Tips for Coping with Surgery

Prior to Surgery

  • Get as many things organized as possible without overdoing it.
    You won’t be feeling up to doing much for quite a while afterward, so freeze meals or stock up on frozen meals. Fill the prescriptions you will need on release from hospital. Organize friends to help with running errands, taking kids to/from school and play-dates after school etc.
  • Buy a couple of sets of button-up, cotton pajamas.
    Mobility in your arms may be limited for a few weeks after surgery and so you will need clothes that you can remove without having to raise your arms.
  • Ask your doctor about post-surgical underwear.
    They may give you special bras or post-surgical camisoles to wear on discharge from the hospital or they may expect you to pick them up yourself.
  • Find a nice wrap/shawl or throw that you can wear to keep warm when sitting up in bed.
    Avoid full-length robes in bed, they will be uncomfortable. I preferred a wrap/shawl to a sweater for keeping warm as it was easy to take on an off. With limited mobility in my arms post-surgery, getting a sweater/sweatshirt on and off was uncomfortable and tiring.

Before Release from Hospital

  • Ask for specific exercises you can do in the first week after surgery, 1-3 weeks after surgery, 3-6 weeks after surgery and 6 weeks post-surgery.
    It is really important to avoid losing mobility but at the same time you have to be careful not to do damage soon after surgery, so ask specifically for appropriate exercises during these time spans.
  • Ask for instructions on how to get out of bed easily while you are recovering.
    You may need help for a few days or so.
  • Make sure you receive adequate instruction on how to empty your surgical drains (tubes placed during surgery to drain fluid from surgical site) before you leave the hospital.
    If possible, have your helper receive instruction too. Make sure you write down in your notebook the volumes you empty each time. You will need to show this to your surgeon so that they can determine when is the right time to remove the drains.
  • Agree with your surgeon as to when you should call
    In other words, what symptoms should trigger you to call and what is their preferred method of contact, e.g. phone call to hospital switchboard or their cell phone, email etc. Find out how rapidly calls are returned i.e. within the hour, by the end of the day. You may also want to check under what circumstances they would want you to go straight to urgent care etc. If something is of concern to you, do not delay in reporting it or seeking help.

At Home

  • Organize your recovery space.
    This might be your bed or a recliner etc. Make sure that the space around it is organized so that you have everything within easy reach. I put everything I needed into a pretty tote bag so that I could keep everything close at hand and take it with me from place to place.
  • Make your bed comfortable.
    A foam “egg-crate” topper under your bed sheets will lessen the discomfort of staying in bed. One of the “arm-chair” back pillows can be very helpful for sitting up in bed.
  • Use a notebook to write down (or have your helper write down) when you are supposed to take your meds.
    Then use it to make a note of which medications you have taken and at what time. Believe me, many of them will make you sleepy and you can’t rely on memory.
  • Use a notebook to write down the volumes of fluid you remove from each surgical drain.
    You will need to show this to your surgeon so that they can determine when is the right time to remove the drains.

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