What is a wound Vac?
Even though I personally had one of these puppies after my C-Section, 4 weeks post-op I still couldn’t tell you the definition of what a wound vac is… So, like any modern American, I googled! And this is what I got:
“A wound vac is a Negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT), a therapeutic technique using a vacuum dressing to promote healing in acute or chronic wounds and enhance healing of second- and third-degree burns.”
After waking up with one of these covering my Incision I was a little confused, and not just because no one told me they were going to use this type of technique to aid in my recovery. This was my 3rd cesarean and I had never heard of these “wound vacs”.
When I asked the nurse who was caring for me after surgery how long they had been using this technic she informed me that they had just started using it within the past couple of years for cesareans. Well ya see, my youngest is just a couple months shy of 3 years old so I wasn’t too skeptical of the timeline and she seemed pretty confident with the treatment.
Turns out though, she was the ONLY one confident about the logistics of this device… After being transferred to the room I’d be staying in for the next couple days not one nurse knew the details of this contraption. The only thing they were told to make sure of when doing their routine checks was that it maintained its suction. Or as one of my nurses described; “as long as it looks like a shriveled up raisin, we’re good”.
Concern came the day after surgery when it was time to take my first shower. My nurse didn’t even know how to power this thing off! OR detach the tube from the pump! At this point I was skeptical that anyone had EVER been given one of these after a C-section.
Let’s just say I hopped on the google machine as soon as I was returned to bed and this is what I concluded…
I wasn’t the only confused mama!
After scrolling through dozens of forums looking for answers about this vacuum I figured I was most likely given this treatment because I am overweight, which means I was more likely to develop an infection due to my “skin fold”. In saying that, I never had complications with my first 2 C-Sections and was actually informed after the doc examined my scar that I was “one of the best healers she’s seen”.
After enduring hours of research (literally hours… I mean, what else is there to do sitting in a hospital bed 24-7) I decided to roll with it.
My experience with the actual device was quite pleasant. I felt “held together” if that makes any sense. When taking a shower I had to disconnect the pump and was left with a dangling tube that had to be covered so water wouldn’t enter. This is when I could actually feel something happening. When I would disconnect the pump I could feel the release of pressure, but no pain! So that was a relief. Then, when it was time to reattach the pump I could feel it regain suction but again, no pain!
When I went in to get the vacuum removed 1 week later, I was again concerned that the nurse who initially seemed confident that this was a regular technic for sections, lied.
After being escorted to the our room with a toddler, newborn, sister-in-law and her daughter in tow I was asked to remove my clothes from the waist down. I was confused because my incision was above my pant line but obliged anyway. When the nurse came back she asked “so why did you have to have your catheter in for a week”…
Confuses again, but not wanting to sound dumb, I replied with a nervous “huh” followed by “catheter?” She went on to say something along the lines of “ya, we are taking your catheter out right?”
EVEN MORE confused I held the pump up showing her that the device was in fact NOT a catheter. Thats when I lost all hope that anyone in this building knew what was up with this pump. In fact, she had to leave and get an older more experienced nurse.
Surprise surprise, the older nurse didn’t know how to turn the thing off either! She also informed me that she hadn’t dealt with one of these contraptions in 10 YEARS! Yes I said that right… TEN years!
After concluding that no one knew what was going on, the second nurse said she was going to call the doctor to make sure she actually wanted it taken off… I’m sure you can imagine the nervous energy soaring through my being.
A few moments later BOTH nurses returned. Here’s the kicker… THEY DIDNT EVEN KNOW HOW TO TAKE IT OFF!
So I’m laying there, silently losing my shit because for all I know these women are gonna remove this dressing to reveal a gaping hole in my belly. Alas though, that wasn’t the case.
They both took a side and proceeded to rip the dressing off, all the while exclaiming how sorry they were for the pain that accompanies skin being ripped raw and pubic hair being forcibly RIPPED from said skin.
I kind of felt naked… (haha, oh ya because I was) but after hearing the 2 nurses and my sister-in-law exclaim how wonderful the incision area looked, my nerves calmed a bit.
Even though I felt a small sense of being LESS intact without the suction of my dressing, having this wound vac during my recovery was a great aid in my healing process. When they took it off the entire Incision was completely closed just 1 week after having my C-section, so I’ll chalk that up to a win!
Currently I am 4.5 weeks post-op and besides some sensitivity on my insides from this being my 3rd section, I feel great and my incision looks amazing.
Regardless of being what seemed like the hospitals “test dummy”, I can say with confidence that If you are having to give birth via C-section; I highly recommend you talk to your doctor about the wound vac!