Life Post-Surgery

I am officially more than two weeks out from surgery.  The first week I dropped a lot of weight, in combination with the weight I dropped on the pre-surgery diet.  About a week out, I was 31 pounds down from pre-surgery.  However, as tends to happen (from what I’ve read) weeks 2-3 are notoriously a “stall” period.  I read a forum called Vertical Sleeve Talk (there’s an iphone app), and other folks that are post-surgery have shared their similar experience.  Even though I know it’s common to have that stall (or even a few pound gain), it’s frustrating!  You feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re eating so little, you’re exercising more than you used to, but nothing’s happening.  But, you just have to keep on trucking, because eventually the stall will go away and the scale will move downward again.  

I track my food intake daily using the My Fitness Pal app on my iphone as well.  My goal is 50-80 g of protein per day.  In the beginning, it was more difficult, but now I do it easily.  I’m also now on the pureed diet, which feels more fulfilling than just the liquids.  Favorites so far have included turkey breast with mashed potatoes and gravy, chili with melted cheese, and a “lasagna” type of baked dish that I made tonight.  More just like lasagna filling, but it was super good!  My average calories are between 600-800 calories per day.  That seems low, but when you’re only able to eat 1/4 cup at a time, it’s difficult to get in much more.  My protein shakes are about 300 of those calories per day.  I see my dietitian at the end of the month, so she will probably have some good feedback for me,which I’ll share here when the time comes!

I don’t really have much pain.  I’m mostly itchy.  My incisions are healing, which is itchy, but then apparently even if you only have baby-fine belly hair (who doesn’t?) they still shave your belly before surgery.  And it’s itchy as hell as it’s growing back.  I do have one incision above my belly button that’s been the hardest to heal.  The location of it is problematic because it’s right where my pants tend to hit, and it still drains a tiny bit as it’s healing.  Hopefully soon it won’t be so open and raw and will heal up nicely!

Well, I think that’s about it for now!  If you have any questions or things you’ve been wondering, don’t be a stranger!  I’m not shy!

My Surgery Experience

Well, I’m alive!  I’m one week out from surgery and thought I’d post about my surgery experience thus far.  I had the laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy, or “the sleeve” for short on April 30.  This was my first surgery EVER, so I had a bit of nerves going into it, just for the simple fact that I had no idea what to expect through the whole experience.  So I think I’ll just kind of do bullet points about my day-by-day experience to recap.

Tuesday April 30

  • My surgery wasn’t scheduled until noon.  Talk about a long morning!  I had to be at the hospital at about 10:15 and didn’t have to wait long to be called back by the pre-op tech.  The tech had me pee in a cup to ensure I wasn’t pregnant, then had me change.  Next, the pre-op nurse came in.  Her name was Jan and she was SUPER nice.  Through our conversation, we came to find out that she is siblings with one of my husband’s good friends.  Small world!  She tried to start an IV in my wrist, but hit a valve, so that was pretty painful and unsuccessful as far as IVs go.  She was then able to get one in my forearm.  I met with the anesthesiologist, who explained what he would be doing in the operating room, then I got to see my husband for a few minutes until being taken to surgery.  Not long after he came in, Jan gave me a nice shot of Versed, which was certainly a trip!  Then, it was time for surgery!
  • I was wheeled back and remember being very chatty because of the drugs.  I remember being preoccupied with the fact that they were wheeling me in the opposite direction than they always wheeled my husband (he’s had almost a dozen surgeries!).  I also may have made a few comments about how the scrub area and operating room looks different on Grey’s Anatomy.  They had me get on the TEENY TINY table, then the anesthesiologist told me he was going to start the meds.  I remember looking at the big surgical light (which wasn’t on) and thinking that it looked like what the inside of a disco ball must look like.
  • Then I woke up.  Several hours had gone by and 85% of my stomach was no longer in my body!  I remember feeling very very nauseous and complaining that I couldn’t feel my feet.  Apparently they had been elevated, and all was well, but it freaked me out momentarily!  The next few hours are hazy, as I was in and out and hitting my pain pump quite a bit because it was the only thing that made the nausea go away.  Apparently I was having some trouble with my blood pressure in recovery, and was consistently having numbers over 180 on top.  At one point I believe it was even up to 215.  They kept giving me drugs to try to lower it, but it just wouldn’t lower.  The surgeon wanted my BP to be at least below 180 for 30 minutes before going to a room, but it just wouldn’t stabilize.  They let my husband come back for a bit, hoping that would calm it down, but it didn’t really make much of a difference.  I didn’t know it at the time, but they were considering calling a cardiologist in to try to help it, and considered sending me to the stepdown ICU instead of a regular floor.  However, I hadn’t had any cardiac events, other than just the high BP, so eventually they sent me to my room on the surgical floor.  A private room!
  • Once I was in a room I was feeling better and less anxious.  I had beautiful flowers waiting for me from my husband and MIL.  They hooked me up to a tele box (heart monitor) for the night and put me on vitals every hour to monitor my BP closely.  Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep that night.  Before my husband left for the night, I got up and sat in the chair for a little bit, and also took a short walk to the doorway and back.

Wednesday May 1

  • After a night of off and on rest, it was time for a new day to begin.  My pain was pretty minimal, though I did use my pain pump a time or two as needed.  My biggest complaint was  off and on nausea.  I would have waves of it that would just be awful.  I was terrified I would throw up and rip a stitch in my new stomach, but thankfully I didn’t get sick.
  • I was taken mid-morning for my upper GI (though it wasn’t the same type of upper GI I had previously.  I believe they called it an upper flouroscopy.  The stuff you had to drink for your post-surgical GI was AWFUL.  It tasted like what I imagine lemon pledge would taste like.  This is the first thing you’ve been able to drink since before surgery, and the doctor wants you to CHUG the awful stuff.  It was very hard not to get sick, but I didn’t, and I passed my test–no leaks!
  • Later that morning I was able to get off my tele box, as my BP had stabilized and I had a completely normal heart rhythm since being monitored.  Then it was time for my first “meal”.  It consisted of 6 one-ounce cups of diluted apple juice.  I was to drink one cup each hour, for 6 hours.  I was able to tolerate it pretty well, though after 4 of them, I was feeling SO full and ill and sick to my stomach. It took me a couple extra hours for the last two cups, then I was so exhausted that I decided to go to bed early.
  • I did a great deal of walking this day too.  The worst part of the pain was really the gas pain from surgery (they blow your belly up to do the procedure).  The only thing that relieved it was to walk, so I did lots of walk walk walking!
  • Oh, I also had a shower on this day.  The tech removed my gauze from 5 of my 6 sites, then when she went to remove it from the 6th site (the one right by my belly button, where they actually removed the stomach from), it started seeping.  She left the gauze on and said we would change it after the shower.  As I went to get int he shower though, I started dripping fluid onto the floor–my incision was gushing fluid!  I applied pressure and called the nurse, who said it was OK and just re-dressed it.  It was a little freaky, but they all assured me it was to be expected!

Thursday May 2

  • I woke up at 4AM on this day, but felt pretty rested, as I was only woken up every 4 hours instead of every hour.  I did some more walking through the morning, and around 7AM doctors began coming for rounds.  The resident surgical team came by and said that I would plan to discharge once the surgeon came by, and that I would also be sent some food from the cafeteria throughout the day to try.
  • This day was a whole lot of waiting.  I was so ready to go home, but had to wait for the doctor until about 2pm!  While I was waiting though, I was able to drink some crystal light, broth, and eat some jello.  I didn’t feel hungry at all, but did continue to have the gas pains.  
  • Finally at about 230, the doctor gave my discharge orders!  I was sent home on a series of Lovenox injections, which is a blood thinner that people sometimes get after surgery.  My husband didn’t have to have it, but I had risk factors that he didn’t have (such as being on BC).  I would have to take two injections a day for a week.  I was also sent home on pepsid twice daily and a diuretic and potassium supplement.  They also gave me liquid Lortab for pain and Zofran for nausea as needed.
  • It felt SO good to be home.  I had also been wearing an abdominal binder since surgery (kind of like a girdle), which helped quite a bit at home with getting up and down from the chair and bed.  Basically it just holds your stomach in pretty well so that you don’t feel so tender.

Friday May 3-Monday May 6

  • These are my recovery days at home so far.  Every day kind of runs together, so I’ll lump them all together.
  • My belly-button incision site continues to drain.  I keep gauze on it and keep it clean, but it’s difficult to keep it dry.  Not to give too much info, but that incision is in a skin fold, so it’s constantly got pressure and heat on it.  Half of my steri-strips from the incision have come off, due to it being moist, but the nurse assures me as long as it’s not hot or red or oozing blood, that it’s normal.  
  • The Lovenox shots suck.  Eddie gives them to me because I am a huge wuss.  I gave myself one in the hospital, but since he’s here and willing to do it, it’s less stressful for me to just have him do it.  They burn quite a bit, but thankfully I only have a couple more days of it.
  • I don’t ever feel “hungry”, at least not hungry like I used to feel before surgery.  Now my body tells me I’m hungry by feeling kind of sick to my stomach.  It’s more of an empty feeling that makes me feel kind of sick.  If I get to that point, I know I’ve waited too long to eat and I need to have a protein shake.  Similarly, feeling “full” is very different now too.  I don’t ever feel full like I used to, but I know when I’ve had enough because I will get a feeling like I have to burp (and sometimes do!).
  • My daily meals consist of the following, usually: 2 oz of yogurt mixed with protein powder for breakfast, 8 oz protein shake made with milk for snack, 2 oz cream soup (strained) for lunch, broth or sugar free popsicle for a snack, sugar free pudding or soup for dinner, and another 8 oz protein shake before bed.  My biggest food complaint is that nearly everything I’m able to eat on full liquids is sweet.  I’m so sick of eating sweet stuff!  Never thought I’d say that!
  • I’ve been able to be pretty mobile since surgery.  I’ve been walking at least a half mile most days, and some days closer to a mile.  I consider this to be pretty good progress!
  • I follow up on Wednesday with my primary doctor and the surgeon’s nurse.  I used to take a diuretic/bp combo pill, but the surgeon wanted it cut in half.  They were able to half-dose the diuretic, but not the BP, so I have to follow up with her to see what she wants to do.  I’m hoping she’ll take me off the diuretic, because I don’t really know why I’m on it to begin with, and getting in ample fluid right now is difficult anyway.  I also have to take the potassium supplement because of this pill, and it is AWFUL.  It is “fruit” flavored that you mix with water, but it is HORRIBLE.  I see the nurse on the same day and she’ll see how my incisions are doing and give me guidance about switching to pureed foods in about a week.  Let me tell you, I’ve never looked forward to pureed foods so much!  I just want something savory!
  • My pain has been pretty minimal, though by the end of the day I’m pretty achy. I usually only take my pain meds before bed.  I also haven’t had much nausea since being home, though today I had quite a bit, so did take some meds for that.  I’m pretty tired a lot of the time, but they tell me that is to be expected.  I’m just definately glad that I have another week of recovery before returning to work.  While I feel like my recovery hasn’t been as difficult as I anticipated it to be, I’m still pretty tired and achy and appreciate the extra time!

Well, I think that’s my experience so far, in a nutshell (not really, this was totally long!).  I’m open to answering any questions people may have, just leave it in the comments!