Home From the Hospital
You can't do it alone
When you first come home from the hospital, you will need some help for the first 10 days to two weeks. I am very independent in my thinking and wanted very badly to recover at home all by myself. I learned that would be a mistake. When you go through an RC and are released from the hospital, even though the surgery may be a great success, you do not go right home and live happily ever after. What lies ahead is no walk in the park. I found I needed a walker for the few weeks...among other things. Please note below other items I found helpful during my recovery.
In the beginning, you will find yourself weak and unsure and unsteady after all that has happened to you. You will need care and attention from a family member, friend, or medical assistant….at least for the first week or 10 days after arriving home. Others will need to help you with your dressings, your food, etc….and getting you back to the doctor for follow-up visits. Pay close attention to the instructions given to you by the hospital and if you have concerns, contact them immediately. Any sign of fever, vomiting or unexpected pain could be a sign of infection and should not be ignored.
Abdominal Muscles Are Very Weak
If possible have a hand rail or a bed side table available ...you will want to use your arms to pull yourself up into a sitting position and to help lower yourself onto the bed. It takes months for those abdominal muscles to recover - so go easy! Forget lifting anything more than a few pounds for the first few weeks. A bed side table is good to hold any medical supplies you might need….to include a small lamp, flash light, chap stick, throat spray or cough drops, a bottle of water.
If you have a couch, recliner or another bed you can use…all the better as it affords you a change of scenery and will give you some variety as far as comfort goes. You will need lots of naps. And to be safe, keep a waterproof pad or heavy towel underneath your lower half when laying down or sleeping. If you have a favorite blankee or Teddy…take it with you to the couch and make yourself as comfy as possible. A friend brought me a stuffed bear when I was at the hospital for my RC and that bear stayed with me throughout the remainder of my recovery. Don't worry about what others might think....this is "your" time to do what you need to do for you.
New, Improved Diet
Eat lightly and cautiously. Easy to digest foods are key. Forget fast foods and your favorite burger…at least for the next few weeks. The intestines are not happy that they have been disturbed and they will rebel. The pain meds often cause constipation and so the last thing you need is to put too much food or the wrong kind of food into the digestive tract.
Foods that go down easy and provide some protein are best…. Smoothies, eggs, hot cereals, yogurt, mashed potatoes, cooked veggies, apple sauce, peanut butter (smooth not crunchy), and bananas were some of my choices. Of course, if constipation or diarrhea is a problem, the hospital should have sent you home with pills to aid with either situation. I preferred to take some off the shelf fiber product, fish oil capsules, and magnesium citrate and so seldom needed a stool softener. And drink, drink, drink! Lots of fluids are essential to your recovery, especially sufficient amounts of water.
Up And About
You won’t feel like moving much when first arriving home from the hospital but its very important to walk….even if you are using a walker. You will heal faster and feel better if you can be mobile. If you don't want to get a walker via your insurance, you can often find one at the Thrift stores, along with canes as well. If it is nice enough weather, take a walk and get some fresh air but have someone accompany you and only go a short distance. The first week maybe try to walk half a block and back, week two try for the end of the block and back. In the beginning you will tire easily so progress at your own speed. Continue to set goals for yourself. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can't get outside, travel around the inside of the house. If you have stairs, even those can be conquered as long as you proceed slow and carefully.
My insurance paid for a physical therapist to visit me the first few weeks. I was amazed at how difficult it was to do even the most simple of exercises in the beginning of my therapy. He would visit twice a week and offer new exercises to help me get my muscles back to work. It took me a good month before I was able to walk around the entire block by myself and without feeling winded. When I was finally able to walk around the block by myself, I felt like a kid who had just mastered a new skill. Celebrate the simple accomplishments!
Make your Follow-Up Appointments
Following your RC, the doctor will have you scheduled for follow up visits to inspect your incision and see how you are doing. Be sure to make those appointments. If the surgeon used staples, those will be removed if they weren’t removed at the hospital. Then the various tubes and the Foley catheter that you went home with will be removed. Thank heavens! And finally, the nurse will show you how to catherize yourself if you are an Indy Pouch owner.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to catherize myself, but I was wrong. I took to that procedure like a pro. It just felt very natural to me. In the beginning it may seem like a real chore because the experience is so unfamiliar to you, but over time, it will become second nature to you.
Buy Yourself a Battery Alarm Clock
Get yourself a cheap alarm clock or use your cell phone and carry with you throughout the house. When you first begin cathing yourself, you will probably be told to empty your new pouch every two hours for the first week you are cathing. Now that is a challenge. Challenging because you are still working to get comfortable using this new tool to empty your new bladder, and because after awhile you will feel very sleep deprived. It is tough but doable....somewhat like caring for a brand new baby.
After the first week, you will be slowly extending the time between cathing, allowing the new bladder or reservoir to gradually enlarge. You don’t want to over stretch the bladder when it’s new so it’s important to keep track of how often you empty. The doctor will most likely have you recording your liquid intake and amounts you void to ensure progress is taking place as it should.
There will be mucus….it's natural to see mucus as it’s the job of the intestines to produce mucus….so don’t freak out. If you indulge in dairy products you are very likely to see more of it but using sterile water to irrigate the pouch will help to break it up. Upon discharge you should been given catheters and sterile water along with other medical supplies you need for caring for your new pouch. As time moves forward and you learn more about your new urinary system, you’ll discover how various foods and drinks will affect the flow and quality of your urine. I found it helpful to drink a glass of cranberry juice daily and still do. Always important to take in sufficient water to help keep the system operating at it's best.
To learn about how I maintain my system….please see the "Indiana Pouch" tab of my website. Feel free to contact me via my website email if you have questions I might help you answer.