Saturday, December 26, 2015

Nissen Fundoplication

This is a baking and making blog. Period. With that said, I’m straying away from the usual content to post an informative entry. And I use the words “usual content” loosely since I haven’t posted in a million. 

I had to get a surgery on Tuesday to which I searched the internet looking for information. There were a couple of blogs that gave me some insight since my surgeon (who I love btw) was real conservative on details of post-op life and stuck to the description of “you’ll be uncomfortable”. I needed more information for my sanity so I thought I’d add to the content with my own description of my experience. I know that the only people who will read this whole post are individuals who are getting the procedure, know someone who is, or my mother. 

I’ll make the recap of how I got to surgery as short as possible. After a trip to Las Vegas nine months ago, I knew I had a problem with reflux. I felt like I was choking, broke out in hives, and felt like the 3 bites of food were literally stuck in my chest. It created quite the scene since I left the table crying and then we both left immediately. I’m sure it looked like the usual Vegas marital fight with us both not finishing our meals to leave with the crying spouse. I stayed with the feeling that the food was in my chest for 12 hours. While alarming and unusual for me (seeing as I NEVER had reflux problems in my life), I chalked it up to some freak incident and let it go…. until a week later when it happened again. The second incident started the nightmare process of trying to  diagnose this random reflux issue that was freaking me out and uncomfortable. The next 9 months were a combination of increasing uncomfortable symptoms, insurance confusion, and three switches of surgeons. I underwent two endoscopys and one manometry. The manometry was the most traumatizing thing I’ve been through. Basically, a nurse sticks a three foot long chord up your nose and down your esophagus while you’re awake. Of course, no one will tell you that while that chord is being embedded in your esophagus that you will begin to choke and you will think that nurse doesn’t know she’s choking you. Then after the horror, you sit there stunned from what just happened (and the nurse praises you for not pulling the whole thing out and just grabbing her arm), you have to swallow 10 teaspoons of water with the tube up your nose and down your body. I enjoyed the test that involved eating the radioactive eggs WAY more (that is not a joke). I switched to second person point of view during that description because it helps me cope with what happened. Ha. I kid… maybe.
So after thousands of dollars worth of testing (because no body cares if teachers have good insurance), I was cleared as a candidate for a Nissen Fundoplication in August. Since I’m in education, I had to wait until Christmas Break (which is now). So I put the idea of relief on the temporary back burner and enjoyed the symptoms until surgery time. I didn’t explain my symptoms earlier… basically, my food comes back up into my mouth between 8-10 times after each meal. So much of my meals come up that it chokes me if I’m talking or I have to chew it to get it back down. After testing, they found a hiatal hernia and enlarged lower sphincter in my esophagus which caused the issue. Here’s a pin I got from Pinterest that shows the issue and surgery in a nice nutshell.

This last Tuesday was the day of surgery. I had to wash my body with this super strong anti-bacterial soap (no complaints for this germ freak) the night before and morning of the procedure. No food or drink after midnight. We arrived at the hospital which I was quickly put in a room and put under a warm air blanket. Btw, if you’re looking for an invention to make money on, I think that is the next “big thing”. The nurse came in and did the pre-op last minute questioning and IV. I was wheeled back to surgery and woke up in the recovery room. My stomach was sore and my throat was dry. My surgeon went in through five incisions on my stomach. I took a picture, but will spare the internet with those visual details. I was so groggy from the anesthesia and morphine and it was only the morning at that time. We weren’t moved into a private room until late afternoon. It was awful. I started crying when they said they couldn’t get me in a room right away because all I wanted to do was sleep and it was so loud in the room with multiple patients in there. The old man next to me was snoring so loud and he was a curtain away. THANK GOD that I have a type A personality and packed my eye mask and ear plugs. I might get made fun of for my constant need of preparedness, however, in this case, it helped me tremendously (suckas). Smile with tongue out
When we got moved into a room, it was the meca of all rooms. A corner room was like the suite of the hospital and I feel like Nate and I deserved it. I could barely talk because I was so drugged up and exhausted that I mostly slept the rest of the night. My dad came by to visit and I tried to eat something. A popsicle and some broth was my first choice, completely forgetting that my dr. said ice and ice chips the rest of the day. BIG MISTAKE. I went to sleep and woke up from the nausea. I told Nate to quickly get me a bucket because I was sure I was going to throw up. And I started crying again because I was terrified of throwing up from the blogs that I read that said I wouldn’t be able to throw up after surgery and if I did, it would be so painful. The ensuing pain was freaking me out. Luckily, they got me some nausea meds and I went back to sleep without having to throw up. And I learned my lesson on eating super carefully through the rest of my recovery. I did remember thinking… the pain isn’t that bad today, I can do this….

Until the next day when the anesthesia started to wear off and I could feel my incisions more. Thank God for the hospital beds that electronically move you into different positions because moving my body using stomach muscles was the worst. I was still pretty sleepy and needed help getting out of the bed. By the time we got home, I was in a little more pain.
I’m on day five of recovery and am more mobile on my own. Yesterday I tried not to take pain meds so that I could have some of the side effects go away, but I needed them last night and have been on them again since then. I never had to pass the gas they used to bloat my stomach and that was one of the most painful effects of surgery that I read about before the procedure. Apparently, it’s pretty intense and painful and happens in the shoulders. I’ve had no appetite thanks to the pain meds and I’ve only eaten grits, jello, and juices. Oh and I had three bites of ice cream last night. I’ve slept on the couch downstairs since it’s more firm and lower to the ground (to get up off of). That location choice has been helpful, however, only sleeping on my back is making it difficult to sleep. I tried to turn on my side last night and it felt like my stomach was going to fall out of my incisions.

I’m so glad Nate was there through the whole thing because he was invaluable. He assisted with getting me out of bed so I didn’t have to call the nurse every five seconds. He helped me move period which was so helpful because every movement hurts and using stomach muscles is the worst after the surgery. If you are getting this procedure, bring someone super helpful and willing to be at your beck and call. I got lucky because my husband has both awesome qualities. My mother-in-law stayed at our home since we had to spend the night and our dogs aren’t good at feeding themselves.

Overall, it was nerve-wracking waiting for the surgery. I don’t have kids so it was definitely the biggest procedure I’ve had besides knee surgery. The pain has been no joke, but the meds have made it tolerable. I explained it like someone hit me a million times in the core with a ton of baseball bats. After I eat, I have severe pressure in my chest probably from my esophagus getting used to the new tightness. I’m being super conservative on what I eat because I’m so nervous of a throw up episode. I hope this information helps!

****Update: It has now been 9 days since my surgery and I must add some information to my original post above. 

First, if you are getting this surgery, invest in a wedge pillow. 

This is the pillow I used up until right after a week post-operation. It hurt too much to lay straight down with my head on a pillow. I felt like this gave me an in-between stage from the (amazing) hospital bed with slow transitions to the complete bed lay down. I bought this pillow originally when my reflux was the worst and then it was perfect for the surgery to fix the problem. 

My post operative appointment went uneventful since I'm healing just fine. However, my surgeon gave me the green light to eat what I want. Seeing as I went to him a week and a day after the operation, I think that I could've waited a little longer on the eat anything green light. I went out to eat yesterday for the first time since surgery and man, it was a learning curve. Eating since surgery has been such a big adjustment. I'm learning to eat slow. That sounds so elementary since we should be able to control our speed. However, you'd be surprised how quickly you eat when it's obvious that you need to slow down. The couple of times I've reverted to quick eating, I've regretted it because it's felt like I was choking. No fun. And I'm still staying away from bread because after a little bite, I was super uncomfortable. 

Not to get too personal, but I had no idea that pain killers killed bowel movements. Consequently, that has been a super uncomfortable aspect that I didn't read about before surgery. Whether it was not being able to go to the bathroom or dealing with the stomach cramping from laxatives, it's been a less than desirable effect from surgery. 

The nausea is no joke during the day most days and sitting too long is uncomfortable on my belly button incision. Those two symptoms will be interesting when I go  back to work tomorrow, two days before the two week mark of post-operation. My tape has now come off the incisions (slash, I pulled it off) and my stomach is looking a lot less eventful than before.  

***Update to the update
I am currently six weeks post surgery and I wanted to add some extra information that I think is important about the surgery. God bless my surgeon who was amazing, but like I said earlier in this post, he was very conservative about the surgery details. I couldn't wear pants with a zipper and button before this week. The pressure and pants movement by my belly button was agitating to that incision. 

My stomach (the insides) have not been the same since my surgery. I'm still nauseous and having issues with eating. I cannot eat as much as I could before and if I push that current limit, it's a nightmare of pressure in my esophagus. 

My incision where my esophagus is located is still very tender to the touch. I thought it wouldn't be sensitive by now, but it still is. Also, my incisions are still not 100% healed which is crazy to me since it's been so long at this point. I am finally able to sleep on my stomach which is a relief to this stomach sleeper. 

I "kind of" exercised this week (super low level) and my chest (where the incision on my esophagus is located) started hurting. I didn't go to the gym because I didn't feel ready yet. 

Basically, this surgery had an intense recovery that I didn't know was coming when I signed up to get it done. I would've done it regardless because of the symptoms I was having.