Today we are sharing Justine’s story – she’s had bariatric surgery, had a massive weightloss, then started on her plastics journey to ‘fix things’ as she says. Justine thought about travelling overseas and did heaps of research. She gets down to the nitty gritty and tells us why she decided to have her surgery done locally in WA and why she chose the plastic surgeon she chose. Lots of great advice in here if you’re contemplating any surgery after weightloss, so enjoy this great feature about Justine’s multiple procedures after massive weight loss.
Trish: Okay. Well, we’re here today with Justine. Justine lives in WA and she’s had a few procedures done just recently. We’re just going to have a bit of a chat to her. Justine is a massive weight loss patient and she did lots of research before, during, and after her procedures and she knows a lot about a lot of things. Welcome, Justine.
Trish: Yeah. Thanks for coming along. Justine, so tell us, so first of all how old are you?
Justine: Yeah, good question. I keep telling myself I’m 28, but I’m actually 47.
Justine: Yeah, 47. I’ve been sort of morbidly obese my whole life, tipping the scales at 165 kilos was my wake up moment.
Trish: Wow, wow.
Justine: Yeah, yeah. It was actually a photo that set me off to go see a …
Trish: Bariatric surgeon?
Justine: Yup, yeah. Sorry. Thank you, that’s the word.
Trish: That’s okay.
Justine: Bariatric surgeon in Perth. He performed the lap band on me and that worked really, really well. I didn’t actually have any complications as such from the band, but I ended up having that removed and revising to the sleeve due to a geographical change in my working situation. I couldn’t really regulate the band properly where I was now living, so the sleeve opened up that new lifestyle for me and continued with my weight loss to lost 75 kilos. I got down to about 90 kilos, so I started my investigation in the excess skin removal probably a year before I actually went ahead and did it. I went and had consults.
I was over in Thailand for work and I was aware of a few groups that went from Australia to Thailand and they escorted groups. I kept a very open mind, and although that wasn’t for me I thought I might go and actually have a consult with the surgeon that these groups use and I’d do it privately just to get a ballpark sort of thing, and went to the hospital and everything and had a consult with the surgeon. I had an idea with the procedures that I would need doing, which was obviously the breast reduction and lift, the arm reduction, a lower body lift or belt lipectomy and my thighs as well.
I thought well, I’d love to be able to get it all done at once as you do when you first start out. So I went to see this surgeon in Thailand and he said, “Yeah, yeah. Sure, we can do it. We can do it in three operations over four days. You’ll need to be here for six weeks to recover from this sort of thing and it’ll cost $16,000.” I was like, “Yeah, okay. Right. Cheers, thanks mate,” and continued on with what I was doing in Thailand. Flew back to Australia, had that as a ballpark. Then I looked at, I heard that my bariatric surgeon did excess skin removal for his weight loss surgery patients.
Justine: Yeah. That sort of frightened me, Trish, to be honest because I thought although this guy was great and he gave me my life back sort of thing, and he was good as a general surgeon, I needed somebody a little bit more specialised. That’s when I started researching the differences between what somebody calls themselves as a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon. That’s when I realised it’s like well, if you’re a GP you can call yourself a cosmetic surgeon. If you’re a plastic surgeon, well obviously you’ve got your medical degree, but then you’ve got another further seven to nine years training on top of that.
My profession, I’m a qualified trades person for 20 odd years. We also have people that do the same job without the qualifications and it irritates me that they class themselves the same as me. I could understand the difference, how frustrating it would be for a plastic surgeon to be put in the same boat as a cosmetic surgeon. Then I spoke to my bariatric surgeon and he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can do your tummy tuck for you, you know, for $3,000 or $4,000 and that.” I thought, you know what? No thanks. I want an actual plastic surgeon … I want somebody that knows what they’re doing.
Trish: Yeah. When it comes to a point like that it’s reconstructive surgery, really. It’s all about the form and the function rather than just skin removal.
Justine: Exactly, exactly. I’m not knocking the bariatric surgeon at all because he’s brilliant at what he does, but for me I wanted a professional and I wanted that plastic surgeon. Then I started, I was thinking, “Well, shit. You know, I don’t know where to even start to look for a plastic surgeon.” Obviously I found a couple of plastic surgery pages through the weight loss pages on Facebook, but then the names being branded about it was sort of very cliché. There was a surgeon in Adelaide everybody would go to, but….. Oh, I think we’ve a bit of a hiccup there, Trish.
Trish: That’s okay. I can hear you fine. We’ll just keep going. That’s all right.
Justine: There were a lot of flavour of the month surgeons and people were travelling far and wide to go see these surgeons. I was like, “Eh, I don’t know.” I took a bit of time with my research and everything and then I found the West Australian Plastic Surgery Centre. Also I heard of a top female surgeon in WA and a couple of other surgeons in WA and I thought, “Okay, all right.” What I liked about the WA Plastic Surgery Centre was they had six surgeons there. They were all highly trained plastic reconstructive surgeons and it was a whole holistic setup. They had the great after care system in place where postoperatively you could go there as many times as you needed, and this is all included in the cost. You weren’t getting charged every time you went post-op and that sort of thing.
I went and had the consult with a female surgeon and another surgeon and then I went and had a look at the WA Plastic Surgery Centre and I thought, “Oh, God. Now I’ve got to pick which surgeon I want to go and see.” They had a great website. They’ve also got a medispa that’s attached to it, so if you’re not really sure about cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery, you can have all these other procedures and that. Then I looked at the surgeons, read their bios and everything, and I’m a bit of a local girl so they had a couple of local trained boys and that sort of thing, and there was one that caught my eye. I thought, oh I might make an appointment with him.
Trish: Okay. I hope it wasn’t just because he was good looking.
Justine: Oh, my God. Do you know what? He wasn’t really that good looking.
Justine: His photo isn’t good looking but he’s sort of, when you meet him in person you fall into these beautiful eyes and it’s like, “Oh, my God.” It was like, McDreamy eyes, so I was like, “Yeah, you’re the one.” He was the one surgeon that refused to do what I wanted.
Trish: Right. That’s interesting.
Justine: It was really interesting. He was the one that actually kept it real for me because he said to me, he said, “Right. Okay. This is what you need doing.” By that stage I’d lost all inhibitions. I walked in, stripped off naked in front of him. He’s like, “Oh, hang on. I’ll get the nurse.” I said, “No, no, no. It’s okay. It’s alright. It’s all good. You’ve seen it all before.” I was going to have a belt lipectomy and the lower body lift sort of thing. In the end I changed and had an extended fleur de lis. That was my first procedure. The second procedure was going to be my arms and my breasts. Then my final procedure was going to come back and do the mons reduction and my thighs.
I was a bit angry with him because I said, “Look. If we’re going to do the tummy tuck, let’s do the thighs at the same time.” He said, “Well, look. You know, here’s the facts Justine.” He said, “These two areas are on the same blood supply. You’re a smoker. You’ve been a smoker for 20, 30 years.” He said, “If I do that your skin will die.” He said, “And I will just … I’m not going to put myself to that. I’m not going to put you at that risk.” He said, “You need to give up smoking six months before surgery or I’m not even going to look at you.”
That forced another … That was another big thing, having to give up smoking, because I loved smoking. I loved it and didn’t want to, but I had to look at the bigger picture. I wanted this skin gone. I thought, “Okay, all right. This guy knows what he’s talking about.” I think it was also, he said something to me in that consult. He said, “Look.” He said, “I look at you like you’re my mother or my sister.” And he said, “If I’m not prepared to do it on them, I’m not prepared to do it on you.”
Trish: Yeah. That’s nice and reassuring. I usually ask that question myself. What would you do if it was your wife or your sister?
Justine: Yeah. He said that to me. I didn’t really ask about that, but he said that to me, and I was like, “Yeah. You’re the one.” Then I told him about the consult in Thailand and he shook his head. He said, “The fact that they were willing to put you through … You know, you know what it’s like.” I’m a veteran of surgery anyway, not cosmetic or plastic, but other surgeries. This is like, my twentieth general anaesthetic. He said, “The fact that they were going to prep you for surgery, have a big surgery, recover, then prep you the next day and go in again,” he said, “doesn’t that, you know, the alarm bells ring? You know, shouldn’t they be ringing?” I said, “No. You’re right, you’re right.” The cost of all of the procedures in Thailand was the cost of just my first procedure here.
Trish: Yeah. The very first thing you had done was the fleur de lis tummy tuck, which is …
Justine: Yeah. The extended fleur de lis that went just around to my back flank sort of thing. He said, “We don’t need to go the whole way around. You weren’t carrying too much in your middle, lower back.” I had that done and recovery was pretty much plot forward. I had the small wound breakdown at the D junction like 9 out of 10 people do have.
Trish: You had that procedure. When was that roughly?
Trish: Okay, so November the year before last. How long did it take you to recover from that?
Justine: Well, fortunately with work … I am a highschool teacher. Fortunately with work I had a six week break. I took a couple of weeks leave and I needed the whole lot. I don’t understand how people can say you can go back to work in two weeks. I took that whole time to recover.
Trish: And so … Oh, sorry. Go on.
Justine: No, no, no. Go on.
Trish: I was going to say, and the procedure that you had after that was which one?
Justine: Then I went back and I booked again for November 27th this year. I’m sorry, last year.
Trish: Okay, so a year later.
Justine: Yeah. A year later because I was putting my surgeries one year apart purely for work. I had this paid leave, so it was like, you’re silly not to take it and put it then. I was booked to have my arms done and a breast reduction and breast lift done, and the mons pubis reduction and lift. I was having a scar revision done along the mons line so we were always going to go back and do the mons later. I was a little bit scared. I didn’t want the mons done the first time around because I was afraid. I’d seen so many raised, lifted so high that it was almost in line with your belly button. I sort of said let’s just leave that low and we’ll come back to that later.
Justine: He was happy with that and so about two months before my surgery I’d been making some poor choices. I’d put on 10 kilos.
Trish: Oh, no.
Justine: Yeah, I know. I was so upset.
Trish: I know. I’ve done it too. It’s okay.
Justine: Yeah. I know. Seriously, I was beating myself up over it and I’m also going through menopause as well.
Justine: I was taking some medication which caused a rapid weight gain in a short amount of time. He said to me, he said, “Look, Justine,” he said, “I can do your arms, but let’s face it. I’m going to have to go back and do a revision because you’re going to lose the weight again.” I was hoping. I needed these arms done and he said, “Look. If I can’t talk you out of it I’ll do it, but I really … This is the reality of it. I will have to do a revision later.” I was gutted because I’d never shown my arms since I was about 12 years old. Yeah. Mentally it was a big thing, told no, I’m not doing your arms. I thought, “Oh, stuff it. Here, look. I’ve got the money. What else can you do?” I said, “What about my eyes? People are always telling me I’m tired, I look tired.” He looked at me and he said, “Well,” he said, “your upper eyelids,” he said, “you’d be a great candidate for that.” I said, “Well, come on. Let’s do that. We’ll do something completely cosmetic.”
Trish: Did you do your arms as well?
Justine: I ended up listening to him and I ended up listening to him and used that … I walked away with that and he said, “I’m going to do your arms and your legs at the same time,” because he said, “in actual fact, they’re the last that really should be done if you’re going through your whole body.” So he said, “Use that as your motivation for when you come back.” I said, “All right, that’s great.” So on November 27th this year, or in 2016, I had my upper eyelids done, my breast reduction which I was a J cup and he took 1.4 kilos off the left breast and 1.5 kilos off the right breast.
Justine: And I’m not a C cup. I got fitted the other day which was really spinning because I couldn’t fill a D cup. I was like, “Oh, my God.” I did tell him, I specifically told my surgeon, I said, “Take them all off. I don’t want them.”
Justine: I said, “Okay, I trust you.” I trust him completely.
Justine: My partner is not really over the moon with it. He thinks I’m as flat as a surfboard, but I said, “You’ll get over it. I feel great. I feel awesome.” The mons pubis, that has been reduced beyond my wildest dreams. I want to show it to the world.
Trish: You had your breast reduction, your eyes, and your mons pubis together.
Trish: Last year in November.
Justine: Yeah. You know what? This recovery has probably been a little bit harder than the extended fleur de lis. Whether or not because it was three different areas, I’m not too sure. I stayed in hospital for … I stay as long as I can because it’s just a little break for me. I stayed, I think it was five nights this time. Then because I’m a country patient I then stayed local for a few days and then had my post-op appointment with him. I was just about to go back home and then I developed a haematoma in my mons pubis area. I did have my final post-op appointment with him. Seriously, this is what I’m talking about, is why I’m so glad I went to where I was instead of [inaudible 00:18:38] or …
I can’t speak for the other places I was looking at in Perth, but this WA Plastic Surgery Centre seriously, I went there, I saw the nurse. She said, “Yeah, okay. There’s obviously a problem.” My surgeon came into the room. He wrote out a referral, rang for a CT scan straight away. I was in a private clinic getting a CT scan within a half an hour. Went back, he said, “Look.” He goes, “I really didn’t want to have to open you up again, but I’m going to have to.” He said, “I think you’ll be okay for the next … ” This is on a Wednesday. He said, “You’ll be okay.” He said, “I’m going to do you first thing Friday morning so come back in and we’ll meet you.”
Justine: I went back in totally cool with the whole thing and the anaesthetist just thinks that I’m there for frequent flyer points because I’ve had the same anaesthetist. I said to him, I said, “I wasn’t happy with the last one.” I said, “You knocked me out too quick. I told you to put it in slowly if I’m paying this sort of money.”
Justine: This was all done free of charge, the whole revision and every … That complication, there was no cost whatsoever.
Trish: I like the fact that you were seen to so quickly and not … You know what I mean? That’s fantastic.
Justine: The aftercare is second to none. Cannot fault it.
Cannot fault it at all. That’s what people don’t seem to realise. They think, “Oh, yeah. I’m going to go overseas and I’m going to have a holiday and I’m going to do this and that.” It’s like, “Um, hello. You’re going for surgery and it’s … You’re going to be in pain.” Sure enough, I mean look, there are some success stories, but there’s a lot of horror stories as well. If I’m going to be a horror story, I’d rather be at home.
Justine: There was a complication and I needed to go back into theatre and I’m just so happy that my surgeon and his team could deal with it there and then and straight away and that. I healed beautifully. I have absolutely no scarring on my eyes.
Trish: Yeah, right.
Justine: Well, I’ve got photos on that plastic surgery hub page, the ones that haven’t been taken down.
Trish: Yeah. For anyone who wants to know, Justine and I met on the Facebook closed support forum and she’s forever saying what she thinks, but also posting photos that Facebook doesn’t like so they remove the photo and block her for 24 hours. She’s now on her second warning so she’s been blocked off of Facebook for three days. She’s always doing bad things as far as Facebook is concerned.
Justine: I think it’s more education things, Trish. I like to educate people. Maybe my sticker wasn’t quite big enough. Perhaps, I don’t know. Maybe the sticker wasn’t big enough, but it was the mons reduction one that they didn’t take too kindly too this time. I was thinking, “Well, how big can you put the sticker? You want to show people a reduction.”
Trish: Yeah, exactly. You must feel like a new … You’ve still got your arms and thighs to do. Is that right?
Justine: Yes, that’s correct. Yeah. I’m actually going to take a year off this year. I think my body just needs a little bit of rest time. I’m a bit of a traveller Trish, I’ll be honest with you. I do like to go away and I said to my partner, I said, “I can’t do surgery again this year. I have to go away for Christmas and New Year. I cannot spend another Christmas and New Year at home.”
Trish: Recovering, right?
Justine: Yeah. Exactly. It was doing my head in so I said I’m taking a break this year and we’re going to … It gives me that time to get back in that headspace, lose the weight, get myself down to a happy space. I’m never going to be a size eight. At my absolute happiest where people were saying how good and skinny I looked, I was actually a size 14 to 16.
That was my ultimate goal was to get to that size, and that’s where I’m happy at the moment. Yeah.
Trish: You do find that happy space.
Justine: You do, you do. It’s really difficult when you start out when you’re super morbidly obese. People say, “What’s your goal,” and it’s like you don’t have any idea. I had no idea what my goal would be. I thought my dream would be, you know, oh geez it would be nice to be a size 16 or something like that. You just pluck something out of your head. You don’t know what your body is going to be like …
Trish: Yeah, exactly.
Justine: … and that sort of thing. I think … Yeah, sorry. Go on.
Trish: I was going to say so you’ve lost 75 kilos. You’re pretty much stable now give or take 5, 10 kilos depending on what’s going on in your life at the time probably, not dissimilar to myself. You’ve had those procedures. You’ve got two more that you want to have done, which is your … You want to have your thighs done.
Justine: Yes, that’s a medial thigh lift. That’s from the inside, from the groyne area down to the kneecap.
Trish: Yup, and your arms, your brachioplasty.
Justine: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. Definitely my arms. Yeah.
Trish: Okay. Well, that sounds great. I really admire the fact that you’ve been able to space it out like that for yourself, but the fact that you … I know a lot of people do want to get it all done at once but I’m not the all at once type of person myself either. It does frighten me a bit to have all that done at once because you do need a long recovery.
Justine: I actually was that person that wanted it all done at once and then when the surgeon I went to explained to me your blood supply and what’s connected and everything and I said to him, “Well, look. If you’re doing the fleur de lis, can you do the thighs?” He said no because of the blood thing. Can you do the breasts? I wanted more than one thing done. I was like, “Come on!” I was like, “Come on!” I said, “Can you do the tummy tuck and the boobs at the same time,” and he said, “No.” And he said, “You’re going to thank me for this in a year when you come back,” he said, “because what happens is when they do the tummy and well, especially the fleur de lis, things go pulled down and things go pulled up.” He said, “Then things settle.”
He said, “It takes a good six months to a year for things to settle in and everything.” He said, “Then when we come back and do your breasts you get another little pull up at the same time and it all complements each other.” I was like, “Oh, yeah. I supposed yeah, you’re right.” Part of me was thinking, was quite cynical thinking, “You just want my money. This is all about you getting maximum dollars out of me.” The other part was thinking, “Oh, this guy’s actually quite logical.” That’s what sold me on it was his logic. What was really comforting Trish, was when I was being wheeled into theatre for my first surgery the nurses said to me, she said, “He’s the surgeon I’m going to use.”
Trish: Yeah, right. That’s great.
Justine: That was awesome, and the nurses in the plastics ward at the hospital were also saying there’s only three surgeons that they would use and he was one of them. They said, “We see everybody’s work.”
Justine: He was one of them, and I was just like, “Ah.” I do, I call him OCD, but you want that in a surgeon. You do.
Trish: I actually watched a surgeon in Brisbane perform a procedure. He did a breast reduction and a tummy tuck. I watched him and he was a little bit OCD like, to the point where he actually had finished, was close to maybe two inches of sewing up at the end from the breast reduction and thought, “No, not happy there.” He kind of went back in with the lipo and just did a bit more lipo under the top of her belly. Just that OCD, to watch that in action where someone’s really fussy, they want to put out a really good job and make the patient happy, is just like … To be there while that was happening, I was like, “Wow.” It makes you feel really assured. You know? Really confident for that person.
Justine: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I was so pleased with this mons reduction and people say, “Oh, yeah. I want that done when I have my tummy tuck done.” It’s like, small steps. They’re not miracle workers and you need to be patient. You need to be patient with it. You need to give your body time to heal and recover and fall into that shape. He did a lot of lipo where I believe with the mons reduction normally they do a vertical incision where he didn’t have to do that with mine. Because he was doing the scar revision across the pubic hair line he said there was enough there to lift up, pull down, pull it into the same place and just lipo the shit out of it.
Trish: Mm-hmm (affirmative), great.
Justine: Yeah. I was like, “Woo-hoo! You’re good!”
Trish: I like that. I’ll have to put that in, use it as a quote. Lipo the shit out of it. Yes.
Justine: Yeah, lipo the shit out of it.
Trish: Yeah. Well, that’s great Justine. I’ve been dying to have a chat to you about what you’ve had done and what your plans are for the future and just basically sharing your journey with us.
Justine: Well, thanks Trish. It’s been a pleasure to be able to share it. Part of me, as I said to you earlier, I said I’m not one of these people who goes and spurts my surgeon’s name around. If people ask privately I’ll let them know, but I think part of the thing is he’s a very humble, private man and he’s not in it for the publicity. There’s a lot of surgeons out there that use that social media platform. I don’t know whether it’s for their own benefit or just to drum up business or whatever, but my surgeon’s not like that. He’s also the head hand trauma surgeon at one of the leading public hospitals in Perth. See, his private practise is not his main … They do a lot of charity work and everything as well. It was just … I don’t know. It’s just right. It’s just right to go there.
Trish: I know what you mean. A lot of plastic surgeons do do a lot of charity work over here and overseas and work in public hospitals. It’s not all about the money, as a lot of people think.
Justine: You know what? It’s cheaper to have it done here than it is overseas. When you look at it and you think your airfares, your accommodation and the so-called spending money because you’re on a holiday, it’s actually cheaper. With your private health insurance it’s cheaper to have it done here.
Trish: Well, it’s definitely a false economy to think that it’s cheaper overseas. I’ve done lots of price comparisons and stuff like that and it’s just not. There may be cases where it is but overall it’s just not. I’m like you. I just wouldn’t risk it. No way.
Justine: I know.
Trish: No way.
Justine: We’re in such a ‘I want it now’ society, I’ve got to have it now. That’s another thing that’s sort of … It’s another gripe of mine too is people accessing their super. I know it’s a very personal decision and everything, but it’s like, I don’t think they realise what they’re doing. They’re still having to pay tax on it and it’s all about that ‘I want it now. I’ve got to have it now’. How about saving up for it and everything? That’s just a personal thing.
Trish: Well, and some people just won’t be able to save up for it, and the only way that they can do it is with their super. I don’t have a problem with it. I just think everyone just do what you want as long as you’re well-informed in what you do. As long as you’ve researched what you’re going to do, do what you want.
Justine: I’m anti-cosmetic surgeons. I know that there might be the odd one or two, but maybe they should go and just train to be a plastic surgeon.
Trish: They only take on so many every year and I think there’s enough room. There’s enough out there for everyone to have a little bit. It just depends on what you’re having done as to who you should go to really.
Trish: It’s a hard one. I know that, but anyway …
Justine: It is, yeah.
Trish: Well, thank you. Thank you so much for your time, Justine. I look forward to putting this together as the podcast for you and also sharing that as a bit of a blog.
Justine: Yeah, hopefully you don’t have to edit too much.
Trish: No. There won’t be anything at all.
Justine: Oh, no. Come on, you’ve got to edit some.
Trish: All right. Thanks, Justine. Well, you have a great night. Thank you so much.
Justine: Yeah, you too. Thanks, Trish. Lovely to talk to you. Bye.
Trish: My pleasure. If you guys would like to know where Justine had her surgery, or have any more questions, just drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, Justine.
Justine: Thanks, Trish. See you.