Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Sips and Steps

I guess at a week out from surgery it's about time I blogged about my experience. There may be some holes and/or uncertainties as to the exact day things happened or the full details...but that's thanks to the lovely pain medications I was given, so please forgive me if there are parts that I skim over. I'm going to see if I can give you a day-by-day account of what's been going on.

Surgery Day, Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I was oddly calm and peaceful on the day of my surgery. At the very least I expected to have a few butterflies or some serious impatience as I waited for the big moment. But all I felt was peace. I was calm and confident. I was smiling and laughing with the doctor's and nurses. The whole pre-surgery process that morning went by much more quickly and smoothly than I anticipated. Before I knew it, I was kissing Ryan goodbye as he headed for the waiting room.

I remember them moving my bed and heading for the O.R. but don't remember arriving there. Even my post-op memories are a bit fuzzy for the first few hours. I have a vague memory of waking up in pain and them telling me they were giving me pain meds that would help me rest. And I seem to remember Ryan coming in, but I can't remember where I was at that time. I know from that point they moved me into my room, but only have a slight memory of being wheeled through the hallway. When they got me to the room, a private room btw, they hooked me up to my pain meds and clipped the button for them to my blanket. That button and I were pretty good friends those first couple of days. :)

With all the pain medication on board, I wasn't hurting much at all. Maybe a moment or so of discomfort here and there, but no real pain. What was the worst to deal with was the fact that my mouth was dry...and I wasn't allowed even a sip of water or a measly ice chip! That entire first day all I was given was a cup with some water and a little sponge on a stick to wet my lips with. I wasn't supposed to even put it in my mouth because they didn't want me to swallow the water. But I couldn't stand it. There was this nasty film of what felt like paste in my mouth all the time. I would use the sponge to swab the inside of my mouth with water, not enough to swallow, but enough to moisten it temporarily and wipe the film away. That was my big struggle with day one.

The mantra I had been advised to adopt post-surgery was, "Sips and steps. Sips and steps." This would remind me to constantly be sipping my liquids and walking as much as I could. But just because I wasn't allowed to sip yet, I didn't let that stop me from starting on my steps. The area of the hospital I was in consisted of three short hallways that formed a triangle. The nurse's station was right outside my door at the tip of this triangle. So, the nurse's station was my start/finish line and I began on day one doing laps. My first time out I did one slow lap leaning on my IV pole with one hand and my husband with the other. The next time out I did two laps not much faster than the first. That was about all I could handle that day.


Wednesday was a much better day. Well, it was better for the simple fact that I was finally allowed to drink!! I was never in my life so thankful for a glass of water and some ice chips! Of course I had to take it slow and sip, sip, sip, but I was thrilled to do it. So on day two I was on clear liquids, as much as I could tolerate. They had given me a chart and for each ounce that I sipped from my little medicine cup I checked off a box. My goal was 4 oz per hour. Some hours I met that goal, others I did not. But overall I did pretty darn good!

Dr. Tyner came by that morning to check on me. He seemed thrilled with my progress. When he came in I was sitting up sipping some water and had already done a few laps around the halls that morning. He said the surgery went great, he was able to create the small pouch he'd been hoping for, and there had been no complications. He also said that I was doing so well that had it been his own private practice rather than a military hospital he probably would have sent me home that day rather than the next. I wasn't sure what was so amazing about my progress that had him and half the nurses impressed...but I would find that out before leaving the hospital.

The rest of day two was spent focusing on those sips and steps. I was tired of the lovely hospital gown they had given me, so I changed into my comfy new jammies I had bought. It made walking the halls easier since I didn't have to wear my robe to cover my caboose. And it made me feel better as well. I felt more normal, more human. Every few hours they came and took my vitals, and for some reason kept checking my blood sugar even though I'm not and never have been diabetic. Just those few days in the hospital had my poor fingertips looking like pin cushions. I have a whole new level of respect and sympathy for those that have to go through it every day! But aside from that occasional frustration, day two went great! Plans were started to send me home the next day as long as I tolerated the full liquid diet the next morning.


Thursday dawned and I was excited to be going home. As fabulous as the nurses and doctors had all been, I was ready for the comfort of my own bed, and the company of my family. Ryan had only been able to be with me during the day and had gone home at night to stay with the children. He had been able to bring Victoria to see me the first night, but I hadn't seen Steven since the morning of my surgery. So I was ready to go. While I waited for my tray of full liquids to arrive Dr. Tyner came and saw me. He said the nurses had told him I was racing through the hallways with all the walking I was doing. He was very pleased, and assured me that as long as I handled the full liquids, I'd be home that afternoon. So I began to pack my things.

I got my breakfast tray with a sugar free breakfast shake and I'm not sure what else, but the few sips I was able to drink went down well and stayed down...no problems. The nurses came and told me they were going to start processing me and order my meds so they could check me out. I was excited!! Then I felt the urge to have a bowel movement, and that changed things.

I hadn't expected to have a bowel movement so soon after surgery, but had an urgent need to go. (I'm throwing in a disclaimer here: I've promised to be as honest as I can, even when that means discussing "gross" things. What I'm about to write is not pleasant, but it is the reality that I had that third day. If you prefer not to read this part, I recommend skipping the next paragraph or so.) At first I was quite pleased to be going to the bathroom so soon after my surgery, though I was surprised that it was more like diarrhea than the constipation I had expected. The reason for this became clear when I went to wipe myself. When I wiped it was not fecal matter at all on the toilet paper...it was blood...dark red/black...and my heart sank. I looked in the stool and it was dark red with lots of blood clots in it. I stayed calm, did NOT flush, and quietly asked Ryan to get a nurse. He looked to see what I was concerned about, and I must say I am proud of how calm he stayed.

A few minutes later the nurse had come and gone and the doctor that was on duty was standing in the room with us. He seemed a bit concerned himself. He said they would run some more tests, call my surgeon, and see where that put us, but that I should expect to stay one more night for observation. The air was suddenly let out of my balloon and I lost my momentum. I took to my bed for most of the rest of the day with only a minimal amount of walking once the doctor said it was okay to do it. Over the course of the next 24 hours I had 3 more of those bloody evacuations. And they scared me. But they did blood workups on me several times to make sure my counts were all normal...and they were better than normal, higher than expected. The blood continued to be a dark color and full of clots indicating that I was not actively bleeding. I had no excess pain. My energy level and skin color were good. There were no indications that anything was wrong other than the blood itself. But it scared me.


My numbers stayed good all night. No further problems arose. And the doctors on duty along with my surgeon determined that it was most likely residual blood from the staple lines in my intestine. It had to have somewhere to go, and between all the walking I was doing and the help of gravity, it was going the only place it could. So, I was once again cleared to go home. And this time...I made it. The nurses got me all my medications except for one. There was a bit of a mix up and confusion on that one. Read Please Be Patient to find out more about that.

It was good to be home and with my family. The remainder of the day was uneventful. On the way home I stopped for just a moment at the school where I work to say hello to the children in my class and let them know I was okay and had not forgotten them. Then I went home and spent most of the rest of the day resting, napping, and sipping.


Saturday I was feeling a little bit of cabin fever. I'd been cooped up in either the hospital or my house the whole week, so to get my walking in I went with my husband to Wal-Mart. We only needed a couple of things, but I used the cart for balance and support and we wandered around the store for a while just so I could get my walking in. I continued to have BMs with the dark almost black blood in them, but there was less and less of the blood and more and more of what actually should have been there so I was worrying about it less and less.


I did a lot of sleeping and resting on Sunday. As great as I was feeling, I kept forgetting that my body is trying to recover from major surgery and that takes a lot of energy. But overall I was feeling good. I continued to sip, sip, sip, all day as I should. And as we prepared to watch the Oscars that night, I had Ryan go on a walk with me around the block before they began. And after coming in from that walk I found myself once again going to the bathroom. This time, I cried. I'm not kidding. This time, I pooped and it made me cry. But they were good tears. For the first time since surgery I had a BM that had NO signs of blood in it! I was so relieved!! And so I sat with Ryan and we watched the Oscars. If you read the post I linked to above you'll know that I was not on my anti-depressant over the weekend, so my emotions were in a bit of a tizzy. I was teary eyed over several of the speeches that night. And in all honesty I had a mini-breakdown in the shower before the Oscars started. We had come in from our walk, I'd had my emotional BM, and I found myself standing in the shower crying. There was no real reason for it, but I couldn't stop myself. I was having an anxiety attack. I hadn't had one in over a year....the last time I'd missed a couple of days of my medication. So we checked with the doctor and he said I could take a Xanax, and that helped. The rest of the evening was relatively uneventful.


Monday morning I spent a couple of hours figuring out what to do about my medication issue. I couldn't just not take my meds any more. This post is already long, so I won't repeat the information that is in the blog I linked to above. It will explain all that happened with my meds. Once I was finished with that bit of drama, the rest of my day was fairly quiet. The only real problem I seemed to have was that I felt FULL all day!! I had a protein shake early in the morning and some yogurt (with meds mixed in) late in the morning. I spent the rest of the day just trying to force myself to sip water and Crystal Light. I had broth for dinner, but I was under my recommended amounts of both protein and liquids. It was not a great day nutritionally speaking. But from what I hear from others it's not unusual to have a day like that sometimes. I can't force my body to do what it isn't capable of or ready for. So I just did the best I could. Aside from a few minutes of walking around at the doctor's office that morning and a few more going into the store for yogurt I didn't really walk yesterday. It was wet and rainy outside and I can't drive myself anywhere to walk inside. Ryan is on night shifts, and I felt bad enough waking him up to take me to the doctor yesterday. I couldn't wake him up again to take me somewhere to walk. So, I tried to be up and moving around the house a bit to at least be moving.

So that is the summary of my first week. There are holes there due to the pain meds. I was on them most of the time I was in the hospital, and have only taken them 3 times since being home. But they made swiss cheese of my memory. Overall except for the blood in my BM's scaring me, I've had a good experience. I'm sick to death of drinking the same things day in and day out! I've been doing it for 3 weeks now and have another week and a half to go before I can see the surgeon and hopefully move on to soft foods. But it's worth it! I'm glad I did it! It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it!!


Holly from 300 Pounds Down said...

Thanks for sharing your experience because I think it really helps people who need to know what to expect. Congratulations on making it to the other side!! That must have been scary with the blood but you handles it very well. And I'm so glad that cleared up! It's awesome that you were up and walking. I'm sure that helped get everything out of your system. Sounds like you're doing fantastic. I'm so happy for you!

LuLu Kellogg said...

I am so glad you did well. It will all get better day by day!!

Welcome to the loosers bench!!! YIPPEE!


tz said...

given that I will be here in June (knock on wood) I am so thankful you are sharing your story, it's so helpful!

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