DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Sights and Sounds of the Hospital
Your senses can become fine tuned to the sights and sounds of the hospital stay after your DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Whether you have been in hospital before or not there are many things to deal with when you are out of the comfortable environment of your own home and bed. Our five senses, taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing, connect us to everything around us. Let’s look at what that means while recovering from DIEP flap breast reconstruction during your hospital stay.
The taste that you have in your mouth post-surgery can only be described by the individual. My perception is one of a medicinal, antiseptic taste. You have been anesthetized for a long period and the drugs used will linger on the tongue. Your mouth will be dry and you will not be allowed fluids of any kind immediately upon waking. The best remedy is this little green sponge dipped in water to moisten the lips and place on your tongue. Yes, I know, I look pathetic but it was a lovely feeling after waking up from surgery!
Your diet will be somewhat limited for a few hours or a day or two to mainly liquids and soft foods. This is to transition your system back to normal foods slowly. With DIEP flap surgery appetite, will be effected by your new tight tummy, abdominoplasty. You simply won’t have the room and expansion in the tummy area like you did before surgery. The best taste for me was my first meal. The nutrition department brought me a beautiful plateful of fruit that seemed like gourmet food to me.
One taste I remember during my hospital stay was the breathing treatments. This was done to keep the lungs clear and reduce the risk of pneumonia. The solution they put into the system before administering the mist through he breathing apparatus was an unpleasant saline taste to me. I dreaded seeing them come in the room but they were short-lived treatments and I knew it was all part of the road to recovery. This picture my husband took states rather boldly that I wasn’t enjoying the taste.
Your body has just been through major surgery. You will feel a bit battered from the incisions, drains, surgical bra, and abdominal binder depending on what is prescribed by your plastic surgeon. You are going to be touched a lot! The nurses will begin checking and monitoring your flaps each hour when your return from surgery to see if they are still alive and surging. Your body will feel warm to you under the garments, bandages, and blankets. This is to keep the blood flow in optimal working order. Your plastic surgeon will visit your room to check on you and look at the flaps as well. You will have a lot of hands on you as you will need assistance with getting out of bed, walking, showering, etc. Get ready for a humility decompression event!! Lots of folks are going to be touching your body.
Does the phrase, “Lights, camera, action!” seem like something you experienced in recovery from your DIEP flap breast reconstruction? Your hospital room will never be without some sort of light even as hard as the hospital staff might try to achieve that. There are monitors and dim lights throughout the room. The various staff must open your door at night and the halls are always lit so you get that incoming light. They usually apologize for turning on a dim light to check blood pressure, temperature, draw labs, administer medicine, and record treatment on a computer screen. The only thing I can recommend to have complete darkness in between these frequent “wake up” calls is an eye cover. What will your view be like out your window? That is going to vary as well depending on the hospital facility and type of room you will be in. The comfort and care of my room for my DIEP was unsurpassed but I can’t say the view was fantastic. I have visited other DIEP patients who had magnificent views from their room but this is simply not always the case. Look at this beautiful view from a recent visit I had with a DIEP patient who was healing after her surgery.
Hospital smells tend to be very antiseptic due to all the medications and sterile environment. Then there is your own personal aroma! You won’t be able to shower for a few days. So many patients I speak to can’t wait for that first shower and I was no different. The patient assistant gave me my first shower. The warmth of the water pouring over my body as I sat on the shower chair was so refreshing. Getting rid of the “matted bed head” look of your hair is a real treat, too, after that first shower. I distinctly remember my plastic surgeon walking in to visit me the first morning after my surgery. He must have just recently showered because I wanted to freeze frame him as he stood next to my bed and just enjoy the clean smell. I will admit, some of the nursing staff had a bit too much perfume on for my comfort as I was recovering. I think you just get hypersensitive to smells after surgery. There is just no glamour in being in bed without a shower for a few days, let’s face it!
Monitors, the hospital intercom, leg compression device inflating and squeezing your legs to avoid blood clots, blood pressure cuff monitors; the list goes on. Again, all I can recommend is to bring earplugs or earbuds with your favorite tunes downloaded to block out hospital noise.
The good news, the stay and challenge is short lived but can be a mental mind game for patients to deal with the sights and sounds of hospital as they recover from DIEP flap surgery. What were the sights and sounds you remember during your recovery?