Recover at your own pace because this is my recovery journey – Paula’s story

My story starts many years ago. I have always, even as a young teenager, had issues with prolonged heavy painful periods. It seemed to be a family trait and I had to follow in the footsteps of my mother.

By January 2016 (aged 46 yrs) my period had gone on for no less than 8 weeks straight. I knew it was time to see my gynaecologist again. This time he told me I needed an abdominal hysterectomy as I had a golf ball sized fibroid. The words hit me hard as this felt like the decision was out of my hands, yet the choice was 1) continue how I was or 2) go ahead with the operation, it didn’t seem like much of a choice.

Due to long waiting lists within the desired hospital I had to wait until June 27th before I could go ahead with the procedure. This meant I had a lot of time to read and feel as though I was well prepared for what was to come.

June 27th came and I can openly say I felt extremely nervous and weirdly unprepared. My operation was scheduled for 1 pm.

1st night of recovery:
I remember being woken each 1/2 hour for observations as I was placed in ICU for 24 hours due to low blood pressure. I had oxygen (nasal canula), a saline drip, urinary catheter, blood pressure cuff, index finger temperature sensor, compression stockings, intermittent leg compression device to reduce possible recurrence of previous DVT’s and the PCA to regulate self dispersed morphine. This is what is called being hooked up to ‘hardware’ as a nurse said previously to me. I was exhausted, groggy and uncomfortable yet the PCA was immediate in reducing the discomfort.

2nd day of recovery:
I was transferred to a ward where I would continue to be cared for until discharge.
Things seem a little blurry but I do remember a level of discomfort and extreme tiredness. I remained in bed and continued to be hooked up to the full ‘hardware’. The nurses extended my observations to 4 hourly . Due to previous DVT’s I had daily injections in my leg or stomach to reduce clotting.

3rd day of recovery:
This was a day I had hoped i would be preparing myself to be up and about however I had a step back and experienced chest compression’s which led to a number of tests to rule out cardiac concerns. I felt as though this day was the hardest whilst in hospital. Early morning nurses removed my saline drip believing I would no longer need it yet due to a downfall in my progress I was again hooked up and truly struggled. My blood pressure dropped to 54 / 45 and I was happy to avoid talking to anyone and I remember asking the nurse for a sleeping tablet to have some relief.

4th day of recovery:
A slow start to the day but I longed to be out of bed and feet flat on the ground, showered and in my own clothes. By late lunch I was allowed to be disconnected from my drip and the catheter was removed. I was give a laxative earlier and was very thankful for that as I had some reservations about pushing and putting any pressure on my stomach. I was also allowed to have the leg compression device disconnected yet I had to continue to wear my compression stockings after my shower.

5th day of recovery and discharge.
I prepared myself that today I would be going home. I felt I would recover faster and happier in my own house and have the option to be in my own bed, nothing better. I was discharged by 11 am and journeyed slowly home. Looking back now I would suggest taking a soft pillow with you to place over your stomach with the seat belt over that. I found this out several weeks later and it was a blessing.

Recovery at home:
I am 4 weeks 4 days post op and I have read many experiences other women have had which can assist with preparing yourself for such an operation however I want to be blunt and say each person will experience it differently and please don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. I am a person who works full time in a professional position. I viewed myself as very independent person who found it hard to just stop and take things slowly. I was always on the go and believed this operation would slow me a little but I’ll be up and about in no time, back to riding my bike and taking long walks. But NO.

I have had to take a real reality check and rely on my husband and grown daughter to do so much more than i would have ever expected. The first 2 weeks I had difficulties going to the toilet. I felt cramping and as if things weren’t sitting in the normal place. I finally decided to get laxatives and take them for a number of nights until i could regulate myself.

I continued up until 4 days ago to take painkillers only at night to assist with sleep. I still have my soft pillow in the car and as much as I am trying to increase how much i walk each day, I have come to the realisation that this will be slow progress for now. I find by late afternoon if i have pushed things a little too much i am swollen, sore and really tired.

Tiredness is another thing I was not prepared for. I continue to get worn out really fast. This of course limits what you can do and how you feel emotionally. I found week 3 of recovery was my downer week. My poor husband would call me during the day and even come home from work when he could. Unfortunately for him I might be happy one moment then crying the next. It has been a roller coaster of emotions. Funny side however is my neighbour dropped around to see how I was and for the first 5 mins I felt fine and out of the blue the tears came on strong and fast. I didn’t see her for a few days but she has dared to come see me again.

I suppose if i could do a list in terms of things to make your recovery journey easier I would suggest the following:

  1. you will be tired and this will go on for weeks but that’s OK because as my husband puts it; I am actively recovering so of course you will get tired
  2. take a pillow with you in the car. Ask your drive not to brake heavy or turn too fast then thank them heaps because it will save them getting a sad Jane look from you later.
  3. put a plastic chair in the shower. wow did i feel faint at times….. the chair was my saving grace as I would rely on it to quickly be there when I was unable to stand
  4. keep your fluids up because you will need to keep hydrated due to all the medication and lack of movement. Hydration means less stress when going to the toilet
  5. Oh I forgot to mention above, numbness, if you are have an abdominal procedure then expect to have numbness from the incision down. There is gradually more feeling yet still very weird sensation.
  6. Breast soreness and swelling. I have over the past 2 weeks noticed my breasts are sore and enlarged. In the beginning it felt as if I had similar symptoms to having my period. This is apparently not uncommon
  7. Let your family and friends do things for you. If you are independent and want to do things the best thing I found was having meals cooked and frozen before the op. I hate cooking yet found it gave me that nice feeling knowing I did something and see I’m still Ms In dependant.
  8. Mindfulness. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m a clinician and I practice and train others in the act of mindfulness. I have relied on this to help me accept I will be sad at times and that’s OK, I can accept I must slow down and that’s OK. Allow yourself and give yourself permission to be on the roller coaster.

This surgery is considered major so this means take it easy and be nice to yourself. Don’t rush things and while reading people’s experiences are great don’t view them as how you should recover. Your journey over the coming months will be as individual as you are so write your own experience and live by that.

Thanks for taking the time to read my journey and I hope there is at least one thing that may help in making your recovery a little easier. Remember sharing a tear with a neighbour is liberating.

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