I am a worrier (a phrase that you will see later became relevant !) – it’s in my nature, so you can imagine what something as significant as a sub-total abdominal hysterectomy did to the worrying part of my brain.
Having said that, I was relatively calm in the weeks leading up to the surgery. I’m not sure why; maybe because I knew it was needed, I had a very large growing fibroid (equivalent of a 24 week pregnancy) and despite not having any of the usual heavy bleeding symptoms or pains, knew that it was far better out than in; or maybe because I had had a laparoscopic oopherectomy two years earlier for a very large cyst on my left ovary so at least I knew the consultant, and the hospital, and therefore a little of what was going to happen.
Anyway, D Day arrived and the operation took place – I came round from the anaesthetic and was wheeled back to the ward to the sight of my lovely husband smiling at me and the disconcerting sensation of my legs just regaining their feeling (I had an epidural as well as the general) and a set of pumps wrapped around my lower legs gently inflating on an alternate 5 second basis. Strange, but quite nice I have to say. My hospital stay was two days long – the first day after the op went ok. I had been very apprehensive about having a catheter but that all worked, without sensation, and was very quickly and easily removed. Hurrah. The pulsing legs had continued all night and became quite rhythmic and soporific (or maybe that was the pain relief!). Hurrah. Getting up to the loo the first time was very scary but do-able with the endless patience of the nurse. Hurrah. You should definitely learn the log rolling technique for getting in and out of bed – it’s a lifesaver for many weeks to come.
Day 2 however was much tougher – the anaesthetic was wearing off completely, the tiredness was kicking in and the enormity of the task to come in terms of recovery was feeling quite daunting. I cried quite a lot on day 2 but the nurses were lovely and helped me through the day.
I left hospital on Day 3 with the nurse who discharged me telling me ‘now, don’t be a worrier’. Oh I thought, she’s worked me out pretty well, or so I thought she was saying…..but more on that in a moment. The journey home of 20 minutes took around twice as long with my husband driving at an extraordinarily sedate 20 miles per hour avoiding every pothole and lump and bump. I will try to never again criticise a slow driver, who just as likely might be escorting a very tender patient on their way from A to B.
Home was hard work – but it turned out that this was for a reason. Little did I know that I had a wound infection and so the pain was getting worse and worse every day, and where I thought I was just being a worrier and not coping at all, there was a very valid and pretty awful reason for it. I won’t go into the detail of what happened (as that is another whole story in itself!) but on day 6 post-op I was rushed back to hospital and had to have more surgery to open and clean out the wound. Not good. Not good at all. But don’t let that put you off. I was just randomly unlucky – and I’m sure it won’t happen to you. And to be honest, I was relieved to find out there was a reason for all my pain, and I wasn’t just a total wimp.
I came home again after another two day stay to re-start my recovery. I needed daily visits from the district nurse to dress my wound and that continued for several weeks. But it was one of these lovely nurses that suddenly made me realise something; she was checking on my pain relief and how much I was taking. I said I was trying not to take the liquid morphine if I could help it, and she said to me ‘well, don’t be a worrier’…..hang on, I’d heard that somewhere before…. but then I suddenly twigged that what both she and the hospital nurse were saying was ‘don’t be a warrior’ i.e take your pain relief if you need it. Not a worrier, a warrior ! If I could have laughed (by the way, you definitely can’t with an abdominal wound – so banish all funny people from your life for at least a month!) I would have done.
So that’s my story, but what else would I tell you. You will not be able to pick anything up off the floor at all – so you need to devise ways and means of dealing with this. You will need a lot of tlc in those first few days and weeks – so do enlist the husband, partner, mother, neighbour, whoever you can find to be honest, to support you through the initial recovery period. Eat prunes – I hate them and it’s like taking medicine, but believe me they work and make life so much easier (enough said). I’ve discovered you can stop a sneeze – rub your nose very hard as you feel it coming on. Another lifesaver many times over.
You will experience many weird pains and uncomfortable feelings – my insides felt like they were literally falling around in the newly created space. This was a feeling which freaked me out and which what was led me to this wonderful website and forums – where I learnt that actually this was something to be expected, and I was not a ‘worrier’ in vain.
And most of all, I would say that however bad it may seem in the days immediately after the surgery, things will get slowly better. I am now nine weeks post-op and post-complications, but I am putting those darker days behind me and can see the tiny improvements in my mobility and how I feel. And despite the long slow road to feeling better again, I am still very glad to be rid of an enormous great problem in every sense.