From Where I Sit – Getting Better

In the continuing saga of my surgery, I’m pleased to report that the patient survived the procedure. I was in a positive frame of mind going in and thought it a good omen that the OR nurse was someone I knew. I was armed with the prayers and good wishes of many. When the surgeon came around to talk, I asked him if he had had a good night and was feeling strong and steady. The smart ass said he’d been out late drinking the night before, but not to worry.

I usually come through anesthetic well, and this time was no exception. Morphine and Tylenol 3s kept the pain at bay for the most part. The staff at the Grey Nuns Hospital were kind and competent. My loved ones visited often, and I was discharged two days later with four prescriptions to fill.

The scariest one was something called Metoclopramide HCL, which helps the stomach remember to empty. A possible side effect includes a muscle problem called tardive dyskinesia; that would result in unusual muscle movements that the patient would be unable to stop or control, and it might not go away after stopping the medication. The prospect of involuntary lip smacking, mouth puckering, chewing, frowning, sticking out my tongue, blinking, and more had me cutting back the dose from three per day to two and then stopping altogether very soon. I only stuck my tongue out once at the doctor when I saw him eight days later.

But thank God someone invented pain meds. Pain management is one of the cornerstones of the healing process. With shoulder surgery I learned I couldn’t let the pain get ahead of me, because playing catch-up is virtually impossible. At their best, the meds facilitate restorative sleep and allow for ease of movement. The bad news is that they also cause constipation; not a matter to ignore. I felt my healing journey turned a corner when that problem was resolved.

The liquid, then soft, diet has been challenging. We eat for reasons other than hunger and to stay alive: We crave the textural variety of food, and there is satisfaction in the act of chewing. As one who can’t resist pushing some envelopes, sometimes I discovered that the diet is not merely a suggestion.

When I forgot to eat teeny-tiny bites of the right food very slowly, I ended up with the painful, scary realization that the food was stuck midway down my esophagus. What, pray tell, do you do then? Luckily it eased down and the feeling passed. It was a blunt reminder that in fundoplication surgery the top part of the stomach is wrapped around the bottom part of the esophagus to help prevent it from moving above the diaphragm again?and that needs time to heal.

Let’s hope the eight weeks of restricted mindful eating results in some weight loss, though there are definitely easier ways to drop a few pounds. For now I’m back and getting better each day, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.