I’m all scheduled for my laparoscopic nissen fundoplication Thursday morning. So what does that mean? My adventure begins Wednesday night when I eat a light meal for dinner. Then I shower using bacterial soap before going to bed. I wake up at 5 AM (providing I get to sleep in the first place), wash my abdomen with the soap again, and drive to Chapel Hill.
Once at the hospital, I go to pre-care and get checked in. Then it’s off to Ambulatory Care where they prep me for my surgery, including being interviewed by the anesthesiologist. My belongings go into a locker and I put on a hospital gown. I wave goodbye to Kelly as I’m wheeled into the operating room. We won’t see each other again for at least four hours.
I’m given general anesthetic to put me to sleep. The doctor makes five incisions on my abdomen: four 4mm cuts below my rib cage and one 10mm cut above my navel. He uses these to wrap the upper part of my stomach into a “collar” around my lower esophagus. He also tucks my hiatal hernia back under my diaphram, where it belongs.
The surgery is expected to take less than two hours. I’ll get sealed up with dissolving stitches, after which I’m wheeled into the PACU, where I’m monitored until the anesthesia wears off (1-2 hours). Then, I’m wheeled up to my hospital room to rest (and wallow in pain medication).
Word from Dr. Farrell is that I’ll likely be able to leave after one night in the hospital. I’ve got no reason to doubt him, as he sees this as being a pretty uncomplicated procedure for me. Any longer than that, and my sanity will suffer, I’m sure!
I’m told that immediately after surgery, I may experience pain in my shoulders. Yep, that’s right: shoulders. The air pumped into my abdomen to perform the surgery sometimes leaves bubbles which rise to the shoulders. It’s not pleasant from all accounts, but it soon goes away. After that, I may feel difficulty swallowing, as there is usually swelling in my esophagus after the surgery. It also soon passes.
My post-op diet will be soft foods for a little while, until the swelling goes down. It may take a little time to get used to the new feel of my repaired esophagus. After a few weeks, however, I’ll be eating normally.
Physically, I’ll be on my feet in a day or two, and from Dr. Farrell’s account I’ll be doing aerobic exercise within a week. I’m most excited about this since I don’t normally do aerobic exercise, so I consider it a bonus (insert wry grin here). The focus will be on avoiding things which might unwrap my surgery. I’m cool with that.
I’ll no longer have reflux problems and food regurgitation. The $5-a-day antacid medication will no longer be needed. I may sleep better now that my esophagus is not constantly under attack.
On the downside, one of the things I may be giving up is the ability to vomit. I do this seemingly more frequently than most people, but it may be bad luck with food poisoning. I figure I trade this inconvenience of once every 6 months for comfort the rest of the year. Not a bad trade. Just how much fun is vomiting, anyway? Besides, I’ll have a prescription for nausea medication, which should help quell that “urge to purge.”
I’m excited about the positive outcome this surgery can bring, though I’ve got reservations about the surgery itself. While I’ve had procedures done of one sort or another, I’ve never had anything of this magnitude. I guess I’m nervous about trusting someone with my life in such a direct way. The drugs begin to drip, the room fades around me and I roll the dice, hoping my body is more-or-less in one piece when I get back.
Oh well. Life’s an adventure, right?