101 The Surgical Binder

The only instructions I ever remember getting: “Some people like them. Some people hate them.” No one ever gave a reason or a mandate for a surgical binder.

When I woke from the surgery, there was a tri elastic strip velcroed tightly around my abdomen.  The “binder” is about 12 inches up and down, wraps around and covers the space between my lower rib cage and my hip bone.

At hospital check out, the nurse gave me a second.  The only instructions I ever remember getting: “Some people like them.  Some people hate them.”  No one ever gave a reason or a mandate for a surgical binder.  

In the hospital, it was very clear.  My mind was quite certain that if I sneezed or coughed, the incision would explode and leave my intestines in my lap.  Illusory ramification, but it certainly felt that way.

I had worn the two, trading off, washing one once a week or so (ew) and allowing it to drip dry.  It was nearly two months.  They were losing threads, strips of elastic separating, becoming tattered and stained.  I was feeling pretty healed with just the small wound, and appeared at an appointment with the surgery nurse, Nancy.  

“Where is your binder?”  She was kind, but entirely clear.  It was NOT an option. I ordered a new one from Amazon.

In history, if you ever watched your mom wiggle into a girdle, it’s the stuff that makes a great cartoon.  Writhing, squiggling, pulling, adjusting.  A binder is the surgical version of a girdle!  Since the binder is literally a wide strip, composed of four rows of three inch elastic, the battle is mostly with the Velcro.

The rough part of the Velcro reaches out to grab anything and everything.  Underwear, got it.  Soft shirt (avoid putting it on ahead), the Velcro sneaks from the side and grabs that.  Any part of the binder whatsoever, the Velcro edges are driven to adhere to that too.  

As I twist and turn, try to get the thing tight, the Velcro is working hard to sneak to some other clothing, to grab its own surface at the incorrect position, or to adhere at some odd angle or overlap an edge.  One try, two, three.  And then again.

And even in the end, the design makes the alignment hard on the skin.  The edges of that rough side often overlapping the soft part at the top and scratching the skin.

Binders.  Can’t live with ’em.  Can’t live without them.

Author: Michele Plumb Stowell

Michele Stowell was a teacher, a hand holder, and encouraging voice. Born an early Gen Xer, she has lived in Western Washington for the duration. Her children, two spectacular genetic daughters and an uncountable number of marvelous scout and school sons and daughters, shine as her biggest impact and her greatest blessing. Just before her 54th birthday, Michele was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Her writing and art work are expressions of the drama and the joy of living earth bound. On October 24, 2021, Michele was released from her physical body, transported to continue her work on other realms.

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