Recuperating From Laparoscopic Hernia Surgery: A Journal
I wrote this article for people who are about to have, or have recently had Laparoscopic hernia surgery. After undergoing Laparoscopic surgery for a hernia, I was frustrated with the lack of available information about the healing process. While I know recuperation is different for everyone, I was just hoping to read about other people's experiences. Unable to find any, I decided to keep my own journal to help other people in the future.
On the day before surgery called to find out what time I had to be at the hospital. I was told the surgery itself would only take about 30 minutes, but then I would be in recovery for awhile. The woman in pre-registration told me I would probably be out of the hospital by noon.
Day 1: Monday
Monday, June 17th I arrived at the hospital for my 7:00 a.m. check-in time at the outpatient surgery department. After checking me in, my husband was given a card with information about how to follow along on the posted surgery board so he could watch my surgery progress. On the bottom of the card was a coupon for a free coffee of soft drink in the hospital cafeteria which I thought was a nice touch. I was brought to the operating room at 8:30 a.m., pretty much on schedule which was surprising.
Awakening in the recovery room was quite hard for me. I kept waking up but couldn't keep my eyes open and would drift back to sleep. The nurse gave me a breathing contraption that I had to blow into four times, each time blowing hard enough to make a middle piece rise to a certain level. This was hard to do because sucking in such a deep breath made me cough, and coughing is definitely something you don't want to do after hernia surgery! I was finally able to take deep enough breaths and stay awake long enough that I was allowed to leave the hospital...at 4:00 p.m.!
My husband had gone to the drug store and filled my painkiller prescription. I ate a banana, my first bit of food all day when I got home, and then took the prescribed Vicodin. Unfortunately, it made me nauseous and so the one banana was all I was able to eat all day. At first, I didn't think it was the Vicodin that was making me nauseous, but four hours later after the second one, I was still nauseous, so that was the end of that for me. I went to bed but had a lot of trouble falling asleep because the nurses told me I needed to sleep propped up, and I usually sleep on my side. I just couldn't get comfortable.
I left the hospital with a binder that I was supposed to wear around my whole stomach area. It has Velcro along the side. I didn't want to wear it at first, but they put it on me, and I am glad I have it. It gives that whole area a lot of support and helps the muscles there that are sore support my middle.
Thoughts for today:
* My doctor wasn't kidding when he said it would feel like he punched me in the stomach...he said for a week...this is going to be a long week!
* Wondering why I was in the hospital until 4:00 p.m. and since my husband didn't ask, we'll probably never know.
Day 2: Tuesday
Today I feel better than I thought, in spite of not sleeping very well. I only slept for an hour after going to bed, then was up watching TV till about 3:00 a.m. Going back to bed was futile as I lay there and drifted in and out till about 6:00 a.m I could hear the birds chirping and the light was breaking through so I know it was about 6:00 a.m. I finally fell asleep and woke up at 9:15 a.m. I didn't want to try the Vicodin again because I really felt I should eat something to help with the healing. I had some bread with a bit of peanut butter, and then took some Advil, and it helped with the pain.
Today my husband's son is going to be in town from out of state for a business meeting. He lives about 1,500 miles away from us, so we offered to have him stay in the house. My husband was surprised when I said I would probably stay in the bedroom most of the time he was here. For goodness sake, I was hanging out in my nightgown and bathrobe, which were not exactly the Frederick's of Hollywood design, so staying in the bedroom seemed like a good idea to me!
I wanted to take a shower to clean up from the surgery, and the doctor had said to wait 24 hours. We have a bathroom attached to the Master bedroom that has a walk in shower so I was happy that I wouldn't have to step into a tub. Lifting my legs right now is painful so walking straight in will work better. Taking my clothes off before the shower and looking in the mirror was quite shocking. I had read on the internet that most Laparoscopic surgeries for hernias would require 3 to 6 slits on a stomach. Holy cow, I looked at my stomach, and I almost fell over. It looks like a war zone. Three of the 11 slits had large red areas around them. I was quite concerned and didn't want them to be infected, so I called the doctor. They asked me if there was any swelling or if the areas felt hot to the touch, or did I have a fever.
Fortunately, the answers to all of these questions were no, so they told me to just take the binder off for a bit to let air get to them. That was a relief. My poor stomach...as though a terribly large scar from a c-section with twins and scarring from previous surgeries which included a gall bladder removal and another hernia were not enough, now I have 11 more scars to add to the mix. I told my husband he shall never be able to set eyes on my stomach again. He just laughed at me and told me he could take his contacts out and he wouldn't be able to see anything anyway!
Thoughts for Today:
* My dog makes a very good nursemaid. She follows me everywhere, and I can see a look of concern on her face each time I wince when standing up or sitting down. I wonder if dogs can be trained to be therapy dogs for specific situations when their owners have a scheduled surgery?
* It hurts to laugh and sneeze. Why oh why did I decide to get this surgery when my allergies are acting up?!!!
Laparoscopic Surgery Poll
Have You Ever Had Laparoscopic Surgery for a Hernia?
Day 3: Wednesday
Today I woke up and felt the worst so far. My right side was really painful. My aunt called today to see how I was doing and when I told her today I felt the worst so far, she said the third day is always the worst. Is this true? I have never heard this before but at this point am willing to grasp onto it.
After my husband's son had left, I took my computer out of the bedroom and brought it into the living room. I set myself up in the recliner, and it's quite comfortable and gives my back a lot of support. I feel better being out of the bedroom. It makes me feel less of a patient and more in touch with the world. I am feeling well enough to write about my experiences, and my brain is less foggy, so I see this as progress.
My brother called today to see how I was doing. He had surgery back eight months ago for a hernia as well, but his wasn't Laparoscopic surgery. He could relate to my pain. I had to get off the phone with him after a bit because he was making me laugh so much that it was causing me pain.
My husband has been very helpful during this painful time for me. I feel bad asking him to do things for me, but there are just somethings I can't do for myself. Reaching up into cupboards is quite painful. So is trying to bend down to pull of the waste container from underneath the kitchen shelf. I have been leaving little piles of items that need to be thrown away, like paper plates, tea bags, etc. on the shelf above where the trash bin is stored and asking him to throw them away because I can't pull it out. It's embarrassing that I can't do little things like this, but I know it will get better.
Thoughts for Today:
* Laughter may be the best medicine for some things but definitely not for people recuperating from hernia surgery!
* I wish I had prepared my home better and put a lot of the items I use every day on shelves that are waist high. It would have really helped me reach things without bothering my husband.
Day 4: Thursday
Why can't I find anything on the internet about recovering from this type of surgery? It's so frustrating because I feel, based on what everyone else has said, that I should be doing better by now. But then again, not everyone having this surgery has had to have 11 slits for the surgery. The only thing I can find is actual videos of the surgery, and after watching one for 3 minutes...yuck...who wants to see that? Certainly not me.I did find a few doctor's sites who quoted facts about how soon people could return to work after this type of surgery...some said within 3 to 5 days! Ha...I would like to meet these super humans. Those statistics made me feel like a recuperation failure because if I were working at a regular job, there would be no way I could return to work in 3 - 5 days.
I took a second shower today and was able to move a bit more freely and without as much pain. Since I have been living in a nightgown and bathrobe, I wanted to try some real clothes because my husband wanted to take me out of the house. Fortunately, I like the all-cotton, flowing style of dresses and happened to have one in my closet that I thought might work. I also had a long slip with a bra type top to it, and put that on under the dress so I could still keep the brace on. Even though it hurts to stand up straight all the way, I felt pretty good in this dress.
We took a ride in the car today. It was my first time out of the house since Monday. Unfortunately, his car has very deep seats, and when I lowered myself down into his car, the pain that ripped through the side of my stomach felt like someone had grabbed my stomach muscle and peeled it right out of me, starting at the top and ripping it down and out. I was afraid to move after that, and the pain echoed through my body for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, when we got to the beach where we were going to walk the dog, I refused to get out of the car but instead just watched the sailboats going by. By the time we got home, we had figured out a different way to get out of the car, turning sideways and planting both feet on the ground, then my husband took one arm and helped pull me out. At his urging, I did take a short walk down the street and back to the house. Even though the slant of the road is very slight, on the 500 foot walk back up toward my house, I could feel every step in my stomach area.
By the nighttime, I started feeling a bit better and trying to be more independent, so I have amazed myself at the usefulness of my other limbs. When I dropped my cell phone, I kicked it over to where my husband was sitting on the couch and asked him just to bend over and pick it up instead of making him walk across the room where it had dropped. He seemed to appreciate my efforts and thanked me for my help which was nice. He hasn't uttered one word of complaint yet, and for that I am grateful.
I'm very tired of not sleeping so I am going to break down and take an Advil PM tonight and hope it can keep me asleep for most of the night.
Thoughts for Today:
* I'm so glad my husband doesn't mind bending down to pick things up for me. It makes things so much easier.
* Thank God for Colace!!! ( See below if you don't know what this is!)
Day 5: Friday
I am so glad I took Advil PM last night. I went to sleep at 11:30 p.m. and didn't wake up till 9:00 a.m. I felt refreshed and the pain in my right side seems to have subsided a bit. I can actually sit down and stand up without holding my side. I can even fold the leg support part of the recliner back into position without having hardly any pain at all. I'm grateful that this hernia was on one side of my stomach instead of in the middle because I can use my left side pretty well to reach up for things without much pain. But don't ask me to use my right side...ouch! I am walking a bit more each day now and although I feel some pain and stiffness on my right side, it's much more bearable.
Sneezes are a terrible experience, and I do feel a sharp pain on my right side when I sneeze. I try to do everything I can to prevent the sneeze which means if I feel it coming on, I put my finger underneath my nose and put pressure there to stop the sneeze. That works fine on the sneezes I can feel coming on, but the ones that sneak up on me are very painful.
Thoughts For Today
* Feet and legs can be almost as useful as hands in picking things up and pulling clothing up if one is willing to be creative. Feet can pick up blankets, towels...even underwear!
* Making the bed can be done but even pulling the blankets up can be painful. It's best to have help for the first week. If it wasn't for my husband, I think I would have just let the bed stay unmade for this first week!
Day 6: Saturday
Oh I feel so much better today. I slept really well again, thanks to Advil PM. Each day that goes by now that I get a good night's sleep helps me to feel better. I am careful to not take any pain relievers during the day because I don't want to rely on them, and also, the directions say not to take more than 2 Advil PM each day..so I am guessing taking regular Advil with the same ingredients is not a good idea while taking Advil PM at night. I took a shower this afternoon. I was able to actually take a full shower this time, and lift both arms instead of just splashing water into my armpits. I am amazed at how well this glue is holding up that covers each surgical slit. The bruising is going away so that is great news. I can actually sit for awhile now and walk around without too much discomfort. And I can laugh again without pain. What a great feeling.
I ate a cookie this afternoon, and started having a coughing attack from some of the crumbs. As soon as I started coughing, my dog was at my side, looking up at me like she was worried about me. That alone made me feel so much better. Hoping we can go out to eat tomorrow night. It will be nice to get out of the house and have a change of scenery. I was thinking about what I read about people returning to work after 3 - 5 days. I think if I had a desk job and didn't have a choice, I could have returned to work today. My biggest problem is pain and stiffness on my right side, middle of my body. If I can sit still, there's no pain. I feel so much better about my recuperation than I did a few days ago.
Thoughts for the day:
* I would like to kiss the person who invented Advil PM! Makes such a difference to be able to sleep though the night and feel refreshed in the morning.
* My dog makes such a great nurse. I'm so grateful to have her cheery face and watchful eye during my recuperation!
Day 7: Sunday
I feel so much better today that it feels like a miracle. Had you asked me on Wednesday or Thursday if I would heal this quickly and felt this good, I would have told you that I highly doubted it. I am still stiff, but mostly only slightly sore and only on my right side. I took a bath today but only filled the tub with about 2 inches of water because I am not yet allowed to get the healing areas wet yet. I ended up sitting backwards in the tub because the safety bar is toward the back of the tub so this way I could use my left hand to reach up, and the hernia was on my right side. It worked out pretty well. I was able to get clean, AND shave my legs for the first time all week...I know I know, but at least I figured out a way to do it since my legs were right in front of me.
My husband has been encouraging me to walk a lot. When he had hernia surgery a few years ago, he went right back to working out as soon as he could. He also walked a lot. I think everyone needs to heal in the way that feels best to them, so I have just been walking around inside the house and in the neighborhood. Today he convinced me to take the dog with him on a nature walk at a nearby beach. I told him I wasn't sure how long I would make it. With each step, I felt the stiffness in my side, but not really pain. I made it for about 15 minutes and then decided to take it easy because we had plans to go out to eat tonight, and I didn't want to be too tired.
Tonight my husband took me out to dinner. We had a nice time, and I enjoyed being out in the real world again. I had put the binder back on to be on the safe side and was glad I had because we had to walk through the parking lot and then waited a bit for a table and at first there were no seats.
Thoughts for the Day:
* It's nice to be able to go out and about and feel as though I am part of the real world again, without the "in the house" emphasis on recuperating!
* I'm so happy to have figured out how to get in and out of the car without pain. It all has to do with putting my feet flat and pushing myself backward, then drawing my legs in, etc. It is one small step at a time that works best.
Best Tip I have Seen For Getting Out of Bed After Surgery
This video is the best idea I have seen for getting out of bed after surgery. This is especially helpful for patients who are recovering and live alone.
Monday, June 24th...My 1 Week Anniversary of my Surgery
Hooray...I have made it one week and feel I have recovered very well. I don't really have pain anymore, just a stiffness in my right side where the hernia was, and the area surrounding it. Sneezes and coughs don't really hurt anymore, but I do feel a stiffness in my stomach muscles when I sneeze. I credit my husband's loving care and my dog's watchful and caring attitude with my almost complete recovery. Oh, and I guess I should give some credit to the doctor as well! He is supposedly the best surgeon in my geographical area in Connecticut, and since I have healed pretty well and in a week, I guess I can forgive him for the war zone look of my stomach!
I don't need Advil PM anymore because I can sleep better now that most of the pain is gone and I just feel a stiffness. I can sleep fine with a stiff middle because once I get to sleep, that won't wake me up.
I hope this has helped those of you who have had this surgery to feel better about your recovery. Good luck to you.
Read How To Best Prepare for an Upcoming Surgery...
- Recuperating From Surgery: 10 Tips on How to Make it Easier on Yourself
I am currently recuperating from surgery and have compiled a list of preparations that will help you recuperate more conveniently and also have everything you need nearby.
© 2013 Karen Hellier