Suggestions for help after surgery?

mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)August 8, 2010

Hi everyone.

Sorry I've been away so long.

Wish I could write more like I used to. It was so satisfying to share with you vignettes of NYC life and beyond. I don't get as much time to play as I used to, which is ridiculous, but I am glad to still have a job and health insurance in this economy. I proofread, summarize, and write all day long, sitting at my keyboard. This posture has aggravated a bone spur in my shoulder that was harmless enough for ten years, but is now digging into the tendon of one of the muscles in my right rotator cuff.

So I'm going to have surgery on August 18 to remove the bone spur. I hope that's all they have to do. If the tendon is damaged they'll have to sew that up or even reattach it to the bone, which will mean a recovery time of around six months! I should be good to go back to work in two weeks if the tendon is OK.

I'm still single, and living with a roommate. Can't count on my tiny family for much. So I've reached out to friends, and several are scheduled to visit on specific days after the surgery. I won't be able to lift my right arm for a week so I'm going to have to place everything I need at counter height in advance.

My friends will be doing grocery shopping for me, carrying laundry to the laundromat, and keeping me company. They want to know what else they can do for me. I'm not sure what to ask! I've never had general anesthesia before so am not sure what my recovery will be like; I have one friend scheduled to escort me home in a cab after they release me from the recovery room at the ambulatory surgery center.

What experiences have you had with surgery recovery that made you realize what kind of favors/care you would like from friends afterwards?

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You will need someone to stay with you for a while after you get home. If you are groggy, you will need someone to help with your painkillers, otherwise you might either, not take them on time, or overdose. When my daughter had recent surgery, we put a sheet of paper on the mirror in her bathroom and we wrote down the time she was given each medication and how much. The next day she was able to do this herself. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 3:01PM
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I also hope that you'll have the least amount of surgery and that all goes well. DH has had a couple of surgeries and I was the care taker.
Suspecting that DH might be a bit woosy,I stayed with him while the Dr. gave his final instructions and I even took notes. Medications, rest, food, liquids, next appointment and even what to do if it itched under the bandages. So, perhaps you could have someone come with you while the Dr. explains all that.
The Dr. will probably write some prescriptions for you at that time. Pick the pharmacy ahead of time that is most convenient for you/friends to pick up the meds.
You are lucky that you have friends to help you, it says a lot about you as a friend.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 7:24PM
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What a bummer, Mary.
I hope you don't have to have the more
complicated surgery.
I will be thinking of you and sending very positive healing thoughts your way.

If you have meals and laundry covered that is a major
problem out of the way.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 9:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Do you have a one of the grabber, litter-gitter thingies? One of those might be handy for you to keep nearby. Our cat even loves to be 'scritched' with the one we have.

I wonder if you might find one of the shower attachments useful? You know, with a hose and a wand? It might make showers a lot easier.

General anesthesia is a bit easier to tolerate these days, I think. At least for most people. Both my husband and I have had surgeries recently and (other than the surgery part of it) felt pretty much back to normal by the next day. It's advised that you are not left alone for at least 24 hours, I think.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 5:24AM
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Definitely get one of those grabbers. Since you are righthanded and can't use it, you will drop things, it's handy afterwards too.
All the best wishes and a fast recovery

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 7:50AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I just thought of something: if you are taking any over the counter stuff (other than standard vitamins), you should probably stop until after the surgery. Joint supplements, for example, can hinder normal blood clotting.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 8:01AM
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If you can't move your arm for a while, be prepared for difficulty dressing: are you prepared to ask your room-mate to assist with fastening your bra, for example? If not, maybe invest in a front opening one ahead of time?
Hair brushing - you'll only be able to brush with the other arm, which can get tiring, so be ready for it to take longer. Front-buttoning shirts may be easier to wear than t-shirts that have to be pulled over your head, for example.

People expect to get over the anaesthesia within a few hours: don't be dismayed if you feel tired for several days: it's not uncommon for it to take longer than you think to really leave your body.

Good luck and hope things go smoothly.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 11:15AM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Sara mentioned hair brushing, but my first thought was *shampoo*, as in either schedule the hairdresser or find a willing friend to soap and rinse (and set, if needed). (Whenever I've been hospitalized, as soon as I get home, the first thing I want is a shower and a shampoo!) Do invest in one of those long-handled puffy soaper-brushes, you likely won't be able to twist around or comfortably bend to wash your back or your feet & legs for a while. A hand-held shower would ease life considerably.

Have someone loosen the caps on whatever foods or medicines you may need. It is not totally impossible to one-handedly open a tightly capped jar or bottle, but it's needlessly frustrating.

Ask also for pre-spread butter, mayo, whatever on bread or rolls for meal times. You can hold toast still by holding one end of a spreader in your mouth while the other end holds the bread in place, and the good hand spreads the condiment, but it's awkward. In fact, all packaged foods should be pre-opened for you... tearing open a cocoa-mix packet can make an awful mess, lol.

Have very loose fasten-in-front garments for at least the first week. You won't be able to pull a tee shirt over your head.

Good luck with everything,

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 11:57AM
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Mary, your surgery and aftermath sounds so formidable! I am currently having a walker, because of a fractured femur/hip, and it is a challenge, my right arm out of commission would be so much harder.
You have a good deal of suggestions, only thing I can add is: your helpers really want to help, but there are times when the help is more of a hindrance, because of very minor obstructions that prevent you, the patient, from doing what you can and want to do. Don't be afraid to speak up in such instances. Love your helpers, but make sure they know what's needed.
I wish you a speedy recovery, Lilo

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 1:01PM
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jazmynsmom(Z5 Madison-ish)

I don't have a lick of advise, but just wanted to say I've missed you and good luck with your operation. I enjoy your descriptions of NYC. Your world is completely outside my experience, and your voice makes it sound more inviting than I'd ever have imagined it could be.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 1:10PM
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mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)

Lilo, so sorry to hear about your hip -- that sounds like a bad fracture, so please take it easy. Maybe also use some homeopathic Symphytum officianale tablets or skin cream to help the bones knit together again?

Nice and helpful suggestions, everyone. I'm going to go to the thrift store and get some nice old loose soft buttondown shirts I can hang around in. Maybe I can get some clothing paints and invite my friends to paint get-well images on them when they come to visit! Thankfully I have short hair just needs to be combed and fingered through after washing -- I think I can manage that with one hand. I'll start practicing left-handed toothbrushing, and I can ask my roommate to set the shower to the hose setting when she finishes her shower.

95% of people getting this operation choose general anaesthesia, but 5% just have a nerve blocker. I'm wondering if I should be among those 5%. Of course, if they have to sew up the tendon, I would have to go under general anyway...but I'd like to give myself less to recover from. Being awake for the procedure would mean I'd be propped on my side for half an hour with my right arm up in a sling and I'd have nothing but a surgical drape to look at, so no fun & games, but...

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 3:32PM
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I agree with all that has been said, but completely ditto what Jazy said. Get well soon!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 9:35AM
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I don't have anything to add, Mary, but to say hope all goes well - and don't be afraid to rely on your friends.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 9:42PM
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Sorry Mary, that you're having to go through this. Sure makes it hard when you don't have much help. I can relate. Great suggestions from all. Packaging up food that's given to you into easily microwaved sizes is very helpful and don't hesitate to freeze what you can before you tire of it or it loses it's freshness. You mention getting the shirts, so I'm thinking maybe you're not into skirts/dresses, but... when you go the the store don't pass up any easy zip front dress type things. There is a lot to be gained by having to undress as little as possible each bathroom trip. A skirt/dress can save a lot of energy that you don't have. Experience speaking on this one. Smiles. Good thing about not having many friends/family to help is no one will know what odd outfits you might be wearing... chuckles. Seriously I will be thinking of you and wishing the best surgery for you. That's my birthday so I think I can give some extra good luck to you on that day.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 12:04AM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

Hey, at least you can reach your bum...that's a big one, when it comes to losing your dominant hand;~).

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 10:53AM
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I am a bird with a broken wing
No matter how I try
I flap I do not fly

The time is coming when
Instead of sore I soar

Painfully until then
I dream that once again

I rise
And kiss the skies

Rebecca Sellers Terrible

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 10:08PM
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Thinking of you and your surgery today Mary. Hope it went well. Good healing thoughts coming your way. Lots of sunflowers.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 12:13AM
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Yes, best wishes and a speedy recovery.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 12:36PM
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Healing thoughts coming your way, Mary. Remember to take advantage of all the help you're offered--and I hope it will be lots!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 6:14PM
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Adding my best wishes, Mary - be sure to ask for help if needed, folks don't always know what is most necessary

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Hope that you had a sucessful surgery and are on the way to a speedy recovery. Sunflowers going your way.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 7:58PM
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mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)

Thanks, everyone, for your kind wishes and very helpful suggestions! The surgery a month ago went well and I did NOT need to have the muscle re-attached; it was partially shredded by the bone spur but not torn through. So I ended up being able to go back to work after two weeks off and am healing well, with two more weeks of physical therapy to go. The surgeon said the bone spur was HUGE -- nearly as wide as the shoulder bone itself -- and that it would have definitely torn through the muscle if I had not had the surgery. One of my fellow patients in the physical therapy gym did have a total rotator cuff reattachment, and is still recovering after nine months -- I'm glad I dodged that bullet.

Recovery is an art, I've come to realize. An effort requiring the mind and spirit as well as the body. I got a wonderful meditation CD that led me through guided meditations (for pre-surgery frame of mind) and affirmations (for post-surgery). I took homeopathic medications via pills and topical solutions (arnica and comfrey oils). I slept copius amounts but made sure to take a good long walk every day. I ate lightly and healthily -- mostly vegetables and fruits, fish, whole grains, nuts, green tea, and a bit of dark chocolate. (I found that when I slept a lot and was on painkillers, my appetite was suppressed anyway, so I didn't miss anything by eating leanly.) I watched silly movies and enjoyed visits from friends. I did not take in any news/current events info. I spritzed "uplifting" essential oils around the house -- neroli, bergamot. It was actually a really nice time for me -- almost a vacation of healthy pampering and relaxation!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 4:23PM
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I tried two times to add to this post, last night, but it wouldn't work. So, I'll try again, today.

I'm glad your surgery went well and that your recovery is going more quickly than you thought it might. I'm sure a lot of that is due to your *good sense* about taking care of yourself. Almost every week, my yoga teacher says, "Listen to your body; it's a great teacher." It sounds as if you've been doing that.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 2:15PM
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I'm so glad to see that you are doing well and healing quickly.
I'm really qurious about your statements below.

"I took homeopathic medications via pills and topical solutions (arnica and comfrey oils)." "I spritzed "uplifting" essential oils around the house -- neroli, bergamot."

What are the properties in the homeopathic medications and essential oils that help with surgical recovery?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 8:17PM
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mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)

Mwheel, thanks so much for your comment. I am going to follow your example and check out a yoga class in my neighborhood, and then see what my body has to tell me about that!

Westgardener, my understanding is that homeopathic medicines trigger healing responses by providing slightly disruptive reactions. The medication I took was Traumeel, and I've linked to their website if you want to check it out. Traumeel is intended to reduce inflammation. Arnica (arnica montana) is supposed to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. Comfrey (symphytum officinale) is supposed to be helpful with injuries to bones, sinews, and tendons. I have found that I respond very well to homeopathic medications when I have serious injuries, but I feel I would be irresponsible if I didn't recommend that you see a practicing homeopath or alternative/complementary medicine professional before pursuing any of these things for yourself.

Aromatherapy is, as I understand it, one of the newest of the plant-based healing practices, and is based on the idea that volatile oils carry some essence of the plant that you can absorb through inhalation to promote psychological and physical well-being. I think aromatherapy works slightly differently for different people -- for example, you're not going to get a positive response if you happen to dislike or have a negative association with a particular scent. I read the labels of essential plant oils and then take a sniff -- I can usually tell within a few seconds whether that scent will make me feel better, or different, or not. I used aromatherapy -- putting a few drops in a dish of steaming hot water and then leaning over to inhale, or putting some in an electric plug-in diffuser -- to encourage a more positive mood that I believe supported my overall healing process. I find the scents of bergamot and neroli deeply interesting and freshening, and I liked walking into my living room and being enveloped by their citrusy warmth.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 10:30AM
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