Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goodbye, Frankenbelly!

This whole surgery recovery has gone much more smoothly than I expected. One item I've struggled with though is the stupid staples. My surgery was done the old school "open" way, meaning I have an incision that runs from a few inches below my bra line down past my belly button. It was stapled closed, as I assume is the norm for that type of incision. I guess I didn't realize there would be staples until they told me I had them. I pretty instantly made up my mind that I didn't want to see them. Ever. Just the thought of them stapling my stomach together makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. I actually had a nightmare about it while I was in the hospital, but that could be from all the drugs I was on at the time.

I did eventually have to see the staples. A lovely ET nurse came in to change me out of the pouch they put on me in surgery and also to change the dressings. I tried really hard not to look, but she wanted me to see something about my stoma, so I had to. It looked like I had a giant zipper down the middle of my belly. I got a little woozy just looking at it and I told her as much, so she tried to keep it covered while we did the rest of what needed to be done. I told the next couple of ET nurses that came in that I really did not like seeing the staples, so they tried to keep them covered up for me while they were working with my stoma. They were very compassionate about the whole thing. I think they were just relieved that I didn't have any issues seeing or working with the stoma. I'm sure they see that a lot.

Enter home health nurse Molly. She is fairly young and mostly chipper. I told her right off the bat about my staple phobia and she also catered to my wimpy request to try and keep them so I wouldn't see them. We went through two pouch changes successfully and she was very good to me and kept things covered. She also didn't laugh when I covered my eyes with a pillow so she could change the dressings. (Note: I did actually do one dressing change myself when I decided I *needed* a shower because I was too disgusting to keep doing the sponge bath thing. It was not easy or pretty, but I did it)

Well, today was a big day for Molly and I as it was staple removal day. I asked her to call me a half hour before she came over so I could take a Vicodin. She remembered and called me this morning to tell me she was on her way. Molly kept telling me during her last visit that taking the staples out wasn't going to hurt, but I couldn't believe her as much as I wanted to. We got things started by taking off my old pouch and wafer and cleaning up the area around my stoma. Then I went back to my old pillow over the eyes trick and Molly went to work on removing the staples. I could feel a slight bit of pressure and then she said, "The first one is done." I couldn't believe it! It didn't hurt at all. So much time invested in worrying and being nervous and I barely felt a thing. She kept working and I kept my face under the pillow. There were two around my belly button that felt a little pinchy, but never anything I would call painful. Then, we were finished. Molly is a rock star and I told her that while she was putting the steri-strips on my incision. They will be on there until they fall off, probably another week or so. We finished things up by getting the new pouch and wafer ready and putting it on. I felt really relieved to have that all over with.

The plan is to have Molly come back on Friday. I will set things up in the bathroom and make a run at changing the pouch all by myself for the first time. I know all the steps and how to get things ready, but this will be the first time that I do it on my own. Assuming I do a good job, I will graduate from home health care and then I'm on my own unless I have problems that warrant a call to the ET nurses up in Cleveland. It's kind of exciting to be moving on to the next chapter in my recovery. I feel like I'm adapting well to life with the ileostomy and I'm definitely grateful to be feeling healthier than I have in years. I still get tired pretty easily, but I know that's just part of recovering from major surgery and it will get better as the days go by.

Speaking of recovery: I am now able to walk one mile on the treadmill without stopping. I feel really good about this. I need to get a regular exercise routine back in place, especially since I went back to Weight Watchers tonight. I officially lost 13 pounds while I was away from meetings for surgery and recovery. I feel good about that number. It was originally more like 20, but I made an effort to put a little back on because I was feeling pretty weak and run down. I am 39 pounds away from my desired goal weight right now. I want to take that off by October and I'm confident that I can do it. It will definitely be easier when I can start running again, but I have to be patient. My short term goal is to walk one mile every day. A little longer term is to be ready to walk two miles at a decent pace in time to re-join my training group on May 21st. I know I can do it!

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