What I Wish I Knew Before Surgery
A week ago, I got my tonsils removed. This was my second surgery, I had my gallbladder removed a year ago. People will warn you about a lot of things when going into surgery. Pain, recovery time, and the inherent risks you take when undergoing a procedure. I always feel like I’m signing my life away, I guess in some ways you are. Accepting the risks of surgery is terrifying to me. It’s terrifying for most people. Even though you sign that scary form and acknowledge that there is a laundry list of risks with fractions of a percent that everything could go horribly wrong, These are the things I wish I knew before getting surgery.
- It will be like nothing else you’ve experienced-
Surgery is an indescribable experience. The only way to understand it, is to go through it. I was completely ignorant going into my gallbladder surgery. I scheduled a flight ten days after because I was sure it wasn’t going to be that bad. Needless to say, I was wrong. Whether it be because of my chronic illness or being ill prepared mentally, I had a horrible reaction to surgery. I had difficulty moving and getting around. I was sure the pain would be minimal and it was not. Even if your surgery goes well, your body will go through an intense period of “What the fuck just happened?” No one really tells you about that part. They call it the recovery period. It’s more like, I got hit by a freight train and forgot how to function.
- Chronic illness will affect recovery time-
This is a big one. Going into my first surgery, I was undiagnosed and had random medical problems. No one warned me that these medical problems would interfere with how well I could recover. For starters, they had to slow my heart down during surgery. That wasn’t a great start to the process. My blood pressure fluctuations were significant and my heart rate was out of control. Going into my tonsillectomy, I was much more prepared. They monitored me for a longer period after surgery. They gave me appropriate medications to ensure my heart wouldn’t go bananas halfway through. I had two ENT’s in the operating room because I am simply a complex case.
- You have to endure-
This is obvious but once the surgery is done, there’s no going back. The pain and recovery time is set and it’s time to endure. Grit your teeth and get through it. This has been my motto for my tonsillectomy. The first two days went great, minimal pain. After that, the pain kicked in full force. This is exactly the opposite of how it’s supposed to go. Now, I’m still following protocol and doing my best to stay hydrated but it’s painful. I would do it again but this period of just sitting in horrible pain isn’t pleasant. Because this isn’t the normal reaction, there’s no way to tell when the pain will go down. I want to clarify that an adult tonsilectomy is extremely painful. Literally every person told me that it was going to suck but normally it’s the worst the first few days and then you turn a corner.
- It will take a toll on your mental health-
This I expected but I was unaware of how much it would affect me. Since having surgery my daily anxiety level took a serious spike. I attribute this to feeling so out of control. My body doesn’t have a ton of motivation and that sets off my OCD. This has made recovery very difficult but once again, you have to get through it. I’ve started to do multiple exposures during the day to help but it’s hit some real highs.
- It may not solve your problems-
I assume your surgeon would tell you this but if they didn’t, you need to know. Surgery may not solve your problem. For my gallbladder, surgery was the right ish answer. It was jumped to quickly because I wanted to get back to school but it seemed cut and dry. This didn’t solve all my stomach problems, not even close. It solved a problem but I expected it to do more than that. I thought my stomach problems would go away and they didn’t. This was a naive thought, no one told me it would solve my stomach problems but I was wishful thinking. Whether my tonsillectomy will solve a problem is still up in the air. It takes time to know and that means a lot of waiting.
No matter the reason you’re getting surgery, I believe you should be well informed. Especially with my first surgery, I wish someone would have told me these things. It’s a difficult process to go through, whether you’re otherwise healthy or chronically ill. With every surgery I have, I learn. Going into my hip surgery, I know that I will do things a bit better than for my tonsillectomy. That’s all you can ask for. Learn as you go along. I hope you don’t have to have surgery but if you find yourself making the decision, I hope this will help you.