Preparing For Surgery

Surgery - September 30, 2012

One of the most nerve wracking times in one's life can be the days just before and after undergoing surgery. It doesn't really matter if it is a major procedure involving an inpatient hospital stay or if it is basic outpatient procedure in a clinic or surgery center, most of us are anxious about it. Going under general anesthesia and having your body cut open even a little bit is scary. Having been through multiple surgical procedures both big and small myself as well as supporting my husband and clients through this process many times, these are some helpful tips I've picked up along the way.

I think it goes without saying but I will remind you that the most important thing to do is follow whatever advice the doctors and nurses give you for pre-surgery preparation and post surgery recovery. Prepare for your pre-surgery appointment by creating a list of questions in advance. (See my prior post about how to prepare.) Make sure you take notes and if possible record the conversation with the doctor. Following all the clinical instructions you are given is hands down the most important thing you can do to ensure your surgery is as successful and comfortable as possible.

The day before your procedure, I've found that it is helpful to do a walk though of your home and rearrange furniture to make your recovery space more safe and comfortable. Create a clear and accessible path from your bed to the nearest bathroom. Remove rugs and any other potential tripping hazards. If you will be using crutches, a wheelchair or walker make sure you do a trial run to get from the bed to the bathroom and from the front door to your bedroom. When you first arrive home after your surgery you will likely be tired and it will be a relief to easily go directly to your bed to rest.

It is a good idea to have a white board or other chart set up to list your prescription medications. Having a chart showing the names and times each medication is due is a simple and effective way to manage your recovery at home. Sometimes you can get your post surgery prescriptions in advance of the surgery; if possible, get them filled and the chart created in advance. The less you have to do when you are in recovery the easier things will be.

Finally it is important to bring a buddy with you on your surgery day. Having someone with you during your pre-surgery discussions with the doctors and during the discharge process is imperative. Most patients are anxious and/or nervous and this can often preoccupy your mind. You may miss important details in the instructions they give you or you may not think of follow up questions on the spot. Having someone there to keep track of things and remind you to ask questions is very helpful. There is an important reason why hospitals and surgery centers will not allow a patient to drive themselves or take a cab home after a procedure, they know that patients are just not physically or mentally 100% right after surgery. So please make sure you have a family member, friend or professional assistant with you to support you during those first critical hours.