Sunday, February 24, 2013

Things to Know Before Surgery

Advice to my friends dad, and anyone else having shoulder/elbow surgery:

1. You likely won't be able to put a shirt on over your head for a while.  Have lots of button ups.  Get new ones if you need, especially as the weather is cold these days.

1a.  I wore a lot of halter dresses, which was nice, because I didn't have to move my arm hardly at all to get them on.  I'm guessing halter dresses may not be abundant in your wardrobe, so consider throwing a bathrobe on.

2. It's a biatch to put socks on one handed.  Stick with slippers.

3. Invest in a few pairs of sweatpants.  Doing zippers and buttons is tricky with one hand, and can get you frustrated easily.

4. Get a winter jacket big enough you can just throw it over your arm on one side.  Ideally you'd be able to zip it up if it's cold outside.

5. Eat a TON of fiber, drink prune juice, take colace or miralax.  High dosages of pain meds can constipate you big time.  It's horrible.  I had a 100+ dollar plumber bill after my surgery.  :(

6. Get N/A beer.  You'll want a beer after surgery (within a few days), but the alcohol could really mess you up. Trust me on'll want things to be "normal" but they aren't.... having something "familiar" that won't kill you will help. 

 7. Talk to your wife and kids.  Ask them for help.  Ask your friends too.

8. Find other people to support your main caretaker.  He or she will likely need a break.  Taking care of someone who is super fragile is scary and easily overwhelming.

9. Say thank you.

10. Don't push too hard.  It's easy (if you're like me) to think you can climb up on the kitchen counter to get something on the top shelf, or drive to work 4 days after surgery, or mop up a toilet disaster and carry 30+ pounds of soaked bath towels to the laundry room.  You can't.  Don't try.  It will just slow down your recovery.

11. Ask for your friend for movie/music recommendations.

12. Buy your wife something nice ahead of time-- like a massage.  Schedule it for 2-3 days after your surgery.  It will make you both happy. 

13.  You may be heavily drugged for the first couple of days.  I don't think I was actually "awake" much during the first 48 hours.  I definitely wasn't coherent. 

14. Like I said last week, make sure you keep up with your meds from the start.  Playing "catch up" is not good, nor easy, or even possible sometimes.  Take the full dose they tell you, and make sure to write it down.  12 hours in , you might be high as a kite and won't remember the last time you took meds.  Having it recorded is really important.

15. If you have to take meds every 2-4 hours, make sure you have whoever is waking you up to give you your pills has someone replace them after 24 hours so they get a break.   Being short on sleep can make even the nicest person cranky.  It's a good way to help take care of your caretaker.

16.  Heal up!  It takes time, but really, if you rush it, it won't help.  It will only hurt more.  Patience is important here.

17. Speaking of patience.... the whole nurse/patient role play can be fun...really fun...just make sure to be careful.

18. Have some meals planned and frozen ahead of time.  That way, if no one wants to cook for you, or you get hungry and no one is around, you can quickly make something that you know tastes good.

19. If you have to wear a sling, have your partner try to immobilize their arm for an afternoon.  I had mine wear my immobilizer one afternoon, and she didn't last 20 minutes.  I think it helped us both for her to see what my life was going to be like for the next several weeks.

19a.  Addendum.  This isn't exactly accurate (sorry, I was in a hurry to meet a friend for Pho, and I kept thinking of things to add to the list).  My partner did wear my immobilizer for 20 minutes, and she did last, with only minimal complaints.  It was meaningful to me that she put herself in my shoes ( sling) to see what my experience was like. 

20. If your arm does have to be immobilized, get corn starch to put under your armpit.  I didn't at first, and it got rubbed raw.  It was gross, and painful.  

21. Be vulnerable.  Let someone take care of you.  It's good for the both of you.

22.  Before surgery, have a lot of fun.  Be romantic.  And adventurous.  Also though, do whatever chores/errands you can to help the house, because you'll be chore-free for quite a while after that. 

 23.  Best of luck!!  Holler if you need anything from me.  I'm happy to help!