Week One: The New Frontier

I was told that the first four weeks after surgery would be the toughest. It’s the warning that all previous bariatric patients echo in support groups across the board. I tried to listen to the warnings and internalize them, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The surgery itself was uneventful. Everything went as it was supposed to. My incisions were clean and I was left with a small port giving anti-nausea medication. I was scheduled to spend one night in the hospital, but I was having a hard time with sinus drainage. I wasn’t sick, but my typical morning runoff was irritating my new stomach. Sneezing and coughing brought nightmarish pain and vomiting up old blood became a regular occurrence.

The first time it happened, I was terrified. I was coughing and having trouble getting air. The nursing staff was amazing and assured me that the blood was probably from the breathing tube used in surgery irritating my throat. It had to go somewhere and back up my throat seemed to be the answer. Scary, but I made it through.

Another thing you get warned about is the gas pain. Surgeons need to fill the abdomen with gas to preform surgery and it doesn’t just go away. It lingers and makes you very uncomfortable. For me, passing gas was impossible until day six. The experts suggest walking around to alleviate some pressure. It helps some, but my energy level wasn’t ready to do laps around the hospital all day.

After two nights, I was released. I went home and went right to bed. Resting is important, especially since your body has been deprived of proteins for almost two weeks. Protein helps the healing process and I was still a few days away from sneaking it back into my diet.

There wasn’t a huge amount of post operation pain. Most of my incisions are numb most of the time. However, the largest one, the one that my stomach was removed through, hurts pretty regularly. A lot of that has to do with my moving around. Abdominal muscles were cut and getting around is made more interesting while trying not to use them. Every day is better, but the struggle is still real. There’s a special kind of helpless feeling when you have to yell for help because you have to use the restroom and you can’t get up.

The port in my belly needed to be removed on day four. The nurses told me that I could handle it at home. Looking back, it wasn’t a big deal, but at the time… I thought I was gonna pass out.

I was told to work on it in the shower. The warm water and soap would loosen up the surgical tapes and adhesive so I wouldn’t tear my skin. It still took quite a bit of coaxing but it did come loose. Finally, I was faced with pulling two tubes out of my belly. The first came out easily. There was about a foot of tubing underneath my skin. It was a crazy feeling. The second didn’t want to leave so easily. My mother suggested holding my breath and pulling the tube nonstop until it was out.

After this, I went straight to bed.

They also want you to get plenty of fluids this week to prevent dehydration. I’ve been struggling with this. 64 ounces of fluid doesn’t feel like a lot until you can barely swallow a mouthful. You have to sip almost constantly and I don’t really have the patience. I’m working on getting back to food with a little more excitement than just drinking water.

Another piece of advice that I ignored was eating alone for the first month. Smelling food and watching other people eat didn’t bother me before surgery but it does now. My husband ate a bacon cheeseburger in front of me last night and I wanted to push him down a flight of stairs. I’m okay with taking my nibbles alone as long as I don’t get tempted to hurt people I care about.

Weight loss has taken a back seat to healing. I’m not concerned with the scale. I’m thinking about yogurt and fluids this week. I’m officially one week post-op today and I’m starting cream soups again. I never want to eat plain chicken broth again and I’ve never looked forward to grits more in my life.