Surgery

Post Surgery Tips on Recovering at Home



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I'm not a doctor, but I'm in a unique situation to be able to offer tips on surgery: I've had 17 orthopedic surgeries, some more serious than others - including two total knee replacements and two total hip replacements.

After any major surgery, there is a point at which you will be discharged from the hospital and sent home. Depending on the type of surgery and your condition, you may be set up with home health or home physical therapy for a couple of weeks, but in general at this point you are on your own. You'll need the support and help of family and friends to get through this time safely.

Hopefully you have a spouse, roommate, close friend or other loved one who can stay with you during the time when you still need a lot of care. But that person may not be able to stay with you for 24 hours a day. That's why the "nest" concept is helpful.

I live in a single-story apartment, in which I've created a "nest" on a comfortable couch close to the only bathroom, with everything I needed within close reach. If you have a two-story house or townhome, consider setting up a "headquarters" downstairs so that you don't have to deal with stairs for the first few days. If you don't have a guest room, put a daybed in an office or other spare room. If you have a big, comfortable couch, you can even set up there like I did. Just be sure you are sitting high enough up to make getting up and down from the bed/couch/etc. as easy as possible.

If your surgery is such that you have any trouble walking, or you must use a walker or crutches, ask friends and family to move and arrange your furniture and rugs to give you a clear path from your bedroom or other "nest" area to the bathroom and kitchen. Make sure this path is free of any electrical wires, toys left by children or pets, etc.

Some suggestions of things to keep close to you:

o Footstool
o Cushions and pillows
o Blanket or throw
o Ice packs
o Walker
o Reacher
o Books and magazines
o Snacks
o TV remote
o Bottled water
o Medicines
o Phone
o Bell (to ring for attention)

These tips are all based on my experiences with surgery on my lower legs - surgery that made it very hard to walk. Some of these items might not be quite as crucial if you have surgery above the waist. But I believe that the most crucial items here are almost universal: the reacher, water, medicine and phone. If you have these items, you should be OK for a couple of hours if your caregiver has to leave to run an errand. If you feel sick or faint, if you fall while trying to get to the bathroom, etc., you will definitely want to have that phone handy to call for help!

Two additional tips as you recuperate at home:
*Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family want to be useful and help you. Don't overdo it or possibly hurt yourself by trying to do activities that others would gladly perform, like bringing you meals.
*Similarly - don't be afraid to call your doctor's office if you don't feel right. Sometimes people feel, when they go home from the hospital, that they aren't "supposed" or "allowed" to call the doctor again. If your incision looks infected, if you have a high fever, if you can't sleep or have severe pain - don't hesitate to call the doctor's office and at least let them know what's going on.

I find that so many surgery patients worry about being a bother to others. I can't say it enough: people are happy to help. So sit back, relax and focus your energy on healing!

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