Things I’ve learned from Surgery

December 9, 2016

Dear Friend,

Because this was the first surgery I ever had, I never knew what to ask the doctors or what to expect. Fortunately, a few relatives imparted a little wisdom from their experiences to help me out. l I am still learning more about the procedure done on me after the fact. I never quite figured out the right questions to ask in that department. Perhaps, I’m just that kind of detail-loving person. Or, I wonder if the doctors just did not want to tell the details, as ignorance may have been bliss when it came to pre-operative anxiety. I hope this listing of ideas may help you form questions pertaining to any future surgery you may need.

It is important to not just a single biopsy done on a tumor, but receive a full pathology lab on it. I heard of a scenario in which four samples were taken, three results came back negative and one came back as positive. If they did not do multiple samples, the false positive would have had been acted upon.

Be sure to have a person by your side as your advocate at all times during any hospital stay. Our family has experienced several close calls with receiving wrong procedures and medicines. The staff is human and can easily make mistakes as they are rushed to skim the chart and keep up with the patient load. Also, when you do not feel well, the advocate can do simple things like getting you water and ice packs. You do not have to wait 20 minutes for a nurse to assist you to use the restroom or shut off alarms.
Nursing staff often do not welcome anyone else in the room, fearing they would get in the way. I had a nurse tell me straight out, “Quite frankly, your husband does not add anything to the nursing staff and if I have to, I am not afraid to tell him to leave.” At that point, I had to clearly state our family position to always have an advocate. To them he might not help, but, I know I needed someone coherent to represent and look out for me.

This may dislocate your jaw in the TMJ region. Once the joint is dislocated, it is more prone to pop out again.
This caused a swelling of my throat, creating inability to swallow even water. I found out canned peaches were the easiest thing to swallow. After that, I told Joel to find me slimy things, besides octopus.
Fastening the tube down caused a large numbness and bump on the front of the tongue with a blistery sore underneath.
The staff take the tube out of you just as you are waking up out of anesthesia, so most of the time you do not remember it at all, or have a gagging reflex from it.

Anesthesia: Gas vs. IV
Gas is most convenient for them, and is able to adjust faster to make sure you do not wake up during surgery. But it is most prone to give women of child bearing age nauseousness.
It is possible to do both at the same time to minimize some of the nausea effects. i.e. 1/2 and 1/2.
When you are under anesthesia, you do not naturally breath on your own, and that must be done for you. So, when you wake up, it is critically important to take several deep breaths every once in a while for the next few days to help keep pneumonia at bay.
Be sure to have two alternative nausea medications prescribed prior to surgery, so if one does not work, the other one is already prescribed and you do not have to wait miserably. They typically do this for you, however, it has been neglected in the past as well for some.

Several ways exist to run an IV, besides the traditional way into the back of your hand. I had three running simultaneously for the surgery procedure. They can put different sizes in, have a stitch holding one into an artery, or use an ultrasound to place one deeply into your arm. If all else fails, they are able to place one in your legs or feet. Fortunately, my legs and feet were not touched for those purposes.
Be sure the IV’s are flushed through regularly or they will dry up. All three of mine closed up and I had to have two additional IV’s placed into me post-operative.

Pain Control:
For the first 3 days after surgery, they will not prescribe any anti-inflammatory medication due to the increase risk of bleeding due to the blood thinning. Life does get better after that point.
Oxycodone has a very common side effect of itchiness. Have them give you Benedryl if that begins. I started showing other side effects, so I discontinued that medication.
Every person is different when it comes to pain control. Keep after them to adjust the medications until you are comfortable. Do not just wait “accepting” the pain, especially if it is bringing you to the point of tears.
Tylenol is a good go-to medication. However if it is taken at high dosages for a prolonged period of time, the body begins reacting. I developed the most intense headaches (worse than from the surgery) just as the dose was wearing off. My body started painfully dictating that it needed more.

Surgery Date:
We found out coincidentally the best time for surgery is around the holidays. Most people try to hold off until afterwards. This leaves more available staff to tend to your needs faster than a typical week. I had mine the day after Thanksgiving. This worked out well.
Just get it done. That was the mindset I chose to have. I knew the surgery was unavoidable, so why dread it for a few months prior?
Information Gathering:
The internet has so much information to fill in the gaps. However techniques vary greatly between hospitals and doctors. Ask them for their website recommendation that would best describe to you what will be done. This will put a lot of “what-if’s” out of your mind wondering if it will truly end up in the same way.
Youtube videos are around for many procedures. If you have the stomach for it, you can gain a different perspective as to what to expect.
Do not be afraid to receive a second opinion as well.

If you are at all interested in a video of your procedure, you must mention it to the surgeon prior to surgery. They typically video it anyway and will mark where the procedure becomes interesting to us. Otherwise, afterwards you may never see any of it.

Adhesive Removal:
I was full of tape residue all over my arms, legs, and hair. They have little towelette wipes that assist in taking up the adhesive. Be sure to ask for extra.
If you are like me and are still trying to get the adhesive off two weeks post-op, here’s what I’ve tried.
Use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover if the adhesive is not near the suture area.
Use the pre-operative surgery soap and allow it to sit on the area for a while before trying to comb it through your hair. While this helped tremendously, several clumps are still left.
I’ve also heard to try petroleum jelly. This was a very messy attempt and was not really sure if it was my persistence and determination to get it out at all costs, or if it actually helped.
Part of me was tempted to try old fashioned peanut butter. It worked for bubble gum, right? Who knows.
If I become desperate enough, I will clip those affected strands of hair off. No more messing with it around the suture area. Collateral Damage. Done. Ha!

Life Documents:
Do not wait until a major surgery to figure out your will or medical directive. Do this now while time is on your side besides this is the last thing you would want to deal with going into surgery. This is important to have regardless.

I know this is the tip of the iceberg for ideas to think about. I remember sitting in the office with so many questions, but yet I did not have enough information to formulate them into words to ask. I hope your questions get answered and your surgery experience goes well.

Until we meet again,


2 thoughts on “Things I’ve learned from Surgery

  1. Super helpful. Thanks, Regina! I will never again put Petroleum Jelly in my hair to remove anything. I used it once to try to combat lice. I regretted it for weeks. My hair looked limp, oily and greasy and I could not wash it out with anything!!!


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