One week post surgery

I try to avoid hospitals at all costs. This is particularly ironic because I work at a hospital.

But sometimes you have to just GO and be seen, evaluated, treated and sent home.

I’ve been home for a week now and things are getting better. I can move around easier and I can finally drive. I still get tired easy and let’s face it – my abdomen hurts.

This surgery was a big surprise. I had no idea my symptoms were that serious; I thought I needed to eat better. No, turns out my gallbladder was a seething pool of unhappiness. The signs are subtle: queasy stomach, bowel changes, intense pain in the mid-back shooting through to the sternum, vomiting and food sensitivity.

I’ve had all of that in the last four months and each symptom on its own isn’t alarming but put it together and you’ve got yourself a trip to the surgical floor.

Once I got past the ER and its foul treatment of patients, I was given the best care ever. I was assigned, friendly, caring people who weren’t rushed, who had a few moments of reassurance in the middle of a scary, pain-filled night.

I was afraid to go to that particular hospital – after a past surgery I’d been left in severe post-surgical pain and no one responded to my pleas for pain meds.

I called my friend Peggy and she managed to make it from her house in Littleton to my hospital bathroom before someone from the nurses station could make it in. She also spotted that they’ve given me 6 doses too many of an antibiotic. Her pointing out that mistake earned me the wrath of the staff until I discharged.

After almost 5 days of no food whatsoever (vomiting is overrated, I could never be bulimic) my first meal was a scrambled egg, one piece of bacon (a no-no, but hey) and an English muffin. They were right; I couldn’t eat much after my surgery but what I did eat tasted great.

Let’s face it, hospital food is not nourishing, healthy or beneficial. It simply gives provides food. Oh, there are special diets and I know dietitians work hard to make appealing menus but in fact, there’s so much salt and fat in foods these days and simple options such as a banana costs $1.75 where I work.

The nutritious part of nutrition lives solely in the lap of the consumer.

I have one favorite dish at work: chicken fried steak.

I used to make CFS for my family and it was OK but a little weak on the gravy side of things. Gravy calls for lots of fat and I was trying to be mindful of keeping my kids healthy and my overweight husband from having a heart attack.

My hospital makes awesome CFS with plentiful pork gravy. It’s cooked to perfection and there’s never chewy segments of unknown cow parts. I look forward to it each Sunday I work.

Well, no more CFS for me.

As my physician put it: “Chicken fried steak would end you at this point.”

I’m probably going to need to enlist coworkers to keep me from indulging but it’s so freaking hard because the “cafeteria” is right across from my desk.

Three times a day the special of the day wafts through the nurses station. Cooking aromas for awesome food is an amazing spiritual experience. Smelling foods you don’t want to eat amounts to stink.

There’s a lot of stink where I work.

Whoever designed our new building didn’t know what the hell they’re doing. Who puts a work area across from a cafeteria? Under what building code is that good practice? Architecture is supposed to be a study of human interaction and function. Apparently the designers of our building didn’t attend that class.

I have my list of foods that I CAN eat all ready to go. Each day I test, just a little bit, the limits of my remaining bile. Foods are now simple, 1-3 ingredient combinations. No cucumbers and no popsicles.

I’m grateful that pain is done. I wasn’t really talking to anyone about it because it’s just not something we talk about.

Here I am, talking about it. Any changes in your digestive habits? Talk to your doctor. Any changes in stool, any vomiting or food sensitivity? Talk to your doctor. Even more subtle changes include, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, fatigue, eating less to accommodate a sensitive stomach, smell sensitivity to certain foods and drinking less fluids.

All subtle signs so don’t wait around for things to get better. Chances are you need some sort of intervention to help get through gallbladder issues. Me? I waited too long to get help and surgery was the only way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take my digestive enzymes.

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