You have finally done it! Surgery! Now it is time for recovery. Most patients cannot wait to resume life the way they've been used to- we get it. Here are some tips you DO NOT WANT TO DO after sugery:
- Stay in Bed: As soon as you're cleared to move around, do it. People are often worried or scared about it, "but one of the most important things after an operation is to get mobile," Whiteson says. Lying in bed can trigger a host of problems -- blood clots, pressure ulcers, pulmonary embolisms, and weakening of your muscles. Even if you feel tired, resist the urge to sleep it off. When you move around it actually shakes off fatigue. It also speeds digestion. Your bowels may be sluggish after surgery, but a little physical activity helps wake up your gut again, Whiteson says.
- Don't Take Your Meds as Prescribed: You may shrug off pain medication because you heard it's addictive or it makes you constipated, nauseous, or woozy. But skimping on your medicine isn't smart. Pain can sometimes interfere with your sleep, appetite, and ability to get around, Whiteson says. And that can make it harder for your body to heal. Ultimately, the goal is to get off medication, but not before you're ready.
- Don't Get Enough Food or Drink: If you feel queasy or haven't moved your bowels, it's only natural that you may not be in the mood to eat or drink. But it's important to "refuel." Food gives your muscles energy and fluids keep you hydrated. When you don't get enough, your recovery can stall.
- Skip Rehab: A lot of people think they can tough it out on their own, Whiteson says, but it's important to work with a physical therapist. One or two sessions before you leave the hospital may be good enough after some types of surgery. But if you had a major operation, physical therapy is key. It can help you get stronger and recover safely. Take it seriously. Keep your appointments and do your at-home exercises.
- Go Back to Work Too Soon: Like Saggio, you may be tempted to return to your job ASAP. But don't give in. "I've seen plenty of people try to do work while they're still in the hospital -- with a computer and cell phone," Whiteson says. "They're not coherent, let alone able to make good decisions." Plan in advance for time off and ask your doctor when you can return.
- Drive Before You're Ready: If your doctor tells you not to get behind the wheel -- whether it's for 2 weeks or 2 months -- it's for a good reason. Your reaction time may be slower and you could get into an accident. Until you're ready to handle it, get lifts from a friend or family member. Or ask them to do your errands for you.
- Quit Your Breathing Exercises: If you've had surgery on your belly, heart, lung, or spine, your doctor may give you exercises to help your lungs recover from anesthesia, the medicine that kept you pain-free during the operation. "Doing breathing exercises is very, very important," Whiteson says. It expands your lungs and removes mucus that gathers there. Don't quit until your doctor says you can stop. To keep your recovery humming along, follow your doctor's directions. As Saggio knows well, taking things into your own hands can slow down the healing. "I was a little stoic. I definitely rushed my recovery," he says. Next time, perhaps, he'll take that extra week off.