One week ago, today, Mark started to write about my gallbladder surgery. The surgery itself and the hours of immediate recovery went extremely well, confirming what the anesthesiologist had cheerfully said in our day-before-surgery phone conversation: “You’re young and healthy – I don’t expect any complications.”
Young. Wow. I’ll be 50 this September. Haven’t considered myself “young” in a while.
The “healthy” puzzled me at first: how can one say that I am healthy when I have been struggling with persistent nausea and malaise for almost three months??? Yet, that wasn’t the health he was talking about. It took me a moment to realize that he was talking about the blessed absence of any other health problems, the items he rattled off his list: no prior surgeries except for tonsils when I was maybe four and tubes in my ears when I was about 14, no problems with any medications, nothing neurological (Thank God), 140 lbs at 5’8″, no asthma, never had a stroke or heart attack, etc and so on – I guess in that sense I am healthy. Definitely something to be grateful for.
While the surgery and immediate recovery did go extremely well – Mark took a short video of me walking, unaided, across the living room a mere six or so hours after the start of surgery, and I was almost euphoric the second day -, the days since then have been anything but straight-forward, linear recuperation. I knew that walking and moving around would help with the healing, so I did that, and I am sure it helped.
What I wasn’t prepared for, though I should have known (because I did know but forgot), was the effect narcotics have on digestion: serious constipation. I should have started to take a laxative right with the very first pain pill I took, not wait until I realized two days later that, oh crap, I can’t go, with two days worth of stuff in my intestines. Would have saved me some major discomfort.
Another lesson I learned, the very painful way the second night I was home, was that just because I’m in no pain doesn’t mean that I’m in no pain. It means that the pain meds are doing their job. Meaning: the first evening, Mark set an alarm for 3:30 a.m. in the middle of the night, for me to take another dose of Norco (left-over prescription from the ER) – worked great. The second night we didn’t (Mark would have but I thought nah, I’ll wing it). Big mistake. It took a miserably longer time for the meds to start taking effect than if I had kept the pain under control. I wanted to get off the Norco as soon as possible, because I don’t like narcotics, and take Aleve or Tylenol instead. Experimenting with different dosages kinda worked but I would probably not do it again. Just take one or two pills every 4 – 6 hours as prescribed.
Walk and move and drink a lot, herbal teas for gas and bloating from the beginning would probably have alleviated at least some of the very uncomfortable gas and bloating. The pictures Mark took of the incisions on my abdomen make me look like I’m pregnant.
The hardest part since last week though has been the return of the nausea. Nausea is misery. Every time I have a migraine (very infrequently), even while I am in pain, I say that I’d rather have ten migraines than one case of nausea or stomach flu. I have had no reason to change my attitude about this.
Two concerns about the nausea: first, why? There must be a reason, and I would very much like to know what it is so we can take care of it. (The thought was that my gallbladder, while perhaps not at the root of it, was at least contributing to it, so the surgery was a very good first step in the right direction.) Second, even though I’ve been told many times that Phenergan is safe, and it does alleviate the nausea, I am concerned about covering up a symptom.
My mother’s second hip replacement surgery (surgery of the second hip) was unsuccessful, the replacement part never properly fused (?) with the bone. Nobody knew, though, for many many months, because she was given very strong pain medication and was told to walk, walk, walk, and exercise, and do PT, which she faithfully did – and in effect damaged the hip even more. She told me several times that on her own, without doctor’s orders, she would have taken much less pain medication, and therefore been alerted to something being wrong much sooner. So, to be on the safe side, I called my surgeon’s nurse (one of the nicest people on this planet) who said that having the same symptoms as before the surgery is unfortunately not uncommon. It may take a couple weeks for the nausea to completely go away. Small meals, take it easy … And yes, Phenergan is safe to take as I need it. Sigh.
In two days, I am starting to teach again; I asked several parents to move lessons to spread them out a bit – an hour and a half of highly focused attention at a time is probably all I want to handle for at least the next week or two. My students have 100% of my attention 100% of the time they are with me; normally this is more invigorating than it is exhausting. For the next week or two, we’ll do that in smaller steps.