I’m 10 days post-op with Dr. Garramone and here are some things I’ve thought about while recovering. This all comes from my experience, so it’ll always vary from person to person. I hope this helps someone. There will always be more to add to this, but here’s what I can think of right now:
Remember to relax your shoulders - Garramone wraps you up pretty securely and you’ll be a little hunched over. This makes you want to pull your shoulders up without realizing it, but it’s important to relax them.
Bendy Straws - I didn’t see these as necessary at first, but then I started getting my drinks more than halfway down and I’d realized I couldn’t fully lift the cup/bottle to finish anything. Straws will help so much.
If you drop things, don’t worry - I went down on my knees a lot to get what I needed. Just drop down on one or both knees and don’t use your arms. You’re going to be using your whole body to do simple activities.
Rest when you need to - I didn’t take naps, but I slept pretty solid through the night. Sometimes I’d get sleepy during the day and I’d lay down but not sleep. Remember that your body just went through major trauma and it’ll let you know when it needs sleep. Don’t worry about being “too lazy”, just do what you need to do.
You don’t have to take your Vicodin/Percocet - You can, but it isn’t an absolutely necessity for everyone. Some don’t need the meds, others go for refills (Garramone gives you 40 of whatever med). Just remember you MUST take your antibiotic.
Do what you can to feel clean - Not being able to shower really sucks and if you’re like me you’ll stop feeling like a person after days of lying around and getting gross. Wash what you can with washcloths, brush your teeth, clean your face and hands, put on deodorant/body spray, do whatever you need/want to feel your best.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help - I’m a stubborn person and had to remind myself that asking for help is okay. I got stuck in chairs, couldn’t reach things, got stuck in clothes… all because I wouldn’t ask for help. In the end you’ll be better off politely asking for assistance and recognizing that there are things you just can’t do yet.
Practice not using your arms before surgery - This helped me immensely. Practice going around your house and doing daily activities with the limited range of motion you’ll have post-op (basically lock your elbows to your sides). This will make you aware of how to alter your house to best suit you and it’ll also give you practice of how to, for instance, get off of your couch. I didn’t realize how hard doing that would be, since I was so used to using my arms to push-off. You’ll appreciate this work later on.
If you can, don’t eat a lot of junk food - This is both for health reasons and also because you’re already feeling down because of this intensive surgery, you don’t want to add aggravating foods to the mix. Leland explained to us that we should aim for a low sodium diet about a week before and then after surgery, since sodium will encourage your body to retain the swelling you’ll have.
It’s okay to not be ecstatic - Recognize that not everyone is extremely happy and excited after surgery. It seems like everyone talks about how ecstatic they are post-op, but for me I just felt this small warmth of happiness and relief. It wasn’t fireworks and that’s okay, my reaction was what I needed. Some people become depressed afterwards, which is alright too.
If you can, get Netflix or something similar - You’re going to be doing a lot of resting over the next few days. My travel companion and I didn’t have Netflix so we watched a lot of shows that happened to be on and weren’t really entertaining. I wasn’t up for really intense story lines, so having to watch Cheer Perfection or Jersey Shore ended up good for me because I could kind of zone out and laugh at how silly it was.
Aches and pains - My neck became very sore from having to be hunched up, so sometimes I’d put a warm wash clothes around it for a little while. This can help out.
Take short walks - Even walking in your hotel room/bedroom for a little while can help out in your healing. It helps get your circulation going and reduces swelling, plus it can work out a lot of the stiffness that’ll follow. Some peoples arms and legs swell up post-op and I hear walking can help dissipate this. When I wanted to stay in bed I’d periodically flex my arms and legs to help me feel like I was at least doing something. No idea if that helps, but it made me feel better. Walking also helped me manage the pain I had. Once or twice I’d woken up at 5 in the morning, unable to sleep because I was hurting too much. So instead I went outside a walked a few laps around the pool that was there. The first minute would be pretty intense and painful but very quickly after that it would make all of the pain go away. It really did help.
Change your clothes - I’ve been stuck in the same pair of shorts for nearly two weeks now because I have to have compression on my legs. Add that to being wrapped up in post-operative binders and I wasn’t happy. I could change my shirt and that was about it, so I did just that because it made me feel better.
Go to the bathroom, even if you don’t feel like you need to - Because once you’re settled in you won’t want to get back up. This is especially if you’re about to lay down for bed, because waking up at 3 AM with a full bladder and having it take you 10 minutes to get out of bed, shuffle to the bathroom, and slowly figure out how to Houdini out of the tightest shorts you’ve ever seen when you can’t move your arms is not fun.
I made a post about top surgery advice when I was 10 days post-op, which you can find here. That one was more practical and well thought out, so this one may not be nearly as helpful. Thought I’d share it just the same. These things reflect the experience I had and may not help you or be applicable to you. I’m nearly 2 months post-op with Dr. Garramone now.
Button-up shirts - These will be exceptionally helpful and much easier to put on than an over-the-head shirt.
Post-surgical depression - It may occur and that is okay. For more on this, Neutrois Nonsense has made a post here.
Anesthesia, vicodin, antibiotics - I don’t know if any one thing caused these effects, so I’m going to lump them together and say that they had more of an effect on me than I realized. I had the worst time trying to sleep for a little over a month after surgery. I thought the problem was that I had to sleep on my back, but it persisted even when I could shift onto my side. I had nightmares, woke up several times a night, and never felt rested. The problem has gone away for the most part.
And on the topic of sleeping - You might do some weird things in your sleep. A lot has just occurred to your body in a small amount of time, so it’s going to be a little jumbled up. The friend who came with me to Florida says that after surgery I talked in my sleep, made strange noises, and would sometimes stop breathing. I also snored a considerable amount, which I don’t do, but I’ll attribute that to having to sleep on my back.
Appetite/Nausea - Because of the rich buffet of chemicals in your body, you may experience some (/a lot of) nausea. I found that I didn’t want to eat a lot post-op and I had to be careful of what I did eat because my stomach was much more sensitive than usual. Bananas and oranges were relatively ‘safe’ for me. So was bread.
Look at that, bathroom stuff now - So this older fellow (mid-40’s I believe) at New Beginnings and I would see each other and every day ask the other “So, have you pooped yet?” It took a few days but we got there. You’re going to feel much better afterwards. Also a common problem seems to be how to clean yourself up, since your range of motion is restricted. Trial and error, but I found that if I opened my legs further than normal it was easier.
Mentally preparing - Prepare yourself mentally for what is going to occur. And keep in mind that your chest is going to look better and better as each week goes on, so if you feel down about your results when you first see them, don’t worry. How I looked at 1 week post-op is miles away from how I look now that I’m just under 2 months post-op. Things are going to be changing in appearance so rapidly. I took weekly pictures and you’d be surprised to see just how much changes in intervals as small as 7 days. Your nipples will start to look ‘normal’/not gooey around 20 days post-op, by the way. That was something I was curious about pre-op.
All part of the process - A mindset that I tried to stay in was that every bit of pain or inconvenience that I experienced was simply all part of the process. It was just another step and it would all be worth it. Having a sense of humor or acceptance over the reality of this and over your temporary limitations can be very helpful.
You might feel fully healed very quickly - But that doesn’t mean you should push your body further than it’s limits. By about 2 and a half weeks post-op I felt completely fine, except that I was limiting my range of motion. But the healing period of 6 weeks is there for a reason.