Post-Surgery Checklist

I will admit to being very focused on the lead-up to surgery, anesthesia and the operation itself, and didn’t spend much time thinking about recovery. I even watched a few procedures on youtube, as though I would need to help out during the procedure. I normally love watching surgeries, but I then had to spend the last few nights reminding myself that I would be out cold and have no idea what was being done to me.

I knew I was healthy and could deal with pain afterward, and that living with one kidney for the rest of my life was something I could manage without too many adjustments to my lifestyle. However there are definitely some things I would have planned for in advance if I had known:

  1. Bring a robe and slippers to the hospital so you can walk the halls with a tiny bit of dignity (this one I actually did plan for).
  2. Lots of cough drops, water and tissues on hand for the first week. Intubation leaves tiny little scratches on your throat that under normal circumstances you would be able to take care of with a small cough. Post-surgery that small cough will send waves of panic over you when you consider your abdominal incisions. Keep blowing your nose to avoid any post-nasal drip irritation to your throat. Take your water with you whenever you leave the house, even for small walks.
  3. A few loose flowy dresses on hand. Waist bands are going to be really annoying for a while. Sorry guys, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do, maybe rock a caftan or kurta and pretend like you’re the long-lost fifth Beatle?
  4. Check your underpants. 90% of mine featured lace across the waistband, which is going to look like barbed wire to you after surgery. Go buy a pack of seamless, one size larger than you normally wear. Guys probably don’t need to worry about this one, but then again, maybe they do?
  5. Heating pads and ice packs are great not only for your incisions but also for your back and shoulders, where you will likely develop aches and pains from laying on your back and the convoluted way you have to get up from seated or prone positions (it took about 10 days before I could start to recruit my abs without involving the incisions).
  6. Lots of go-to snacks and even Ensure/meal replacement shakes on hand. You need to eat a lot of smaller meals, more frequently and I would wake up in the middle of the night hungry or sometimes not know what I wanted to eat, and the quick and easy calories helped me regain the weight lost post-op and maintain my weight going forward.
  7. A safe place to sit in your shower so you can shave your legs (or maybe just take a break?) when your fifteen-year-old declines the invitation to help you with the rationale that you aren’t going anywhere anyhow, so why do you need to shave your legs? Its good that I’m not resentful. How long until she asks to borrow the car?

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