Post-op hysterectomy checklist
July 9, 2012 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Please help me plan my shopping list for post-hysterectomy recovery.

I am scheduled for a partial abdominal hysterectomy on Thursday (uterus only; no removal of ovaries, etc.)

I have all my helpers lined up, included my guy, mother and about four other friends who have agreed to pitch in. Movies, books and magazines are already in place.

So far, I think I'll need:

-- soup and saltines for days when I don't want to eat much.
-- fruits and veggies
-- a gigantic box of pads.
-- prune juice

Can the hive tell me what else I might be missing?
posted by nubianinthedesert to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You shouldn't need any pads.

You will want Gas-X and a real laxative though. If you're getting a laproscopic surgery, your abdomen will be filled with gas. Then it will get into your tract, then you will have pain. Trust me on this.

Red jello with fruit cocktail in it and macaroni and cheese were things I wish I had in the house when I had my hysterectomy.

I also had cravings for McDonalds hamburgers and chocolate shakes.

You won't be very hungry for the first few days, but it's a real good idea to eat and keep eating. Light meals are good. Roasted or grilled chicken, turkey, whatever you can pick at is good.

Also, dehydration will be a thing. So get stuff you like. I love real coca-cola so I enjoyed that over ice. Kool-ade, real lemonade, gatorade, whatever it is that gets your motor running. You think you'll be good and drink water, but you won't.

My hysterectomy was great. They gave me morphine in the hospital and when I got home the worst pain I had was a mild ache in the tummy area, as though I over-did the crunches. I was back to work after two-weeks. I feel into a drooling sleep on my first day back, but other than that, I was fine.

The biggest things are Gas-X and Laxative (Phillips makes a capsule). You will want this!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:40 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

* pulls up chair, sits down *

A good pillow to hug when you have to cough or laugh. Because for that first week your incision is gonna be OW.

Slip-on shoes. You will not be able to sit in a chair, bend over and tie your shoes for about a week or two. Not because of pain, it's more like - your body forgets how to do that. It's WEIRD as fuck.

Chocolate or ice cream or whatever your personal comfort treat food is because SERIOUSLY.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't say if you'll be living alone during this time. Would a cleaning service be of help? Do you have pets that will need walks or stuff?
posted by infini at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2012

(Oh - single oophrectomy in my case.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2012

Lots of comfy, loose-fitting nightgowns...

I took pain pills and watched all of Downton Abbey after my lap surgery. It was awesome, other than the recovery part.

Seconding the laxative thing. The pain pills will make you constipated, and you'll have a little anxiety about the first poop after surgery. I used Dulcolax--only take one.

Oh, and if they give you socks, take them with you! I always get Bair Paws when I have procedures done; they are excellent house slippers.
posted by hotelechozulu at 9:52 AM on July 9, 2012

A little table with folding legs to put over your lap on the couch or bed. I used it for holding drinks, food, and my laptop, and for keeping cats from jumping onto my stomach after having abdominal surgery.
posted by Safiya at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The most helpful item I had was a big wedge-shaped pillow that allowed me to rest in a semi-reclined position. It was comfortable, and I didn't have to hoist myself up from lying flat on a bed or couch.

If you've looked at the HysterSisters web sight, you may have seen comments about "swelly belly." This can become a problem in the weeks after the surgery, when you're going about your life but still healing. Late in the day, the lower abdoment swells and feels very tender. A cotton support panty (with lycra) can help a lot with the discomfort. These things used to be called panty girdles. I don't know if you'll need one if you don't have an abdominal incision.

I've heard this a lot and noticed it with a couple of friends: some women forget how tough the first four days were, and how many weeks before they could push a shopping cart or drive a car. My hysterectomy was 10 years ago, and I do know it was difficult, but I don't quite remember it. So don't think you're abnormal if you feel worse than some veterans have told you they felt when they went through it.
posted by wryly at 10:05 AM on July 9, 2012

To answer a few questions:

I'm not a candidate for laproscopic because I have multiple large fibroids (I had an embolization last year and two of my fibroids actually grew instead of shrinking!) I'm sad about this because my recover will be longer.
(Very said face.)

No pets.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:06 AM on July 9, 2012

These are all fantastic! Please keep them coming!
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2012

Agreeing with the laxative/stool softener thing. Narcotics slow down your digestive process. With any type of abdominal surgery accompanied by narcotics you definitely need laxatives or stool softeners(they may prescribe) because you don't want to strain at all.
posted by PJMoore at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2012

Ice cream
A full season of a favorite TV show on DVD
Easy, funny, comforting movie rentals (Or a list/pre-cued movies in your netflix cue)
Lots of magazines that you like to look at, in case you don't feel like heavy reading
posted by shortyJBot at 10:25 AM on July 9, 2012

I'm sad about this because my recover will be longer.

My aunt came to recover with us (mom's sister) and I remember that for most of 3 weeks, she felt best when laying down with minimal movement. Given that you know your habits and preferences, what would you like to have within reach knowing that you're more or less not going to be doing much of anything for a while?
posted by infini at 10:31 AM on July 9, 2012

Yeah - they won't let you out of the hospital until your digestive system has at least partially rebooted (flatulence for the win!), but you'll want a stool softener to compensate for the opiates they gave you. Stool softeners are generally more gentle on your system than laxatives. When I had my partial hysterectomy, I did fine by just taking a dose of milk of magnesia the night I got home from the hospital and managed a fairly normal bowel movement the next day.

Maybe get some freezey pops (aka "otter pops" or popsicles or something in case your throat is sore from the intubation.

Stupid tv/movies - distraction good, deep analytical plotlines maybe not so much.

Remember that you will take a long time to heal on the inside. You'll be tired and weak for a while - be nice to yourself.

Good luck and hope you have an easy recovery!
posted by rmd1023 at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2012

Ibuprofen, in case the pain relievers they prescribe for home use disagree with you. Ask me how I know!

If you have stairs in your house, try to stay on a level where you have all the essentials (food, entertainment, medication, bathroom access, etc) close to hand - or set up satellite locations on different levels. Stairs could be difficult for a while.

Comfort foods and comfort entertainment. I find it relaxing to re-read or re-watch things I'm familiar with when I'm sick or otherwise low-energy. The thing I remember about my recovery is that I was simultaneously bored and lethargic with a short attention span, and I desperately wanted to get up and do something but was unable to do much physically.

Underwear with very soft waist and leg bands. I don't remember having the swelly belly mentioned above, but for the first few days of healing you'll need to avoid any pressure or rubbing on your incision. The hospital put me in a stretchy mesh pair right afterward, and I kind of wish I'd asked for more on the way out. Or you could go without if that's more comfortable.

This last one was quite specific to me, but: graham crackers. I had post-op pneumonia, and the antibiotic they prescribed made everything I ate have a weird metallic aftertaste. Everything - except graham crackers.
posted by expialidocious at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2012

The first night I was released my surgeon called to see how I was doing and told me to get the Gas-Ex with the most Simethicone and take the maximum dose (thanks to my brother for running out and getting them that afternoon.) Also, I ended up sleeping in my recliner for the 1st couple of nights because of the incision.
posted by govtdrone at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2012

Bran muffins & fiber one bars work better for me post anesthesia than prune juice.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:11 AM on July 9, 2012

Small containers of stuff like milk and juice--no heavy lifting!
posted by Carol Anne at 11:52 AM on July 9, 2012

Many pain medications require that you eat something when you take them. My friend is recovering from surgery and keeps a few granola bars by her bed so she can take her pain medication right away in the morning. Fiber One has a pretty good selection of bars.

Have tons of pillows around to make you comfortable and able to change your position and support your back in bed.

If you're on strong pain medication for a while, don't expect to be able to concentrate on things like books and work. The suggestions above about rewatching favorite movies or TV shows are great.

Eat what you normally eat. Eating unhealthy feel-good food doesn't help your body in recovery any more than it helps the rest of the time...

Talk to your doctor about any non-prescription medications you plan to take. Sometimes a blood thinner like ibuprofen is not the right choice for someone recovering from surgery.
posted by stompadour at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2012

After my laproscopy (I realize your surgery will be a bigger deal), I mostly slept and took occasional breaks to watch TV.
Keep up on your pain meds -- you don't want to wait until it starts hurting again, or the meds won't work nearly as well, so if that means setting an alarm to take your next dose at 4 a.m., do it.
I also really liked having water, crackers, and grapes (juicy, mild, cool) by the bed. Basically, make yourself a nest that will enable you to not have to get up unless you really need to.
Once I was well enough to leave the house, I still had a couple of weeks of wearing loose-fitting skirts and flowy dresses. My surgery was in March (cold out!), so you'll have a much easier time with finding appropriate stuff to wear than I did!
posted by chowflap at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2012

Make sure you have a clean pair of sheets available. It's always nice to have fresh sheets when you're in bed for hours on end. Someone else can change the bed for you.

I'd download a bunch of good movies and TV shows now, or at least make a list of your best ideas. It's hard to make a decision when you're kinda groggy and frustrated.

good luck!
posted by barnone at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2012

Figure out what it is that absolutely has to be done in your household to keep you happy-for me, it's having the bed made-clean sheets make me feel better! Then, you assign one of your helpers to make sure that one thing is done every day for as long as you need it to be done. I would suggest having the bathroom and resting place kept tidy and nice. (I spent most of my days on the couch, shuffling to bathroom as necessary, and off to my pretty bed at night.)

And nth'ing to the utmost degree: all those above who recommend a laxative!! You are not going to feel good until the first big unload. It is not going to be fun. Talk to your doctor beforehand and see what they recommend, but make sure you have it on hand. Drink LOTS of water.

If your house is such that you don't have to mess with stairs, that's good.

Books were my friend. I tended to fall asleep during tv or movies. A book, I just let it fall, dozed, and continued on when I woke up. (I will caution you against Jennifer Crusie's Agnes and the hitman-I thought I was going to rupture something, trying not to laugh!)

I was alone most of the time-my partner set me up with a tray of easily reached snacks, water bottles, and called to check on me periodically. My wonderful coworkers brought meals in for about 10 days. It was great, and even more so for Michael. He didn't have to come home and cook; he could concentrate on being with me.

Don't push yourself, even if you are feeling pretty good. At day 4, I felt compelled to have clean sheets on my bed (see above!) I mean, how hard could it be to change sheets? An hour and a half later, I was exhausted, not sure if I could make it back to the living room couch. I was horrified at how much the task wore me out. Be good to yourself and listen to your body.

Good luck.
posted by LaBellaStella at 1:29 PM on July 9, 2012

Taking this list to Target tonight. And thanks for the laugh, LaBellaStella!
posted by nubianinthedesert at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2012

This book, my wife really enjoyed it: Through the Land of Hyster: The Hyster Sisters Guide, it appears to be out of print but available at reasonable prices used from a lot of resellers.
posted by mdrosen at 5:09 PM on July 9, 2012

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