Surgery is stressful for both newbies and for those like me who have had dozens of surgeries and pretty much know hospitals like the back of my hand. When you spend your whole in and out of the hospital and have dozens of surgeries to manage your health you are not going to have panic attacks before a colonoscopy like someone who has never been to a hospital might but there will still be some uncertainty even for veterans because you can’t be in full control of your surgery and it’s outcomes. Some people think that when you have dozens of surgeries that your anxiety goes away because nothing is new to you but that is not true because every surgery has new experiences and different risks. Families will try to be supportive of someone’s surgery recovery and for the most part you are but sometimes you may not be as supportive as you think which annoys the person in pain and makes recovery feel twice as long. My family and friends has supported all my surgeries and I would not be able to get through any of them with good mental health without the support of loved ones but there are some things that some people can do better. In this post I am going to talk about how you can be more supportive of my uncoming surgery.
Don’t just show up- After surgery people sometimes think that they need to be there the moment their loved ones wake up but that is not true for everyone. Some people like a lot of visitors after they wake up from surgery but some people don’t like it and will send visitors that come without warning away because some people can be annoying or loud while you are trying to rest. I don’t mind visitors but if you come within hours of me waking up and you have not asked if I want you there I will send you away. I am not usually in the mood to entertain visitors on the day of surgery because I am tired and I like to use that first day to get pain under control which I would have a difficult time doing if I had visitors that wanted to chat. Most hospitals have different visitation restrictions because of Covid and a lot of the time you are limited on how many visitors and are allowed to have whereas before there was no limit. Limiting visitors can be a good or bad thing and it can be good because people that don’t want to see their entire family as they are waking up from surgery won’t have to about that but it can be bad for those that need it to improve their mental health. You should always ask before showing up because people recovering from surgery need time to rest and you are not giving them the proper space when you assume that your loved ones want visitors and show up at the worst times.
Ask if there is anything I need- During surgery recovery, you get all kinds of yummy snacks and it’s not even your birthday or Christmas which is the best part of being stuck in bed. I appreciate it when people gift me my favorite chocolate because surgery recoveries are a stressful time and will not refuse it but it can become a problem when you overboard and get more than I know what to do with. I sometimes am hesitant to tell people what chocolate I like because I have had people go to Costco to get me a massive bag of snickers that I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next six months and still have some to share. As a disabled person, I don’t need that much chocolate because my stoma interacts with sugar and I can’t eat it at that same rate as an abled person without negative consequences so you don’t need to be buying it in bulk. People sometimes can forget about asking the person in pain what they would need or want and assume we want our weight in chocolate. Ask what I would want or need because sometimes I don’t want as much chocolate as you think I do and the only thing I would like is for someone to watch a movie with me or to have a good tasting meal because hospital food is not great!
A text can go a long way– Some of my family can visit me but a lot of them can’t because they are in different states and I don’t expect anyone to stop life to visit me in the hospital. If you are a family or a friend and can’t visit me in the hospital there are no hard feelings but there are no excuses for not sending a text message when you know someone is about to go through something difficult because people like to know that you are thinking of them and when you say nothing they are going to assume you don’t care. Get well messages received from a caregiver is thoughtful but it does not hold the same weight as if you reach out to the person actually having a hard time. If you are a social media follower and don’t know someone personally it’s not as important to reach out to them before they have surgery but families should make an extra effort because you will always remember that family member that didn’t even try to care.
Never make a comment towards someone’s weight– When you are recovering from surgery there will always be that one person who makes comments regarding your weight but you should avoid these things like the plague. Some people will praise your weight loss after surgery or criticize it and say that you have gotten fat but regardless of how you say it both ways are harmful. Pain can affect your weight after surgery and for some people that may look like not eating while others may not be able to stop. When you congratulate weight loss after surgery you could be praising high pain levels and that is not something you want to praise. Don’t stress over it if your weight was negatively impacted during your recovery because nothing is permanent and you can always change when you start to feel better.
Keep my food trigger in mind when making meals- Meals can be helpful for families that are caring for someone recovering from surgery especially if that person is disabled because when you have limited mobility there is more work involved. Through the many surgeries, I have been made a lot of meals and do appreciate them because it’s one less thing my caregiver has to do but I have a love/hate relationship with them. Some of the meals people bring can be quite delicious and I want your recipe but sometimes it’s triggering for my stoma and stressful to it. I know that not everyone who makes a meal for my family will read my blog and be familiar with my disability and I don’t fault people for not knowing but it still can be stressful when you are brought lasagna that you know will cause all kinds of issues. If you are making a meal for someone who is recovering from surgery and happen to know some of their food triggers it’s a good idea to keep that in mind when preparing it because meals aren’t as enjoyable when we have to eat something that our bodies interact with.
Remember that some people don’t want photos shared- Disabled people sometimes will post photos of their health struggles online but that is okay because it’s your health and you can do that if you are talking about yourself. If it’s not about your health you should not be sharing photos of someone’s recovery outside of immediate family and most certainly not posting them online without their consent because it makes some people uncomfortable you may not want to relive that experience through those photos. I want to remember some details about my hip replacement recovery so if I ever were to need to consider it again I would remember how horrible it was but I don’t need to remember all the struggles in great detail and would like to forget most of it. If you are snapping photos while someone is lying in bed recovering from surgery without them saying it’s okay to do so it makes people feel embarrassed because while your on bedrest you don’t look your best.
Surgery recoveries are hard because they are stressful and can be unpredictable but some disabled people have to go through it dozens of times for good health. Some days your surgery recovery will be really hard and it will feel like the pain is winning and it’s on those days that emotional support is most important. Families can’t take away the pain someone is experiencing but you can play games with them because it’s the time when you are sitting and doing nothing that it feels the worst. Some people struggle with seeing how there can be any positives with what they are going through and that is okay because it’s toxic positivity to tell your loved ones they have to always see the bright side of things. There will be times when you just get through things but there are not a lot of positives and it’s harmful to force someone to make a list of everything that’s good because some people may argue that there aren’t any. How are you supporting someone recovering from surgery? If you have any other tips for being supportive after someone has had surgery I’d love to hear them so please leave them in the comments below.
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This is a great list! I haven’t had any surgery since I got my tonsils out at 12, but I have supported a couple of people through multiple surgeries and recovery, as well as supporting my kid through several lengthy hospitalization. I find your list very helpful!The only thing I might add is checking with the person if they want any kind of “meal train” or other organization of visits, etc. Having another person handle that can be great (and having someone who isn’t close family handle it can also be great as close family may be doing more intensive support). Thanks a lot for the list!
My Rockin Disabled Life
Thank you, I am glad you found my list helpful! I never thought of it that way but with most of my recoveries, there has been something like that and people generally call before they visit and my family gets meals organized by my church for about two weeks which is helpful for my caregiver because it’s one less thing they have to do.