So, part of the reason for documenting my gastric sleeve journey was my experience of a prolonged hospital stay and relatively slow recovery. I found it difficult to find information or stories that I could relate to. Either there were stories that read like posters/adverts for gastric sleeve surgery with people up and about really quickly and back at work in 2 weeks, or they were doom and gloom stories about the complications from the procedure, and near death experiences from leaking stomachs.
I was on neither end of that spectrum, and I just wasn’t sure whether my experiences were common or not. That’s why I’m relaying my own experience in enough detail that it might help others feel less alone.
So after a gastric sleeve operation, the usual stay in hospital is 2 nights. I had to stay in hospital for 5 nights, and 6 days.
The Hospital Stay
As I said in my Operation Day post, I had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic, causing pretty bad vomiting, so I found it extremely hard to keep down fluids. Initially, the medical team kept me hydrated intravenously, but in order for me to be discharged and go home, I needed to drink at least 1.5 lures of fluids via my mouth, and to be able to take my painkillers orally. It felt impossible, but with the support, care, and encouragement of my medical team, I finally got there. Here is a brief run down of my days in hospital:
Operation day – The day of the operation was a blur. I was in the recovery room for double the time others usually are. I was in and out of sleep, and vomiting a lot. See my Operation Day post for more info.
Day 1 post op – I was under observation every 2 hours (temperature check, blood pressure check, glucose check) including throughout the night. My bad reaction to the anaesthetic and morphine, left me either shivering cold, or sweating. I felt a little sore at the site of the incision when I needed to go to the bathroom. I slept a lot.
Day 2 post op – The 2 hourly observations were leaving my sleep deprived and tired. My oxygen tube was out, and as my medical team changed my painkillers from morphine to paracetamol, I was less shivery than the previous day. I tried to drink some water, but couldn’t manage more than a few sips. I was still sleepy, and was feeling a bit of stiffness in my body.
Day 3 post op – This was probably my grumpiest time in hospital. My IV cannula had moved in the night, and so fluids had gotten into my skin and muscle tissues instead of my bloodstream, which made me swell up. The nurses quickly fixed it and moved my IV to my other arm. My veins are a nightmare to find so I had epic bruises up my arm. I could manage a glass of water now, but it’s only 250ml – only one fifth of what I needed to be drinking. On the upside, I didn’t feel hungry at all.
Day 4 post op – I started feeling less fuzzy, and my nurses encouraged me to venture on a walk down the corridor of the ward. I wasn’t feeling pain or soreness, but the nausea lingered still, and waves of weakness would hit me because I had little or no calories going in me. My medical team pushed me to drink more – telling me to aim for a glass of water every 2 hours. I really wanted to go home, so took up the challenge. One of my nurses said to try breathing in very deeply when I felt the nausea coming, and this really helped me overcome the wretching. I think my daughter coming to spend the day helped too 🙂 I was motivated to come home!
Day 5 post op – I really thought I’d be discharged, but I’d managed to drink 1L of fluids in the previous 24 hours, and Professor Patel (my surgeon) wanted me to stay one more night to avoid any kidney problems once I got home. So I had to drink more, and was able to walk slowly along the ward. Around 30 feet of walking before I’d get dizzy. I was allowed some clear soup, and managed 1 table spoon – ooooohhh. Golden vegetable soup hadn’t tasted so good! Lol.
Day 6 post op – 1.5 L of water drank? Check. Painkillers taken orally? Check. Can walk more than the length of the ward? Check. Finally, my medical team were letting me go home! I was told that soon as my discharge notes, and my medicines from the pharmacy were processed I could go home. Come 3pm, and finally I had a bag of pills, and the ok to go home. Yay!
There was no sudden magic (other than the relief of a hot water bottle and my own bed) in coming home. It was still hard to drink, and trying to take 15 tablets a day was an ordeal! I was sleepy, dizzy, nauseous, and generally quite out of it. Unpacking my iPad, I realised I didn’t even watch any of the movies I’d downloaded. I guess I was still pretty fuzzy from the surgery…
I had known when I got home, I’d be on a liquid diet for 3 weeks, so I’d stocked up on soups, clear liquid drinks, and my mum stayed over to help out – and goodness did I need the help!
So, I was begging the question: Who were all these perky Americans in online forums who were ‘going to the store by day 3’?! I just couldn’t relate!