Thursday, May 26, 2016

Post-Op Followup Verdict: "You're golden!"

Wifey and I entered the surgeon's office at Penrose-St. Francis' Hospital with some minor trepidation about this post-op follow up. The basis for it was for the surgeon to assess: a) whether any incipient complications had arisen since the surgery on May 16, and b) whether the sterile bandage strips could finally come off after some eight days.

Before that I was questioned on any observations made concerning pain and how I dealt with it, or whether I'd experienced any noticeable side effects from the recent laparoscopic choloscystectomy. I noted the main thing was increasing pain experienced in the liver area each time I popped an ibuprofen on the 7th day after the surgery.  So, I decided to stop the ibuprofen.

This was done with very good reason as the limiting factor of diminishing returns appeared to have set in: I was deriving only limited benefit of decreased inflammation, and getting more pain (in the liver area) I didn't need or want. (It abated within hours of stopping the ibuprofen).

Of course, I'd been aware of the dangers from OTC pain killers since an article in the AARP Bulletin from September last year (p. 10). It noted that though Americans regularly use these pain-killers, like ibuprofen and naproxen (as well as Advil, Motrin and Aleve) they increased one's risk of heart attack and stroke. As the AARP piece put it (ibid.):

"Studies reviewed by a Food and Drug Administration Advisory Panel last year found mounting evidence that NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure whether or not a person has heart disease."

Of course, they aren't exactly good for your liver either, which has the role of processing all chemicals, additives,  toxins entering your body.  The basic takeaway advice in the article was (p. 11):

"Do not use these medications for minor aches and pains - but use acetominophen (Tylenol) or aspirin instead  Restrict NSAID use to more severe cases of pain - and stick to the lowest effective dose for the shortest time possible."

So, I basically had stuck with 200 mg four times daily for a week (avoiding the hydrocodone entirely because the ibuprofen worked)  But I stopped after 7 days and changed to aspirin, a couple low dose every 6 hours. The swelling has since continued to go down and the pain's eased up.

The surgeon listened attentively then removed the sterile bandages and examined the essentially healed wounds and said matter of factly: "You're golden! Just eat more or less what you will, not too much fat, and lay off any heavy lifting for at least four weeks."

The main wound, as I observed it closely for the first time, was about a 1.3-inch scar right across the base of the belly button. He explained that this was the incision through which the largest stone (1" across) was extracted as well as the gall bladder.

As I looked at the scar I thought of the old sci-fi series 'Stargate' in which one of the alien species encountered (the gua-old) were nasty parasites that could be extracted through the humanoid host's umbilicus, e.g.
Jaffa Primta pouch

Main thing now is the swelling surrounding the wound is gradually decreasing.  A week ago it was the size of a small egg, now about the size of a large marble.

One more point, as an atheist I ordinarily would probably not have selected a Catholic hospital for the surgery. However, they were tied to the top flight group of surgeons in our town: Colorado Springs Surgical Associates. On inspection of their website I could easily see they racked up the most hours as well as incidence of gall bladder removals. As my friend in NC (Rick) put it: "Look, you want to get someone who's done hundreds of these, not some general surgeon who just took a 12 -hour weekend course in gall bladder removals!"

Well, I followed his advice and so far I don't regret it. I'm "golden"! Now, I'm just wondering when I can get to Outback and enjoy a 14 oz. ribeye.

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