Emotional Impact

Hurdle #3: Getting Through the First Days at Home

Laura Zigman Health Guide December 28, 2007
  • Laura Zigman gets out of the car after breast reconstruction surgery

     

    Coming home from the hospital is a trip. And not just because it is, literally, a trip -- surviving the car ride (it's hard taking curves when you're ab-less), getting out of the car, getting up the stairs, getting into bed. It's a trip because as impossibly difficult as things seemed in the hospital, they seem even more impossibly difficult at home.

     

    This is because most patients are not trained medical professionals. And most people's spouses are not either. Call me crazy but it's a little overwhelming when you and your spouse try to decipher the sheet of home-care instructions that one of you (he) annotated before you left the hospital.

     

    "What's that?" you will say, pointing to a "P" or a "2" that is, quite frankly, indecipherable. He will stare at it, move his mouth silently trying to sound out words he can't read, and after a few minutes you will both give up, not knowing whether you are supposed to take one Percoset every two hours or two Percosets every one hour.

     

     

    Laura Zigman's husband shrugs

     

     

    If there was only one medication you were confused about, it might not be so bad, but the minute you get home your main activity besides sleeping is pill-taking. Pill-taking involves a lot of different mental activity -- some of which you really don't possess when you get home since you're using most of your brain still trying to figure out how to sit down and stand up -- so it's quite challenging. It was especially challenging for me because there was some math involved -- this one every 4 hours; this one every 6, this one twice a day [every 12 hours] -- and after the first hour of being without a nurse, all pills -- the painkillers, the anti-nausea medication, the post-operative prophylactic anti-biotics, the stool softeners, the laxatives, the Tylenol, the Advil -- started to look alike.

     

    Trying to figure out your drug schedule is so complicated that you might be tempted to check in the Yellow Pages to see if you can hire someone to do this for you since your spouse will be busy trying to decipher the rest of his indecipherable writing on that useless sheet of instructions. Or, you will just do what I did, which was to try to make a little drug chart on a small scrap of paper. My chart looked something like this:

     

     

    Laura Zigman's drug list

     

     

    This might not look so overwhelming to you, but don't forget -- this is only the pill part. There's also the drain management part, the dressing management part, the going to the bathroom part, and the pretending to feel fine in front of your small child part.

     

    Luckily, my insurance provided a visiting nurse -- and were it not for her -- Linda -- who showed up for the first time on Thanksgiving Day morning while her turkey was in the oven and twelve people waited for her to get home and showed me how to change my dressings and empty my drains -- I truly don't know how I would have managed. Because no matter how long we both stared at it, my husband and I never could decipher those useless directions. And it had nothing to do with his handwriting.