Post-Op Aches And Pains

motorized grocery cart

Yesterday I started the day feeling pretty awesome, all things considered. I told Taylor I wanted to go to Wal-Mart and ride the cart around the store to get all the foods that I want. Even though I was riding around most of the time, it was still exhausting to leave the house…especially having to climb 3 flights of stairs to get back to my apartment.

One of the most frustrating revelations that I’ve had this week is that I’ve been taking too much pain medication. I was given a bottle of liquid Lortab to manage my pain after I was taken off my PCA pump in the hospital. Even though the instructions on the bottle clearly state 3 TEASPOONS every 4 hours, I read it as 3 TABLESPOONS. It wasn’t a pharmacy error, it was me being out of it and measuring my meds out in the same little cups as my food and drinks.

As a result, I’ve either been far too medicated, or not medicated enough. When I called the doctor’s office concerned about the amount of Lortab I had left, the nurse told me that “extra strength Tylenol should be perfectly sufficient” at this point. Let me tell you…after major abdominal surgery, 2 days of Lortab is not enough before switching to Tylenol.

I’ve been trying to increase my water consumption to 64 ounces a day. I’m more likely to drink it when there is ice in it, but if I drink too much at once it HURTS. It feels like a punch to the chest, and the pain has to slowly subside as my my pouch empties. I’m also drinking watered down apple juice, broth, and a special chocolate milk drink.  Today I’ve eaten most of a stick of string cheese, a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, and some sugar-free jello. I’m looking forward to being able to eat strained cream soups and pudding tomorrow. It’s getting a little boring.

A few people have asked me to post a picture of what my belly looks like right now. The small bandages are steri-strips over the laparoscopic ports from surgery. The big gauze bandage is covering the hole where my JP tube was. It’s still the part of me that hurts the most, but it’s not as tender as it was the past two days.

cpap LT for her

I’ve had a few visitors since I’ve been home from the hospital. My neighbor Angie came over to bring dinner to my family last night. My Yelp buddy who I refer to as “the other Nicole B.” brought by flowers and a care package. My brother Jacob stopped by for a few minutes, as did my friend Emily. I don’t have much tolerance for long visits, but I do like to see people. Especially when I don’t have to take my flights of stairs to leave the house.

As for rest, I ‘m sleeping 4-6 hours a night, with a nap here and there. Because of my severe sleep apnea, I have to be vigilant about always using my CPAP mask. If I don’t use it when I’m dozing off, I get very light headed and get tingly hands and limbs. It ain’t pretty, but it’s what I gotta do.


Surgery Post-Op Day 1 And Hospital Discharge

One of the hardest things about an inpatient hospital stay is the nighttime. It’s meant to be a time of rest, but really, it’s a chance for everyone who has access to your room to interrupt your much needed sleep. Nurses, phlebotomists, assistants, and orderlies seem to have a knack for knocking on your door between the hours of 11pm and 5am. Last night I had 9 interruptions between these hours. Not cool, hospital!

Fortunately, I was able to get lots of rest during the day. Probably a total of 3 solid hours, which was more than I got during the entire night. Taylor slept at home last night so he could get Rosie off to school in the morning, and he arrived at the hospital around 9am. By the time he got there, I’d been up walking around the floor, had a nap, and met with Dr. Smith for a bit.

Dr. Smith said the incisions were healing well, and I was set for discharge around 5pm. He was concerned that my oxygen saturation had dropped so much in the times I’d been walking around (down to 84% at times), so he was considering sending me home with an O2 tank. He said that he biopsied a small lesion on my liver during surgery…it may have been a scar, could be some kind of benign bump, but he wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. He joked that if I have cancer, I’d be in a much better place to fight it with my lower weight. Thanks doc!

I tried to get up to go for a walk every time that I had to use the restroom. I already had to go through the effort to get OUT of bed and untangle all of my IV cords, so it wasn’t that much harder to take a walk around the floor. I would carefully put on my robe over my IV arm, and I was glad the robe was short-sleeved to allow that.

One of the happiest moments of the day was when I upgraded from water to broth and sugar-free jello. In the morning, I was able to go from drinking one ounce to two ounces of water. Once I was able to do this successfully, I was able to have broth and jello for lunch. I’ve never been much of a broth fan, but that beef broth was delicious. I couldn’t tell what flavor the jello was (lemon, tropical, mango?) but the three cubes in my cup were lovely.

In the afternoon, I napped, watched a movie on my laptop with Taylor, and prepared for discharge. My PCA pump was discontinued and I had some liquid Lortab. I needed to take a shower, which was quite a production. I had to put a rubber glove over my IV hand, then have the top taped tightly to avoid water from seeping in. I had a big gauze pad over my stapled incisions and JP drian, to they had to put this sticky sterile plastic sheet on me. I took a shower and washed my body with special soap. I also washed my hair because I can’t get my incisions wet until tomorrow evening.  After my shower, the IV was removed, my incision staples were replaced with steri-strips, and the JP drain was removed and bandaged.

After I was bandaged and dressed in my street clothes, I got my discharge instructions from my nurse. They outlined what I’d be able to eat and drink for the next few days, gave me my nifty hospital mug, helped me pack up my belongings, and wheeled me down to the valet parking area. We stopped by Walgreens to drop off my prescription for liquid Lortab, and headed home. It was SO hard to walk up to my 3rd floor apartment, but I slowly made it up one step at a time.

Rosie made me some fresh jello and chicken broth, and I ate while they had spaghetti and garlic bread from a ward member. It felt very disjointed to have something so bland while they ate something flavorful, but I knew my body wouldn’t tolerate even a bite. Taylor ran back to Walgreens for my pain meds, at which time I was sobbing in pain. I didn’t realize what my actual body pain level was until I was completely off any medicine, and it wasn’t pretty. I was sobbing as I swallowed it and washed it down with water. He helped me realize that I’d had far too much to drink at once (3T of Lortab with several sips of water to wash it down). He grabbed a mug for me to swish and spit to get the taste out of my mouth. I quickly fell asleep for about 2 hours, at which time I felt much better. I can take the Lortab every 4 hours, which gave me just enough time to write this post before taking my drugs and going to sleep for the night.

Thank you again to all those who have been checking up on me and sending well wishes. It’s been a tough day emotionally, as well as physically, and I’ve appreciated all the messages, texts, and calls I’ve gotten (even when I’ve been too out of it to respond, or to reply comprehensibly – I know I’ve sent some pretty jibberish messages).

Tomorrow I’ll be advancing to a full liquid diet, and I look forward to more than just broth and jello. The plan is to get a lot of rest, but I’ll be going on an outing to the grocery store for some sugar-free Popsicles.