Going into surgery for some people may feel like an instant relief of a heavy burden, for others it may feel like a lamb going into the slaughter. Either way, the time before elective surgery is gold. It's important to use this time wisely and not spiralling into a cycle of self destruction or unaccountability.
Here are 5 key strategies to help you:
A few facts:
Here are my 5 top tips to help you gain control of your elective surgery for a successful outcome.
Be a know it all: Now it is time to focus on detail. If this is something that you are not good at, then find someone who is. When you see your surgeon, they are going to ask you a lot of questions about your health background, especially previous surgeries and hospital experiences. They will explain the operation in detail, and it's important that you understand exactly what is going to happen. Not put your head in the sand like and emu. It's your body and you need to ask the questions. You might like to start with:
How long will it take?,
How big is the incision, where is the incision?
What can I expect after the operation?
How long will I be in bed for?
When can I start eating?
Do I have to eat hospital food?
Can my partner stay in the same room as me?
What tests will I have to get done before surgery?
The surgeon is operating on you. You need to know everything to put your mind at rest, not keep you up at night worried because you forgot to ask a question.
Give up your bad habits: If you smoke it's time to quit, if you drink too much alcohol then it's time to cut back and quit before surgery, if you eat too many processed foods and sugar then it's time to quit that as well.
All of these habits have the potential to put you at higher post operative complications. Blood clots can form, commonly known as DVT (Deep venous thrombosis) which can break off and lodge in the lungs, brain or the heart causing a life threatening emergency. They can compromise your immune system causing susceptibility to infection, (chest infections in smokers as they have a decreased lung capacity), slow wound healing, wound breakdown, breathing difficulties, collapsed lung and pressure sores.
This increases your time in hospital, increases your risk of hospital acquired infections and increases your exposure to antibiotics and other medications and therapies.
Start moving: Often we are having surgery because we have been injured and unable to walk or exercise properly. It’s time now to find some form of exercise that you can do, or find a personal trainer that can work 1:1 with you to build up your strength. Whether you walk with a frame or a walking stick, start moving. Start with 10 minutes once a day, 10 minutes twice a day, building up to your exercise tolerance twice a day. Movement builds and strengthens muscle, improves our lung capacity, our general mood, increases our vitamin D levels if we exercise outside in the sunshine, and helps us build up our endurance and vitality.
Start eating healthy foods: Now it is time to focus on eating well. By definition that means eating foods that are from a plant in as many different varieties and colours as possible. Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy and whole grains. Try to choose your foods depending on where it is grown, how it is grown or raised, how it is packed, the degree of processing. Choose organic produce where you can or follow the clean 15 and dirty 12 guidelines from EWG.org. Next time you are in the supermarket, become a super sleuth. Check every label, look for ingredients that you cannot pronounce or numbers that you have no idea what they are and put that product back until you can recognise the ingredient list. Soon you will have it down pat, and know all the good choices in the supermarket. But remember, things change, ingredients can change at the manufacturer's discretion.
Prepare your home: Being organised is essential to a stress free recovery. The time before surgery is perfect to start batch cooking or cooking double quantities of meals and freezing them for when you get home. Slow cooked meals are perfect after surgery as they are easy for the body to digest and full of nutrients that you need to heal. Bone broth is another nutrient rich staple to keep in the freezer. Rich in glycine and collagen, these proteins are essential for wound healing. Having a week’s supply of ready made meals, stocking up on meat, fish or poultry, portions of cooked rice and quinoa, frozen vegetables are a few suggestions. Explore fresh fruit and vegetable delivery options. Start saving online shopping lists so that when you are home from hospital all you have to do is click on the button. These delivery services are great as they are an easy way to get fresh milk, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and a few pantry staples plus a bunch of flowers to brighten up your living room delivered to your door without any extra charges.
Never be afraid to put people out. Ask your visitors to bring in a smoothie or a cooked meal instead of the obligatory box of chocolates and flowers when you are in hospital. If anyone offers their help ask them to visit you at home after discharge, or to take you on an outing to sit or walk in the sunshine at a park or a beach. If you have a close network of friends, ask one of them to organise a meal roster for the first week out of hospital. This is especially handy if you have a family that you are preparing meals for.
The time before elective surgery is a gift. Use it well to prepare yourself mentally and physically so that you can reduce your time in hospital, improve your recovery experience and reduce the risk of complications.
Before kids, I worked as a registered nurse for over 20 years on surgical and medical wards, specialising in Intensive Care at St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst. I recently re skilled as a nutritionist due to food intolerances in my children. Combining the two skill sets makes so much sense.
I offer 4 week pre and post operative programs that will guide you step by step, including nutrition consultations, targeted supplementation, functional testing, individualised nourishing meal plans, recipe ideas and strategies to improve your surgical outcomes. Lets work together.
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