Preparing For Surgery, Being Alone After Surgery & Sleep

Preparing For Surgery and Being Alone After Surgery

Whether or not you will have help after surgery, here are some ideas that can help you to prepare.

If you would like assistance at home and will be alone all or part of the time, there are visiting nurse associations that can help bridge this gap. Ask your plastic surgeon, or your insurance if something like this would be covered for you. Visiting nurses associations are often listed in the phone book.

Make sure things like milk, juice, and water are in small containers (no gallons or half gallons)(like pints or one liter), as they'll be too heavy for you to lift. You might consider buying a case or two of 16-ounce bottles of water, as you should be increasing your water consumption after surgery to help flush the meds out, and to aid your healing as well.

If possible, have pre-made dinners on hand so you can pop them in the microwave. It would be a good idea to prepare some protein and leafy green meals ahead of time. Eating more protein will help you heal at a faster rate, as will adding dark greens. Eat a banana a day the week before surgery and for a few weeks after if you can.  We have complete diabetic, standard, vegan, raw vegan and vegetarian info on our Healing Diet pages.

Pretzels or crackers are good to have to eat with your meds or if you're nauseous.

Start bringing everything down from high shelves (dishes, glasses, etc.) that you might need to use. Paper plates and plastic cups are a good idea at first so you won't have to do dishes. Bending over also can be painful, so consider taking things out of bottom cabinets that you'll need.

Have pillows in your bed to make a nest out of. Two along your sides, one under your knees to keep you on your back and to relieve pressure on your lower back. Many people have used the large "body pillows" and others have used the pillows with arm rests that are used for sitting up in bed.

Some people have found over-the-counter sleeping medicines to be helpful (but please check with your plastic surgeon first). Some of us find that these really do not give us good rest. Everyone is different.

Buy some button-down shirts and loose pants to wear for a few days. You won't want to raise your arms to put on your shirt, and some people are bloated after surgery. Slip-on shoes area good idea, also, because it hurts to bend over and can be really difficult to tie your shoes. Pulling things up, even bras, from below is often easier and safer than over head.

Have your night clothes, bed, slippers, as well as any gauze and tape, etc., that you might need set up and ready for when you come home. Have your medications in a convenient place. Have a phone where you can reach it without getting up if possible (and the remote control if you're a TV watcher).

If you like to read, have as much reading material as you think you'll want within easy reach.

Get some panty liners and have them on hand - the straight ones, no curves or wings. They are useful after the dressings are removed in the event you have any additional drainage. Leave the tape strip on. Simply tuck them into your bra.

You might want some baby wipes, dry spray hair 'shampoo', and possibly feminine spray if you are restricted from showering for a period of time. There are also new microwavable sponge bath products now available.

A recliner has been very helpful to many of us. If you don't have one, and can't borrow one, and they can be rented by the week in some areas for as little as $12 a week.

Try to have someone available to run to the store if you need something at some point (whether it is food, gauze, meds, etc.). Driving is hazardous the first two weeks. Your range of motion is limited at this time and you are often on pain medications, or getting over surgery medications. Too much can go wrong that can cause a knee jerk reaction - a ball bouncing into the street, a dog running out, cars cutting you off. Don't risk it.

The first time you get to take a shower, you'll want someone there just in case you get dizzy. Even if you think you won't get dizzy, you still may. Your center of gravity will be different after your surgery and we've seen many falls. Have someone there. Place heavy towels around the floor. If you are unable to have someone with you, consider sitting in the tub for the shower instead of standing up. Plan to go to bed after your shower. You will most likely be tired.

Stairs are another hazard for breast surgery patients. Your center of gravity is usually off and you can easily fall down a flight of stairs. Use extreme caution, go slow and hold onto the rails until you can readjust yourself to your new center of gravity.

If you have pets, you may need to think about whether to try to train them not to jump and climb on you, or have other defense tactics pre-arranged.

Have extra post op bras to wear while the wash is being done. At first, you may find it uncomfortable to be braless for any length of time at all, and you really should not be unless your surgeon has ordered it, and in those cases it's very important to follow those instructions because they are based on blood flow needs at that time. Otherwise, your new incisions really should be supported for between 8-12 weeks. Longer if your surgeon recommends it.

Having a change of different post op bra styles can greatly reduce pressure point pain. Changing your bra every 3 hours can help with circulation and swelling by allowing your body to move fluids around more easily.

Stock up on anything you can think of in advance, but particularly things that are not heavy. Buy smaller sizes of things as well as having enough supplies on hand so you aren't lugging stuff home from the store. Many of us were restricted from lifting anything that weighed more than five pounds for a few weeks and larger amounts for over 6 weeks. Ask your plastic surgeon.

Walk around your house and look at your day and your routine. Look at all the things you now take for granted that would be harder, or would drive you insane if they were not done. This can be a good way to jog your memory as to other things you might need as you recuperate.

Here are a few tips that may make life easier for you once your surgery is over

1) If you do not have recliner to recover in, and you think you might prefer one, consider renting a recliner. They can be very comfortable, and it is also very difficult to roll over while sleeping in one. If you try to roll over, you will realize it before you hurt yourself. One of our members was able to rent a recliner for $12.00 per week.

2) Go to a discount store and pick up a $3.00 plastic carryall like you would use for cleaning supplies. Fill it with the items you will need such as tape, gauze, antibiotic ointment, prescription medicines, important telephone numbers (remember you will be on pain medication and may not remember them), remote control, whatever you'd like to read, the cordless phone if you have one, a notepad and pen or pencil, and anything else you can think of that you will want or need. Put this on a table on one side of your chair or bed.

3) On the days or nights early on when you may be alone, put a table (or a milk crate) with a styrofoam cooler on top. In the cooler, keep ice, drinks, water, snacks, and anything else that you may need, but should not be getting up and down to get.

4) Be prepared for the chance that your support system may fall through, and have a back up plan in case you need it.

5) Use your cell phone clock, or a timer that goes up to 6 or 10 hours,  an alarm clock during the first days when you are sleeping quite a bit so that you can make sure you wake up to take your antibiotics. Or, if you have someone taking care of you, they can make sure that you are taking these on time.

6) Make yourself your top priority. If you even think to yourself, "Should I call my PS about this concern?" then do it! That is why they are there.

7) Get someone to make you a big batch of Lemon Tea and have them put it in a thermos so that it is ready and warm when you need it.

9) All of us at BreastHealthOnline are here for the same reason -  to get and give support. We'd love to have you join the forum and make good use of all the info and support we have to offer you.

Getting a Good Night's Rest after Surgery

After your surgery your plastic surgeon may ask you to sleep on your back for several weeks. For some of us side and tummy sleepers, this can be very hard.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you rest more comfortably.  

You'll be a lot more comfortable if you'll put a pillow under each arm (think armchair) and a pillow under your knees to take the stress off your back. Some people even put a wedge under their mattress to elevate their upper torso. Some don't find this necessary, but if it makes you more comfortable, by all means do it. Be sure to have someone else set these things up for you, however, if you are post-op and experimenting with what works for you. You don't want to be lifting mattresses after surgery. A large couch cushion placed under your mattress at the head area will probably give you the angle you need.

The pillows at your sides will support your arms and can help keep you from rolling over. If you are used to sleeping with your arm under your pillow, you can over stretch the fold incision nearest to your armpit, making it permanently wider, so try to keep yourself all tucked in and don't let yourself get into postions that are going to cause you problems.

Some people have used their recliners with great success and have had a very comfortable night's sleep. Others have even rented hospital beds, which certainly isn't something you must have by far, but an interesting solution! Still, you'd have to find a way to keep yourself on your back even if your upper body was elevated.

Making a nest out of pillows in your bed can also work very well. When sleeping on your back, you'll want to support your arms, as well as to take the pressure off your back by placing a pillow under your knees. Pillows on your sides can prevent you from rolling over on your side.

If you're a side or side/tummy sleeper and you're still miserable with this set up, the next idea might do the trick. Laying on your back, move to half the side position you'd normally sleep in, so not fully on your side but tipped forward. Place a firm pillow behind your back so you can't fall backward. Place another pillow in front of you, so you can't fall forward. The effect of the pillow behind you and in front of you will mimic side sleeping well enough that you may find this a huge relief, and not damage your breasts in the process. One draw back, however, will be if you extend your arm under your pillow. Continued strain over an 8 hour period night after night on a new incision will widen it, so you may need to figure out a safer position for your arm. Fortunately, this sleep nightmare won't last forever. It just feels like it!

Be sure to ask if any of these solutions or modifications are acceptable in relation to the instructions that you have already been given by your plastic surgeon.  

How do I get OUT of bed?

After breast surgery, it is best to limit the use of your arms for several weeks.  This does pose a problem for some people when getting out of bed. The following are some suggestions to help you get out of bed with minimal use of your arms.

1) When in bed, pull your knees up towards your chest and tip to the side - gently rolling out of bed while taking care not to roll onto your breast. Or you can pull your knees up and try to use a "sit up" sort of motion and twist around to the side of the bed.

2) Create a nest of pillows. Having many pillows to prop you in a semi-upright position helps give you that extra lift to get out of bed.

3) Some people have rented recliners. This totally eliminates the need to get up from a supine position.

4) If someone helps to you get up from a sitting position have them apply gentle pressure to your lower shoulder blades. This should give you the extra power you need to get to your feet.

5) Again, if someone helps you to get up, have them support you from the upper arms, behind the elbow. This is the least suggested position because of the pressure to your arms (and possible strain on your breasts), but try it if all else fails.

6) If you can, strengthen your abdominal muscles before your surgery.

Remember that it is important to maintain full range of motion with your arms, as long as you're not pulling anything. Always stop if there is resistance from an incision. Frozen shoulder can happen with breast patients so you need to maintain movement. Shoulder shrugs and other natural arm movements are recommended. Just no lifting, torquing or long term extending that pulls on an incision area.