I got sooooooo much good advice here about preparing for being home after surgery. I hate to think how miserable my recovery might have been if I hadn't expected and been ready for some of it. There are always newcomers asking about the same thing, but the suggestions get lost in long threads. Which is why I'm starting anew with this one. So, if you're an "after", pitch in and offer your advice for the "befores" with upcoming surgeries.
- Ask your doctor about which medications you'll have at home. Pain meds, muscle relaxers.....some surgeons prescribe anti-anxiety medication, which I think is a GREAT idea. I wish I'd had some after my surgery.
- Don't try to be brave with your pain. If you are in pain and have medication for it, take the medication. Pain stresses your body, tenses your muscles, puts your whole system on "alert", and you don't need to be dealing with that while you're trying to heal!
- A recliner, chair or couch with lots of pillows. Or a bed where you can lay propped up. You will NOT want to lay down flat for a while after surgery, including when you sleep.
- I found that putting a pillow under one or both arms (in between my arm and my body) helped with the pain when reclining.
- Rule of thumb early on: If it hurts, don't do it.
- Short periods of activity with lots of rest (neck supported) in between.
- Audiobooks saved my life. I rented several from the library and they were a great, relaxing way to pass time. TV and movies got boring, plus situating myself comfortably was sometime difficult, and I simply could not find a way to read a book. (which is a shame, 'cause I love to read) Some have suggested that magazines are easier to hold, bigger and lighter weight.
- My shower has a hose-attachment head, so the first several times I showered, I sat on a plastic lawn chair in the shower and used the hose.
- I used spray-in shampoo for the first week or so. I have a lot of hair, and trying to wash it while keeping my wound dry was near impossible.
- I bought a "grabber" - um, a long pole with a squeeze handle on one end and sort of pincers on the other. I used it to pick things up from the floor without having to bend over.
- Someone mentioned "bendy straws". Yes, I used them!
- Sore throat is a common post-surgery symptom, so have some soft, easily swallowed foods on hand. Some people suggest the liquid "meal" drinks like Boost or Ensure.
- Take it easy, take it easy, take it easy! You've just been through a MAJOR surgery! Let others wait on you. Ask for help when you want it. Do not get caught up in the expectations of others, or convince yourself that you "should" be able to do certain things. Take it all at your own speed. Be your own guide.
- Try to walk a little (gently) every day. Activity oxygenates the blood, and that's good for your bone healing. I had no collar, and my surgeon urged me to start walking around the block (outside! eek!) the day I got home. OK, I stayed in and used treadmill, but at least I walked.
- No smoking (this is a good time to quit!), no anti-inflammatories (3 months). Both can inhibit fusion.
- Nerves are weird things, and you will most likely experience some weird symptoms that you may not have had before. Check the boards here, talk to your doctor when you're concerned, but keep in mind that you've got a lot going on in your body and don't let it freak you out too much.
OK, I'm sure there's LOTS more that I'm forgetting, but the brain is starting to run dry here.
I compare the recovery process to a bumpy road. You will definitely have ups and downs. Don't get discouraged when you have setbacks - and you will have setbacks. There will be good days and bad days, but the good will eventually outnumber the bad. I know it's terribly frustrating to hear, but BE PATIENT. Healing is a slow process, but you WILL feel better
Good luck to you all with upcoming surgeries. Be sure to check in after.
THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR PUTTING THIS IN A NUTSHELL........I have only one thing to add.........Slimfast is cheaper and HAS MORE NUTRIENTS......
Ember & everyone else thank you for all of your opinions, suggestions, and experiences.......I feel confindent that I have a good idea of what to expect .....ya'll have taken the mystery out of the equation......
I would also like to thank this WEBSITE for giving us a place to go with all kinds of health issues.............
very good thread to update frequently for everyone about to undergo this process:
I used men's silk hankie against my chin and face inside collar. Feels very good if you have hot flashes, get hot, etc. I also put corn starch up under my collar.
For Shower - first few times to keep incision/bandages dry I wrapped my neck in plastic wrap (Saran wrap) to keep area dry. It really worked.
Have anything you might need - meds, food, drink, etc. at waist level so you do not have to bend or go over your head.
Throat logenzes or hard candy are good for your throat for the first few days. Smoothies made up in blender feel so good going down, plus you can add anything you want to them, fruit, milk, ice cream, protein powder, etc.
Pillows, lots of pillows all sizes shapes firmness as almost daily your pillow needs change.
It is very hard (even now) for me to get vitamins and muscle relaxer pills down my throat. Have a pill cutter on hand. I have to crush my calcium pills and eat with applesauce or pudding. The applesauce really helps pills slide down your throat.
Soothing music (you may have periods in the night were you can't sleep for the first few weeks). It helps to relax you. Books on tape are good too. It is very difficult to hold up even a paperback book. You might be able to rig up a tilt table to hold a book.
Button front shirts or really big t-shirts (sleep shirts). Be very careful putting a shirt on over your head.
Remember to eat lots of protein, calcium, vitamin d, iron enriched foods.
Hot/cold gel packs if you can tolerate these on your shoulders for muscle spasms.
I found that I needed to keep a log of medicine dosage. Every time I took a pain pill, muscle relaxant or any other pills prescribed by the doctor I wrote it down and made a note of when the next dose would be needed. I really needed it all down in black and white because the muscle relaxants can really make you loopy.
Before each surgery I went to the fabric shop and bought some fleece. Itís so soft. I cut pieces to match the sponge parts on the aspen collar. I got different colors and patterns to try and match my moods. I could make new ones or throw the old ones in the wash because you donít need much fabric and itís quite cheap.
TF is so right in this. You will likely experience ALL those feelings at some time during your recovery - completely normal - and talking to others who have at least some concept of what you're going through can be very calming.
I'm sure I'll have disagreements with this, but I swear there is a particular point, usually about three weeks after surgery, where everyone hits panic mode. It's as if pain and fear and frustration and anxiety and depression all collide at once and you just go through a little freak out. I say three weeks because I've been on this board for almost a year now and the sudden spike in emotion at that time seems to be a recurring theme.
Anyway, none of this is intended to frighten or depress you; it's meant to reassure you that all these feelings are normal after such an important surgery, and to let you know that you're not alone.