Post-Op Visitors, Be Warned!

"These saltines are STUPID!" I screamed. I clutched the packet of crackers and zinged it like a frisbee across the room. Supposedly I hit the nurse trying to get me to eat. I say supposedly because I have no recollection of any of this happening. That part of the story all comes from friends who visited after my operation.

The surgery had gone on for at least 6 hours, far longer than what my orthopedic surgeon had initially thought. My left tibia required re-rodding, several screws, a metal plate, and some bone glue-paste. Needless to say a lot had happened to my body and when I woke up I was less than pleasant. The anesthetic had yet to wear off, the anti-nausea medicine had yet to kick-in, after the hundredth "you're in the recovery room now.." I still did not understand where I was... and well, I felt like a disaster. I felt like a hurricane that was almost about to die out -- with a few more hours of rain to pour out and a couple more houses in my path to destroy. Angry, irritable, uncomfortable, and feverish are among a few of the words that might describe my state of being when I first wake up from surgery. 

With that said though I always enjoy having visitors! Aside from the fact that I rely on THEM to tell me what the hell is going on, having familiar faces aside from that of the residents, nurses, and hospital volunteers is always comforting. Aside from feeling physically in pain or uncomfortable, I am usually also angry because I'm thinking it's the STUPID O.I.'s fault that I am even here to begin with! Even if I don't ever actually utter those words, you can read them clear as day in the frowns and scowl lines in my forehead and face.

"Hey, I'm going to pick up some McDonald's what do you want?"
"Um I don't think I can eat that stuff yet." I replied glumly.
"I don't care. I'm going to smuggle it in. What do you want? A cheeseburger? Fries? Milkshake?" My friend M was on his way to visit, and if there's one thing you need to know about M it's that having fun always comes first... what other people think doesn't even make it on his list of priorities. When he arrives it is nearly evening, my family had gone home and even I could tell that visiting hours were definitely over.
"How did you get in here?"
"I said I was your uncle." I smiled and before he placed the bag of grease-infested take-out next to me I could already smell my appetite returning to the land-of-the-living. 
"Oh and here.. My mother made these cookies for you." Had any nurse or doctor seen the mound of junk food in front of me I probably would have been re-admitted for surgery, only this time to unclog my cardiac veins! I pulled myself up to a sitting position and looked dizzily at the array before me.
"Thanks, wow I don't .. even know... what I'm supposed to do with all of this right now" I murmured. 
For the rest of that evening M managed to get me out of the hospital bed and into a wheelchair. We raced down the halls, sang the YMCA song (by ourselves) at the patient entertainment center, and I watched as he failed miserably at flirting with the nurses. By the time he had to go I was exhausted and didn't even need any pain medication to help me fall asleep. 

Sometimes the best medicine IS really laughing and there's no other time I have known this to be true than having friends come visit post-op!

Tips for Post-Op Visiting:
  •  When I was younger (in elementary and middle school) my friends didn't visit me at the hospital; instead it was more appropriate for them to send cards as a class! Or visit me at home when I was less tangled up in wires/bedridden 
  • Some hospitals allow visitors to send emails to patients, or make direct phone calls into the room. Be sure to check!
  • Be calm and your usual self. Sometimes it makes it difficult for the patient (who may be under a lot of pain medication..) to keep up with overly excited or enthused visitors
  • You don't need to go over the top with gifts/toys/distractions. Many times I have found that just sitting and watching the ridiculous daytime television shows with a friend is just as good!
  • Despite what I wrote above, be sure to check before bringing in food for the patient. You also might not know about allergies that other patients on the ward may have
  • Always, always, respect the nurse / doctor / resident on the patient's case! As the professional medical staff they need access to the patient and to be able to provide the best care -- sometimes this might mean clearing the room or other privacy
  • Try to restrain yourself from asking a million and one questions about what's going on and when will you be out of the hospital! I know that this can be tough but it's always best to go with what the patient is willing to volunteer or look to a medical person on the case
  • Ask before you re-arrange blankets, pillows, or even the room. A lot of times the furniture in the room is set-up in a certain way for easy transferring or for other medical reasons
  • Most of the time when people are in the hospital they are TIRED. It's helpful to pick-up on hints when a person you are visiting seems exhausted or is beginning to yawn a lot... just ask if they need to rest or if you should leave. 
  • Just hang out and keep the patient company! That's really all what this boils down to -- I'm sure that the patient will always be appreciative of your efforts and the time you took to stop by! =) 

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