By Susan McDonald
I woke up on the day of my surgery more excited than I had been about something in a long time. It seems weird to be excited about surgery, but all I could think of was what lay beyond, that “restart” the doctor had mentioned in the introductory seminar. I wanted to restart.
I must say, though, when I woke up in the recovery room hours later, restart was the last thing I was thinking about. I was achy, my mouth was dry and I was loopy. Once I got up to the room where I’d spend two nights, the nurses wanted me to walk. I wanted to sleep. I needed to go to the bathroom, but it took 20 minutes to get in and settled with my tubes and oxygen. I was so thirsty that ice chips were a lifesaver, but I had to sip slowly.
After the first few hours in my room, I did get up and walk two laps around the nurses’ station. It helped with the gas bubbles percolating in my stomach. No one seems to mind a few toots on the bariatric floor! It also helped me to shake off the anesthesia fog and feel a little more human again. Of course, that meant aches. I did not take the morphine, going instead with the next level of pain relief. As that was wearing off each time, or as I got into or out of the recliner or bed, it ached.
The morning after surgery, my doctor cleared me for a breakfast tray, even though I didn’t feel hungry. The tray contained a cup of chicken broth, a bowl of green Jello cubes, a cup of tea and a protein drink, which I was told was my priority. I drank that and had a few sips of the broth, which tasted delicious. Ditto at lunch.
But, at dinner that night, orange Jello replaced the green and gave me my very first lesson of life with my new stomach pouch. I’ve always loved orange Jello so when I finished the protein drink, I dove right into the pile of gelatinous cubes. Yum! Then almost instantly, there was a burning pain in my left chest. When the nurse came in, I asked where my pouch was located. He indicated that area on my chest. I groaned as he looked at my tray.
Walking helped the pain. I’d like to say it kept me from overeating going forward, but it didn’t. It’s a love-hate relationship I have with food and there are many bad habits I will have to break.
Once my pain was under control, I could urinate regularly, and the needed protein was staying down, the doctor let me go home from the hospital with directions to come to her office in two weeks for a follow-up.
I was both excited and nervous to go home. I wanted to be in my own bed and on my own couch to recuperate, and I really couldn’t wait to have the family wait on me a little bit! But I was also nervous about what I would eat, how my family would cope with my new lifestyle and, of course, the pain.
Once home, I settled into the couch, where I’d live for almost a week with my remote control, a list of recommended Netflix shows to watch and a glass of water for sipping. The orders were to rest and take in 60 ounces of water and 60 grams of protein each day. I came home with pain killers that did the trick but left me with my first side effect: constipation.
The nurse practitioner (NP) suggested an over-the-counter laxative, which didn’t work. A nurse friend suggested a stool softener, which also didn’t work. Finally, the NP told me to drink half a bottle of magnesium citrate, which is what people take before a colonoscopy. Reluctantly, I got a grape-flavored version and swigged. Finally, there was movement down below.
In the process, I did stop taking the pain medication to see if that would help. I was afraid to take it again for fear that I’d be drinking the other half of the grape miracle liquid. So I suffered with the achiness more than others might.