Feeling drained

While you return from surgery with parts of you definitely missing, you’ll also find that you’ve probably acquired a whole new set of personal plumbing accessories to boot.

Depending upon your surgery, up to four drains may have been inserted to help prevent the build up of fluid in the chest and/or armpit cavities.  Looking very much like thermoses filled with pink lumpy cordial, these suction flasks and tubes just hang around with you for the next week to ten days slowly draining excess fluid from the wounds.  They’re a necessary evil and you’ll have to navigate your way through showering, toileting, dressing and the raft of physical exercises you’ll be instructed to do accompanied by these fellas.  The job is made slightly easier by a hospital couture shoulder bag or your very own ‘handbag of horrors’, or you can even stuff them into your robe pockets.  You’ll be amazed at just what comes out and by golly will you be relieved when they’re gone.

The day after surgery your Surgeon and some other House Doctors (not Hugh Lawrie you’ll be relieved to hear), will come and have a chat with you about how the surgery went (although pathology results usually take a few days).  They will let you know what you need to do in the way of self-care, such as massage and  will probably take a peek at their handiwork.

No pain, no gain

You’ll also be shocked into disbelief when the physiotherapist comes to see you for a chat about post-operative exercises.  This is not some cruel joke, they really expect you to get moving that arm as soon as possible the day after surgery and with good reason.  If you don’t keep your arm(s) moving, the muscles can seize up, fluid can build up (leading to potential lymphodema) and if that’s not incentive enough, it takes months of physiotherapy to restore arm/shoulder function from disuse in some cases.  The old adage use it or lose it has never been more true than now. Push through the pain and stick with the exercises – you won’t regret it.

Walking around the hospital corridors with your ‘handbag of horrors’ may not seem like the best way to spend your hospital time but if you’re up to it a few walkabouts each day will a) relieve boredom b) give you a much needed change of scenery c) help your mood and energy levels and d) help with the codeine constipation you may be experiencing.