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Jackie is ‘Really, Really Pleased’ After Her DIEP Flap Procedure

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Throughout Jackie Cole’s life, she has been through multiple surgeries. From getting her gallbladder removed and getting breast implants for breast cancer reconstruction, Jackie told herself, “No more surgeries.”  

After retiring and deciding to make the move back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from California after 40 years, Jackie noticed a large lump over her left breast. 

“I didn’t think that it was cancer, but I knew that it had to be dealt with because it was getting pretty big,” Jackie said. 

Seroma Leads to Another Surgery

When searching for a breast specialist, she came across Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor who is a plastic surgeon with Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic who specializes in breast reconstruction. Even though it would be a three-hour drive from the UP to Green Bay, it was something she was willing to do as she knew that she needed to see an expert. 

“I had to find a doctor, and I had to find a good one,” Jackie said. 

“Dr. O’Connor did her initial evaluation and assessed immediately that it was a seroma, a very large seroma that had to be removed immediately,” Jackie said. “She was being transparent and thorough.” 

A seroma is a collection of fluid that can build up after surgery. 

Although the lump on her breast didn’t affect her terribly physically, knowing that she would have to again go through another surgery affected her mentally and emotionally.  

When given her options about breast reconstruction, she decided to do the DIEP flap over an implant revision, the reason being that she wanted to avoid future complications and surgeries with implants. 

DIEP flap surgery is when a surgeon uses the patient’s lower abdominal skin and fat to reconstruct breasts after mastectomy. 

Dr. O’Connor brought in Dr. Karri Adamson, another plastic surgeon with Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic, to help with Jackie’s DIEP flap procedure. Dr. Adamson has a special interest in microsurgery and the DIEP flap procedure.  

“I was assured that Dr. Adamson has done over 300 (DIEP flap surgeries),” Jackie said. “I remember thinking ‘Okay, I can calm down. She knows what she’s doing.” 

Throughout the whole process, Jackie felt comfortable with both Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Adamson as they were there for her every step of the way. 

“I felt comfortable with Dr. O’Connor immediately. She exuded this expertise, which is what I wanted,” Jackie said. “I felt the same exact way when introduced to Dr. Adamson.” 

Going through this whole procedure wasn’t easy for Jackie. 

“It’s not a simple thing to have to commit to the steps along the way, but with Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Adamson, that wasn’t a problem because they kept me apprised,” Jackie said. 

Comfort Throughout the Whole Process

After the procedure, Jackie was very satisfied with her overall experience. 

“I would recommend BayCare to anybody,” Jackie said. “I don’t have enough good things to say about the staff at all the locations. Everybody is professional, kind, they’re interested, they listened, they were responsive when I had problems. I didn’t feel like I was pulling teeth to try to get someone to pay attention to me. The doctors were fabulous.” 

After her procedure, it turned out that Jackie had something in common with one of the recovery nurses. 

“One of my nurses in the recovery room was a woman who had a DIEP flap 20 years previously. She was an encouragement for me,” Jackie said.  

The icing on the cake for Jackie was the addition of tattooed nipples and areolae. 

“The medical aesthetician, Caitlin Cotnoir, made this last piece of reconstruction so easy,” Jackie said. “Her artistic skill is superior, and she was able to make me feel normal again. With the most natural looking last piece to the finished work of all these ladies. What she does is not to be underestimated! With her 3D artwork, I feel whole again. I would highly recommend this part of the process to everyone considering it.” 

Resuming Life

Now that Jackie is fully recovered, she’s back to enjoying her retirement and doing activities that she loves doing. Playing with her dog Maggie, collecting rocks, crocheting, and gardening. 

“I’m finding gardening challenging here because the deer like to eat everything I put out!” Jackie laughed. 

“I would do it ten times over because I just think it’s a wise decision to make. When you know that you have good providers that are competent,” Jackie said. Even though having to drive three hours for appointments and checkups, Jackie is glad about her decision to go with Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic because they're a “team of females who want to cater to women in distress.” 

Published: Friday, June 21, 2024