My top tips for happy SRS

Before surgery

  • You will probably move way up the waiting list if you have your letters and money in hand and have a flexible schedule.
  • Try to schedule at least four weeks off work for recovery. Six would be ideal.
  • Schedule a non-stop flight home if possible.
  • Pack light.

Surgery/recovery

  • Chill the bowel prep.
  • Put a detangler in your hair the morning of surgery to avoid knots later.
  • Hit the pain button as often as you can remember.
  • Use the incentive spirometer every time they take your vitals, and after each meal or dilation.
  • Try to shift your weight from side to side the first couple of days to take pressure off your butt.
  • If antibiotics make you nauseated, you might consider Cipro over Keflex.
  • You may want to supplement the prescription stool softener with an approved laxative, or a lot of prune juice and sugar. Constipation is a common problem from the general anesthesia and from not moving much.
  • Order all of the juices on the menu selections and drink a lot of liquids.
  • Walk as much as you can. It helps in healing and restarting your digestive system.

Post-op maintenance

  • Take demerol prior to removal of packing, sutures, and before travel home. Be sure to take pain meds with food if you're prone to nausea.
  • Use the premarin cream applicator (or any other applicator) to insert lube prior to dilating if you're having problems. See my dilating article.
  • Relax your leg muscles as much as possible during dilation. Spreading your legs may actually make it harder.
  • If you are about to sneeze during dilation, try to remove the dilator quickly, but do not attempt to hold it in place during a sneeze.
  • After douching, bear down a bit with your abdomen muscles. This can help push remaining water out.
  • Go without underwear as much as possible the first few weeks.
  • Take extra care of abdominal suture sites, which are visible and take a long time to heal.

Leaving the hospital/at home

  • Ship any excess stuff (dirty clothes, gifts) to yourself if you don't want to carry much home.
  • Begin packing early the day before you leave.
  • At home, dilate on a cloth towel with paper towels directly under you. See related article.

More reader tips

  • If you're staying in the hospital after surgery, get a "Do Not Disturb" sign for your room as soon as you change status to VIP. I like my privacy (my surgery was only known to my partner and closest of friends, the rest thought I was in for "back trouble"), and it keeps crazy nurses and other patients at bay. At the very least, it makes everyone who is planning to visit your room *think* before they knock.
  • Once you're on your catheter (not a pleasant week), ask as soon as you are able to get a catheter plug so that you can be mobile without having to drag the bag around with you. The caveat to this is that you have to swear to manually unplug the catheter and drain your bladder every 2 hours in order to prevent urine buildup and possible infection. Generally, I found that after having a catheter plugged for an hour or two, I felt the need to use the bathroom and would do so anyway.
  • Be sure to get all specific information regarding taking care of your catheter. The nurses forgot to mention how to clean and maintain the tubing (especially while I was roaming around with it plugged), and finally clued me in to a lot of information two days before it was scheduled to be removed.
  • Buy or bring a hot water kettle (about a $10 investment) - You can then boil water for tea and coffee without having to leave your room for the cafeteria or relying on the nursing staff.
  • Right after my surgery, all I wanted to do was sleep. However, the nurses kept coming in every two hours to check vitals, wake me up, and generally irritate me. Dr. Meltzer can change your orders so that they check in with you every 4 hours during the first few days, and I found it much less invasive to my peace of mind and privacy.
  • Ear plugs are an absolute MUST. You'll be surrounded by equipment that is clicking and whirring, nurses having long conversations in the hallway outside your door, and general hospital noise. They help you sleep better.
  • Dr. Meltzer's staff, even the ones who appear a little too touchy-feely, are absolute angels. They will help you solve every problem, and will readily listen to you regarding your medical concerns. Don't be afraid to tell them how you feel -- that's what they're there for, and they're much better paid than the hospital nurses.
  • Be sure to keep several large bottles of water around you at all times. You'll be drinking like crazy, and not necessarily have the stomach for stronger beverages.
  • Dr. Meltzer has informed me that the Vitamin-E healing thing is a myth. DO NOT apply Vitamin-E to your sutures or take large quantities of this vitamin while you're healing, it will actually impede the healing process.
  • Bring a tube of hydrocortisone because those disposable panties gave me an awful rash and itchiness that turned into some nasty sores and made laying on my back terribly uncomfortable. After a couple of days, Dr. Meltzer's nurse advised me to just ditch them. I was much more comfortable but my ice pack got kind of gross. I also needed to apply hydrocortisone cream in the area around the abdominal retention sutures.
  • If you have the space in your suitcase, I'd highly recommend bringing an eggshell pad to put under your sheets. The hospital beds are very uncomfortable and I'm sure it would help. If I didn't have the space, it would still be well worth the price to buy one in Portland and leave it there.
  • Bring an extension cord for any appliances that you may need in the bathroom (i.e. hair dryer). There are no outlets in the bathroom and the mirror is not directly facing the doorway. If you plan on wearing makeup when you go out, a self standing mirror will allow you to get ready while sitting in bed.