neighborhood and beach access. Despite the pain, I was feeling wonderful.
Our caretakers are pretty awesome. Linda’s husband, Luis, is a wealth of information. It’s like listening to a story teller about history and the meaning behind certain tequilas, Mexican empires, fact origins, and music. Any reservations I had about staying in someone else’s home to recover are completely gone. It’s not awkward or strange. It feels like we’re staying with friends and making great memories.
Day 3 post op, December 19th, 2016.
Last night, I was able to sleep on my side! I couldn’t believe it. Surely it’s too soon, but I am so uncomfortable sleeping on my back. We had fresh coffee and a delicious hot breakfast again. I woke up in much less pain than yesterday, and my drainage is significantly lower than yesterdays. Usually, my bulb is full of fluid (nearly 100cc’s) after 12 hours, but today I barely had 25cc’s in my left and only 11 cc’s in my right bulb. That’s a huge difference. I am feeling much better today, so we’re going to try get out of the house to explore and shop (I’ll be in a wheelchair, of course).
Amanda (Luis and Linda’s daughter) took us to TJ to do some shopping. The sidewalks were so bumpy, but I handled it the best I could. I bought a beautiful turquoise bracelet for myself, a handmade pink leather purse for my daughter, and a green pottery skull container for my son. Most of the stores offered a “Welcome to Mexico” complimentary shot of Tequila. Michael enjoyed that, haha. It was fun playing tourist for a while. Amanda really helped in negotiating prices for me in Spanish, I was so thankful she was there with us! After shopping, she took us to this awesome eatery in Playas called Taco Nazo. I had a pork tostada. HOLY DELICIOUSNESS! I could have eaten ten of them.
Taco Nazo – Playas
We’re back at the guesthouse now, and although I was in a wheelchair during all of our time out of the house, I’m pretty exhausted. Time to lie down with a good book and rest up. After all, it is only day 3!
Day 4 post op, December 20th, 2016.
I slept pretty well last night. I was actually able to sleep on both of my sides last night, which felt amazing. I realized last night before bed the reason my left drain hardly had any fluid in it. There was a clot stuck in the drain tube. It’s fairly easy to unclog, and as soon as I did, fluid began to drain again. I don’t feel very swollen today, and I can’t believe how great my new mid section looks already. The pain gets more tolerable each day, though I’m noticing a pattern: my pain is very minimal in the mornings and early afternoons, but gets worse as the day goes on. By dinner time, I’m aching to take my pain pill early. Since my meds are limited to just a ten day supply, I can’t take extras as needed. However, I will be going to my primary doctor when I get home to get a supply of pain management just in case I still need them when I get home. I recommend doing that before you head out here so they’re waiting for you when you get home!
On our balcony
From the cliff
Our guesthouse and private beach access
Tonight was incredible. Patient Coordinators, Diana and Cassandra from CER Hospital, came to check on me and have dinner with us at Eureka. Linda really outdid herself! We had a snack platter in the shape of a Christmas tree, a fresh Christmas salad, stuffed pork loin with blackberry wine sauce, and mashed potatoes. Luis put on some Christmas music and poured champagne for the ladies, while entertaining us with more tales of the meaning behind every song we heard. We shared life stories, lots of laughs, happy tears, and created memories that I’ll take with me forever.
I was in a lot more pain and visibly more swollen when I went to bed. I’m positive it was due to all of the laughs shared at the dinner table this evening. I know I overdid it, but the experience and memories were worth it. I’ll take it extra easy tomorrow. I came here for plastic surgery and private recovery care, expecting to receive just that. I had no idea I would leave here with so many wonderful memories, great experiences, and new friends who have become more like family. This entire trip was so much more than I bargained for.
Christmas salad and Snack Tree
Snack Christmas Tree
Dinner on night 3
Day 5 post op, December 21st, 2016.
This is our last night in TJ. As promised, I took it extra easy today and rested in bed most of the day. It rained on and off all day, so we watched movies while listening to a soothing combination of crashing ocean waves and trickling rain drops. Linda worked, so Amanda took care of me today. She did laundry for me and made us amazing home made enchiladas for lunch. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time here, I am so ready to go home and wrap my arms around my babies. Chances are I won’t see Linda in the morning since she leaves for work very early, so I hugged her before bed and thanked her so much for not only taking such great care of me while I recovered, but for sending me off with beautiful memories to take with me. We both teared up a bit! We’ve been welcomed back for any future stay that may take us back to Mexico, and I can’t wait to see everyone again.
Day 6 post op, December 22nd, 2016.
After breakfast we sat at the dining table answering emails and working a bit. The time seemed to be going by very slow because the only thing on my mind was holding my babies tonight! We left for TJ to my post op appointment. TJ was completely flooded. A drive that should have taken us twenty minutes took us an hour and a half! The streets were so flooded in some areas that it was boiling out of the sewer drains and was halfway up the doors on the Ford Explorer some of the time. Thank goodness we were in an SUV, I don’t know how cars made it through that nightmare.
We finally made it to the hospital, where they removed my right drain and kept my left drain in. It was not painful to remove the drain, but it did feel strange. The doctor removed my medical tape and I was finally able to see my scar. I waited until the tape was fully removed to look, and I was half expecting to look like Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. The doctor peeled the tape halfway off and said, “I love your scar! Beautiful.” I still refrained from looking down until the tape was completely off.
Okay, time to look.
What the? Where is it? Where’s the scar?! It’s hardly even noticeable! “Oh my gosh!” I squealed as I started to tear up and cry. This is incredible! My doctor used internal stitches and stitched it up so beautifully that the scar is hardly visible. THANK YOU, DR. SUAREZ! THANK YOU!
I am so beyond thrilled with my results I can’t even express it. Now, time to go to the airport so I can see my babies!
Our ride was a really sweet young lady. We had a medical fast pass to get us through the border faster, but we were still expecting traffic because of the holidays. Surprisingly, it didn’t take as long as we expected. We were at the airport in plenty of time, so we watched Tim Allen’s “Santa Clause” movie and waited for departure. The ride home was a bit bumpy, but we finally landed in Fresno ten minutes earlier than scheduled. My best friend Maria and her husband Del were there to pick us up. It’s so good to be home!
Day 7 post op, December 23rd, 2016.
It was great waking up in my own bed today. I slept pretty well. I woke up to an email from Diana checking in on me to see how I’m doing since being home. I know many of you are wondering about post op appointments when you get a procedure done in Mexico. Here’s how it works: Post op appointments are welcomed and encouraged. It never costs any extra money and it’s good for you to go back and see your doctor if you’re able to. However, it is not required. If you’re unable to travel back to Mexico for any post op appointments, you will keep in touch virtually. I don’t know that I’ll be able to take the time off or afford to go back for a post op appointment, so I will be emailing my Doctor every few days with my drain fluid amounts so he can let me know when it’s okay to remove my last drain. Then every month or so I’ll be sending him progress pictures to review and provide feedback.
So, let’s review.
YES, I chose Tijuana, Mexico for my skin removal surgery. NO, I didn’t wake up in a dirty alley with my kidneys missing. YES, I survived. NO, it wasn’t scary like media and biased shows like Botched try to make you believe. YES, I am 1000% thrilled with my results. YES, my doctor spoke fluent English, as did most of his staff. YES, it was an impressive and sterile clinic. And finally…YES, I would do it all over again in a heart beat.
If your family or friends decide to give you the “You’re bonker balls crazy,” look when you mention you’re looking into cosmetic surgery in Mexico, let them know they can keep their ignorant, closed minded comments to themselves. Trust me, if you do your research, you will be able to shove their comments in their faces later when you come home looking fabulous 😉
Viva La Mexico!