Surgery Survival Kit

Laparoscopies. Laparotomies. Myomectomies. Hysterectomies. Sometimes, surgeries come hand-in-hand with barrenness, so we decided to create a Surgery Survival Kit for all of you. Here is the best (and worst) of what we have learned from our own experiences under the knife:

1. Do whatever your doctor tells you to do, both pre and post-surgery. Ignore everything else on this list if your doctor does not approve. (Sincerely, your HRTB Hosts)

2. Um, don’t even try to get through this ordeal without a stash of dark chocolate on hand. (Katie)

3. See if you can get your post-surgery prescriptions at your pre-op appointment. It is nice to have those meds ordered, picked-up, ready to go, and waiting for you when you get home. (Katie)

4. While you’re at the pharmacy, go ahead and stock up on MiraLAX or some kind of stool softener. Constipation is a common side effect of pain killers. (Katie and Jen)

5. Following a laparoscopy, you are most likely going to have gas pain in your shoulders (No kidding!), and it can cause you more discomfort post surgery than your actual incisions. The gas is leftover carbon dioxide from all that was pumped into your abdomen during the procedure. It can take up to 48 hours for your body to reabsorb the gas, so I recommend stocking up on some Gas X (Jen swears by the strips!) and having a heating pad within reach. (Katie)

6. Buy some good pads. The hospital may send you home with a few, but buy ones you like.  Bleeding is common after whateverectomies, and the last thing you want to do on the way home from surgery is stop somewhere to buy pads. (Jen)

7. Make sure your pastor knows the date, time, and location of your surgery, so that he can be there to read Psalms to you and pray with you while you wait. Don’t be embarrassed to tell him. I promise you, it’s worth it. (Katie)

8. Wear low-rise, loose-fitting, comfy pants to your surgery, as well as slip-on shoes. Your incision(s) will thank you later. (Katie)

9. Leave a pillow in your car. Trust me, you want something in between you and the seatbelt on your way home from the hospital. (Rebecca and Katie)

10. Are you a singer? Make sure your anesthesiologist knows. You can tell him/her when he calls you the night before your surgery. It doesn’t hurt to remind your anesthesiologist to look out for your vocal folds during intubation. (Katie)

11. Pack a bag for the hospital. You may be going in with the intention of having outpatient surgery, but you never know – especially if it is a diagnostic surgery – whether or not it will turn into an overnight stay. Must-have items on your packing list: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair rubbers bands, pajamas, prescription meds, a good book, your glasses case, and someone to take you home. (Jen and Katie)

12. Invite someone to stay with you for a few days (or longer). It can be very difficult to manage on your own when you are on bed rest, doped up on pain meds, legally unable to drive, and on doctor’s orders not to lift anything over ten pounds. (Jen)

13. I remember seeing a cat scampering around the post-op room as I was coming to. If you see similar sights that just shouldn’t be there you are probably halucinating and need to close those eyes again to get more sleep. Or else you just chose the wrong hospital. I’m pretty sure my cat didn’t really exist. (Rebecca)

14. I found it incredibly helpful to have an audio book available to listen to after my last surgery. Since I had to spend the night, and since it’s very difficult to sleep with those stupid leg compression tights on and the accompanying LOUD compression machine, it was nice to be able to turn something on in the middle of the night when I was wide awake. It was also nice to have it post-surgery at home when I just didn’t feel like focusing on the pages of a book, or I was too tired to keep my eyes open and watch a movie but my body wouldn’t let me sleep. (Rebecca)

15. Bending straws are your friends, especially on those days when sitting up is difficult. (Jen)

16. Ginger Ale tastes so much better than water when you are groggy and nauseous from the anesthesia. Mom’s chicken and quinoa soup is also a must. And some salty crackers. And some watermelon. And some bing cherries. And…zzzzzzzzz. (Katie)

17. Everyone reacts to anesthesia differently, so be prepared for some side effects. Headaches are normal, though not fun. Have that heating pad ready! The pain medication doesn’t necessarily take those headaches away. (Rebecca)

18. Have a recliner or some kind of armchair available for sleeping in the first night at home. Another option is to have multiple pillows on hand to prop yourself up in bed. Be prepared to sleep on your back for awhile. It can be painful to turn onto your side. (Kristi, Rebecca, Jen, and Katie)

19. If your bed is high, consider getting some type of stool. It can be difficult getting in and out of bed when your abs are toast. (Jen)

20. Along the same lines, consider investing (around $50) in a raised toilet seat. Getting up and down from a low seat can be really painful and difficult for the first week or so, especially if you have had a myomectomy. (Jen)

21. Don’t be afraid if you feel some numbness above your incision. This can happen due to nerves being cut. It can take awhile to get some feeling back. Call your doctor if you are concerned. (Jen)

22. Start walking as soon as your doctor says it’s okay and you feel up to it. It helps get your digestive system moving again. (Jen)

23. Listen to your body as you recover. Sometimes at the beginning of the day you may feel great and make plans for a fuller day. But if your body gives out after a few hours, stop everything and rest. Don’t plan to bounce back immediately, no matter what you’ve heard from other people’s experiences. The last thing you want is a business trip scheduled for the week after surgery. So, be gentle with yourself. You’ve come through surgery, and the body is tender. It will take time to heal, so don’t push it. (Rebecca and Kristi)

24. Indulge in some light shopping. Every girl needs a new pair of sexy granny panties to cover up her incision. (Jen)

25. Be at peace in the knowledge that you are God’s own child, and He preserves and sustains your life. He perfectly loves you in Jesus. Whatever happens, it’s okay. (The Bible)

P.S. These suggestions are lovingly brought to you by Jen, Rebecca, Kristi, and Katie. Happy Healing!

The Gift of Forgiveness

Jennifer Larson reminds us in her reflection on “Advent and Barrenness” that the most important gift we receive from God is not children but the forgiveness of our sins:

Today, I underwent a diagnostic laparoscopy procedure in hopes of discovering the reason for my excruciating pelvic and back pain during my menstrual cycle, which is now occurring every other week. I recently met with my primary care physician and then an obgyn who both felt the pain may be caused by endometriosis.  The good news is that [the procedure] may answer why we have yet to conceive.

At this point, we are not certain if we can conceive or not. We know my husband has a low sperm count, I have innumerable fibroids, and we’ve been trying for two years.  However, we are hopeful.

The timing of this experience got me thinking…Not only does this surround Advent and ultimately Christmas, but it also follows the blessing of the birth of my niece, Clara, on December 7th. Sometimes, it helps to have these reminders to focus me on what I am so very grateful for.

Another recent blessing for us was our engagement this spring, the counseling we received from our pastor, the opportunity to live apart again prior to marriage, the gift of being forgiven, and the final culmination – our marriage.  We repented and have been forgiven for living together prior to marriage.  We are now able to focus on our marriage and our continued hope for a family with this peace.  However, none of this would have been possible if Jesus had not been born.  This is a time for preparation and celebration. I will take comfort in focusing on this and rejoicing in Christ’s birth.

The doctor met with me after the procedure to reveal that the cause of my pain was not endometriosis. Instead, I have a large fibroid that is fighting to win a size contest in comparison to my uterus.  I have an appointment for December 29th to have it removed by a fertility specialist.  Until then, I plan to pray for the courage to stay emotionally strong and to thank and praise God for one of the most important gifts one can receive – forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Jennifer Larson

(Let us pray…Heavenly Father, in this hour of anxiety we pray for Your divine presence and aid. As the time of Jennifer’s operation draws near, she needs a staff on which to lean. To whom shall she turn but to You, gracious Lord? You have created, redeemed, and sanctified her. She is Your baptized and beloved child in Christ. You will not forsake her as she cries to You for strength in her trouble and pain. We confess to You our unworthiness, our many weaknesses, and our transgressions. You mercifully forgive us for the sake of the sacrifice of Your dear Son, our precious Savior. Give wisdom and skill to the doctors and nurses, that all they do will bring about a speedy recovery for Jennifer in keeping with Your good, fatherly will. We commend her into Your hands. While she slumbers and sleeps, watch over her. Take every fear out of her heart. Comfort her with the assurance of her salvation through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and grant her a faith that clings only to Him, who is the great and eternal cure for all sin, sickness, and death. Your name we praise, O Lord of life and death. Hear our prayer for the sake of Your dear Son. Amen.*)

* The Lutheran Book of Prayer, 232-3.