The Truth About Recovery
It’s been 12 weeks since my laparoscopic hysterectomy and let me say, post surgery has not been easy, but the recovery room was even worse!
The recovery room instructions they gave were so vague and in truth, not all that helpful. So, instead of having anyone else go through what I went through, here’s my Do’s and Don’t’s list.
Some of the things I learned in the recovery room will be useful for any of you contemplating getting a laparoscopic hysterectomy.
The Don’ts for Post Laparoscopic Hysterectomy
Don’t let the nurses treat you like you’re crazy or dumb. Only you know what your body is feeling, so only you know what your body is capable of doing post surgery. While in the recovery room, the nurses kept screaming in my face to sit-up and stand-up. I kept saying “I can’t” and “No. Stop.” but they were expecting my doped up brain to fully mobilize. They kept me under general anesthesia for 3 hours! What did they think would happen? Sitting up and standing up were like climbing Mt. Everest with no legs. Pretty much impossible without help. They literally dragged me from the bed to the bathroom to pee. Then they left me standing on my own and within a second, I fell backwards onto the toilet and got hurt. According to the doctors, this was because they needed to make sure my system was “OK” but I can tell you, my system was not responding.
Don’t attempt to do anything on your own immediately after the surgery, no matter how many hours have passed or what the nurses tell you. That includes things like walking or standing or trying to pee on your own. I trusted the nurses in the recovery room when they told me I didn’t need a catheter. Instead, whenever my bladder would fill up, my lower abdomen would immediately go into massive tremors and painful spasms. They made me sit on the toilet for thirty minutes to an hour in that kind of pain. They did that to me 3x before I finally flipped out and begged for a catheter. The doctor gave it to me without hesitation.
Don’t let the nurses treat you like your pain is too high or that you’re being a baby. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my nurses were terrible at pain management. I had whole organs removed from my body and they acted like I was a toddler crying over not getting candy! The pain was so bad, I started puking in the bed. Only then, did they finally call my doctor to give me a higher dose of pain medication.
Don’t forget to get your doctor’s cell phone number before being discharged. I can’t tell how you many times I needed my doctor, after office hours. The first night home, I realized I didn’t have his cell phone number and I ended up back in the emergency room with a 104 fever and uncontrollable vomiting.
Don’t leave the hospital without thorough instructions. I’m not talking about the “how much pain medicine to take” kind of instructions. I’m talking about instructions on how to go home and get back to normal. If you have stairs in your house, you’re gonna need to know when you can go up and down them. If you have glue that closed your wounds, you’re gonna need to know whether or not to expect a burning sensation underneath it while your wounds heal. I never knew to ask about that and it turned out that my body was rejecting the skin glue, so I kept getting a burning sensation beneath my top skin layer. See photo of the wounds shut with glue below. **Warning… It’s Graphic!**
The Do’s for Post Laparoscopic Hysterectomy
Do tell your nurses and doctors how much pain you’re really in and do it right away. This is so they can properly manage your pain. If you’re pain threshold is low like mine, then make sure you let them know. My pain, post surgery, was so high that it went well passed their scale of 1 to 10. I spent the better part of the day at a pain level of 12. The more I told my nurses, the more they tried to make me feel like I was a big baby even though they removed organs. It took me crying and puking and calling my doctor at his office, to finally get the resident to up my pain medication dosage. After that, I finally fell asleep and felt much better where I could even eat a cracker.
Do try to get up and move around, with help, once you’re in a regular room at the hospital and feeling better. This will help you to pass gas more comfortably. In the beginning, you’ll burp more. This is a good thing because if you at least do this, your belly won’t stay filled up with excess gas. I burped a ton, but I didn’t have the ability to do so until 5 hours post surgery. It took another two weeks before I could pass gas from my bottom without excessive pain. In case you are wondering why your belly is filled with gas, it’s because pre-surgery while you’re under anesthesia, your doctors will fill you up with gas in order for them to see the interior much better or at least, that’s what I was told. Just so you have an idea of what it looks like post surgery… imagine having just given birth. See my post-op photo below. **Warning… It’s graphic!**
Do ask your doctor to get pre-authorization for at least a one night stay in the hospital. Your body will be exhausted and in a lot of pain post surgery. If you have little ones at home like I do, you will need all the rest you can get. It’s best to do this in the hospital immediately following the surgery. I know that I stayed overnight because I could get round the clock care in the moments where I couldn’t handle the pain. Though, looking back, I bet my husband could have cared and managed my pain 100 % better.
Do ask for a vomit bucket in the hospital room and keep one near your bed when you go home. Some of the medications they give cause nausea while others cause drowsiness. If you try to eat in the hours post surgery, this could lead to more nausea. Once my pain was being managed better, I felt hungry. So I ate a couple of crackers. Within minutes, I puked and couldn’t stop. The first time I vomited in the hospital bed, so when the second, third and fourth times hit, I was grateful for the vomit bucket.
Do ask close-friends and family for their help. Trust me, you’re going to need it. There were so many things I didn’t know to expect and if it wasn’t for my amazing friends, family, and even neighbors, I don’t think I would have survived the weeks following my surgery when my husband was back to work.
Do ask for an at-home list of things you may need, separate from medications. For example, did you know that constipation is a common side affect of a laparoscopic hysterectomy? I didn’t and that’s because I did not know to ask if it was. So, I never knew what to have on hand at home. After three days of no bowel movement and a ton of pain each time I tried, the doctor finally clued me into what a suppository is. A a suppository is to help have a bowel movement. Yup, that means this little baby goes up your bum and stays there! But only until 7 to 15 minutes later when you finally have that release.
Do use a heating pad for the muscle spasms that your abdomen will inevitably suffer from. I am 12 weeks post surgery and I still get them. It feels like birth contractions without the added benefit of having a baby placed in your arms to let you know it was all worth it.
Do get your hormones checked post surgery via blood test. This is a serious one. Just because you had a laparoscopic hysterectomy does not mean you won’t suffer from hormonal changes. Whether you kept your ovaries like I did or had everything removed, get those hormones checked. What hormones, you ask? Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as well your thyroid levels and A1C levels. Post surgery, your body will struggle to regulate to what your normal baseline was pre-surgery. Now, everyone’s base line is different but that shouldn’t mean the end of clear skin, your sex drive, teen acne, or your hunger control. 12 weeks later, I am still struggling with all of those symptoms.
Making the choice to have a laparoscopic hysterectomy is a difficult one, but the choice is yours to make. Anyone having to make this choice, should feel completely secure in their knowledge moving forward. And because I only had luck finding medical articles on this particular topic, I wanted to be sure that I shared the real stuff that happens and the tips that no one gave me along my journey.
Hopefully, this little bit of information helps you in your surgical journey.
For more information about my journey through a laparoscopic hysterectomy, read it HERE
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