What did you need most when having surgery?
March 4, 2018 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me figure out what you bring to the hospital when your having surgery and what helped you the most in the first two or three days afterwards at home?

I'm having laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy surgery (basically removing all these female bits that don't belong in my body) in 4 days! and because of my fibromyalgia will be staying in the hospital for 2 days. I've never had surgery so am unsure what exactly I'm supposed to bring. Can you tell me what you've brought if you've had surgery before? The hospital gave me an info sheet but there's a lot of emphasis on don't bring your valuables.. can I really not bring my phone??

I'm prepping my home this week in hopes that I can mainly recover at my own house and not be forced back into family situations. I have aftercare down for any health things and a friend that will help out if I need it but frankly when I'm in pain I don't like a lot of people around fussing. What did you find helped you in the first few days at home?
posted by kanata to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Seemingly trivial, but important: an extension cord (with multiple outlets). You'll be frequently charging devices, with limited motion range, and accommodating the short charging cord length will be a major vexation. I was in hospital a couple years ago, and on the second day a friend brought an extension cord, and I could have kissed him. Just lying there with nothing to deal with but charging iphone/ipad, and frequently finding myself needing to do uncomfortable physical things to keep it all straight, was driving me a bit nuts. What a difference five extra feet made!

As for the being alone: me too. I just don't tell anyone. If something goes wrong, the staff has my family info and health proxy. Maybe you should alert your health proxy day-of, just to be sure they're available. But no one's ever been made happier, in my experience, by advance or concurrent notice of my health issues....least of all me. No need to do it just 'cuz that seems the thing to do.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:11 AM on March 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

There are many possible suggestions, but number one is: your own robe. (And slippers, if you have a preference.) It's for the best for you to be out of bed as soon as possible, but shuffling down the hallway in a hospital gown is just so unpleasant.
posted by praemunire at 10:12 AM on March 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

Some earplugs and a sleep mask might help you during the hospital stay.
posted by sophieblue at 10:14 AM on March 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

I posted the extension cord suggestion above.

You mentioned the issue of valuables, and, yes, stuff gets stolen in hospitals. But believe me, the benefit of a phone and tablet in a hospital bed vastly exceeds any risk of loss. Just keep it all in bed with you as much as possible, and try to keep it out of site and on the side AWAY from the door. Placing it on, like, a tray table between you and the door is asking for trouble, especially while you sleep or hit the bathroom.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:15 AM on March 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Stock the fridge/freezer with easy food options that are comforting. I'm partial to frozen mac&cheese from Trader Joe's and Jello when I feel bad, but basically anything like that which is easy to cook yourself or make ahead of time so you don't have to worry about food.

Reading material. This may be the time to dig into a great novel, or catch up on trashy magazines. Prepare for both mindsets just in case.

Cozy socks, cozy robe, cozy pajamas. I'm not sure where your incision will be, but beware of elastic shorts or undies that may cut across the wrong spot on your body. My csection scar made most of my yoga pants a bad choice, which meant my husband had to bring me whatever he scrounged up.. it was not ideal.
posted by gatorae at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2018

Yes to earplugs. Bring 2 or more pair, as you may well drop one (and you don't want to pick up an earplug off a hospital floor and reinsert in your ear). The simplest cylindrical foam ones are best.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have had this same surgery. For my at-Home recovery I was most grateful for a body pillow. I’m a side sleeper and having that surgery made side sleeping difficult for me and I needed more support along the front of my body when I slept. The body pillow was perfect for this.

Just taking it easy the first week or so was really all I needed. However I did have really bad back/shoulder pain due to air/gas and walking was recommended to help alleviate that. It was nice having someone to walk with me around my neighborhood.

What I brought to the hospital - really loose fitting pants - especially loose fitting near my belly because that area was sore and weird feeling. You may just want to have some nightgowns in hand in case you really don’t want anything near your belly. You can also just wear the hospital gowns but my morale was best uplifted by wearing my own clothes. I liked having a pair of slippers on hand to easily put on without bending too much. I of course brought my phone/iPad and charging cords and just made sure to secure them out of sight or bring with if I left the room, which honestly I didn’t very much. I brought toothbrush and paste, a little makeup and shampoo. Always bring chapstick. My most favorite thing I brought was some delicious trail mix.

If you have to cough or sneeze (or throw up), I recommend having a pillow to push up against and support your midsection as you do so.

Warm wishes!
posted by Sassyfras at 10:17 AM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

...also, I really think you should find a forum for people who have had this surgery to get some gory details on post-op recovery. Abdominal surgery, even laparoscopic, can make it hard to do damn near anything. Who knew how many basic life motions involved those muscles? Prior to my own, not me!!! Mine was considerably more drastic and involved, so I don't want to assume you will have the same difficulties, but I literally had a point a few days in at home (and this was over a week after the actual surgery) where I sat down on the floor to do something, incautiously far from any brace points, and could not stand back up on my own unaided. (Fortunately, I had a friend staying over who could haul me to my feet.) I understand not wanting to be fussed over, but you need to be very realistic or you could find yourself in some very uncomfortable situations when you're already not feeling well.
posted by praemunire at 10:18 AM on March 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I found hystersisters.com forum very helpful.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:24 AM on March 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have had hospital staff lock up my wallet for me in the pre-phone era. They may be able to do that with your phone. You can call and ask.

My mom’s wedding ring was stolen in the hospital, so theft is definitely a thing.

If you don’t have a Kindle, this might be a good time to get one. They’re very light and give you super easy access to a lot of books at once without having to lift things or move much. I have a Paperwhite, and the screen looks amazingly like book pages. I don’t know about other types of Kindles, but I can use mine for a week without needing to recharge.
posted by FencingGal at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2018

If you can, arrange to have your friend drop by after the surgery to bring you the things that you'll need -- including your phone or any other electronics (like a tablet, or noise-cancelling headphones, both of which would be nice to have). The 'no valuables' advice is because they have to store your clothes and possessions for you while you're in surgery -- when I went, I had to put everything into a big plastic bag and it was taken off to a big communal cabinet with a bunch of other people's belongings. Access was limited, but there was no locked storage. Storage space is limited, and they probably aren't able to guarantee security. Once you're out of recovery and into your hospital room and able to keep an eye on things, having valuables with you is less of a worry, as long as you take them with you when you leave your room and put them away when you're sleeping.

That said, I did bring my phone for outpatient surgery, and just stuffed it into an interior coat pocket, and the nurse knotted the strings of the bag quite well, and it was fine. (But honestly my phone's so old I don't think anyone would care to steal it, which is partly why I felt comfortable doing so.)
posted by halation at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

Nthing the earplugs and sleep mask. I'd never been to the hospital before, and maybe this was just because I had (very minor) heart surgery, but people are in and out of your room at all hours to check on you and adjust things and take samples, etc. Just being able to sleep through the visits where they didn't actually have to talk to me would have been a big help.

One thing I did not expect -- the anesthesia gave me a migraine. So during daylight hours, I was pretty much forced to put a pillow on my face to hide from the pain, I really wish I'd had a sleep mask!

Lastly, snacks. I have some dietary restrictions and I found the provided food to be hit and miss. Even if you don't have restrictions though, hospital food has a pretty well-deserved reputation and a few snacks to get you through an unpalatable meal can help a lot.

Best wishes to you!
posted by ZeroDivides at 11:00 AM on March 4, 2018

i had this surgery last year and found it was pretty easy; I went home the same day. But, your experience may be different with the fibromyalgia for sure. I always want my phone in the hospital, usually with some really soothing music and a silly sitcom downloaded so you can fall in and out of sleep. I've always used my phone earbuds but I have a sleep headphone now and would recommend that highly for in the hospital and for recovery if you like.

Some good advice above, especially about your own robe, socks and non-slip slippers. Don't forget a lip balm, hand cream and your own kleenex. I swear the ones at the hospital are like sandpaper.

Maybe you'd like a scarf or light blanket? I'm thinking of treating it like a long, uncomfortable flight!

If you are a tea drinker bring your own bags, pack a few snacks for the hospital too. The food really is terrible. I'm never hungry after surgery but having your own tea and cookies can be a nice treat, even if you don't finish it!

For home afterwards - oatmeal, soup, frozen lasagna, cheese and crackers,fancy juice that you wouldn't normally buy. Those are some nice easy to prepare, easy to eat foods. If people are visiting you do ask them to pick up some groceries on the way - people do want to help! My friends would move the laundry over and one of them changed the sheets on my bed - HEAVEN!

Good luck!
posted by five_cents at 11:03 AM on March 4, 2018

Antibacterial hand gel and wipes. Hospitals are not clean places, and the last thing you need when you leave is to get sick. Wipe down surfaces that you'll be touching regularly in your room.

Earplugs, yes, because your room may be shockingly noisy (or you might get a roommate who watches 6 hours of Soul Train in a row, which is about 4 hours more than I'm OK with).

Seconding advice about comfortable, easy-to-put-on clothes--slip-on shoes, too, if you can.

Thirding advice about snacks. I was astonished by how comically terrible the food actually was. My partner brought in some food from a nearby restaurant for me, which was great. On the other hand, the friend I talk about below did not care about food and just ate what they gave her, which I guess is a positive side effect of being on The Serious Painkillers. (I wasn't on anything and was fully alert, which tbh has its drawbacks.)

And yeah, be prepared to get help. My friend had a surprise oophorectomy and I stayed with her for a few days, because she couldn't
- wash dishes
- clean the catbox
- pick up literally anything from below knee-level or so, e.g. a package on the front step
- do literally anything involving reaching over her head
- pick up anything even remotely heavy (which is nearly everything)
- make herself anything to eat
She also got confused easily the first day or two.

Related to that last point, if you can have somebody with you when you're discharged, ask them to take notes and accompany you home (in case calls need to be made). I have never been involved with a hospital discharge that went smoothly and didn't result in missing information, an incorrect prescription, etc. etc. Ask your surgeon beforehand what symptoms should make you call your doctor. If you're by yourself, write down everything. They'll tell you it's all in the discharge paperwork, but they'll be wrong.

(I like five_cents' suggestion of thinking of the hospital stay like a long, uncomfortable flight!)

Good luck and I hope you have an easy surgery and a fast recovery.
posted by wintersweet at 11:10 AM on March 4, 2018

-Zip up or button up sweatshirt-type jacket/hoodie—it’s often chilly in hospitals and this can keep your upper half warm if you’re sitting up in bed.
-Notepad and pen to write down info/instructions—don’t count on being given everything in writing.
-Also, be prepared for lots of healthcare folks to be coming in and out of your room at all hours to check on you, give you meds, get you out of bed and walking, etc etc etc. You will probably be glad to get back home just so you can get some uninterrupted rest!

Good luck to you, and try to concentrate on how good you’ll feel once it’s over!
posted by bookmammal at 11:15 AM on March 4, 2018

I brought my iPad and some books to read after surgery, however I was put on a morphine drip and one of the side effects was side to side eye-movement which made reading impossible (kind of like having the spins when you drink too much, but without the sense of vertigo).

So I was pretty much relegated to music, podcasts, and audio books for my stay.

I also brought my Birkenstocks for walking around the hospital, rather than slippers. Felt much more normal and supportive.
posted by qwip at 11:15 AM on March 4, 2018

The top ones are robe, slippers, charging cords and extension cord.

Audio materials as well as reading stuff. I find I'm often fairly wiped out and not always up for the more challenging material (sorry, friend who brought me Umberto Eco to read; just wasn't happening). While you might feel up to finally tackling The Brothers Karamazov or whatever now that you have some free time on your hands, you should also have some less challenging material; magazines are actually great here -- they're light, they don't require a lot of concentration, you can read an article in a few minutes, you don't need to worry about them being stolen.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:25 AM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, you can bring a phone, tablet, and chargers. They'll likely expect you to have them even if they discourage it. Put your name on everything. Bring as little clothing to the hospital as possible because it all goes in a small plastic bag. If someone can bring your things after you're in your room, that would better than bringing it all when you check in for surgery.

Do you know if you'll be in a private/semi-private room or a ward? If you'll be in a ward, definitely take a sleep mask and earplugs. The nurses will be in and out all day and night to care for you and the other 3 patients - taking vitals every few hours, giving meds, helping with the bathroom, etc. The lights will be on and off, door opening and closing, and hallway noise. The other patients may also have a lot of visitors, which can be annoying and disruptive, and some hospitals have elimated official visiting hours.

Regardless of the type of room, I found audiobooks & comfortable cordless headphones better than ebooks because I could be in any physical position that was comfortable for me and could drown out the various hospital noises. Also, lip balm, warm socks, toothbrush/toothpaste.
posted by subluxor at 11:31 AM on March 4, 2018

Mouldable silicone putty ear plugs.

I've tried numerous foam ear plugs, but I am never going back. The silicone putty ones form a proper seal and keep so much more noise out. I work music festivals, so being able to block out the pounding sound systems at 3 am is blissfull.

Any pharmacy should have them.
posted by happyinmotion at 12:09 PM on March 4, 2018

- Load up your phone with podcasts etc in case reception is poor
- I took my Sleephones which made life so much more bearable (although heated up my ears and possibly made it look as if I had an infection when I didn't)
- get up and around as soon as you can and have a shower as soon as possible even if you have to sit down
- constipation from the combined effect of anaesthesia, analgesia, and lack of movement is a real issue. Stock up on remedies, both pharmaceutical and natural (eg lactulose and prunes) and get a footstool or pile of books to raise your feet up while you try.
- be very careful about reading bad outcome stories online. You will probably feel a bit down after the surgery anyway and vulnerable to believing that the worst things are bound to happen.
- anaesthesia made me feel stupid for several weeks. It was almost as if they had removed some secondary storage module along with my womb. But it went.
posted by Heloise9 at 12:12 PM on March 4, 2018

After gallbladder surgery a couple of years ago I was grateful when friends brought me fruit sherbet, because the intubation left my throat sore for a couple of days. If I ever need any other surgery I will make sure to have some in the freezer.

Cannabis in some form can help, both if you have pain afterwards and if there's any residual nausea from the anesthesia or whatever. I hardly ever use the stuff but was very glad to have access to some the day after my surgery.
posted by zadcat at 12:33 PM on March 4, 2018

Lip balm and lotion- I have done 3 c-sections and even though they are pushing fluids post-op, I suffered with just feeling so very dry. Birkenstocks are great for walking around, but hospital socks don’t suck too bad. Travel sized Lysol for the toilet flush handle and TV controls and everydamnthing else. Paper and pen for writing down what the staff is telling you. Bring snacks. I also brought a few cans of my preferred soda so I could caffeinate at will. Dulcolax... bring your own and start taking it a day or two before. Get up and move around as much as you comfortable can, you’ll be able to leave more quickly if you do. Best of luck!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I had a two-night hospital stay for gall bladder eviction, the things I desperately wanted were:

--A little fan to put on the nightstand, since it was a damn furnace in my room

--My toothbrush and toothpaste, since I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything and my mouth tastes and felt absolutely disgusting

--My little travel pillow, since the hospital pillows were pretty crappy

--BABY WIPES. Or those face-cleansing wipes, something like that -- it was hot in the hospital, and I wasn't allowed to shower, and GOD, did I feel (and smell) terrible. Being able to just wipe off some of the sweat and ick would have made me feel much better

--Dry shampoo (see above re: feeling gross and sweaty)
posted by sarcasticah at 1:26 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I brought a small white noise machine the last time and it helped.

I don't have much to add that hasn't been covered but did want to say warm wishes, I am happy for you that you're doing this!!! ♥️
posted by sockermom at 1:30 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think I'll be in a semi-private room if that matters any. Thanks for giving me a lot of ideas about what to bring. A parent is bringing me (only person who has a car that can help) and will be staying until after the surgery so I'll get them to take care of my things while I'm there.

What about in the first few days at home? I'll have a nurse and friends helping with cooking, chores, etc. but what helped you when you were home alone.
posted by kanata at 1:32 PM on March 4, 2018

I had neck surgery and was in the hospital for 3 days/2 nights, and the thing that was essential for me was a power bank for my phone. (I might have brought 2?) That way you just have the nurse or a friend plug the power bank into the wall and you never have to be away from your phone! I found myself using the phone a ton--browsing social media, watching streaming TV/movies, or listening to music/podcasts to fall asleep. Also definitely Sleephones are the best.

I'm pretty sure I used a little makeup/travel bag to put all my tech accessories, chapstick, etc in, and just kept that in the bed with me.

Nobody will bother to tell you that opioids can make you super constipated. Ugh. Miralax and Colace are the best to help with that.

Hospital food is like, shockingly bad. It's not a sterotype. You probably won't care the first day but you might want real food the next. I'd ask a friend to pick you up some takeout. My husband did that for me and it was a lifesaver.

I also got a little lap table for eating in bed after surgery. I had super invasive neck surgery and was bed-bound for a few weeks, so that was super helpful. YMMV depending on your exact surgery and recovery.

It might be fun to put a post out on social media and ask friends to recommend TV and movies for you to watch!. I had saved a season of Jane the Virgin and it was fun to binge through that. A friend also sent me some Spotify playlists he had made, which was nice and kinda reminded me of mixtapes in high school.

Do you have a comfortable way to watch streaming video in your bed? You might want to get a little iPad stand or something.
posted by radioamy at 1:38 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

To bring: Moisturizer, Chapstik, cortisone cream (you may not need this like I do), eye drops, all medications, comfy socks and slippers (those nonslip hospital slipper-socks are the Devil's own Torture Booties), hairbrush, toothbrush.

At home: Make sure you have enough laundry done ahead that you won't have to worry about it while you're healing. Have all the clean sheets on hand you can, because it sucks to have to choose between lying in an unchanged bed another day or using up all your strength on a load of whites.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:13 PM on March 4, 2018

I brought a table lamp after a c-section because the all-fluorescent lighting depressed me so much. Cheered the room up a lot when it was pouring rain outside!
posted by wyzewoman at 2:27 PM on March 4, 2018

For home: I got a rolling beside table (similar to what they have at the hospital) and a small shower bench. I would recommend both without hesitation. A handheld shower attachment also helps a lot, but I already had that.

I also went way overboard and bought an adjustable bed base, but that was something I wanted anyway, and my brain surgery was a good excuse. Bought it from Costco in case I hated it, but it's been one of the best purchases of my life.

One of my housemates was an angel and kept me stocked in ginger ale, coconut water, and chopped up watermelon, as I had pretty bad nausea and lack of appetite for several weeks. I had several prescriptions to manage, including a couple from small complications after I was home.

I was in no shape to run errands of any type. No lifting anything heavier than my drink, basically, and just walking across the house to go to the restroom would leave me winded at first.

Basically, don't be afraid to lean on your friends, if you can. A couple close friends did most of the literal and metaphorical lifting for me, but less close friends were happy to bring by a meal or assemble that table and shower bench or just come to chat for an hour and then leave me to sleep more. Letting people help obviously can make your life easier, and also gives them some warm fuzzies.

I am also fiercely independent, but major surgery recovery is not the time to be all "I can do everything myself!" Finally, I apologize if this sounds kind of preachy; it's just hard to understand how fully surgery can knock you off your feet until you've been through it.
posted by ktkt at 2:45 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a laporoscopic cholecsysectomy in January, followed by a 2-day hospital stay (not typical). I was short of breath frequently during that time, and my really outstanding nurse brought in an incentive spirometer to help me reinflate the bottoms of my lungs. It worked beautifully. My doctor explained (too much later) that it's not uncommon for lungs to collapse a bit during anaesthesia, which can be painful and irritating. You may not need it, but ask your nurse for this simple device if you have a similar problem. Best of luck to you.
posted by cooper green at 2:58 PM on March 4, 2018

Post surgery ideas (mine was totally different). The anaesthesia can really wipe out your brain... I had to juggle two different after surhery med schedules; a notepad and pen to write down pill taking. Brain was scrambled so I couldn't concentrate. Even mindless tv was awful. Maybe the coloring book thing would work for you (it wasn't a thing 6 years ago)

You will need sleep but may not be able to afterwards so try some sleep exercises like picking a word like 'sunshine' and listing every word you can think of starting with 's' and then with 'u' etc; or ask for sleeping pills.

Walker or crutches? If necessary.... I chose walker and went to lowes beforehand and attached a little nail pouch to it. You will not have to carry stuff around .

Lots of yummy liquids. Treat yourself to something naughty like cupcakes or whatever..

Best wishes for rapid healing and an easy time. Hugs.
posted by mightshould at 3:44 PM on March 4, 2018

After surgery, I usually end up needing ice packs because the pain meds make me itch, but your skins may vary.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:49 PM on March 4, 2018

Oh, also, have a plan to keep track of when you've taken meds. You can even just use the Notes app on your phone. It's just harder than you think to remember if it's been X hours since you took the drug that you can take every X hours!
posted by radioamy at 10:10 AM on March 5, 2018

When my partner had major surgery several years ago, she had a strong reaction to anesthesia (nothing medically serious, thankfully), that meant a longer time in post-surgery recovery, nausea, and a very, very foggy brain for the next couple of days (and to a lesser degree into the following weeks). I would suggest that you have some entertainment that don't require much brain input from you--mindless shows, games, music, audio books you already know.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:02 AM on March 6, 2018

I got home yesterday from 2 day stay.

The most important thing for me to know was how to flush the drains that i had. And have them let you do it too. Take notes.

Good luck to you! You're a champ.
posted by kathrynm at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2018

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