A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.
I thought I’d do a post all about what to expect for the first week or so post surgery. Of course every surgery is different, everyone’s experience is different but the first week is a bit of a strange beast. I had no idea what to expect so I thought it might be helpful to some to share my experience.
The first 2-3 days post op I felt unstoppable. I expected to be restricted to my bed, but I was surprisingly mobile. I think a lot of this came down to the painkillers I was on and I think that this is something to be cautious of. I could have overdone it a fair few times if I hadn’t had my friend suggesting I take it easy and reminding me to nap.
My advice, take it easy, rest up and don’t push yourself….even if you feel like you can. I made a mistake a few days post surgery walking to The Real Patisserie in Kemp Town and back, stopping off along the marina for a short stroll. It was too much, I knew it when I had to head back and I was exhausted for the rest of the day.
Honestly, the pain and discomfort I had was nothing compared to what I predicted. Being an anxious soul, I was expecting a lot of pain. Generally it was pretty easy to deal with as long as I kept on top of my painkillers. The first 3 days I could definitely feel it when I was due my next dose of codeine. Around 60-45 minutes beforehand I would start clock watching. It doesn’t sound too long to wait it out, but when you’re uncomfortable it feels a lot longer and I required a bit of distraction. Mindless games on my tablet, treating myself to chocolate or chatting with friends really helped. I tried to time naps around my medication too, but be careful not to sleep too long and miss a dose, as it’ll take a while for it to get into your system.
I also found making sure I took my last dose of codeine late in the evening before bed really helped me. It helped me get off to sleep which was useful as I was having to sleep on my back, which is not natural to me at all.
After the first few days I didn’t have much pain around my incisions unless I overstretched or rolled over sleeping, most of the pain was back pain. I think this is more of an issue with me as I broke my ribs a few years ago and they took 5kg off my chest, so my back was having to re-adjust a bit. It was actually the side of my back that wasn’t injured that hurt the most and I think that was due to the fact it had been compensating for the break all these years. All I could do to help this was rest up, take short walks and take my V Pillow with me where I could. This really helped with back support. I found it very painful sitting on dining room chairs, or out in cafes and restaurants for extended periods of time.
I had to wear a binder for 1 week post op which didn’t help with back pain and was also very uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to bind before surgery so this was a new experience for me. It would get itchy, hot, sweaty, smelly and I wasn’t really supposed to take it off. After the first 3 days I was really struggling and would allow myself 1 binder break each day of between 1-2 hours. I would lie still with an ice pack on my back. It was best to do this at night as I would get some pain relief before bed.
Surgery left me T Rexed, I couldn’t really move my arms around very much. This made things like preparing meals, picking stuff up off the floor, putting t shirts on, reaching for anything above waist level difficult or impossible.
I definitely couldn’t cook for the first 2 days, I think I made my own sandwich on day 3 and could prepare simple lunches from then. My friend was an absolute babe and cooked me meals each day, which was really helpful. I’d recommend trying to have someone around to help get you food for the first 2 days at least or stick to ready made stuff that can be eaten cold, put in the microwave etc.
I also walked very slowly for the first week, so if you plan to go for a stroll remember that it won’t be at your usual speed. Having two huge incisions on my chest, I felt very fragile when I was out and about. I stuck to walking around quiet streets so I wouldn’t get bumped and walking gently as my incisions didn’t feel completely supported yet.
I started off just walking up and down the road I was staying on, extending my walks a little bit more each day. Try this and don’t try to do too much too soon. Lots of short walks are better than one that is too long.
I can’t believe I was concerned about keeping entertained the first week post op. I had zero focus for a few weeks post op. A lot of my time was spent quietly glazed over, staring into space. I could manage some mindless game apps and some chat.
I wasn’t able to really engage with films or tv until around day 5 and even then it had to be gentle viewing as I had limited brain power. I struggled with podcasts and reading books was out of the question for me, unless it was something cute and beautiful like this. I loved this.
My friend has an epic board game collection, I managed a few simple card games and such, but wasn’t able to do anything complicated until the end of the week.
It sounds like I would have been bored out of my mind but honestly I didn’t have the brain power to be bored. It all went very quickly and I was pretty satisfied in my drugged up, peaceful bubble.
Post Surgery Poop
I hear ya, this is gross talk but I feel like I need to warn people about this because I think my post surgery shit was actually one of the most uncomfortable and painful experiences of this entire surgery business. Seriously.
Do everything you can to get yourself to poop asap. I thought I’d be safe because I’m vegan. I wasn’t. Anaesthetic, morphine and codeine block you up. It’s awful. Take the laxatives they give you and get that fibre in. Eat yer prunes, knock back some mushy peas, get some high fibre cereal bars. In fact, I would say double the laxatives, it won’t hurt to do so and you might get a nice soft stool.
I had a small poop maybe 3 days post op that wasn’t pleasant but wasn’t awful. THIS LULLED ME INTO A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY. The next day I had THE WORST toilet experience of MY LIFE.
Oh my God. It haunts my dreams.
I was literally sat on the toilet with tears rolling down my face. I got to the point where it was a 1/3 of the way out and I wanted to retreat but couldn’t, I could only go forward. I didn’t want to push because I didn’t want to tear my arsehole in half. So I just had to sit out the painful, uncomfortable, stabbing gentle arse contractions until it was over.
I cursed. I sobbed. I gave my boyfriend all of the gory details on Facebook messenger as they were happening. There was a point I thought I might die. I’m not even kidding. I’ve never had constipation before. This was awful.
This was the worst pain I felt all week, which is why I feel I have to give you this disgusting warning. Don’t take this warning lightly and end up in the situation I did.
I don’t know how to end this post now, so let’s just wrap this up and move on. TAKE THE LAXATIVES K?
See you tomorrow!