Immediately upon waking the next morning I asked for more pain killers. I did not know it at the time but this was a sign of the pain to come. Day 2 post op was my most painful day of recovery.
By this time, the local anesthesia on my tummy had worn off. So this area, which was not painful before, had grown quite painful. The entire trunk of my body hurt from the incision line to my breast bone.
As requested by my surgeon, my husband snapped a few photos of my drains and incision line with my phone's camera. Note to self: Delete these photos! These I text to my surgeon for his review. At some point after surgery, I was to go on a blood thinner to prevent blood clots. My surgeon text me back and asked that I wait until the next morning and send more photos. This was because the fluid in my drains was still very dark, indicating there was a lot of blood in it. He wanted to wait on the blood thinner.
I did some walking around the house this day but I could not be on my feet for very long. The pain in my back was unbearable. I was very hunched over and this was putting a great deal of stress on my back. I was able to get into some strange contortions to relieve some of the stress. So I did this contorted walk as often as I was able, which was not so much, to prevent blood clots. Walking also helped condition the abdominal muscles. I had been warned by several healthcare professionals that the muscles would be stiff if I did not move around and that I would later regret it.
My surgeon told me that it was important to take deep breaths. Many patients take shallow breaths because deep breathing can be painful. This can result in the air sacs of the lungs not fully inflating and that can lead to pneumonia.
I had no pain whatsoever deep breathing. None-the-less, I developed an intermittent cough. For some reason, I was getting a tickle in my throat and a build-up of phlegm. Just clearing my throat was painful. Coughing was horrible!
I would try like crazy to find anything to keep from coughing. My husband bought cough drops for me. I sucked on these. I drank lots of water. I drank hot tea. I eliminated phlegm-producing foods from my meals (dairy, orange juice). But to no avail, I would cough!
The surgeon told me to hug a pillow when I coughed to absorb some of the pain. It did not help. Have you seen the movie, Alien? Remember the "chestbuster" scene in which the alien comes out of the guy's chest at the dinner table? Well, that is the visual that popped into my head when I coughed. Yeah, it felt that bad, except the pain was in my abdomen. Nothing eased the pain except finally coughing up and expelling the phlegm. It was awful.
The phlegm was discolored and I was concerned that I'd gotten an infection. The last thing I wanted to be doing after abdominal surgery was coughing or sneezing. Not only is the pain excruciating, but also coughing or sneezing can disrupt the vertical suture line where the muscles have been tightened.
My primary care physician had strongly advised that I clear all allergens from my home and be religious in taking my allergy medications pre and post op. I was glad that I had followed her instruction. And I would add to that not to be exposed to anyone with an upper respiratory infection for the 6 weeks following surgery. Six weeks is when most patients can resume normal activity, including exercise and sex.
Each time I feel the tickle building in my throat, I begin to "sweat bullets" (figuratively speaking). In my mind I see myself on the edge of a precipice and the wind is blowing. I am trying to do all that I can not to fall into the abyss. But ultimately I cough -- over the edge of the cliff I go.
Continue to part 10 of this article.