No, I’m not talking about donning scrubs and washing up well. I’m talking about preparing for surgery when you’re the patient. This will be my third major neurosurgery in just over two years, so I think I’ve become a bit of an expert. My first surgery was done on a rather urgent basis. I saw the surgeon late Friday afternoon, and he told me I needed surgery first thing Monday, to go home and not do anything strenuous all weekend. Then he rattled off a list of about a dozen symptoms that if I should have them would necessitate coming straight to the hospital, where he’d do emergency surgery. I drank a lot that weekend.
My second surgery, just a few months later, I had a little more time to prepare for – a couple of weeks if I remember correctly. Still not a lot of time if you’re in pain and not thinking clearly. This time I’ve had about two months, and I am READY. Print this out or bookmark it just in case. Nearly everyone needs a big-dog surgery sooner or later.
Thoroughly clean the parts of the house you expect to be spending the majority of your recovery time in. If there’s bedrest involved, this means the bedroom and living room. I actually ordered a new, comfy sofa and my husband is painting the living room. Get rid of all the corner cobwebs that will taunt you as you lie in bed unable to get up and knock them down. If you don’t already have really nice sheets – buy some.
Make and freeze some meals. Tone down the spices if you’re having abdominal surgery and include soups for the early postop period when your throat’s likely to be sore.
Pay any bills you can in advance and clearly write out directions for paying those you can’t pay early. Buy and address cards in advance for any birthdays or holidays coming up.
Line up activities to keep your kids entertained. If they’re younger, you’re going to need a lot of help. For older kids, you can arrange for friends to come fetch them for play dates, movies, and sleepovers. Since my youngest is twelve we bought a new XBox 360 game.
Remember that you may need some help just taking care of yourself. My husband is taking off work for the first few days after my surgery, and my Mom has offered to come in from out of town and stay with me for a few days after that if I’m still puny. Don’t assume you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed forty-eight hours postop.
Pack carefully for the hospital. Even if you’re only staying overnight there are a few things you MUST have.
1.) Robe. Doesn’t have to be fancy. This is just something to keep your butt from hanging out of the hospital gown as you’re doing the mandatory once-around-the-nurses-station walk before discharge. Because that’s always when your boss, your pastor, and your least favorite relative show up.
2.) Slippers – again, nothing fancy. Just something that won’t fall off your feet and will keep your tootsies away from the germ-covered hospital floors.
3.) Decent jammies if there’s a chance you’ll be staying more than one night. No animal prints, please.
4.) If you are having general anesthesia (ask your doctor) you will have a tube down your throat while you’re having surgery. Your throat WILL be sore when you wake up. Pack a notebook and pen in case your voice is hoarse and a bottle of chloraseptic spray. Do NOT let your nurse see the chloraseptic spray, because it is against the rules for you to use even over-the-counter meds in the hospital without a doctor’s order. And of course by the time you’re awake and complaining of a sore throat your surgeon has already scrubbed in to his next case, and by the time he finishes and returns your nurse’s page, your nurse writes the order and faxes it to the pharmacy, the pharmacist fills it and sends it to the floor, and the nurse brings it to you it’s time for you to go home (still with a very sore throat). So bend the rules.
Once you start feeling better you’re going to get bored very quickly. Stock up on books and movies, and make plans to go on quick lunches or coffee dates with friends who can come pick you up. (You won’t be able to drive until you go to your first postop doctor’s appointment.) I gave up caffeine for Lent, so I’m really looking forward to post-Easter convalescent coffee dates!
Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go freeze another casserole or two and then go to the bookstore. The countdown has begun!