Last week I shared with you 12 practical tips for recovering from an appendectomy that I learned the hard way. Those tips got me through the first five days in the hospital after my unusually complicated surgery (I had the distinction of having the most complicated appendectomy my surgeon had seen all year. Hmmph.). Once I got home I had a new challenge to learn what worked best for me in the new setting of my home. These tips for recovering from an appendectomy at home made my recovery easier for me (and for my family).
Let me start by saying that I have no medical training. My tips worked for me, but always check with your doctor and nurse before trying anything new. These tips are in no way expert or medical advice.
I had figured out how to work through the results of my surgery while I was in the hospital in a controlled environment with equipment designed to make life easier after surgery (you can read more about the gut-wrenching story about my surgery). I couldn’t wait to get home, but once I did I found new challenges in learning to navigate the environment without all the support available in a hospital. I found that I had lots of hours of laying on my back (like an overturned turtle) so I used that time to problem solve how to make my recovery easier for me and for my family. These are tips for recovering from an appendectomy at home that I found worked for me.
Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy at Home
Find the most comfortable place to sleep. I couldn’t wait to get home. Being able to go home was my sole motivation for struggling through all those shaky steps I took around the hospital ward for the five days I was in the hospital. I just wanted to get home so that I could get a good night’s sleep in my own bed. My first night at home I would have skipped to my bed (if I could have) to be able to go to sleep. I happily struggled into my bed, laid down and oooh! Ouch! I
jumped struggled right back out of the bed and headed to the couch. I felt like Goldilocks, but my bed was just too soft and didn’t provide enough support for my abdomen and “innards.”
Be prepared to be flexible on where you sleep after you return home from the hospital. In the first week I was at home, I slept on the couch two days, then I slept in the recliner for two days and then back onto the couch for three days. At that point I was
whining to talking with my oldest daughter (who is away at college) about how much I wanted to be able to sleep in my bed but couldn’t because it was too soft. She suggested I try sleeping in her bed because it has firm mattress. My brilliant daughter! I was able to sleep in her bed for four days because the mattress was firm enough to provide the support I needed for my abdomen. At that point, about a week and a half after I returned home, I was finally able to sleep in my own bed. Focus on finding the best place for you to be able sleep so that you can help your body heal.
Sit and sleep on a waterproof pad. Let’s be honest here. It takes a while for your bowels to get back to “normal”. If you’ve had your intestines operated on (taken apart and reconnected in my case), it will take even longer for things to get back to “normal.” I’m happy to say that the waterproof pad was just insurance in my case, but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen for the first week or so at home. The hospital is set up to deal with accidents, but your home isn’t and there’s no one to do your laundry but you or your family. Use a waterproof pad for your peace of mind and to make life a bit easier (just in case).
Sleep with a pillow under your right knee. I found that sleeping with a pillow under my right knee helped for the first month after my surgery. While I was in the hospital, I placed the pillow under both knees, but I found that at home it was more comfortable to have it just under my right knee. This allowed me to position my left leg so I could sleep in a more “normal” position.
Sleep on the left side of the bed. When I finally started sleeping in a bed again, I found it easiest to sleep on the left side of the bed. Sleeping on the left allowed me to get out of bed more easily. I was able to hook my left foot under the edge of the bed to help pull myself up, while pushing up with my left arm and pulling myself up with my right arm and knee.
Use your right leg to help you sit up. Just like in the hospital, I continued to use my right knee to help me sit up. I found that bending my right leg towards my body allowed me to grab it with my right arm and pull myself up with less pain. I used this method for getting up off the couch and out of the bed.
Try different chairs to find the most comfortable. You’ll be channeling your inner Goldilocks, just like with finding the best place to sleep. When I first came home, I only sat on the couch or in the recliner and I didn’t move much. About five days after I returned home I was ready to sit at a table and the support of the firm chair helped my abdomen. I found that the wood chairs at my kitchen table provided the most support. I also found that the seats in the car were incredibly comfortable (not riding in the car, but sitting in the seats). The car seat provided firm support but had padding that was soft on my sore body. If you have a car seat sitting in your house, be sure to try it out. (At one point laying on the couch like an overturned turtle, I was contemplating how I could talk my husband into setting a car seat up in our living room. Really.)
Continue to walk. You may be tempted to lay on the couch and recover, but keep walking just like you did in the hospital. Walking helps your body pass the gas trapped in your abdomen and intestines as they start working again. Trust me, you want to walk so you can get rid of any additional pressure from gas on your tender abdomen. Plus, walking to the kitchen for a glass of water is good for your attitude. There will be plenty of things that you won’t be able to do, so be sure you make the effort to do the ones you can. (Your family will appreciate it and you’ll start feeling more capable again.)
Drink lots of water. A bit more honesty here. When your bowels have been taken apart, it will be a bit uncomfortable (and scary) as they begin working again. Often the medication you’re taking can impact the “normal” functioning of your bowels. Drink plenty of water to help your digestive system. ‘Nuff said.
Watch your diet. Check with your doctor or nurse about your diet. Make sure you understand what your dietary limits mean for you. I was sent home on a low residue diet for a month. I didn’t really understand what it meant at first. I now think of it as the diet that goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about a healthy diet. For me, it meant no fiber (white bread and not wheat), no fresh fruit or vegetables (some that were cooked were acceptable), no gas forming vegetables, no beans, no popcorn and meat was limited to very tender meats and no lunch meat. Pretty much everything I enjoy was taboo. But let me stress, how important it is that you follow your recommend diet. Your bowels need to begin working normally again and you need to do everything you can to help them ease them back into their job.
Buy stretchy pants. I only owned two pairs of stretchy pants before my surgery. (I had been calling them yoga pants until I confused my mother-in-law and a friend. When I told them that I needed to get yoga pants now that I was home from the hospital, they both asked me, “Why will you be doing yoga right after your surgery?” Since it hurt for me to laugh, I had to stop calling them yoga pants and started calling them stretchy pants.) It’s been a month now since my surgery and I can’t even imagine trying to put a pair of jeans or slacks on right now. I’m living in stretchy pants and expect to be for another several weeks. You’ll need plenty of comfortable pants that will not irritate your abdomen.
Evaluate your underwear. Depending on the location of your incisions and the style of your underwear, you may need to purchase a different style so that that the waist band doesn’t irritate your abdomen. This style of hi-cut cotton panties worked well for me.
How to open and shut a door. Once you start moving around more, you’ll find that you have to open and shut doors. I found car doors especially difficult to maneuver. In the past I’d just pull the door, twist my body and go through the door in one motion. After my surgery, there was no twisting going to on. I found it best to square my body directly in front of the door. I then grabbed the door handle with my left hand and stepped back as I opened the door. Closing was the exact opposite motion. Ask for help with car doors until you feel less pain in your abdomen (be smarter than I was).
Make your first trip to a store with a wheel chair. Make your first outing to a store that has wheel chairs available. My good friend, J., took me to Kohl’s to buy stretchy pants and it worked out perfectly. They had wheel chairs right at the front door. I took one and pushed it for about 30 yards and then was wiped out. After that J. pushed me around in the wheel chair. I was able to to place my items in the wheelchair and push it for short distances, but then had it available for the longer distances when I needed the help.
I hope that I never need to use these tips again and I hope that you never need to use them. But just in case, these practical tips for recovering from an appendectomy at home are here if you ever need them. Do you have any tips that helped you during your recovery from a surgery?