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Surgery---pre and post---what to expect and prepare ahead of time

  I know I have been through surgery myself and along the way have posted about helpful tips and tricks.  I thought this would be better so that it is in one spot and easier to find for those that are looking for this in the future or now.  For those that have been through it before, if there is anything you want to add to it or throw in something beneficial to you, who knows, it may help someone else out there and feel free to add to the thread.

Everyone will go to an appt with your surgeon, listen to what they have to say, get overwhelmed, forget some of what they said and go home thinking of the questions you wanted to ask and if you were like me, the fear of the unknown of it all and count down the days until it is here.  First, I will walk you through what happens the day you go and the different possibilities that may apply to each and everyone of you regarding surgery options.
We go to the hospital, we check in and if you are like me, full of emotions crying off and on throughout the entire process.  The night before not sleeping as the anticipation of and the prep work pre-surgery took over my thoughts and mind.  I had to shower the day before and morning of with a special sponge they give you so that you are all cleaned and antiseptic-ed up for the surgery. I had to do a "clean out" the day before as well due to the bowel involvement of mine as well.  After check in at the hospital the day of, I was brought in to the area where everyone is having surgery and asked to change into a gown. They then came in and hooked me up to this paper suit thing that inflates with warm air so that I was not cold at all while sitting there.  I was hooked up to an IV and various nurses came in and out. The surgeon came in briefly, chatted, assured me I was too healthy to sign a DNR (yes that is where my head was at) and that I would be fine.  I recall tearing up a lot and especially when it was time for my hubby to leave and for me to go to surgery.  It was a large hospital I was at so the nurse and I walked to the surgery room. It felt like a very long walk but probably was not at all.  We passed by various surgical rooms and some had the sound of saws going (orthopaedic surgery room) which I knew what it was and kept walking. The nurse doing her best to engage me and make light of things.  The surgical room itself is sterile and cool.  There were so many people in there. Some counting their tools etc, the anesthetic team doing their thing and the surgeons prepping for what they would be doing so it was humming. All the while, my anxiety was going up and up as I took it all in and looked at all of the "stuff" and all the people who would be "my team".  Very shortly after that, they gave me something very nice which relaxed me and I don't recall much more after that.  So, I must have gone to 'sleep' after that.  I woke in recovery and my first question was if they did an ostomy or not. They told me they did not and I went back to sleep relieved.
The surgery itself can be laproscopically---meaning a few "holes" or incisions that they use to go in with tiny instruments and scope so that they can see what they are doing. This is very minimally invasive type of surgery and not a lengthy recovery.
Another way is to have either a vertical (most common) or horizontal incision--one of them can be done from pubic bone to umbilicus (belly button) and the other is pubic bone to breast bone.
This is based on what is going on inside of you and sometimes they don't know what they will do until they get in there.  With me, they were unsure if they were opening me right up (2nd option) or not and they did indeed do that one.  
I was stapled all the way up to my breast bone and I am sure some inside dissolvable stitches.  My belly looked like I was many months pregnant when I woke due to all the gas they use to help prop up different organs as they perform the surgery.  This will all dissipate with time.
I think the most difficult part post surgery was the moving and walking.  It was hard and not easy due to the pain and bloating.  This is most important to do in order to make sure one does not have complications afterward like risk of blood clots and pneumonia from not moving.  
I would suggest the following and make the title of it:
 What to Bring to the Hospital
--a friend/spouse/parent-someone to help you with sponge bathing yourself. I had difficulty with this and the attending nurses do not help you with this. You will have a substance on your skin that they use during surgery that you will want to get wiped off.  A nice hot washcloth or towel on your back feels like heaven as well.  
--soda crackers
--applesauce in containers
At the hospital I was at, they had neither of those things and they want you to eat especially if they have done anything to your bowels. They want a bowel movement to have occurred before you go home.
The walking was tough.  I was so drugged, I could not see in front of me and held tightly to the nurse and my IV pole as I walked.  I could not tell you how far I walked. 
I was also hooked up to these booty type things that help with circulation with the feet/lower legs to prevent blood clots. They gently inflate and deflate but are a bugger to get out of if you don't have help.
I would even suggest possibly bringing some Depends in case nursing is busy and can't get to you, then you won't be worried about having accidents.  Due to many reasons, they can't always get there immediately and you will need help getting out of bed. 
Use the railing on the bed as much as you can to get over to your side and to push off with your arms to bring yourself to sitting.  Try your best not to use the abdominals to avoid hernias later. 
Eat what you can and ask for things that are easier to digest. If they don't have it, ask your supports to bring them in for you after checking with nursing.  I recall them serving sandwiches and meals and I was nowhere near having any of that at all due to my throat from the surgery.  Yogurt took me a half hour to eat to give you an example.  Of course, this is me and my experience but am doing my best to show how it can be for some. Others may not have issues like this at all. If so, more power to you!

Going Home
Bring a pillow---to use for ride home when going over bumps and/or coughing/sneezing
Bring a emesis (vomit) bag--you don't know how you will be for the ride home and always good to be prepared
Water bottle--for sipping on the way home
Soda Crackers--for eating and possible nausea
Gingerale--for upset tummy
Blanket --- in case you are cold
I had a longer drive home and I felt every bump etc on the way home.  It seemed much longer than what it was.
To get in your vehicle, back your bottom up to the seat, have someone push against your legs to help move you further back into the seat and then have them swing your legs around so you are facing forward. Take your time. You will be tender and slow and that is ok!

Raised toilet seat
Baby wipes--for wiping after as bowel movements may be a little 'sticky'
Someone to stay with you to help you for a week or two
Shower chair for showering initially 
Depends ( I had a couple of accidents that weren't controllable)
Ovol for gas pains after surgery
Ginger chews--for gas pain and nausea
Broth--chicken, turkey, beef, veggie
Melon---fresh like honeydew, sweet etc
Prepackaged oatmeal packets
I was in a bad way after surgery and it took awhile to get food into me due to the tube they use during surgery. I had much difficulty swallowing and with textures. Eating breakfast would take me about an hour. This consisted of melon, yogurt and gradually some oatmeal. I would have broth with a bit of rice in it for dinner.  Applesauce was a staple for me. 
Walking -- this is difficult in the beginning  (or was for me) I held on to someone and shuffled more than walked the length of our house outside. I would stop when needed and was tired after. I kept at it until I could walk on my own with supervision and started loosing the shuffle.
Nightgowns-- I couldn't handle anything on my belly due to the pressure. I pretty much lived in them and a housecoat and slippers
Heated blanket---I was cold for a long time until I could get moving again
Showers would exhaust me that first week. I found to keep warm, keeping the stopper in the tub so the water would collect and allow my feet to keep warm helped. Also keeping the shower head either going on my back or front if we weren't washing my hair helped to keep me warm.  I had staples and was allowed to shower after, just have to take a dry cloth and make sure you dry them a bit more. I would put the dry washcloth over an area and gently press to soak up any moisture and move on to the next area until I was done.  I would have someone help me with the drying of my back.  I would sleep for at least a half hour after a shower as it fatigued me.
Dressing--trickiest of all.....underwear!  Yup, you will learn real quick how to navigate those things unless someone is helping you.  I recall, hanging on the bed with one arm and the other outreaching downwards so I could step into one leg and then switching to do the other leg.  Same with pants once you get that far.  It's why nightgowns ruled!!  ;)  I didn't wear a bra for months. I couldn't stand them around me and especially not while I had the staples in.  Loose fitting clothing was what I lived in for the longest time.
Sleeping---I slept on our couch for a week or two.  It was easiest to get in/out of by myself and I gradually got to our bed. I had to use a stool to get in and out of our bed as it sits so high and make my hubby promise to be very gentle when changing positions in bed as it would make me uncomfortable if he moved too much. It was a deal that he honoured if he wanted me to stay in the bed with him. ;)  Worked too! I think I mostly sle