How do I support my friend who is scheduled for an oophorectomy Friday?
May 3, 2010 2:55 PM   Subscribe

How do I support my friend who is scheduled for an oophorectomy Friday?

I'm taking my friend (actually my friend's girlfriend) to the hospital in the pre-dawn hours and will be taking her home, assumping that the laproscopic-intended surgery does not turn into a laparotomy as she loses just one ovary. I tend to be Mr. Logistics when it comes to preparing for, well, anything, and I am searching for gaps in my plan.

I will be taking down notes from the doctor and getting emergency phone numbers to call should something go wrong. I will call or text her mother, her daughter, and my friend (her boyfriend) when she gets out of surgery. I have the basic barf basin and towels laid out for the car, as well as water to sip on.

Q1: Would having the seat laid back be more comfortable for her, or is upright the way to go?

I have bought some books for her to read and non-taxing things to watch as she recuperates. I have a pillow for her to brace her abdomen against. I know to make her move around a bit, just like after the hysterectomy, and to elevate her legs and check them for any sudden temperature changes or swelling that would indicate blood clots in her legs. I know she may lift "her glass and her ass" as the nurses say, nothing heavier.

I plan on sending her to the HysterSisters site.

Q2: I told her I would help her get on and off of the toilet, to avoid straining her abdominal muscles. I'm not too clear as to the proper lift on this — is having her grip my forearms as I lift her forward and up the correct method?

Q3: I assume your basic matzo ball soup is a good starter food. I am not seeing anything in research as to when she should begin eating again — obviously, if there were endometrial adhesions to the bowel, all bets are off. Aside from fiber, to counteract the constipating effect of opiates, anything in particular to get?

Q4: Aside from shaking my friend a bit for not taking care of his girlfriend himself (a job for later) and emotional support, what else am I missing?

I assume I will get some kind of post-operative care sheet, but if it is anything like what I have had for the operations I've had, it won't be amazingly helpful. Having not had any abdominal surgeries, I'm at a loss. Any tips or suggestions would be great.
posted by adipocere to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
Sitting up will be much easier for her than lying down in the car. She will probably be fine, since it's laparoscopic, but if she lays down in the car she will have to use her abdominal muscles to pull up again when she gets out, so it won't really be helpful.

She will probably be really sleepy and just want to rest, partially reclining (rather than completely on her back) when she gets back. She likely won't want to eat for a while. Matzo soup sounds great. Jello is almost always okay, too. For some reason after my hysterectomy I was fine for two days, and then from the third day on all I could eat was pretzels without throwing up. But it passed.

I don't know that helping her on and off the toilet will even be necessary (but aren't you nice for asking!). I doubt it, actually.

You may have to fill some prescriptions for her, but other than that I think you have it all covered!
posted by misha at 3:06 PM on May 3, 2010

Seat upright - getting out of a laid back seat is tough on the abs!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:08 PM on May 3, 2010

Ah, pills! Duh! How did I miss that?
posted by adipocere at 3:10 PM on May 3, 2010

Don't expect her to be all that hungry for a couple of days. Keep Gatorade (or soda or some other non-water thing) for her to drink - she'll need to keep her fluids up. Matzo ball soup is a great idea. Keep salty things - chips, pretzels, etc., especially if she's insistent on drinking pure water.

She'll probably want to be propped up. If she wants to be in bed, a boyfriend pillow is great for this. If she's on pain meds, they might make her dizzy, and she probably won't be able to get up for the random things she needs. Be patient - you might be making 10-20 trips from where she is to wherever what she wants is located.
posted by honeybee413 at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2010

Been there... sitting up is more comfortable. She will probably be ok with the loo (I was). She will be tired and may be cranky. Try to be nice and calm, not too hover-y, but be around. Matzo ball soup sounds great. I just wanted to be left alone, but I also wanted to know people were around.
posted by fifilaru at 3:35 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be patient - you might be making 10-20 trips from where she is to wherever what she wants is located.

If you have them, a fishing/photography vest or cargo pants could be efficient for this.

I kinda really only answered so that I could say that you are awesome!!
posted by jgirl at 3:36 PM on May 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

Some physicians will let prescriptions be filled prior to surgery date. This is optimal, have her ask if that is a possibility. That way she's not waiting, in pain, while the prescriptions get filled.

Sitting up is best. A pillow is a great idea to have in the car, she may wish to hold it/hug it (safety first, seat belt is a must!). Holding the pillow will help her "splint" her abdomen for the ride. Bumps can be painful!

She may complain of shoulder pain after surgery. This is a result of the gas used to distend her abdomen so they can see and work. The gas tends to "rise" after surgery. If she complains of shoulder pain, this is probably why.

Start her out on fluids, jello, popsicles and Gatorade until she can handle this diet. Progress to soups, puddings, and other soft foods. Avoiding diary may help with constipation. Her physician may give her something to help soften her stools, as well. Lots of water will also help.
posted by 6:1 at 3:54 PM on May 3, 2010

I just had a similar laproscopic surgery, and I think your plan looks great. You are a good friend to go to these lengths. The first three days after surgery, I made good use of the pillow over the tummy bit. I was also fuzzy headed and couldn't read or pay attention to anything for very long. I was in very little pain. I also had nearly no desire to eat. Hell, I'm two weeks out from my surgery and my appetite still hasn't returned! I did have to pee, a lot. Evidently some women's bladders get antsy when the doctor is in their poking around. I was getting in and out of bed often to use the toilet, but didn't need any assistance, thankfully.
As for food, my father in law made me chicken noodle soup, which I dutifully ate until I couldn't eat it anymore. My doctor told me to let my appetite dictate when and how much I ate, but that I should obviously avoid trans fats, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, take extra vitamin C and fish oil.

One quick note about the hystersisters, I found the site useful pre-operatively, but have had very little use for them post-op. I don't know how old your friend is, but I think the crowd over there is a little closer to menopausal or even post-menopausal. I am a mid-thirties gen X slacker who got pissy about the euphemisms given to the whole shebang. You go to the "castle" and become a "princess" is their way of saying "going to the hospital to have your girlie reproductive organs removed". That didn't sit well with me. Furthermore, the general tone post-op can be rather glum and women seem to reinforce one another's sadness about their shared 'loss'. That wasn't for me, and I stopped frequenting the boards, but ymmv.

Good luck, you are an awesome friend.
posted by msali at 4:03 PM on May 3, 2010

Some physicians will let prescriptions be filled prior to surgery date. This is optimal, have her ask if that is a possibility. That way she's not waiting, in pain, while the prescriptions get filled.

When my mom had a mastectomy a couple of months ago they gave me a prescription to take down to the hospital pharmacy so that it would be ready when she was discharged.
posted by rhizome at 4:31 PM on May 3, 2010

Dear Diary, today on AskMe I learned what a oophorectomy is.

Also, someone mentioned Gatorade above, which is great, but it's a good practice to dilute it with water (half and half), especially if she's not going to be eating much. I don't know the science behind it, but I do remember drinking nothing but Gatorade a few weeks ago while on a bike ride, and forgot to eat breakfast. The trip to the bathroom was not fun.
posted by bam at 4:36 PM on May 3, 2010

Q2: You probably won't need to help her get on and off the toilet. If you do, remember to keep a wide stance with your feet and try to lift with your legs, not your back. It's the same principles as lifting any other heavy thing -- try to avoid hurting your back. The exact positions that work best will probably be dictated by what movements make her hurt and the layout of the bathroom you're in.

Q3: Getting up and walking around is another important thing for keeping the bowels moving after surgery. Dizziness is a real issue with pain meds, so stand close enough to help catch her if she starts to fall.

Q4: You've got a great plan going so far. The other big thing people are typically advised to do after surgery is to take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly through pursed lips, every hour or so while awake. Abdominal pain after surgery can prevent people from taking deep breaths, which leads the air sacs in their lungs to start collapsing. This isn't the best scenario for getting oxygen into your body, and it also ups the risk of pneumonia. So encourage her to hold a pillow against the incision if needed, and take those deep breaths! Walking around also helps keep the lungs "inflated," so to speak.
posted by vytae at 4:54 PM on May 3, 2010

Pre-fill the pills, check.

Looks like I will be getting one of those wedge pillows for home and a smaller pillow for the ride.

I have just returned from the grocery store with some Powerade (which I will water down) and Vitamin Water in the "bluish" variety. I've also laid in bottled water, as well. I also have some of her favorite berries, if she does not want soup. I will have to find some salty things and some form of gelatin.

Thanks for the advice, everyone. Keep 'em coming!
posted by adipocere at 5:29 PM on May 3, 2010

Avoid red Powerade/Gatorade. It can look like blood when it comes up . . .

I've never had to water it down, FWIW.

ALSO--there is the BRAT diet--Bananas, Rice, Apple Sauce, Toast---these are generally things that are easy on the stomach, the first foods to try when advancing to solid foods.
posted by 6:1 at 6:08 PM on May 3, 2010

Took care of my sister through this same surgery last fall. Previous posters have taken care of the most important stuff, so I'll just mention a couple of extras: A recliner chair would probably be more comfortable than a normal bed. Also, make sure that all of the remote controls have fresh batteries.
posted by pickypicky at 7:47 PM on May 3, 2010

Lots of superb advice in this thread. You're a good friend, too.

I craved pizza after having laparoscopic surgery, but that was because I'd had to fast since the night before. However, I was too nauseated to eat more than a little bit of it. Ask her what her favorite foods are, and see if you can have them on hand. Ginger ale helped settle my stomach, as did green tea.

I had endometrial tissue removed from my bowel, and it didn't affect any throughput at all. Just sayin'.

I was distended from the surgery, and the only comfortable clothes were elasticated pajama bottoms and/or a bathrobe. Make sure she has lots of relaxing loungewear. Bedding may even feel too heavy or constricting -- do you have any lightweight sheets or blankets she can pile on and off at will?
posted by vickyverky at 7:47 PM on May 3, 2010

Seriously, you are so awesome for taking such good care of your friend's gf! It sounds like she is in great hands.

I've taken care of my dad after a few abdominal surgeries (obviously not oophorectomies, though), so a few things I've learned:

1) You may be tempted to cheer the patient up with humor, funny movies, funny tv shoes, and other things that could make a person laugh. However, laughing with an incision in your gut is very, very painful.
2) It's much easier to fill prescriptions at the hospital pharmacy than at another drugstore.
3) As vytae mentioned, she may want to have a small pillow within reach to hold against the incision to brace the area if she has to cough, breathe deeply, or move around. It may not be such a big deal with a laporoscopic procedure, but it can't hurt to have an extra throw pillow around. My poor dad was coughing so much after his abdominal surgery because of the anesthesia, and it really hurts when you have an abdominal incision.
4) I'd also keep a little ginger ale on hand in case she feels a little queasy.
posted by tastybrains at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2010

Oh, just thought of this one! Make sure she urinates BEFORE they take her i.v. out prior to discharge. During her surgery she'll likely have an indwelling foley catheter, (or at least have what we call an "in and out" cath). Sometimes they forget to check to see if the patient urinated prior to getting them ready to go home.

My sister even lied once and said she had urinated when she didn't. She got home and couldn't go and she called me to help her. It's very unpleasant. My step-daughter didn't have an indwelling foley catheter, and I asked if she had urinated before taking her home. She hadn't, and she couldn't. She ended up staying the night, (and getting a foley catheter).

This is very important. Nothing like getting home, she feels the urge to urinate, and can't. You may end up having to call the dr. and see what to do. If she hasn't peed prior to the i.v. coming out, they can always give her more fluids to make sure she does go.
posted by 6:1 at 12:39 AM on May 4, 2010

Just an update — she's home and doing fine.

The abdominal pillow was handy for the ride home. So were cold packs wrapped in towels.

She regained appetite quickly and took down the assortment of berries I had packaged out pretty quickly. The salty stuff was also chowed upon. Bottled water, Vitamin Water, and ginger ale were big hits. She wanted French onion soup instead of chicken noodle, but at least it was soup. I think the overall idea is just to buy a little of everything and see what floats.

Shoulder pain was present, as foreseen. Definitely a lot of irritated bladder trips to the bathroom. Getting her out of a chair wasn't hard, and was relatively painless for her so long as she kept her legs bent and let me do the work of rotating her upwards. Wish I could make her stay down a bit more, but I can't exactly hit her with a tranq dart. Getting up and down really does not do your incisions any kindness. I put a stop to it after her abdominal bandages got a little soggier.

Her color is back and she is looking tired but not too miserable. She's sleeping upright against a "bedrest" pillow, so "yay!" for the more mellow episodes of Twin Peaks.

Notes: If the surgeon says, "Oh, that'll be in the discharge papers," that isn't always true. Ask questions anyway — you'll be glad you did it.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by adipocere at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2010

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