I’ve decided to refer to my nightgowns as “dresses.” “I have guests coming, please bring me a clean dress.” Or, “It’s time to do a little walking, let me grab a robe to cover my dress.” The day they removed the epidural in the hospital and I was able to shower, they also said I could change out of hospital gowns into my own clothes. Sliding the nightgown over my head, belly epically swollen, bag rustling, I had the momentary realization that getting dressed had just become a lot more challenging.
The following day I was discharged from the hospital in an unseasonably hot robe and an ill-fitting “dress.” My mother and I drove to a hotel a mile and a half away where I would recuperate until Dr. Skibber decided I was safe to go home. For at least the next week I would be sharing a single room, double queen beds, with my mother. I didn’t feel horrible, but I didn’t feel good. The room had a mini fridge, but no other way to prepare food. The hotel had a small cafe menu, but Im on a very restricted diet and have to eat small amounts multiple times a day. My mother loves me, but she isn’t a feeder and has never put too much thought into food. To boot, the cable tv situation was paltry with seemingly basic stations, and for some reason this Marriott had no movies on demand. Luckily we had a handicapped bathroom, but the water temperature maintained an almost scalding heat unless turned down significantly, at which time it ran cold. To be fair, the room was big, clean and had great lighting, but still my survival in these less than optimal circumstances was assumed, definitely not guaranteed.
Historically, on the amount of pain meds I was consuming, if I don’t maintain adequate nutrition I puke. Violently. Following a major abdominal surgery where your rectum is removed and part of the small intestine is pulled through deep abdominal muscles to the outer wall of the body to create a stoma, the very last thing in the world that should happen is vomiting. So far I’ve made a few mistakes dietarily; my intestine is inflamed, damaged, and swollen, and it’s important to take it slowly the first 6 weeks post-op. Leaving the hospital the first day I was hungry and nauseated, and there was zero food at the hotel. In a desperate move to not puke, I made my mom drive through a burger place. Big mistake. It gave me gas (which sounds like that fart goop in the plastic tub when it comes out of a stoma), indigestion and made my stomach hurt so that I didn’t want to eat again that night. I puked at 5:30 the next morning and stoically, or dramatically, proclaimed that I had probably damaged an internal organ. We called my doctor and no damage had been done. My proper feeding became a constant topic of conversation and concern, as was my medication schedule, water intake, stoma output, and daily Lovenox shot. One would think these things take up more time than they actually do.
The following week I only left the hotel to drive to the hospital. Follow up reports were amazing and my doctor continued to call me his All Star. Otherwise, I watched HOURS of television, walked up and down the hall a lot, and medicated myself through the pain. Thank god my friend Graham came to visit and gave me lots of love. My mom kept bringing me food that I barely ate and I learned how to change my ostomy on my own and take care of myself. The week sucked and then I got to go home.
Here are some post-surgical survival tips:
Log roll to get out of bed. Roll to one side, lower your legs and push up. Similar methods work for getting into bed.
Drink lots and lots and lots of water. Your system has been dosed with massive amounts of chemicals. Flush them.
Walk. Frequent short walks increase blood flow, decrease stiffness, and they, too, help move the chemicals through your system more effectively.
While we’re at it, EAT. Small meals every couple of hours. I lost too much weight in one week and became weak. Funny the way that happens. Bland, white foods are fabulous.
Cut yourself some slack. This is hard, and your body has been beaten and mangled. Rest, cry, take long showers (seated preferably), laugh with friends, and believe that this will pass. It’s all you’ve got.