I can sometimes be a liiiiittle bit of a procrastinator.
Like the time I had a laparoscopy scheduled for Thursday and, on the Sunday before, had no idea what I was in for.
(Perhaps distracting myself from actually thinking about surgery helped me to avoid stress and anxiety in the weeks leading up to it?)
Lucky for me, I had some great avenues I could use to reach out and get info about laparoscopic surgery. Namely, this blog and the IF facebook group. Thank goodness!
I posted on here and on there and got tons and tons of helpful advice. And I'm so thankful for all of it because I would have been so unprepared otherwise.
Seriously. The only preparing-for-surgery info I had gotten from my doctor was "no food after midnight" and "do an enema before you go to bed."
(Sorry, don't think about the enema.)
Anyway, I figured since all of that advice was so, so helpful, I should take some time to post my own "Surviving Your Laparoscopy" tips, in hopes that someone will benefit from my advice some day. Paying it forward, ya know?
So, I've compiled what I found to be some of the most useful tools, tricks, tips, etc. during my surgery and recovery and I present them to you now...
Before the surgery.
1.) Go to Target.When I realized I was going to need to pick up a few things for my recovery, I made a list and headed out to Target like a woman on a serious mission. And it felt good. It felt like I was doing my future self a favor, 'cause I was. "Don't worry, future recovering-from-surgery Stephanie, I'll take care of you!" It was very nice of me. And recovering Stephanie was very thankful. Things I picked up included: a cold/heat pack, MiraLAX, pads, GasX, easy-on-the-stomach foods, ginger ale, extra big high-waisted undies, and throat drops. I'll explain each item and its usefulness in a little more detail later.
I knew I was going to be spending the night in the hospital, so I packed a few extra things to get me through the night. Your list may be a little shorter if you'll be heading home the same day, but here's what I packed: comfy low-rise yoga pants, an old baggy shirt, a zip-up sweater, undies that are either very low-rise or very high-waisted, a squishy pillow, throat drops, GasX, and pads. All of these items came in so handy that evening. I'll explain better below. For now, you have your packing list!
A few things you'll likely need to do to be ready for surgery day: stop taking blood thinners (like ibuprofen) a few days before surgery, stop taking most of your normal daily meds the day before (including the pre-natal multi-vitamin), do the enema, stop eating or drinking past midnight, remove all nail polish, and avoid all make-up, lotions, and jewelry on the morning of surgery.
4.) Find prayer warriors.
Whether it's your family, your coworkers, your friends, or your favorite online support group, find people to pray for you, especially while you're under. This will put you at more ease going into the surgery; it certainly did for me. Also, find a priest to do an Anointing of the Sick for you. One of my coworkers recommended this and I'm so glad she did. Now, this was pretty easy for me to come by, as I work at a church with 3 priests. But even if you don't have such a luxury, I'm pretty sure all you would need to do is call and set up an appointment for a priest at your church to do this for you. It takes about 5 minutes and the prayer and being anointed with the oil is such a blessing and de-stresser. I highly recommend it!
5.) Eat your favorite meal/dessert.
Treat yourself! This might be a morbid way to think, but I basically thought of it as a last meal... or I guess a probably-not-but-maybe-possibly last meal. So I racked my brain and decided a banana split was exactly what I wanted. My husband made it happen and I will say, it was a delightful last treat before surgery. Exactly what I needed to calm the nerves. More than anything, it gives you something to look forward to the night before surgery. The night before surgery is a scary thought, but not when you're too busy being excited about eating your favorite hot dog or filet mignon or fruit cake. Just make sure you finish up by midnight to keep within surgery guidelines.
Another night-before-surgery tip - find something that will help you relax! For me, it was a cheesy kids' movie; it helped distract me and didn't require a lot of thought or effort to enjoy. Perhaps yoga or some form of exercise is your form of relaxation. Do it! Or maybe a night at the spa. Please, by all means! Can't afford a spa visit? Pretty sure husbands can give free messages. And they can't say no because you can just use the "I'm having surgery tomorrow" card. It works everytime. But seriously, think about your favorite relaxation trick and make it happen. It'll take your mind off of surgery and hopefully make sleep come easily.
Surgery day.1.) Prepare to be...
Anxious. Nervous. Interviewed by a million nurses and doctors. Half-naked all day. Hungry. Poked by needles and IVs. Confused by medical mumbo jumbo. Silly on anesthesia drugs. Scared. Cold. Then strangely calm. Asleep. Seemingly minutes later: awake. Groggy. Sleepy. Sore. Drugged up. Wheeled around. Relieved. Waited on hand and foot.
One of my lovely blogger friends suggested this and I'd like to pass this suggestion on. Have your loved one(s), the one(s) waiting for you in the hospital, say a rosary for you while you're in surgery. My husband was more than happy to do this. I'm pretty sure it put his nervous heart at ease and I was so happy knowing a whole rosary was being said for me during the scariest part of the whole process. What a blessing this was!
After surgery.1.) Tools to use.
Alright. Now it's time to dive in and talk about all of those handy surgery recovery tools I mentioned above. Though you may find other items more useful, each one of these were go-tos for me and if I were to go through this again, they'd be at my side the whole way, again.
Cold/heat pack - Target sells these packs as a 2-in-1, both cold and heat in the same gel-y pack, and only for a few dollars. I mostly used the heat pack on my shoulders when I experienced gas pain and it helped dull the pain immensely.
GasX - Another handy tool to help with that gas pain. And GasX is a very safe drug, so don't be afraid to take as many as often as you'd like.
Throat drops - During surgery, you'll have a breathing tube down your throat. When you awake, it's already out, but the throat can still be a little dry from it being previously in there. It's really not a horrible pain, but the throat drops will do just the trick for your slightly dry, scratchy throat.
MiraLAX - Anesthesia and pain meds can do some weird things to your digestive system. Do yourself a favor and prepare for constipation by taking MiraLAX as soon as you can after surgery. A capful a day should do the trick. I had read about constipation being a very uncomfortable issue with recovery, so I went in prepared and came out without any bowel trouble. Thanks, MiraLAX!
Pads - Have some extra pads around because you will bleed for about a week after surgery. Probably nothing heavy, but constant.
Squishy pillow - This became like a little stuffed animal friend through my recovery. I took it with me everywhere. It was most helpful in the car, acting as a bumper between my new incisions and the seatbelt, but I would also use it on my belly when I was just laying in bed or relaxing on the couch. It created a great buffer between the fresh scars and the rest of the world and was especially great as a place to rest my lap top.
Extra big high-waist undies OR very low-rise undies - I went with the high-waisted undies, but looking back, low-rise undies would have been best. The main goal here is to wear undies that avoid the incisions. Although you're not likely to have trouble with them, it's still nice not to have an underwear line irritating them all the time.
Yoga pants and baggy shirt - The same goes for the yoga pants and baggy shirt. You want clothes that won't irritate those scars. The yoga pants should sit low and the baggy shirt will help things to breathe. Just make sure you don't mind getting a little blood on the shirt because it may happen. Your incisions are closed, for sure, but they're known to bleed a little here and there.
Zip-up sweater - Grab your favorite sweater that zips up the front since you probably won't want to have to put your hands above your head and go through the supreme effort of putting a hoodie on while you're fresh outta surgery.
2.) Eat light.
Your appetite won't quite be the same, definitely right after surgery, but also in the days following. So make sure you have some easy-to-digest foods stocked up at home. My go-to recovery foods were jello, applesauce, pudding, saltine crackers, ginger ale, beef-a-roni (guilty pleasure!) and pastene soup. And as a bonus for making it this far in what has now become a way-too-long-but-just-trying-to-help post, I'll share with you the pastene soup recipe, AKA the best meal ever for when you're feeling sick.
Pastene Soup - Boil two cups of water. Stir in chicken bouillon (enough for 2 cups of water) and 5 heaping tablespoons of a teeny, tiny pasta (such as stars, acini de pepe, or pastene, which is the pasta the soup is named for). Boil until the pasta is cooked. Let it cool for a few minutes. Serve warm. Mmmmm. My mom used to make this all the time when we were little and feeling sick. I highly suggest it as part of your recovery diet.
3.) Relax some more.
Recovery time can vary from half a week to two weeks, so whatever amount of time it is you'll need, make sure you allow yourself pleeeenty of relaxation time. And don't feel guilty about it! Not one bit! Watch your favorite movies and shows, read books and magazines and blogs, knit a sweater, call friends, listen to music, and sleep bunches too. This is the only time you get to recover, so milk it for all it's worth! And listen to your body. It'll know when you're ready to go back to the every day grind. I was feeling pretty much recovered by 5 days post-op, but I stayed out of work one extra day just to be sure I wasn't pushing it. I recommend that for you too!
4.) Move around.
Ok, so you definitely want to relax a bunch, as I stressed above, but you also can't be afraid to move. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your recovery is move around a bit every day. A friend of mine recommended getting up and walking around a little every time you have to take your meds. It'll keep you on a regular schedule of movement and get things flowing around inside like normal again. The last thing you want to do is come home from surgery and crawl into a ball. This will only delay recovery. So give yourself tasks everyday (like walk around the house, climb the stairs once, go to the mailbox, shower) and soon you'll find yourself feeling back to normal again.
1.) Gas.Oh, the dreaded gas! Yes, it's true. You will experience gas pain with your laparoscopy recovery. But why so much? Well, they pump your abdomen full of gas to be able to see inside and get in there with their medical instruments. So after the surgery is over, you'll still have a bunch of that gas left in ya. Not to mention the gas from your constipation. Even more interesting is you'll feel the gas in your shoulders. Weird, right? What's it doing up there? My sweet doctor husband explain it to me like this: Your diaphragm is in your abdomen, near where all this extra gas is sitting. Since your diaphragm can't feel pain like other parts of your body, it instead refers the pain to other parts that can, namely your shoulder. Hence the icky shoulder pain. As I recommended before - heat packs and GasX will be your two best friends for the gas pains. Lying flat on your back will also help. And now you know why it's up there in your shoulder.
Going under was probably my biggest fear in this whole process. My sweet doctor husband comes to the rescue once again. He went onto his doctory medical site and looked up complications with anesthesia and he basically found that risks are very low. He said, "You can't get into your car these days for those odds," meaning you'd be more likely to die in a car crash that day than die of an anesthesia complication. A morbid way to think, but definitely reassuring. Also, if you've never had serious medical issues (diabetes, heart conditions, obesity), you're really at a low, low risk. Hearing all of this made me and my husband feel a lot better and will also hopefully help you with your nerves too.
Whew! Well, that was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Call me comprehensive 'cause I think I covered everything. And then some.
If you've already gone through this procedure and feel like I've left out anything major, please feel free to add on in the comments. Let's make this as comprehensive as possible!
Most of all, I hope this is helpful! If you're about to go through a laparoscopy or other surgery and you've just read through this, please know that I'm wishing the absolute best for you. If you shoot me a comment or an email, I'll be sure to pray for you. And if you'd like me to expand on anything I've written here (I know, what more could I possibly have to say, right?!), please don't hesitate to ask.
*I do realize that every surgery experience is unique and the recovery process is different for everyone. What worked for me may not work for you and vice versa. Please also understand that I have no medical expertise whatsoever, so these are all the opinions of a girl who went into this just as clueless as your average non-medical Joe Schmoe. My goal here is only to be helpful. Please ask your doctor if you're uncomfortable about your procedure or are unsure of anything I've said here. Thanks for reading!