Laparoscopy Survival Guide

Thanks to my Endometriosis and other maladies, I have had recently had my fourth laparoscopy.  Here are some tips that I’ve learned (some the hard way) to make the experience easier:

Before the big day

  1. Pack a bag.  The paperwork may say that the hospital will try and get you out of the hospital the same day but if you react to the cocktail of medications you’ll be given, you may wind up staying in hospital overnight.  Your bag should include
    • reading material and/or an ipod to fill long hours;
    • all the medications you’re currently taking – all tablets, creams, ointments, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.  It could be that you need exactly none of these but it’s a good idea to have them to hand if you need to produce them or indeed, if you need them;
    • if you wear them, a pair of glasses – leave your contact lenses at home;
    • an extra pair or two of panties in case your stay is longer than you anticipate;
    • your preferred brand of feminine hygiene products, if you’re having work done inside the womb;
    • pyjamas or other wide-waist trousers.  These are essential for your comfort as you leave the hospital;
    • slip-on shoes are also essential because bending towards your toes is very uncomfortable after a laparoscopy; and
    • your mobile phone.  Communicating with your family is far quicker if you do it directly.  I found having it a comfort when I had to wait for a few hours longer than I expected.

On the day

  1. Be brave.  Even during the wait for my fourth lap I found myself frightened and in tears.  I had to keep reminding myself of my symptoms in order to keep me in the building.  Believe me, because the only way to diagnose certain illnesses (including endometriosis) is via surgery, it’s worth the candle.
  1. Local.  It could be that you’ll be given a local.  I found this to be scary:  I’m not the sort of person who goes exploring my rectum so the prospect of a nurse inserting anything there was not pleasant.  However, there was no reason for me to panic.  It’s an unpleasant experience but not painful.  If you’re really lucky, they’ll do this to you while you’re asleep.
  1. Recovery.  After my first surgery I arrived in the recovery area and tried to climb off the trolley and go home.  Not the done thing!  Since then I know that I’m to wait on the wheelie-bed and wait.  In Recovery the nurses make sure you come around well.  This is the place where you’ll quickly get pain medication if needed.  After my most recent surgery, I felt fine upon waking but then started to feel the pain.  I made sure to say something and was given relief fast.
  1. Relax.  Eventually you’ll be wheeled back to your room.  You may be tired and disorientated but you’re in safe hands.  Once I was on oxygen and felt rather nauseated.  After my fourth laparoscopy I was alert and ravenously hungry.
  1. Feeling sick?  If you find that you’re feeling nauseated, please be aware that the anti-sickness medication that the nurses can give you must be injected into a muscle.  It hurts.  The sight of me crying afterwards made my husband so unhappy that he forbade that nurse contact with me.  My point is that you may want to be sure you really need it before you ask for the injection.
  1. Diagnosis. I remember after my first surgery, the surgeon came around and told me things that had happened during the surgery.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t really awake and had to have another full debrief at my follow-up.  At the time I wished I’d had someone with me.  Depending on the hospital, your other half may be able to stay with you as long as you like.  Believe me, it’s handy to have someone else there who can ask questions if you’re not awake enough to do so for yourself.
  1. Shoulder pain.  I’ve never had a problem with this but am told it’s very common.  When you’re under, you’re blown up like a balloon.  The air can try to escape via your shoulders.  Once it’s there, it hurts.  Part of the reason I’ve never had a problem with this is because I move around a lot.  Moving around can be uncomfortable but it’s worth doing.

At home

  1. Journey.  On the long drive home there may be bumps that irritate your incision points.  The best thing I’ve found is to hold in your stomach muscles just a little.  You want to hold any jiggle that bumps may cause your tummy but not hold it in so much that it hurts.
  1. 24 hours.  You may have been told that someone will need to be with you for 24 hours after the operation.  Make sure you do.  When you get home you won’t want to cook.  You won’t want to do the dishes.  You ought not lift any heavy object.  Don’t be a martyr.  Organise help for yourself and be grateful you have fantastic friends/family etc.
  1. Wind.  During the operation you’ll be blown up like a balloon.  Ultimately the air needs to come out and you’ll find yourself producing wind as if it’s coming out of a balloon.  This can be disconcerting but is normal.
  1. Constipation.  After all that nil-by-mouth business and pain medication you may find yourself in even more pain thanks to your bowel.  After my first operation, I nearly passed out from the pain during my first movement.  I’ve never experienced anything else like it.  The last thing you want after everything you’ve been through is to sit on a toilet for an hour crying and being unable to produce anything but granite.  If you’re doing this with holes in your stomach – it’s agony.  Believe me when I say that you must take a laxative.  I take a gentle laxative that’s guaranteed to work overnight.  In this situation, I need a couple of night’s worth to get things moving smoothly again.

I hope these tips help you.

Take care and be healthy

Foxy

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2 thoughts on “Laparoscopy Survival Guide

  1. All good tips Foxy, but I would add a couple more

    After my first Lap, a nurse asked me if I was in pain due to the gas. I was, and she gave me a tablet to get rid of the gas, without the embarrassment that normally follows. So at my 2nd and 3rd Laps I asked for the tablet (whose name escapes me), and again I felt relief without embarrassment.

    For your journey home, have a cushion next to your tummy, under the seat belt. That way, any bumps on the road get absorbed by the cushion and not your tummy, so a lot less pain, if not totally pain free.

  2. Hi Tricia! Thanks for your helpful comment. I never would have thought to ask for a tablet – but then my husband finds bottom burps very funny. How could I deprive him of that?

    A cushion would also be a great help on the way home. Thanks very much for your contributions!
    Foxy

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