Having once tipped the scales at more than 400 lbs., 19-year-old Kaitlyn Smith from Portland, Tennessee, lost 208 lbs. through diet and exercise. One thing she hasn’t been able to lose is the excess skin, a common side effect of extreme weight loss. As she gears up for, and then undergoes, several skin removal surgeries, Smith will be sharing her story at PEOPLE.com. Come back every week for updates on her inspirational journey. You can also check out Kaitlyn’s website and follow her on Facebook.
I’ve been home now for a little more than a week, and it has been a crazy experience.
First, though: Leaving Miami was sad but exciting! I was so ready to see my family, boyfriend and friends. I flew on a plane for the first time ever, and I was a nervous wreck. I felt pretty uncomfortable about 30 minutes into the flight, but it wasn’t too bad in the end.
When I got home, everyone was there and the house had been decorated with with signs, balloons and silly string. I wanted to cry tears of joy!
I thought everything was going well until about four days later – I woke up and my belly button had leaked a lot of fluid. I called my surgeon in Miami and he said it was seroma (a pocket of fluid that sometimes develops after surgery). Later that day I developed a pounding headache, chills and a 102.3 fever. Something wasn’t right, so my mom took me to the ER. I could barely keep my eyes open because my head hurt so bad.
The ER docs did blood work and scans. Turns out, there was an infection in the fluid on the left side of my abdomen. They admitted me to the hospital and started pumping me with antibiotics, then decided to do a minor procedure that involved opening up one of my incisions to drain the fluid. (They left the tube in to continue to drain it, just in case.) This is not the surgeon’s fault at all; seromas can occur after any big surgery. He and his staff called the nurses and doctors daily, and he would even text and call me personally to check on my progress.
Eventually, my fever broke. With my blood count levels and blood pressure back to normal, I was finally released. I am feeling so much better! My incisions look amazing and are healing well. My tummy had been swollen from the ER visit (shots, procedure, fluids, etc.), but it’s finally gone down. I go back in a few days to have this tube removed, and then we can schedule my next surgery! This has not discouraged me – I see it as just another part of my crazy journey!