Why Post-op Instructions?
What in the world do you think the doctor or hospital gave you those things for? Are they just trying to slow your escape from that horrid place? Are there any studies or research involved with them? Are we paying attention to them? In one ear and out the other?
They are given to us to alert us to the possibility to further damage. You might not have been the perfect angel in that hospital room. Face it, they really don’t want to see you again. Even if you were the model patient, you don’t want to have to go back. So,…..
The most common instruction is about lifting. “Lifting” means simply having an item in your hands or arms. Most instructions use “a gallon of milk”. Not two, but one. Gosh darn, that is simply put. So what does the patient do? Wait until after the surgery to divide that gallon into two jugs, even buy it in half gallons? Yep, I would say 90% do just that. Those instructions are independent of your past daily activities or actions. [Meaning: forget what you used to do!] It doesn’t [does not] say, “if you bench press over 100 pounds or if you tote your baby around hours on end”. That instruction is there even for you over-doers! Yes, you love your babies, but someone else puts them in your lap.
I have heard people ask the nurse, handling the instructions, questions that basically tells that nurse they (the patient) will not follow those instructions. They will ask such as: Can I drive next week, or can I drive home, do I really have to stop vacuuming, or I don’t have anyone to vacuum for me? That nurse will just laugh and say something mundane about you should follow these to the best of your ability. Sorry, for all you nurses out there, you should be prepared for those questions and have your ‘shaming’ responses on the tip of your tongue. A patient, like that, needs harder measures than just a simple giggle. Their family members, standing there, need your support to control that patient.
Did you know most doctors consider the gallon of milk to be 8 pounds? All vacuum cleaners are around 10 pounds. So, does that mean you can push that sucker? Nope, leave it alone! Most instructions for after a C-section are: “not vacuuming until after 6 weeks”. That also goes for gall bladder, or any types of surgery. Then we have the instructions about lifting from over your head, one nurse said that really meant that if your shoulders are in the raised position then you are lifting over your head. That even pertains to pulling something off a shelf! Also, most give you a time line on driving. What the heck is so much more important than your recovery that you can not stay out of the car? Boredom? That one is what killed me, but I wanted a semblance of my old life back, so bored I was! But, have you considered your response time may have been adjusted with the pain medicines you are taking; maybe that six weeks is a blessing. Also, if you were to get into a bump-up, think of the damage you have allowed.
Most surgery release papers are given to a family member. I wonder why? Maybe, so they can be your police? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “well, I couldn’t stop them.” Yes, you [family member] could; how about doing it for them? In the US, the family leave act is there for a purpose. It is so the family member can take a week or two off after their loved on has surgery — even half days is better than nothing. You know that surgery patient is going to push themselves. Why are you letting them?
Scar tissue is a major problem with surgery, and doing things you are not supposed to do helps you develop more than you should. Scar tissue causes discomfort! Yep, you are aggravating that incision and any work done under that incision, so no wonder you aren’t where you had hoped to be. Don’t blame the doctor on that. Walk means walk, not stairs. If you have steps, then get the instructions for that. Take things slow means spend 50% of your awake time doing nothing. Nothing! The other 50% should be only light activity, not making up for the resting 50%. Yep, read, park your lovely self.
OK, rant over.
Now, how to be pro-active. Start with that gallon. Keep a used one and clean it really, really well. Let it air dry, I use a hair dryer to get it started. Then put it in the fridge so that you will have it before the surgery. A day or two before the surgery divide your existing milk into two containers. Then repeat as you go. Also, put everything you might need on counters. Junky? Yes, but worth it in the end. If you have a deep freeze, then move your pre-prepared meals at arm-to-belly level. Dishes should be put on the counter also. Simply put, — pay attention to when you bend, stretch, pull, tug, push. As you wait the week before surgery, don’t waste that time stressing out, use it to prepare. Get meals and easy groceries into the home, check that you have plenty of paper products to sustain you, and don’t forget toilet paper. If someone else is coming to help and they can’t show up early, then spend time putting sticky’s on doors telling them where what is. If you are particular as to how you need laundry done, leave instructions on the washer and type why a request is made. Like for me, I have to use certain detergents and need to have extra water in each load. Let them know this. The ideal action is that your caregiver come 2 weeks before, thus giving you time to share and familiarize them. (Then if you’re like me, you still type info for them.) Remember they are there to do for you, not work against you. Pick that person well.
Your caregiver will only be there a week, maybe if you are lucky two, so make sure things are back where you are familiar with them being. Also make sure your things are placed at the magical height of under the boobs to the belly button. Yours, not theirs.
Having your recovery room at home fitted to your needs is a must. If you have to travel stairs to get to eat dinner, then consider a bed on that level. I had an aging dog, so I moved down to ground level, that way I could let her out to potty. She also could not do stairs. I had a walker to help get me upright, and a bathroom just feet from the guest room. Each morning, when the husband returned to work, he carried down an ice bucket, snacks, drink, clothing etc and put in my room. I had a TV tray beside me to put things on for entertainment. Phone charger hung from my bed, etc. I stayed in that room for weeks, boring yes, but I wanted to be smart with all this. I, also, did not shower unless someone was babysitting me, no slip and falls!
For my surgery I had all the post-op instructions, no gallons, no pushing, pulling, reaching over the head, etc. The time estimate started with the “for at least” 6 weeks. Did that mean 5.5 weeks? Heck no! Six weeks are a starting number, not the ending number. That is when you start something back — a little at a time. Trial and error. If it doesn’t feel good waiting one more day or even a few days will only help you. Do you hop on your tread mill and do your pre-surgery routine? Nope, you do it in baby steps, as if you had never done it before. Your body has to re-learn. It was 12 weeks before I could do some things, and after 18 months I still have problems. Hurts my feeling, yes, but I surely don’t want to make everyone’s life harder around me. So I am not going to further damage myself for my ego.
Some people have employers that are not going to give you a moments rest after the 6 weeks. Pull your Granny panties up and stand up for yourself, (yes, even the men need to pull those panties up) even if it means a trip to an attorney. Also, check to see what hidden benefits your health insurance has. They might provide a home health assistant for when your spouse goes back to work; one person I know found out hers provides meals brought into the home once a day. Be honest with the health insurance advocate that should be calling you. Do not fake your recovery and say you are doing fine, if you need more time or are scared of returning to work, let them know.
For you, who have little ones, tell them ahead of time what will happen. If you explain to them that you might not be able to have a full body hug, but can do arm hugs, they will remember. Have activities that they can do with you so they can play the nurse. Warn them that you may not be your pretty self when you get home. Tell them ahead of time, that if you snap at them it’s not because of what they did, but because you are uncomfortable. If you are a single parent, then check your local government or church so you can get some help with the children; and meals, laundry, etc. Even try calling a local nursing school to see if they have a student they can recommend for an internship. Don’t forget to send them a reference after.
Back to my rant. Whatever you do, consider the instructions are given for a reason. First, is so you won’t sue the doctor when you don’t follow them to the extreme. Yes, people blame their doctor for the simplest things. Second, they are an estimate of the shortest time for recovery. They are not set in stone. Again five and a half weeks are not six weeks; five weeks, 6 days are not six weeks!