My Post Op Journey
I knew this was coming. I had a good 10 months to prepare myself for the surgery. But I didn’t. I didn’t get fit like I said I would, because I let myself live in Fear Town worrying I would burst open and die if I did too much. I didn’t save loads of money so I wouldn’t have to take a mortgage holiday. I didn’t seek professional help to make sure I was mentally prepared for heading down Recovery Road. I threw caution to the wind, remained lazy and said it would all be ‘sweet’.
And it was. Well, it was going to be. Until about twenty minutes before I went under. There was a simple staffing change due to an emergency at the hospital. The relationship I had built with my OG Anaesthetist (and by OG I mean Original Gorgeous) meant nothing. The hour we had spent talking about my wish for an epidural to manage my post-op pain, walked out of the room with her. In waltz her colleague, her anti-epidural colleague. An experienced older gentleman who must have mistaken my raging silence for compliance. As I lay on the operating table pre that ‘countdown from 10’ moment I swore to myself I would respect the patient and their journey more in my own work.
Before I knew it I lay gasping for air in a freezing cold ICU. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t feel my feet. My immediate reaction - Old mate has dogged my anaesthetic and now I’m a vegetable, OG would never have done this to me. Turns out I was just so very very cold. In an attempt to control my body temperature from heating up and causing an infection, I teetered on the edge of hypothermia. Have you ever tried to sleep while freezing cold? How did you get on? Love to know.
Also, just asking for a mate, have you ever tried to sleep while out the gate on Ketamine? I imagine it wouldn’t happen - but I am no expert. Let alone writhing in pain? And cold? Yuck.
Day two post a Bilateral AortoFemoral Bypass Graft surgery was here. Thank the Christ I convinced them the Ketamine was not for me - no festival in the world would be worth experiencing that level of bad vibe hallucinations and extreme anxiety.
But I was still freezing and still writhing in pain. Then suddenly I was being discharged - transferred by plane to another hospital closer to home. The morphine which barely took the edge off was taken down and the next 24 hours was a blur. I think I remember a pretty young Physio teaching me how to cough without stomach muscles on the way out the door she tried to make me walk out, although I was still so cold I think I had brain freeze. Day four, I could finally go more than an hour without hardcore pain. Day five, well you get where this is going - on and up.
Eventually, I was allowed to go home. My grandparents who visited, bless them, had not been in hospital in over 40 years. They couldn’t understand why you get sent home as soon as possible - I am lead to believe times have changed. Don’t you need to get better first? They had a point. But lying there watching nurses having to go like the clappers for 8-12 hours at a time does not make for peaceful healing vibes I decided. And there really is nothing like sleeping in your own bed right?
Yes. Until you can’t sleep… until post op insomnia creeps in. Firstly, if you have ever suffered from insomnia - that is seriously tough. And secondly, how come the drugs designed to get you to sleep then leave you awake??!
Ok so I am being slightly dramatic but it seems legit to be dramatic when its 3.30am and you can’t yet fall asleep from your 7 pm bedtime. What I have found is that Insomnia is not great for trying to be kind to yourself. I would board an emotional rollercoaster every night for weeks. Starting off by lovingly trying to will my body to sleep with kind words, then an hour later punishing it with nasty words when that didn’t work. Then guilt for doing that then it starts again. Yuck.
So there’s insomnia which I don’t think anyone talks about, the lack of self-love, the pain (self-explanatory), the lack of energy - query healing? But there is this other emotion I want to dwell on. Because dwell on it I did, every day. It is Frustration, and it's sitting right next to pain and lack of energy. Now I wouldn’t consider myself a super energetic person but this is what I struggled the most with on my post op journey. Frustrated I couldn’t sleep. Frustrated I couldn’t lie on my side as my huge gut all fell over and ferociously pulled at the internal stitching. Frustrated I couldn’t appreciate the amazing helpers I had to rely on or appreciate sitting in the sun for as long as I wanted because I had nowhere to be. I must have been horrible to be around! Antsy and in a total grump 99% of the time.
I’ll leave this here because it's all making me feel super negative. I no longer live in that space, but I respect that I had to go through it. I now live in the space whereby I am super grateful for having been able to have the operation in the first place and go on to live a grand life. But I hope that if you have to be in that post-op world, you could read this and know you aren’t alone. But it gets better. You’ll be eight weeks down before you know it and you’ll be sweet. You’ll be wishing you could sit in the sun all morning with no place to be - but you’ll be through it all.