Believe me, surgery is best avoided whenever possible! But that is not always the case—even with a super healthy diet, a great exercise program, and the best of genes.
I made it through the first fifty years of my life surgery-free, which is probably luckier than most. But since that time I’ve had my share of operations, one lasting nine hours. A month ago a hernia surgery resulting from a previous reconstruction. And maybe from lifting weights that were too heavy for my body. I’ve learned a lot in the process. Here are some tips for if and when you find yourself, in the vernacular, going under the knife:
- Carefully search out the very best, most experienced surgeon in your particular area. The more surgeries just like yours that (s)he has done, the better. You want a surgeon so seasoned that it could be done blindfolded. Well, you know what I mean. Practice makes perfect!
- Then research online to double check that surgery has the very best outcome for your problem. Sometimes you can just as well avoid surgery entirely.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the surgeon anything you want to know. You are hiring him or her as an expert and you deserve to have every question answered. Bring along a loved one or friend who is not afraid to ask what you won’t or may forget to bring up. My husband goes with me to all my appointments and procedures. He’s my cheerleader and he happens to be a doctor as well!
- Make sure you like and feel comfortable with your surgeon. Both the surgeons I interviewed had decades of experience. But one looked at my husband whenever he talked to me. And he wore a suit and tie. The second was much more informal, looked me in the eye when he talked, and wore black Converse tennies in the office and in the OR. And vacations in Montana. My kind of guy!
- Know exactly, before you go in, about the surgery prep and recovery. If you have an option, pick the timing that works best for you. Scheduling was really important to me recently so that I could be fully recovered for hiking, kayaking, and the gym. And for a trip to Eastern Europe nine weeks after my procedure
- Make sure to jump through the hoops ahead of time to have your insurance cover all of your care.
- I spoke up for myself the day of my surgery. I insisted that my husband stay with me until I was given anesthesia. I had reasons to only want a blood pressure cuff on my leg. They agreed. I asked for the most experienced phlebotomist (someone who draws blood) available. She was great and even gave me a Lidocaine injection in the vein first to reduce the pain since I have challenging veins. I chatted with each of the medical professionals who cared for me. I made it clear to the surgeon that I preferred to go home the same night. And that I would not be taking opioid pain meds (I didn’t) nor the stool softener that they prescribe along with, since the pain meds are so constipating. We take a ferry to and from our island home, so I made sure to get a hospital ferry pass to avoid the lines. Made a world of difference.
- Know that there are very effective natural supplements and remedies that you can take pre- and post-surgery to make you stronger, recover faster, and minimize scar tissue.
- Do as much as you can, without overdoing it, as soon as you can comfortably after surgery. Instead of lying around in bed, I took a short beach walk the next day and increased the distance to walking six or seven miles by two weeks post-surgery.
- DO follow the instructions about avoiding lifting or whatever is specifically contraindicated in your situation. That last thing you want to do is reinjure yourself and bust your stitches.
- Celebrate, instead of commiserate, about your surgery scars. Think of them as a medal of courage. And you can always get a tattoo over your scar line!