5 Things I Wish I Had Before My Surgery


As you may already know, I had my right adrenal gland and the connected, troublesome tumor removed recently. I had it all planned out to the letter, or so I thought. It went smoothly, but there were a few things I realized would have made the entire experience better. This may have been my second surgery, but I’d been in the hospital for weeks prior to the first one and couldn’t prepare for anything. I was also heavily medicated and confined to the hospital bed for most of the initial healing process. By the time I was released, I was mostly healed. That was not the case this time as they discharged me the following morning.

While I was busy making lists for my father to follow while taking care of my son (and, eventually, me), as well as packing enough books to keep me occupied for way more days than they actually kept me in there, I didn’t have a single thought about what I would need to have or do immediately before the procure or during recovery stage. Believe me, as the thoughts came up, I made plenty of notes so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again and I’d like to share them with you in case you have to undergo surgery in the future. Most of these things revolve around comfort. The recovery stage is the most uncomfortable part of the entire ordeal.

Activated Charcoal Capsules

If your surgery is laproscopic, which most are these days, there is one thing they don’t tell you that they will do. The surgeon places carbon dioxide (CO2) into your body first to release gas and “pump up” the area they will be operating on. This makes thing easier on them, but it also makes your recovery harder. For abdominal surgeries, this gives you a very full and uncomfortable feeling. It’s one thing for them to pump it into your digestive track where it can be easily passed, but the gas also goes into the other body cavities such as the intraperitoneal and retroperitoneal spaces and it is very difficult to pass. That gas can also find its way up into one or both shoulders. Believe me, that is level 10 pain right there.

The best thing to do to alleviate the pain from the gas is to take activated charcoal capsules ASAP. These capsule dissipate the gas in both the digestive track and the peritoneal spaces. I recommend this brand here. The best part is that whatever you have leftover after you are gas-free can be used as a natural hangover cure. You can also break the capsules apart and use for teeth whitening or as a facial mask.

Coffee, Coffee, and More Coffee

Speaking of gas, you will notice that the nursing staff constantly asks you if you have passed gas or had a bowel movement. This is more important that they will every let you know. When you are under general anesthesia, it is a forced coma. They anesthesiologist will shut down all of your body functions so that you don’t have any autonomic reactions, like a involuntary twitch, while the surgeon is working on you with sharp instruments. That is why you are intubated (though this happens after you have had the initial sedation). The anesthesiologist will keep your vital organs going while the rest of you is essentially paralyzed. That’s why when you wake up, things are, for lack of a better word, weird for a while. One thing that takes a long time to get back to normal is your digestive system. Peristalsis is the involuntary, wave-like muscle contractions in your intestinal tract that moves the food waste (and gas) through. For me, this took a very long time to get back to normal. I’m talking four days! I couldn’t really eat because nothing was going anywhere. That’s where the coffee comes in.

For most people, coffee in the morning is followed shortly by a morning bowel movement. This is because *fanfare, please* coffee stimulates peristalsis. If you want to get things moving, get rid of that gas, and start feeling less uncomfortable sooner, drink coffee as soon as they offer you a drink. —Okay, maybe water first. But definitely coffee afterwards. And don’t stop at one cup. Drink two or three. Even better, ask a friend or relative to grab you Starbuck’s because hospital coffee is notoriously weak. You’ll be farting and pooping in no time, and, as gross as that sounds, you’ll thank me later.

Publishing Pants

Okay, okay. So I’ll admit that “publishing pants” is a niche term used solely in the author community, but this is what I call them. If you’re having abdominal surgery, you will not be wearing jeans for a while. You’ll also want to be as comfortable as possible while you’re trying to stretch and move about. Anything that will aggravate those incisions is a no-no. The best option is to buy yourself wide-band lounge pants. Get several pairs and buy them in a size larger than you’d normally wear.

Abdominal Support

This is pretty obvious, yet I still didn’t think to buy one prior to my surgery and the hospital did not provide one. These medical, corset-like abdominal binders not only give you much needed support, but they also facilitate faster healing by promoting blood circulation. They are breathable and comfortable. You are also less likely to scream out in pain when you cough if you are wearing one of these.

You’re Gonna Need A Pillow Fort

Once you’re home, lying down is not as easy as it was in that adjustable hospital bed. Depending on your surgery, sleeping flat can cause intense pain, not to meant it is close to impossible to get up from that position. Regular pillows work fine, but you’ll need a lot of them: A big, firm one for under your legs, several to prop up your back (or try a reading pillow), and a neck pillow. The neck pillow is necessary because you’ll probably feel better sleeping sitting mostly upright. The neck pillow will keep you from lolling off to the side too much and getting a neck cramp on top of everything else.

Of course, there are better options. If you’re a woman who’s ever been pregnant, you’ll remember the C-Shaped and U-shaped pillows. These can be manipulated into different positions to achieve a decent comfort level and they are affordable. However, if you want maximum comfort or you are having an open surgery with a longer recovery time, I highly suggest splurging on this setup. It’s worth it.


Is there anything I forgot? What helped you before, during, and after your surgery? And if you haven’t had your surgery yet, which of these do you plan on getting? Remember, I am available to answer any questions on this post, on Facebook or Twitter, or via email


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