Post-op: One step forward, two steps back
I'm about two and a half weeks into my post-op recovery so far, but it feels like it's been a lot longer. I'm getting pretty tired of my view of white walls - of my apartment, of my surgeon's office, and unfortunately, of the emergency room, where I've been a more frequent visitor than I would have hoped.
One of the main problems with having major surgery, in this limited experience I have, is that pretty much any bodily problem is about ten times more serious solely because you just had surgery. I mean, it makes sense, because the inside of your body just went through (voluntary) major trauma, so you're at risk for a wide variety of complications, from mild to serious. Annoyingly, I've experienced a couple of them (just my luck!) and my doctor has sent me to my new least favorite place on Earth, the ER, to get them checked out. Ironically, even though I have spent at least 9-12 hours there each time on average, the emergency room is still considered the fastest way to diagnose and treat any of these complications.
I'm not too keen on emergency rooms, since the last time I spent time in one a while before my surgery, they administered a drug that I wound up being so allergic to that it landed me in the hospital for over a week - but that's another story. It's also been immensely disappointing to discover that 1995 George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross doesn't work at Lenox Hill. However, the positive thing about a being a post-op patient is that they're quite thorough and take everything pretty seriously. Which has meant in last two unplanned visits, I was treated to an exhaustive barrage of tests and treatments that perhaps I might not have received had I just been an average walk-in who hadn't just had a major operation.
Regardless, I've learned two important lessons from these experiences:
1) It's a lot easier to become majorly dehydrated after having surgery, so drink as much fluid as they tell you to, then drink four glasses more than that. Even if it hurts a lot. Major dehydration pretty much feels like all the worst hangovers you've ever had in your life combined to become an Uber Hangover, so bad that you can't even rehydrate yourself because you're so nauseated. And then you get to go the ER where you have to get stuck like a pincushion because your dehydration made all your veins disappear, and they pump you full of fluid from multiple banana bags (aka the exact same stuff they give you if you come in for intoxication), so everyone else at the ER thinks you are a drunk. Sometimes you have to get admitted to the hospital. And when you finally get to leave you have bruises all up and down your arms and hands from the multiple IV attempts, so then you look like a heroin addict. Also congratulations, because all the weight you lost from your surgery you've just gained back in the 12 lbs of IV fluid that are now sloshing through your veins. Oh, and you're super susceptible to kidney damage. Highly recommend!
2) On a more serious note...better safe than sorry. Major surgery puts you at much higher risk for blood clots, serious infections, obstructions, and perforations. Some of these present with symptoms that could be mistaken for reflux or even a common cold. (There's a reason the doctors and nurses in the ER order more tests and procedures in post-op patients than someone who just walks off the street.) When in doubt, call your surgeon. Both times I wound up in the ER, I saw or spoke with my doctor before and it was under his advisement that I went to the emergency room. I'm relieved I called him for things that under any other circumstances, I may have ignored.
Cautionary tales aside, there's no need to worry, because I'm going to be just fine. Surgery happened to hit me harder than it does for some people, but also thankfully not as hard as it could. I'm listening to my body (and believe me, it's making a lot of noise right now!) and even though I'm the least patient person I know, I'm recognizing that sometimes taking it slow is the best course of action. When I'm (finally) out of the recovery phase, I'll know that I'm going back to "real life" at 100%. And I wouldn't want it any other way.