I like to keep my body parts. I figure each one is there for a reason. But, when all other options have been exercised & surgery is the only option….well, reluctantly, I know when it’s time to fold ’em.
I am not new to surgery. I have had 4 surgeries between the ages of 21 – 32. I’m proud to say, I’ve had success with all surgeries & recoveries. It’s a challenge to walk away healthy without infection or complications, especially when living with diabetes.
It’s been 10 years since my last surgery. It’s been almost 20 years since my last major surgery.
When I found out a few months ago I would be under the knife once again, having major surgery with a 6 week recovery time, I decided to be proactive in preparing so my recovery would be uneventful.
I am only 4 days post op so I may be putting the cart before the horse with this surgery but I want to post some considerations about how to prepare before, during & after.
1. Gather a reliable support team that can be there for you before, during & after surgery. Make sure your team knows their responsibilities throughout this process. If someone offers to help, this is one time you can’t afford to say no. Don’t try to be a hero. I never heard anyone talking about the time “so and so had surgery & what a champ he or she was going solo, doing it all on their own.”
2. Don’t go crazy cooking, baking & cleaning. What?!? you say? Shouldn’t I have stuff in the freezer & the house spotless for when I come home to recover? Sure, if you were healthy before surgery to do that, it would be ideal. But consider, why are you having surgery? Your body is not running at full capacity. By stressing yourself out making, baking & cleaning you are depleting your immune system to a point that you may set yourself up for illness before surgery (then, it may be cancelled) or cause infection post-surgery. Although it may be tough, go to the local health food store & buy organic, pre-made meals that one of your team mates can heat up. Same with the kids lunches. I’m not meaning pre-packaged boxed/canned garbage…there are a variety of ‘homemade’ soups, sauces & meals available today that have only a few ingredients & are good for you. Just make sure to watch the sodium content…you don’t want to get all puffy & bloated.
3. Which leads me to my next point….eat clean, well-balanced nutritional meals & snacks leading up to surgery. I mean, we all should all the time but if you have lost focus, now is the time to get back on track. If you don’t have a Juicer, I urge you to buy one. Use it often. Eat a variety of fresh, organic vegetables & fruits. Keep your protein lean. Keep your carbs complex & low GI. If you nourish your body properly, it will be ready to perform at a high level of healing during & after surgery.
4. Test blood sugars more often. Keep them within target. Consult with your Diabetes Team to make sure you are running at optimal capacity for diabetes management. High sugars can cause infection and/or slow healing.
5. Be honest during your Pre-Op visit at the hospital about which meds you are taking. I mean, prescription, herbal & homeopathic remedies as well as essential fatty acids. I take herbal & homeopathic tinctures as well as EFA which I had to stop 2 weeks before surgery as they increased my risk for bleeding.
6. If you are physically active until this point, if the Specialist agrees it is okay, keep doing what you do or alter it to accommodate to your circumstance. I was not able to be as active as I used to be but I made sure to walk 5 – 10 km each day to keep my heart, lungs, mind & muscles working.
7. Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night.
8. Drink a lot of water. More than 8-8oz glasses a day.
The Night Before Surgery:
1. Pack a cooler bag of simple, instant food that is healthy & wholesome for your hospital visit. Below is what I packed in mine:
– Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal Plus Flax
– (2) glass jars of Green’s Juice I made with my Juicer
– (2) 1/4 cup containers of hemp seed to add to my oatmeal
– (2) containers of 2 tbsp of Skinny B Breakfast Cereal
– (2) containers of 2 tbsp of Holy Crap Breakfast Cereal
– (2) single servings of plain Greek Yogurt
The Day of Surgery:
1. Ask your surgery to be booked first thing in the morning. You will be asked to have nothing to eat or drink the night before. Some of your diabetes meds may be held. But, with the risk of fasting comes the risk of a low sugar. Being booked in the morning gives you the opportunity to have an IV put in place so that if you have a low blood sugar the staff can give you sugar through it.
2. Remember to breathe deeply, often. Stay calm. Getting anxious over the unknown & probably what won’t happen will raise your blood pressure, heart rate & blood sugar. All the hormones released that cause this will not help with the healing.
3. When you feel yourself getting anxious, visualize what you would love to do 6 weeks from now. Imagine yourself having a successful operation & healing process. Envision how much better you will feel afterwards.
3. Ask questions. Although they may seem dumb to you, they really aren’t.
4. Educate the team in the hospital about your diabetes. They don’t know as much as you do. They can’t! They don’t live with it.
5. Be your own advocate. If something doesn’t seem right, speak up.
The Hospital Stay:
1. Be aware of what’s on your food tray. For the 2 days I stayed, I was presented every processed juice & flavour of jello imaginable. Was that going to help my healing? Nope. It would just spike my sugars. I resorted to my cooler of food I brought. My Greens Juices got me through the first 24 hours. The oatmeal, hemp, yogurt & Skinny B got me through the rest of my stay. The nurses admired that I advocated for myself by bringing the cooler of food.
2. Take the pain meds. Again, don’t be a hero. No pain, no gain does not work. Pain releases hormones that will cause your sugars to go up….and your blood pressure and your heart rate…get it? 🙂 You will not get addicted.
3. Sleep and move. Sleep as much as you can. As soon as the nurse says it’s time to get out of bed, whether you just stand up or take a few steps, it is important to move. It gets the blood flowing which helps your surgical incision heal.
4. Test, test, test. The hospital staff will do that for you a lot too, but I bring my own meter as back up as well. It may not be calibrated to the hospital lab but at least I can report to them if it’s not time for them to test & I know something is off with my sugar. I also wear a Continuous Glucose Meter paired with my pump.
5. Be aware that the grogginess from pain meds can mask a low blood sugar.
6. Be aware of your body. Listen to it. Trust your gut. You know you best!
7. Drink lots of water! LOTS!!
Recovering At Home:
1. Abide by what the instruction sheet & the nursing staff have said. Don’t push yourself. You will not push yourself closer to recovery but closer to a risk of infection & slow it down.
2. Sleep a minimum of 8 hours a night, if your body says to go to bed at 8pm, do it.
3. Nap when you’re tired.
4. Be as mobile as your Doctor has permitted you to be.
5. Inspect your incision(s) daily. If they start to look red, inflamed or have discharge, you need to call your Doctor right away.
6. Test, test, test. Keep your sugars within target. I’ll repeat this again….high sugars will slow the healing process & promote infection.
7. Eat clean, eat well. Keep up with the Greens Juice. Eat lots of vegetables & fruits. Eat lean protein. Keep to low GI, complex carbs.
8. Call on your Team. Refer to #1 “Before Surgery”.
9. Drink lots of water. LOTS!!
These are general guidelines. Your circumstances may be unique & there may be some suggestions I have made that the Doctor has advised against or differently. Please listen to your Doctor. He & you, know your circumstance best.