The first few days (again!)

Maybe don’t read this one if you’re at all squeamish. Or eating. You have been warned!

Well, hopefully second time lucky as I write about the first few days following my TAHBSO. I actually wrote this post a few days ago, but my laptop, which is not very well at the moment, had a senior moment and decided the operation had timed out, forgot what it was doing and then went to sleep! A bit like me. Ah . . . the penny drops – my laptop is menopausal! It’s a few years old now, so that’s probably about right.

Anyway, the first few days. There were things I expected, things I thought I was prepared for and things that nobody told me about. I walked down to theatre with the nurse at 10.30 that morning and was back on the ward before 1pm. I had no pain on waking – an advantage of having a spinal rather than a general anaesthetic – the pain relief fades gradually rather than suddenly. The surgeon came into the recovery room and spoke to me briefly, telling the that “it went well” and “blood loss wasn’t extensive” and that he’d come up and see me on the ward. Soon, I was taken back to the ward, complete with the usual attachments (intravenous drip, catheter and a special machine that regularly checked my vitals all by itself). No PCA pump, though, which did surprise me as I’d had one after my last surgery, which although it took longer to perform, was nowhere near as invasive as a hysterectomy.

Back on the ward, with the magic machine taking my blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels every 15 minutes with no human intervention (not until it went beep, anyway), I was freezing cold. My body temperature was 35 point-something, and I was shivering all the time. I spent the first two days and nights with the duvet and two blankets on the bed – in the middle of June. It was just my body’s reaction to the surgery, and soon settled down, but this was the first thing I wasn’t prepared for. I was expecting hot flushes and night sweats due to surgical menopause, but no-one told me that I could be freezing cold! Anyway, I needn’t have worried because the hot flushes and sweats came all too soon. I remember on day three, posting on Facebook that I was “loving these instant-menopause sweats“, knowing that I must have smelled delightful after three days in bed with just a flannel wash each day.

Anyone who’s been in hospital knows that they monitor everything, and they kept my catheter in for 48 hours, rather than the usual 24 because I’d had blood in my urine and wasn’t drinking enough during the first couple of days. It’s a bit disconcerting to be told as soon as a nurse enters your room that your urine is too dark and you “must keep drinking plenty”!

Without doubt, though, quite the worst thing to deal with after hysterectomy was the trapped wind. I’d been warned about this and that I would fart like a champion for days. As it happened, I didn’t, but I did some great burps. I was always known for my pub burps while out drinking in my younger days, and these burps did me proud. I suspect they caused no little panic when picked up by seismologists all over the world!

The pain though, was horrific, and if that’s how babies feel when they have colic, I’m not surprised they scream so much. It was enough to make me cry and to ensure that my blood oxygen level kept dropping because I could only take such shallow breaths. It was agony to breath deeply. So the machine that goes ping was constantly going ping. (Really wish that wasn’t a childbirth sketch, but there you go). The nurses insisted that I got out of bed on day two, no matter how painful it was. I got my own back, however, when I managed an hour, threw up and got back into bed. They were right, though, moving about is the best thing to release trapped wind. I also drank endless cups of peppermint tea and green tea and had regular peppermint capsules (which I didn’t even realise you can get).

One thing I wasn’t expecting was when they removed the dressing form my wound on the Wednesday, two days after my surgery. They sprayed the wound with something waterproof and I think antiseptic and that was it. No dressing (at that point, anyway). I made the mistake of looking at the wound in the mirror and just saw loads of black stitches and a huge area of bruising in the middle. Yuck. When the consultant came to see me on the ward, he told me that my womb had been quite happy where it was; I can’t remember his exact words (was off my head on opiates!), but I understood it to mean it was quite embedded, because he said it took him a bit longer than expected to remove it. I don’t know if this is why I’ve had some of the complications I have, but it’s a thought.

The other issue I had was that my blood pressure, which runs on the low side of normal anyway, was even lower than usual, which meant that I couldn’t have the oral morphine that first night (apparently morphine lowers blood pressure anyway), so the highlight of day one was a painkilling suppository, which entailed an agonising move onto my side. Queue another TMI Facebook post in which I said something like “Grrr. They won’t give me the morphine because blood pressure too low, so up the bum it is then. Not as much fun as it sounds.” Made a few people laugh with that one, and I suspect the drugs from theatre were still swimming lazily around my system at that point. Have to say, though, pain relief up the bum was great – really quick and effective and if you’re ever offered painkillers this way, my advice is take it! I liked it so much, I let them do it the next day!

What with low blood pressure, dropping oxygen levels, blood in my (dark) urine, and not eating or drinking enough, it was looking dodgy for me going home as expected on the 16th, although I felt great after my first post-op shower (supervised by a healthcare assistant), with pain levels coming under control, and was looking forward to getting home.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as without being too indelicate, I then got diarrhoea, proper dribbling down my leg diarrhoea and ended up in floods of tears and apologising profusely to the poor nurse who had to come and rescue me from the bathroom. I’ve obviously been lucky up to now, because I’d never had this before and it was truly horrible. Apparently it was the stuff they gave me to ‘get me going’ (constipation is an issue after most operations, but especially when your bowel has been manhandled and moved about during major abdominal surgery). Embarrassing and unpleasant, but worse, enough to stop me from going home. Anyway, the nurses called the consultant up to see me after his clinic that morning and he decided to keep me in another night. Part of me was gutted (I just wanted to be at home, in my own bed) and part of me was glad (I knew I could at least just ring a bell for a nurse overnight – they got used to me buzzing at 2am and asking for “more drugs, please”). I was eventually released on the Friday morning and was home by about midday.

More about my recovery at home next time.

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