I implanted this evening
The person who was going to be assisting me backed out 15 minutes before I was set to start, so it was a solo operation. Two people observed part of the process, and I decided against anyone filming (sorry, it was becoming too much of a spectacle for my liking and I didn't want it to be that). I used the method laid out by @Cassox in his blog with a few minor variations, the major difference being that I did not do a digital nerve block. In fact, I did nothing for pain (more on that later).
It was my intention to do all four, but being that this was my first attempt, I botched the first finger (left index). Pocketed probably too shallow and ultimately ended up cutting right through the far side of the pocket. Undaunted, I bandaged the finger and moved on to the middle finger. Things went much more smoothly, though it took longer than I expected. Suturing for the first time was interesting (and dare I say fun?). Then digits 4 and 5. Finished up about 45 minutes ago and feel like a million bucks. When the index finger heals, I'll go back to it much more confidently and get it implanted.
So, here are my pointers for anyone attempting self implantation:
- Doing it without anything to numb the pain is not as bad as you might imagine. It hurts like fuck, of course, but not so badly that you can't do it. A number 15 scalpel is well shaped for the procedure and though I had numerous other implements on hand, I didn't need them. That #15 does the trick. The pain itself is far sharper than I originally pictured, but it almost feels like a burn more than a cut. Just stay calm and take your time. It isn't a race. Does it hurt more going slowly? I'm sure that it does, and probably by a fair bit, but I've decided that precision is worth the pain. I'm sure you've watched the Lepht Anonym videos if you've researched implants at all, and she doesn't repeatedly say it hurts for no reason.
- Even with a scalpel, the pocketing incision is harder to make than I expected. Frankly, the tissue just doesn't want to separate. I did this in a very controlled manner after I messed up the first one, and as I slowly cut, there were actual tiny audible pops periodically as I deepened and widened the pockets. At first, only I could hear it, but one person there was able to hear them after I told them to listen for it. The initial incision is very easy to make, though, so that's a plus.
- Sutures were also harder to do than I expected. I found the knotting to be easy to do (do make sure you read how to do a surgeon's knot; they seem very sturdy). What is hard is pushing the needle through the flesh. Your tissue is tougher than you might imagine. Curved needles are a must, and a tool to grip the needle is mandatory. You need to apply more force than your fingers can apply while gripping a needle. For the record, I used 3-0 nylon suture with a curved cutting needle. I had wanted to use silk, but the person who was going to help had good experience with nylon in the past and wanted me to have that on hand. Do not pull the suture too tight. I did on my pinkie and it hurts right now because of it. I debated doing two per finger, but one seemed adequate and I'm satisfied that it'll be fine.
- Tourniquets do greatly reduce the blood loss, especially if you intend to take your time with it. What I did was tourniquet the finger then squeezed as much blood as I could down back to the other side of the tourniquet, leaving me with what was basically a deathly white finger. I initially did a cut and being concerned that the lack of blood was obscuring my ability to tell if I was deep enough (even the underlying tissue was very pale), I pulled the tourniquet and blood immediately began to pour out making it even harder to see the depth. Do not pull the tourniquet until you've sutured and bandaged. It makes the process far less messy. The tourniquet does provide some small bit of pain relief, I guess, but it would take longer than I'd care to leave a finger tourniqueted to eliminate the pain.
- Insertion of the magnet was pretty easy. I simply picked each one up and slid it into the pocket without use of a tool. Well, not entirely without a tool, I guess. I had some very large sterilized needles on hand as one of my "just in case" tools and I actually used one of those by sticking the needle to the magnet like you would a paperclip to a healed implant and dragged the needle across the outside of the pocket to pull the magnet to the very bottom of said pocket. Worked well.
- After-procedure pain is minimal, even this short time out from completion. There is some throbbing, and the too-tight stitch on one finger is making that one hurt more than the others. I am taking ibuprofen on the advice of @Cassox (for both pain and to reduce swelling, so I'm sure that's helping, but honestly I'm typing almost normally right now with the fingers, so take that for what it's worth.
So there you have it. If you can afford it and can get access to a professional, I'd recommend that route, but it can certainly be done by oneself. I know there's ongoing debate about doing needle-based insertion instead of scalpel-based, but I can say that the scalpel works very well if you're careful and do your research. And I cannot stress that part enough... DO YOUR RESEARCH. I actually do not recommend going the painful route as I did if you're self-implanting. I have a decent pain tolerance and I honestly did question my decision after I really got cutting. But I'm so very glad I did it. The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming right now, to be honest. I feel very proud that I was able to do this myself and in this way, especially since I had no assistance and did four fingers in a row (though as I said, I botched the first one).
Now I just have to hope they don't reject and that I can keep them from getting infected. My first implants are installed, though, so I get to call myself a grinder now, which is something I'm proud to be able to say. Later this week, I'm doing an ntag, too, so this is only the beginning...