There Will Be Milkshakes.
October 14, 2010 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Two weeks recovering from surgery: what do?

I will be having a major surgical procedure next Thursday (orthognathic surgery on my upper and lower jaw) and I need some ideas for time passage. I would normally just sit at home and eat, but since my face will be in billions of pieces and all wired shut, that won't work this time.

I will be on painkillers, and I will be very swollen, and I will be in bed. I do not own a video game system, and buying one is out of the question (I may borrow a friend's PS3 though!). I never have time off (I have worked, basically, 7 days a week for the last 2 years), and I rarely have time to sleep more than a few hours a night, so I want to make the most of this period of forced relaxation.

I am planning on:
working on a passive research project that involves watching and coding a LOT of movies

What other relaxing things can I do to pass the time?
posted by broadway bill to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my own experience with surgery recovery, I have found that movies along the lines of Dumb and Dumber are greatly improved by the presence of pain killers.
posted by HeroZero at 6:30 AM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

My favourite (and becoming my standard) answer: hikaru dorodango !
posted by peagood at 6:35 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Previously, though this thread focussed on productive rather than relaxing activities, you might find something useful there.
posted by penguin pie at 6:35 AM on October 14, 2010

I've spent three months out of the last twelve recovering from surgeries. And even though I am an avid reader, I found it very difficult to concentrate enough to read books during my various recoveries. Between painkillers, and fatigue, I just couldn't do it. I spent a lot of time surfing the web, and working on some internet based projects (that were low impact), and watching television shows on Netflix. I watched some movies, but found them to be long enough that I needed to take breaks. Other intentions had been to knit, work on some crafts, and do some writing... those all went out the window. So certainly plan things to keep yourself occupied, but don't be surprised if you end up doing a whole lot of nothing.
posted by kimdog at 6:40 AM on October 14, 2010

Borrow the PS3, sign up for a NetFlix trial (if you don't have NetFlix already) and get them to mail you the PS3 Instant Watch DVD. If you don't have a nice television, see if you can borrow -- or even rent -- one as well. The entire runs of Doctor Who, Buffy, Battlestar Galactica and tons of other great TV shows are on Instant Watch right now.

Painkiller-time is also a great time to get into all those slow, ponderous films you never had the patience for in waking life. If you can deal with subtitles, this is a great time to get into the works of Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker, etc.)
posted by griphus at 6:40 AM on October 14, 2010

I'd definitely watch entire seasons of TV shows you've been meaning to get around to (if you are like me and have a huge list in the queue).

Also crossword puzzles, and maybe a craft of some sort? I'm always intending to get into embroidery.
posted by something something at 6:43 AM on October 14, 2010

I spent about two weeks out of my head on painkillers after an adult tonsilectomy.

Mostly, I slept. Honestly, painkillers knock you right out. I did a lot of reading. I made smoothies, because that was pretty much almost all I could eat.

Do you have a laptop? If so, you might want to pay for a month of EVE Online or another MMO - I blew up spaceships for the first week or so when I couldn't go outside and it kept me sane in the house on my own.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2010

Yea, watch the entire series of something like Mad Men, the Wire, Dead Wood, Six Feet Under, etc.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh! And if you have someone to run to the library for you (and your library system is half-decent,) you can get all sorts of great books-on-CD for when your eyes get tired but your brain still wants more, more, more. Considering the pain killers, it will probably be better to stick to airport novels (Frank Awesome Versus the Moon Nazis and so on) than Dostoyevsky.
posted by griphus at 6:48 AM on October 14, 2010

I found video games suited my limited attention span when I was in recovery mode. I'd borrow the friend's system and some relatively low-stress games. Katamari Damacy, which involves rolling an adhesive ball that enlarges as it grabs everything in its path, is just the ticket.

For books, consider re-reading some old favorites, so that if your attention wanders here and there you won't miss much. Young adult books may be less challenging to a slightly foggy mind.
posted by itstheclamsname at 6:51 AM on October 14, 2010

I've had to do a lot of recovering from medical stuff in the past few years, and all that I really felt like doing was sleeping and watching movies. Oh, sure, I had great books to read and even an organizing project to do, but I had no interest in them once I came home from the hospital. I was tired. Really tired. Unbelievably tired. 

Other advice:
Make sure that you have everything organized at home before the procedure. You won't want to have to worry about fighting clutter while you're recovering. 
Stock up on the easiest-to 
-prepare versions of whatever you can eat. You won't want to be cooking or doing dishes. 
Figure out now who you can rely on for help (such as errands) and support (such as listening to your complaints, if that will make you feel better) while you're recovering.

I hope that everything goes well and that you'll have a speedy recovery. 
posted by TEA at 7:33 AM on October 14, 2010

And even though I am an avid reader, I found it very difficult to concentrate enough to read books during my various recoveries.

Agreed. I tried to read after my surgery and fell asleep after about 5 minutes every time. Watched TONS of TV series, though.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:46 AM on October 14, 2010

I second the online gaming like Everquest, WOW, or something else. Perhaps you can buy a cheap game. I used to do games like Myst which were puzzle based but relaxing. No shooting, anxiety filled, etc.

Blogging may be fun for you. You can journal your trip down surgery/recovery road and add things like "today my codeine kicked in. I see the world in fuschia. It's a good world."

Then again, that's just me. :)

Good luck in surgery and a speedy/pain free recovery.
posted by stormpooper at 10:43 AM on October 14, 2010

The painkillers often knocked me out, at least initially, so although I got a few TV shows on DVD, initially, I just had the TV on and would fall asleep mid-episode.

I agree on the book concentration - books on iPod can be useful for that, as you can close your eyes and listen better than reading; it seems to take less concentration, somehow.

I am an avid knitter (or used to be prior to some hand damage) - I find that a craft that doesn't take much motion that can be done with a TV on in the background is a great way to pass the time. Knitting, crocheting, tatting, weaving, embroidering all come to mind - but so, too, would sketching, carving, painting, and even building with legos - if any of those appeal.

I hope that your recovery goes well!
posted by mccn at 11:10 AM on October 14, 2010

If you're not into fighting games and don't want to pay for anything, consider Second Life. It's a fascinating online world to explore, created mostly by its users. People's ingenuity there is amazing. You don't have to build or make anything, though, you can just fly around or teleport around the map and explore and hang out. There are games within the game from jello boxing to fishing to snail racing to traditional sports to newly invented sports to all kinds of combat sports, places to hear any kind of music live or via a DJ, clubs, events, art and galleries, leisure activities, x-rated stuff, super funny groups of people, loads of different kinds of role playing areas, themed neighborhoods (dystopian future, steampunk, hobo village, tropical islands, foreign cities, countless others), book readings, education, architecture, shopping (loads of free stuff included) projects, prototypes - anything you can imagine.

Seeing the neat things people have made is cool but the social interaction is the main draw for a great many of the users, maybe most of them. You can hang out in a noob area periodically to get the hang of it an ask questions and get tips on neat places to visit.

It's fun to customize your character, and try on different identities. It's great to meet interesting people from all over the world. You'll run into a griefer sooner or later, the troll of the MMO world, but try to have fun with it. Some of it is pretty funny, some less so. There's a mute/block function for people who suck.

A high percentage of the people who try it out don't come back after their first visit because the orientation isn't the best and the shortcuts to the movement controls aren't obvious. But those who stay typically go through a non-stop addiction phase and are totally hooked. If I were laid up in bed, I'd totally immerse myself again. Happy healing to you.
posted by Askr at 11:12 AM on October 14, 2010

I had the exact same surgery about six years ago. My recovery took a lot longer than 2 weeks because of complications that I'm virtually sure you won't have (I am sort of a medical freak, and I am guessing you are not). I'm also currently in Week 5 or 6 (time is sort of elastic at this point) from recovering from one abdominal surgery and gearing up for the next.

First off, I would say not to underestimate just how much sleep you might need. General anesthesia can be really exhausting on your body, and if you combine that with painkillers, you may be pretty zonked quite a bit of the time. Also, due to the particulars of jaw surgery (you'll probably have to sleep siting up, or at least semi-reclining for awhile) you might find you wind up sleeping in chunks of time, rather than long spells of 8-10 hours, so you may not feel as fully refreshed from your sleep anyway.

This is all a way of saying that you may be surprised that reading and watching TV/movies might turn out to be plenty in terms of distraction. As others have said, reading itself can actually be pretty taxing; I find during the early days of surgical recovery that it's best for me to read fairly light books that I can dip in and out of -- it's very hard to concentrate on anything very long or complex. Same with movies and TV. Loading up on general interest podcasts (e.g., This American Life, The Moth, Radio Lab, etc.) is also great -- again, it's stuff you can dip in and out of, as your energy and concentration allows. Currently, I'm also teaching myself to crochet (badly, admittedly) and occasionally amusing myself with short writing projects (e.g., Six-Minute Story, random exercises from The Writer's Block), if you think something like that might be up your alley.

Good luck with the surgery, by the way -- it was the best thing I ever did.
posted by scody at 12:29 PM on October 14, 2010

Are you sure that you're going to be on strong painkillers? I had surgery on my upper & lower jaw in 1998 which took around 10 hours (my before & after picspam), and while I don't recall what pain meds they had me on in the hospital, once I was discharged all they had me use was adult-strength liquid tylenol. Which was fine for me - personally, I think that there was more pain in the days recovering from having my wisdom teeth out than there was in the weeks of post-jaw-surgery recovery. With the jaw surgery, it was more about discomfort/the ick factor than outright pain. Although I was massively swollen, my face was completely numb & paralyzed for the first couple of weeks, so by the time I could feel pain in my muscles, the swelling/bruising was mostly gone. And I wasn't having any pain from the bone-breaks, since those are all immobilized. If they are going to have you use adult-strength liquid tylenol, buy it before the surgery -- I had to go to 3 different pharmacies to find one that carried it.

My recovery took more than two weeks as well, because of dietary issues mostly. In the hospital, they were pushing those Ensure liquid meals, but those are mostly corn syrup and the combination of those + antibiotics + the physical stress of such a long procedure landed me back in the hospital a week after my initial discharge, to get back on an IV so I could get re-hydrated & get some anti-nausea medication (throwing up when your jaw is wired shut is something of an experience).

As far as activities to do -- I agree with scody that sleeping, reading, tv, & podcasts are pretty satisfying. Also, I spent a lot of time on the computer in the various discussion forums that I was already involved. Because nobody could really understand me when I tried to speak beyond the simple "uh-huh" and "nuh-uh", I had to communicate via a steno pad, and I don't write fast enough to carry on a real conversation. And I found that I missed conversation more than I missed solid food, so, it was a real life-saver to be able to go online and 'talk' to people there.

Also, if you have to be back at work 2 weeks after surgery, I think you may need to use a lot of that time to get your food routine down, to figure out how to get all of the calories you need into liquid form, so that's going to take up a good chunk of each day. Get a smoothie recipe book, get a blender (and maybe borrow someone else's, so you can make more than one meal at a time without having to stop and wash out the blender) and experiment.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:21 PM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the input folks!

I will be on hydrocodone for around 12 days, with the option to switch to tylenol 3 if I want. My surgeon expects a bit more pain than usual, because I have a LOT of movement required to correct my bite.

I am planning on going the Playstation route, since movies are not really gonna work for me (i have too much movie watching to do anyway as part of this research project), and I think y'all are right about the likely problems with reading.

The message board/forums idea is a good one too! Keep em coming!
posted by broadway bill at 8:42 PM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: So, just a quick update (I was reminded to update by a fellow mefite).

Surgery went well, and the recovery is moving along smoothly. My bite is perfect right now, which is very odd for me to feel after 30+ years of it being off. I have regained the feeling in most of my face, although I am still somewhat numb on my cheekbones and nose, and totally numb on my chin and lower lip. My surgeon felt good about the nerves coming back; he did not have to cut anything, and did not stretch anything either, he just impacted the nerves. I can feel weird tinglings and aches in all of the numb areas (also odd, having waves of "pain" in a "numb" area), which seems to me to be a solid reassurance that things are coming back to life.

I am still on a liquid diet, although I am only banded shut (as opposed to wired). To be honest, I have not really eaten much at all. Mostly I just drink a ton of water and some juice here and there for calories, and every so often I will drink some broth. My energy is definitely down as a result, but "eating" is a mess and a hassle, so I am avoiding it. My surgeon seems to think that as long as I take vitamins and really hydrate, I will be okay. I go in for my 1 month post-op next week, and I expect they will clear me for soft foods.

All things considered, recovery has been alright. Waking up after surgery was horrific, what with the blood and the swelling and whatnot. But, since then, each day has been a little better than the one before it.

As for the aesthetic outcomes, they are looking good. I was mainly concerned with improving my functionality, so I was really hoping for a subtle aesthetic change, and I got one. My face is slightly more square now (as opposed to a long oval) and my chin is much more defined (as opposed to big). Of course, there is plenty of selling left over--mainly in my cheeks and neck, and along my jawline--but it gets a wee bit better each day!

Oh, and as far as what I have been doing to stay occupied; those of you who said I would not do much were mostly right. I watched a lot of mindless tv while drifting in and out of sleep. I read 2 really crappy novels and retained nothing from them. I did manage to watch 22 movies for my research project, but they were childrens movies that required very little from the viewer. So, that is what I did for the first 2 weeks. Since then, I have been getting back to work, which means 12-16 hour days 5 or 6 days a week... all in all, I am totally happy with the choice to do surgery!

Anyway, just wanted to update you folks. Thanks for all of the tips and encouraging messages!
posted by broadway bill at 7:01 PM on November 15, 2010

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