I didn't tell you ahead of time, but if you follow me on Facebook, you would have seen that I went in for my gastric sleeve surgery last Thursday, April 6. I was in the hospital for three days and two nights, and I have now been home for two full days.
When I first woke up in recovery, I was in severe pain. My friend, Robyn, told me that it was about the same as having gall bladder surgery, which I have also had. This may be the case, but my gall bladder surgery was twelve years ago and I clearly didn't remember. I begged for pain medicine, and they gave me everything they could, but it didn't touch the pain.
I couldn't get comfortable once I was in my room, either. I tried sitting up in the recliner, I tried reclining, I tried laying in the bed, I tried sitting in the bed. Everything hurt, particularly my back. I learned the next morning that back pain is the result of the gas they use to fill up your guts during surgery.
My surgery wasn't until almost 3 in the afternoon, so there wasn't much left to the day by the time I was done and in my room. I dozed on and off while Joe watched me anxiously.
The nurse came in to give me my meds shortly after I was in my room. She gave me an 8-ounce bottle of water with 4 pills. I swallowed the first 2 pills with a gulp of water, and it burned all the way down my throat (normal from anesthesia) and then made me completely nauseous. And the burning got worse. Everything hurt severely. I refused to take the other pills. I didn't care if they were going to cure every ailment in my life; I wasn't going through that pain again.
I slept fitfully through that first night. I would sleep for thirty minutes and then wake up for ten or fifteen minutes. This repeated all through the night. I harassed the nurse endlessly - my gown got wet from the ice packs I had on my belly, I needed pain meds, I had to go pee. I forget what else I needed, but I was constantly needy.
I eventually found a comfortable position in the bed, and I was able to sleep about three hours before the nurse's aide came in to take my vitals again.
I had to take more pills in the morning, again with an 8-ounce bottle of water. The first couple hurt quite a bit, but I waited a few minutes and got the rest down. When I looked at the water, I realized I'd drunk over 4 ounces of water in about 10 minutes, a huge no-no from my surgeon's office! I was only supposed to drink 1 ounce of water every half hour.
A little while later, the nurse from the Weight Loss Center came in, and she scolded me for drinking so much. I was feeling pretty terrible again by that point, and she said it was no wonder. She said I should only have taken one pill every 10 minutes and space them out with much less water to wash them down.
I tried sipping my clear liquids for the rest of the morning, but they started to make me nauseous and I quit. The doctor told me not to force it. They don't want you throwing up!
The nurse had disconnected me from the IV which ended up being problematic. The doctor had me hooked back up to it in the afternoon because he was concerned about me getting dehydrated. I was able to drink a little water, so that helped, but it wasn't enough to keep me going.
All day long, the nurses asked me if I wanted to go home or stay an extra night. I wasn't able to drink the clear liquid protein drink reliably, and the doctor thought I should stay until I could.
I slept better the second night having found a much more comfortable position with a pillow wedged under my big belly. It didn't pull so much then.
The third morning, I was able to take my pills very slowly with sips of my clear liquid protein drink. I could feel them going down and landing in my stomach, but it didn't hurt or make me sick this time. I was also able to drink the protein drink by this time and got through a whole 8 ounces of it in just under the recommended 4 hours.
I was allowed to go home by 2 in the afternoon. I felt pretty good by that time, and I was not having any nausea or pain that was uncontrolled by the pain meds.
Riding in the car hurt a lot! Every turn and bump made my belly wince. I won't be going anywhere in the car for a long while, maybe not even until my follow up appointment with the surgeon. I'm not going through that again willingly. I'll just stay home.
I really wanted to nap my days away, but I can't because I have to sip enough fluids every day to keep myself hydrated. I have allowed myself to take a nice nap after lunch both days I've been home. It definitely cuts into my drinking, but I feel so much better after.
Since I've been home, I have been sitting in the recliner (the dining room chairs which I normally like make my belly pull and hurt), sipping protein drinks, and talking to the girls. Joe helped me a lot on Saturday and Sunday, and my sister came over to help with the girls when Joe went to work. It helped tremendously that I didn't have to make their breakfast and lunch today.
I moved from clear liquids to full liquids one meal ahead of schedule. I was supposed to wait until Monday morning to start, but my belly was grumbling and gurgling and feeling generally bad all yesterday afternoon. I decided to try a protein pudding, made very thin, and see how it would sit. Not only did it sit just fine, it stopped the grumbling and made me feel much better.
Now, I am on full liquids which means protein shakes, milk, thin pudding, popsicles, and stuff like that. Everything has to be sugar-free and low-calorie, which I am getting used to even though I thought that would be hard.
Last night, I dreamt all night about food and Mountain Dew. I ate thick slices of deep dish pizza and hot sub sandwiches packed with meats and cheeses and those hot yellow pepper slices. I washed it down with all the fizzy, delicious Dew I could drink. It makes me hungry just to think of the decadence.
I guess the dreams are my body's way of dealing with the sudden removal of all the good stuff I love to eat. My therapist said all that "good stuff" is what was keeping me fat, and I would have to adjust to my new life without it. I see that she is exactly right.
It is hard to get in all the protein and water I need, so I have been working on that as much as I can. My chest and stomach feel tight most of the time, and the sensations of eating and drinking are strange and sometimes almost painful.
I wanted to give you a full update since so many of you emailed or commented after my earlier bariatric surgery posts. Comment below with your thoughts and questions.
Looking for other updates? See the whole series here.
I have been considering this surgery for awhile. I am absolutely terrified. I'm a single mom and the only driver in the house. So I know that I'll have to have a better support system if I'm go through with this. Thank you for your honesty Tara. Praying for you as you continue your journey
Tara Ziegmont says
I think a support system is critical. At a basic level, you can't drive yourself home from the hospital. But beyond that, it is hard to accomplish everything you want to accomplish in the days after surgery. You need to rest and recover and not worry about everything else.
Glad to hear your feeling better. John had the gastric bypass sx 6 yrs ago and lost a third of his weight, or as my mother put it "he lost a person". His sx was uncomplicated. Recovery did take some time and the biggest struggle was getting all the necessary nutrients and protein in when your intake is so little. I have been thinking about you and your family and just wanted to reach out. Blessingsâ™¡
Tara Ziegmont says
Thank you Monica. I know complications are common with these kinds of surgeries, and I feel very fortunate to not have had any so far. Hopefully I won't!
Missi Parr says
So glad everything went well. A suggestion to use for your fluids is use a medicine cup. Fill it with how much you are allowed to have every half hour. When its empty you know you have to wait for dmore and set an alarm clock to remind you. If you need anything please let me know.
Tara Ziegmont says
I was doing that when I could only have 1-2 ounces every half hour. I think it helped a lot. Now I am supposed to drink 4-6 ounces every half hour. I made a sharpie mark on a glass to make it easier, but I'm having trouble getting it all down in that time period.
Praying for your recovery. I am in the precertification phases for gastric sleeve and find your posts very helpful and inspirational. I'm beginning my third month of doctor supervised weight loss and go for my psych eval next week. I'm very nervous, but hearing about your experience is helpful. And this surgery is necessary in order to create a better quality of life for me and the kiddos. I hope you continue to post about your experience. Prayers!
Tara Ziegmont says
Thank you Lisa! You will do great! Even though my post went out today, I actually wrote it on Monday. Today is seven days post surgery, and I am feeling good - as long as I keep something in my stomach. I know they say that you aren't supposed to get hungry after surgery, but I have found that my stomach hurts when it is empty. I'm sure that will go away as I heal. I've still only had two bad days - those first two in the hospital - and I can already see a noticeable weight loss. I'm really encouraged and glad I took this step for myself and my family. Good luck!
Robyn Wright says
I'm sorry you hurt more than what it sounded like I meant. You are on your way though! Each day will get easier. The dreams about food will fade also, don't worry. everyone struggles with getting enough water and protein in at the beginning, again don't worry, you will get there. Love you bunches and sending lots of positive thoughts!
Tara Ziegmont says
I think it was just because my gall bladder surgery was so long ago. I don't remember it being bad at all. Even if the pain was worse this time, it was only for a very short time. I'm still glad I did it! <3