Monday, January 13, 2014

Preparing for battle: What you will need

Coming out of heart surgery things are going to work a bit differently.  As your breast bone is healing it will be difficult to move your arms certain ways and your chest may feel sore.  You will also have limited mobility (getting better every day!) but for the time when you move more slowly you will need to have a few things lined up to help with daily tasks.  Finally, you will be uncomfortable for a bit and it is important that you make sure you are as comfortable as you can be.  Before my surgery I spoke with other women who had gone through the same thing (through the ACHA Zipper Sister page on Facebook) and found their advice on what I would need very helpful.  I want to share that with you so that if you know someone who is preparing for OHS surgery, or if you are preparing for it yourself, you can be prepared and ready to come out strong and be comfortable on the road to recovery!

What you will need:

  • For the first couple of days out of the hospital you are going to want to have pajama days all the time!  However, due to your limited arm mobility (and wanting to lessen the discomfort as much as possible) its best to have a few pairs of pajamas that are button up on hand.  While your body is figuring out its body temperature (your brain was cooled a bit while in surgery) you will get randomly hot sometimes, but also randomly cold.  I found I was happier in long sleeves and long pants, but nothing with flannel or fleece.  
  • A FAN!  As mentioned above, your body is slowly adjusting to its normal temperature and for the first two weeks you are on a roller coaster of body temperatures.  I was most comfortable having a fan close by so I could manipulate my body temperature like I wanted it, as it would change on a dime!
  • A recliner and a bunch of pillows is the next most important supplies. For the first two weeks its tough to get out of bed and off the couch. So many times I had to be "fork lifted" from the cracks in the sofa. Because you can't use your hands or arms to get up you need really, really, really strong abs to get through it (I don't even know if its possible then!) If you want to avoid the fork lift and getting stuck like a beached whale, use a recliner or a bunch of pillows to make sure you are at an angle when laying down.  This will enable you to get up on your own and will be much more comfortable in the long run.  
  • If you are a woman like me, you will need some comfortable bras.  Loose sports bras and bras with no under wire are the best because they will not irritate the scar and will not put too much pressure on the chest in the first couple of weeks.  These keep you comfortable and make sure not to hurt the healing scar!
  • One or two button up shirts are something you can consider adding to your pre-surgery shopping list.  They will be helpful if you want to go on an outing in the first two weeks after you get home.  Easy to button up and very comfortable is what you are looking in.  Flannel is really in right now and was my go-to. 
  • A neck pillow was often suggested when I was going through this.  I did get one and for sleeping in a recliner and in uncomfortable places, it was wonderful.  The only negative was that mine was memory foam.  Memory foam is great if you do not feel like a menopausal woman.  However, after coming out of surgery my neck pillow was sure to heat me up in no time and make me feel miserable.  If you go for a neck pillow, do not use memory foam!
  • A small pillow is perfect for riding in the car and a great friend when you have to laugh, cough or sneeze. (Do not make the mistake I did and watch any Chevy Chase movies within the first week of being home. If you do, you will make GREAT friends with the pillow!)  You can see mine in a few previous posts (I had the most darling cases designed for me by my aunt to make it more enjoyable).  This pillow really is my number one suggestion.  It didn't stretch my arms too far out to the side and made any activity WAY more comfortable.  
  • Finally, if you do not already have an accurate scale and thermometer it would be good to invest.  You will need to weigh yourself and take your temperature every day after the surgery in order to ensure that you are not getting a fever over 101 degrees and are not gaining more than 2-5 pounds in a day.  We didn't have either before the surgery, but invested soon after. 
These are the supplies I found most helpful for the surgery and they made a huge difference in the comfort of the recovery.  The good news is, after a few weeks these will no longer be necessary! I hope this is helpful.  If you have had the surgery and have additional advice feel free to comment below.  If you have any questions feel free to do the same!

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