I underwent an abdominal hysterectomy on 14th June this year having had problems for the last two years due to a rather sizeable fibroid – everything was taken out with the exception of my ovaries. There seems to be very little information available generally with the exception of what is provided through the Hysterectomy Association and the forums and information they provide which have proven invaluable and very reassuring.
I was really quite anxious in the days leading up to the operation – I had managed to get very distracted with work up until around 4 days before when things started to quieten down. This was the worst time for feeling anxious and my operation was scheduled for the afternoon of the 14th June. I decided that the morning of the operation I would get up early (to have the obligatory early breakfast before fasting!) and I would go to the stable yard (I have a horse) – the sun was shining and I just pottered around and gave my horse some fuss which was absolutely the best thing I could have done because it really calmed me and by the time I got home I felt quite serene!
What I’m saying is, even if you don’t have a particular hobby like mine, you might find it really helpful to go out for a walk in the fresh air – do something which will relax you – I can’t recommend that enough. If I had stayed at home during the morning, I would have been a nervous wreck! By the time I got to hospital I was ready, particularly as my body had given me a timely reminder in the form of the usual heavy period which was only just beginning to subside but I was still experiencing flooding (which also happened on the way to the theatre which was a good thing as if I had any doubts they went immediately). Make sure you have a nice warm dressing gown and slippers to wear down to the operating theatre as it’s important to keep warm, particularly as the theatres are kept relatively cold – the medics confirmed this whilst prepping me for the op – it really helped me to feel warm and cosy.
So on to post op – I don’t remember waking up in recovery – I remember from when my bed was positioned on the ward. I had patient controlled pain relief in the form of morphine which was great. I had expected to experience something like the pain of a cut, but it was more like really bad period cramps and I didn’t feel the catheter at all so don’t worry about that. What I would suggest is that because my mouth was really dry post op and during the night I didn’t feel like eating anything like the ham sandwich which was offered to me. What I did have was a bag of nuts and raisins (just standard supermarket bag) and that was great because I only felt like nibbling in between sips of water particularly in the early hours of the morning. I didn’t take in a nightshirt (I did have pyjamas just in case) but I was in a hospital gown so didn’t really need anything else whilst in the bed.
Don’t worry about having the catheter out – I didn’t feel a thing. I stopped taking the morphine by around 9.30 am as I wanted to feel fully aware and not groggy as I wanted to be out of bed and on my way home as soon as possible. I managed fine without it and just had paracetamol and ibuprofen instead. Once the catheter was out the nurse said I could get out of bed which I did (just sitting on the edge of the bed first to test the steadiness of my feet on the floor) and then I took steady steps to my bag to get out my clothes and wash stuff. I managed to get dressed (it’s not impossible) and I found it really useful to have some linen trousers as it was easy to hook my leg in (rather than leggings for instance) and they were also loose around my middle – I bought them pre-op from the supermarket and they were the best buy ever as I practically lived in them for at least 5 weeks post op! I left hospital that evening, so 24 hours post op, with paracetamol and ibuprofen, but to be honest I didn’t need anything heavier pain relief wise. I’d done some reading up before going into hospital and I do rate homeopathic remedies so I purchased some bellis perennis for post op which is supposed to help deep connective tissues heal and I also took one teaspoon of Manuka Honey (the 10 plus stuff per day at least) in my peppermint tea. This suited me and has helped me, but do consult a medical professional before deciding to use either of these yourself – I know my medical history but not yours!
I can honestly say that the worst bit was when the wind hit on day 2! If you do nothing else ladies, please make sure that you have some Windeze tablets and peppermint tea to hand as that really saved the day. Days 2 and 3 were rough because of this but afterwards much better. For the first couple of days I slept a lot probably due to the anaesthetic. Make sure you get plenty of rest and don’t push it! With that said, I cannot rate enough getting moving as quickly as possible – I started by doing regular laps round the garden the day after I was home, then rested, then repeated. I have also found that going out for walks after the first week was really beneficial (as long as you work within your body’s own limitations – listen to your body – it will tell you if you are overdoing it) and just gradually building up the distance. Finding somewhere flat to begin with is helpful as you won’t feel like doing hills or undulated ground.
I am now 6 weeks post op and driving again – I have a small hand towel folded over my tummy which is mainly for reassurance rather than comfort. I’m still doing plenty of walking and find little improvements every day in what I can do. If I overdo it, my tummy feels more tender and sore and swells a bit, so I don’t mess about and sit down and rest at those times – there is no point in pushing yourself too much – you are the only one who will suffer (plus I want to get back to riding asap so don’t want any unnecessary set backs! You will probably feel tired in the afternoon – so have a nap! I do – even if it’s just half an hour on the sofa it is just enough to refresh me.
My final words would be – don’t be scared and go for it. I have had two years of feeling awful with heavy periods and associated anaemia and fatigue with a belly the equivalent size of a 14 week pregnancy – I tried mediation and two coils (which my body rejected) and nothing helped. The day after the op I felt much better in myself and everyone said that for the first time in a long time I had some colour in my face and looked well which was astounding given that I had just had a major op! Every week I feel that I am going from strength to strength and I know I will never look back and regret having the op.
Best of luck to anyone reading this and keep a positive mental attitude – it goes a long way to assisting your recovery!
(Image: By Hic et nunc (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons)