Sunday, October 30, 2016

Post-Op Part One: How are you?

Hello from the other side! 

{Adele sings that way better than I do. 
But, now I'm humming it in my head, and you probably are too!}

I am 2 weeks post-op from my Sleeve Gastrectomy.  What a ride! I am so thankful for the ways the program had prepared me for this portion of the journey.  Multiple classes and sessions are dedicated to what to expect, what to do and what to avoid in this stage of the game.  I also had great emotional preparation for the post-op period as well. I wanted to share a little update. Y'all have been so kind and supportive. 

"So how was your surgery?  How are you doing? How can we support you and your family?"  These are the most frequently asked questions so far.  I will share my experience from my perspective as well as I can.  I will answer each question with a separate post.  

Here is my story in response to this first question: How was your surgery?

We arrived at the hospital a little early. They had called from the hospital saying they were running a little behind with the surgery schedule, and we could report later.  Smitty and I ambled over there, but I was ready to get there and get this next step behind us.  We were greeted by my parents and our pastor, Emily.  We found the surgical waiting room to be really full, so we found a little conference room to gather for a prayer. These very special 3, circled around me, laying their hands on me, invited the Lord do a good work that day.  {Actually, there were 5 of us in that circle, aside from anything spiritual, Emily was great with child. That sweet child was blessing us before he even made his entrance into the world!}

I was called back to the pre-op surgery area, and I hugged, kissed and waved "Love you, see you in a bit!" Smitty was assured he would be able to join me in pre-op as soon as my IV was placed.  And then an hour and a half went by. 

They began wondering if I had actually gone into surgery, and they hadn't come to get Smitty.  Thankfully, Tom, the gentleman at the desk in the waiting room, was so kind to come by, check on me, and give my folks an update.  

So what was taking so long?  I was so dehydrated from the surgery day of being NPO, and the day prior to surgery of only clear liquids, that it took 9 sticks, 4 nurses, a CRNA and an anesthesiologist with an infrared vein locator and ultrasound machine to find a vein for my IV.  

{Let's just all sit with that for a second.}  

Y'all, I started feeling so sad.  My attitude all morning had been a cheerful, let's do this!  With each passing attempt at the IV, I would get tearful.  They asked if I needed a break.  Nope! Let's get this done.  But my tears were telling the truth of my anxiety: what happens if I'm too dry to start an IV? Then what?  I've worked so hard to get to this day; I can't go home.

I give thanks for that kind and gentle anesthesiologist.  He took great care to make sure that process was as painless as possible. He kept injecting hope into my heart when he'd say, "we aren't giving up. We know we'll find it." He would say "ok, well, onto plan B.  Then plan C.  But we weren't giving up."  

{Amen. Me either, man.} 

The next thing I knew, I heard the sweetest words all morning: "I've got it!" Then, quickly heard that the OR was ready for me. Smitty was able to see me for a hot minute as they roll me towards the OR. I recall all of the next bit: I hadn't had time to receive my "sleepy" medicine.  The CRNA is assuring me that just as soon as we are in place in the OR, they will give me a little something to help me relax. And literally about 26 seconds later, I feel so much less anxious about it all.  Then I'm breathing deeply in the mask.  Then I'm waking up in Recovery.  

"When are they going to get started?" The nurse replies, "darlin you're already finished! You did great!" 

Well, how about that?  I did it.  I already, very sleepily, feel proud of me.  That part is behind me. Whew.  {Aaaannd then right back to sleep.} 

That first day, hours after surgery were not at all pleasant. I don't want to say awful because I was never in any pain. After being warned about the possibility of nausea, I was prepared for this but never experienced it.  However, I was terribly uncomfortable after being pumped with gas in my abdomen for the laparoscopic procedure.  I had been prepared for this discomfort; and they (literally everyone) weren't lying. After surgery and after a short time in recovery, once settled in my room, the nurses got me up and want me to start walking.  {Walking helps to eliminate gas.  I'm good at that, I think. Ahem.} I was still so sleepy from the anesthesia but nothing was keeping me from working that gas out.  

Smitty, my sleepy self and my IV pole shuffled around the floor of the hospital.  I began what I would come to love as laps around the "track!" A few times those first few trips around I almost fell asleep while walking.  {Be careful about that.}  Thank God I had Smitty there to catch and wake me! I felt more and more relieved with each lap we took. We met a new patient with each turn that were also out getting their laps in.  We were easily recognizable: patient in hospital gown, rolling our IV poles with a look of grit and determination in our eyes. {Or maybe that was gas?}

This pattern continued throughout the afternoon and evening of that first day. I had a really hard time sleeping because the pressure had moved into my shoulders and back. The nurses do all they can to help relieve this discomfort, but when they say walking is the only way... it's true. Throughout the night, the nurses kept saying, you are going to feel totally different tomorrow.  I rested a little more with that hope.

Once again, they were right!  Of course, the morning brought more alertness after having anesthesia and less pressure from the gas.  I kept walking.  More laps around that track.  Each time my support people and I rounded a lap, I would accumulate more patients to walk with us. Stopping at their room door, I'd call "come on! it's time to walk!" If we were feeling extra motivated and sassy, we found a "long way" around the track that gave us a few more steps. {A friend said, of course you were creating community even in the hospital!} 

We were quite the squad, cheering one another on when we felt like staying in the bed, stopping when one needed to rest for a moment, and celebrating small victories with one another along the way! At times we made a bit of scene, either laughing or clogging up the hallways.  Well, why not? It's a party: we all have a new lease on life! Worth celebrating together! Together, we will walk along side each other in our support groups.  I was thankful for each of them and the journey that had led each to that space.

Aside from working the belly discomfort out, I was wildly thirsty.  They are pumping fluids in my IV, so I know I'm not dehydrated.  My mouth was just parched.  But Day 2 brought word that I could try drinking my first liquids since surgery.  I know that for this phase of the process, I am only doing clear liquids.  I couldn't wait for a sip of something... anything.  

I got a tray from the cafeteria a few minutes later with a Gatorade G2, a sugar-free popsicle, some broth and some jello.  Friends, my new stomach will hold about 4-6 ounces at a time, but lawsamercy, I wanted to gulp that Gatorade.  I knew to take sips of whatever I tried first. Here goes. I literally took a 1 ounce medicine cup, filled it with that glorious nectar and sipped it over the next hour.  {It might have been the best thing I've ever had to drink.}

I tolerated that fairly well.  But my mouth was still feeling dry. Popsicles!  They have been so perfect for this first phase. I cannot take much volume at a time, but I can suck on a frozen treat for a while! So far, I was tolerating all the liquids well.  Very slowly.

And this is how it went. Walk. Sip. Rest. Walk. Sip. Rest. 

My post-op hospital stay was, gratefully, without event.  Everything went as expected and I was discharged home after a 2 night stay

I am so grateful for my support system, my docs and nurses, and the care I received through the Novant Medical Center. I am also so thankful to be home.  

Stay tuned for Part Two!

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