Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Things I learned about going for surgery

I really have never had surgery before, unless you count when I was 8 years old and had a case of tonsillitis. I remember my Mom got me a fuzzy lamb at the hospital gift shop (The Hospitality Shop), and waking up with a tad of blood on the white fleece and crying for ginger ale, the promise the nurses made to me about post-surgery rewards.

So, when I went last month all the way to NY for surgery, so much of it was new to me, if not all of it. So, I thought I'd post here a few things and ideas and advice tips that could help other surgery-phytes like myself.

*Be sure, ahead of time, that you list all of your diagnoses and allergies. Don't count on your memory at a time of high stress and likely confusion.

* Create a small notebook of information such as family and friends' phone numbers, who you want contacted immediately after the surgery; taxi phone numbers; hotel phone number; your schedule (Pre-surgical admissions....invasive cervical traction....consult with your time)

*Think through the following: when you are admitted the morning of your surgery, you will not be able to have with you any personal items. They even took my glasses and gave them to my sister to keep. You will go through surgery, then go to the recovery room, then possibly ICU, and when you finally are taken to "the floor" and are ensconced in a regular hospital room, you will want some things there with you. So, it would be best to pack those things up for your companion to bring to you in the room. You could have a small bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, your little notebook of information, a pen, a light robe or a pajama top for walking through the halls, several pair of underwear, maybe a sleep mask, definitely some chapstick. The hospital will provide great non-slip socks for you, and you can even do without the robe since they encourage you to wear two hospital gowns, bottom one opening at the back, and the top one opening in front, like a robe.

*If you go a long ways to a hospital alone, like I did, for surgery, you have to figure out what to do with your luggage. You can't take luggage into your room, nor should you have valuables there with you, like money or a camera. I ended up renting my room for the entire stay, even for the days/nights I'd be in the hospital. I could keep my luggage locked up safely in my motel room, and any visitors I might have were welcome to use the room for free.

*Take a couple of those disposable cameras with you and carry them around with you, even to the traction. I did have a problem with this, in that one of the cameras ended up giving me only one picture, the rest just did not come out. But that's okay, I'd rather not lose or have my digital camera stolen.

*I didn't take my next suggested item, but I sure will next time I go!
A small, battery operated personal fan! The rooms in a hospital can be so stuffy, and I was really wishing for a little fan. They are very quiet, easy to pack, mine works on on D cell. I love air moving across my face, and OH, how I'd have loved having my little fan there!

*I bought at Big K (K mart) a bottle of Aloe Vesta Cleansing Foam, they had it behind the counter at the pharmacy. It is a no rinse cleanser, you can even wash your hair with it. At North Shore, no one offered to help me clean up (you can't take a shower post op, but it would have been nice to have some help cleaning up every day). So, if you want this, you will have to ask. I will next time!

*Bring ear plugs in case your roomate snores or you end up next to the door opening onto the nurses' station!

*As far as bringing something to read, I did not feel up to that at all. Nor did I feel like listening to music. I did not even hunger for a magazine to read and I'm an avid reader. But maybe that was just me.

*After surgery, you will be very bloated from the "gas" you receive during the surgery. The longer you are in surgery, it stands to reason, the more bloated you will be. It's good to know up front that this is normal.

*At the hospital I was at in NY, when I went off of the pain pump and onto oral pain meds, I did not understand that the nurses would only be bringing me those meds when I asked for them. They do not bring them every four hours (or perhaps it's all done per doctors' orders and mine said that I should only have them "PRN" or "as needed"). So, I waited a few hours and finally asked where my pain meds were and then learned that they would not bring them until you asked. This is probably not true for every patient or for every hospital.

*Get the bed next to the window if you can. You will have more privacy and a view out the window! The first few days, you won't care, but that last day or two, it would have been nice to be able to gaze out the window a bit. I was really missing the outdoors!

*If you walk in the room or the hallways, wear those slipper socks. I'm preaching to myself here. I'm a total barefoot person and I walked in my room all the time barefoot until another patient pointed out to me all the sicky germs in a hospital. She really got my attention when she said, "All that has to happen is a nurse drop a needle and then you step onto the contaminated substance on the floor!" Great visual...I "got it" then!

*If you are going to the North Shore hospital, a good thing to know about the menu for meals is that there is an "alternative" menu on the back. My room mate and I ordered from the main menu each day and wished we could have a bagel for breakfast...basically wished we could have more choices. The last day I was there, we found on the back of the menu that "alternative menu" with hamburgers and bagels and all kinds of good-sounding food.

*If you are going to North Shore and TCI, I highly recommend the Floral Park Motor Lodge. They have a fabulous TCI rate, and ask for a room on the 3rd floor of the main building. It's very safe, very quiet, very clean. I was very pleased. I got a room with 2 queen beds in it for only $65 a night! That might have been a reduced rate because I got the room for 11 nights, too, though.

*I think the next time I go (for the fusion), I will have a better frame of mind because I will know this: it may hurt may feel imprisoned in the hospital NOW...this may all seem horrid NOW, but it only lasts a few days and as soon as you get out, you will start feeling better and like your old self real quick!

* Do NOT schedule your surgery close to a big, national holiday! The hospital runs on a skeleton crew at that time and doctors are few and far between. Imagine tumbleweeds blowing down the halls of the neurosurgical floor and the wind whistling through the swinging doors of the linen closets. Shutters flapping and hinges creaking. 'Nough said?

*Do NOT go have surgery alone. You might think you can do it and you probably can, but if one thing goes wrong, you are alone and having to make decisions yourself, when you are not in any kind of shape to make decisions. Have friends take shifts being with you, whatever it takes to have an advocate there to be sure that things are happening as they should.

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