Friday, October 9, 2009

Beyond the surgery

Eighteen days post-op from gallbladder surgery and other than one itchy spot I feel like nothing happened.

I had no idea what to expect the recovery to be like. The doctor's description was vague, everyone I talked to who had it done had a different story to share. Some were down for the count for a month, others were back to work 4 days later. I would say for me it was about a week before I was feeling somewhat normal again.

The first 24 hours were tough. I learned that my stomach is much weaker than I thought. I always prided myself in my iron stomach. The sight of blood doesn't bother me. I made it easily through dissection cadaver lab (a whole summer of dissecting a human body that had been eaten away by cancer - saw things that could make your head spin. We had to actually abandon our body and join another group because the organs were so badly damaged). I work with patients who have open wounds and varying continence levels (do get a little nauseous when they brush their teeth though - can't really explain that one).

But give me a drug of any kind and my stomach goes into protection mode. After my c-sections I couldn't keep anything down for awhile. After this gallbladder surgery, I was afraid to take the pain pills right away because the anesthesia itself had made me nauseous. I finally gave in and had the nurse give me something. After all my shoulder was killing me.

My shoulder? I expected my abdomen to hurt, but not my shoulder. After researching it, I found out that when they pump you full of air to get a better look at the organs inside, the result is terrible shoulder pain. That was the worst. I couldn't take a breath.

And then there was the bladder issues. My bladder went to sleep with the anesthesia and took it's time in waking up. Like 36 hours worth of time. Bladder pain, shoulder pain, abdominal muscle pain. . .and then the nausea.

I went home about 4:00 on the day of surgery. I was uncomfortable at the hospital. Had to get out of that environment. I felt much better at home, but it was a long, rough night. And the next day was rough too. I was starting to regret having the surgery done.

But day 3 dawned and the pain wasn't quite as bad. I decided time for a shower and some ibuprofen. Now the shoulder pain was lessened, I could actually go to the bathroom (finally) and the muscles weren't screaming at me. I cringed at the sight of the morphine and knew I was done with narcotics.

Day 4 was even better than day 3. But on day 5 the incisions started to hurt. I hadn't felt anything from them until then. The doctor had told me that he put a long lasting anesthetic on them. I think I felt it the moment that it wore off. More ibuprofen and I decided I was ready to drive again. Mom and I met my girlfriends at the canal and despite windy, chilly conditions and pants that were a little uncomfortable across my swollen belly I walked the entire 4 miles with them. Woo-hoo! What an accomplishment!

But that night the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks sometime during the pizza/bingo night at the school. Every year that is an exhausting, over-stimulating night for me. I don't know why I thought I could handle it 4 days after surgery. I was ready to go home and lay on the couch again.

Saturday was recovery day from Friday. Other than Kylie's soccer game, we pretty much laid low the whole day. Sunday back to church and then by Monday I was ready to re-enter the world full-force. So one week. . .for all of you out there who may have to have this done sometime. One week to feel normal again - but give yourself that 2nd week to ease yourself back into life, make sure you're ready to tackle the crazy schedule and routine. Have your mom there to lean on if you need extra help or need to take a break. That would be my advice! But we are all different. If your bladder doesn't decide to take a long siesta and you don't have any trouble with nausea, you could be fine even quicker. But if you have complications or an infection it could take longer.

Oh, and when the glue falls off sometime in the 3rd week. . .it's not pretty and it hurts like a band aid. . .a really stuck band aid on a really sensitive spot.

The doctor says I'm recovering perfectly and gave me one tidbit. . ."the only side-effect with eating from here on out is that now that you can eat anything you want to, you may gain weight."


"Often times my patients are so used to staying away from the high fat foods, that now that they can eat them they over-indulge."

Great, so the pint of Ben and Jerry's I had this week wasn't a good idea?

But the thought of some fried food and pizza and ice cream keep nagging at me. . .I stayed away from that stuff all summer and didn't lose a pound. Not fair. Since the surgery I am down 4 pounds, but I expect that to go back up now that my appetite is back (and with a vengeance!).

I have to say a big THANK YOU to my mom. She took care of me, rubbed my back when I was sick and kept the girls quiet, fed and entertained.

Tom was great too. . . stayed with me all that day at the hospital. . .didn't leave my side even to get himself some lunch, drove all over creation to find the horrible drugs that I didn't end up taking more than a couple of.

And the girls. . .I think they learned compassion and understanding for how to behave when someone doesn't feel well. I have two wonderful, strong daughters. Kylie asks a lot of questions about it all - the drugs, the pain, the incisions, the anesthesia. She worries she will have to have surgery too some day. A friend of hers just had a kidney removed (and back in school 8 days later!!!), so it seems she's surrounded at the moment and is having a bit of anxiety about it. But if she does end up having surgery someday, I hope that my and her friend's example she will know that she can be just as strong and healthy as she was before and not to be afraid.

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