“I wasn’t hungry, but I still wanted to eat.”
2. “Being pumped full of air hurt the most.”
In any minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery (like gastric bypass), doctors don’t cut you wide open. Instead, they insert small surgical tools into a tiny incision and use a camera to operate from the outside. In order to see and maneuver around, they pump some carbon dioxide into your body around the part that’s being operated on. So in the case of gastric bypass, it’s pumped into your stomach and intestines. Although the gas is let out before the incision is closed, inevitably, a tiny bit gets trapped inside. So patients are asked to keep moving immediately after surgery to help the body move the air out. “Even though you just got out of surgery and you’re tired and in pain, you have to keep walking,” says Wolinsky. “You feel the air travel upward, toward your shoulder. It’s 10 times more painful than your body actually healing from surgery.” Working out all of the CO2 took a few days. “I’m really goal-oriented, so I just breathed deeply and thought about my goal to get through it,” she says.
3. “There was a tube hanging out of my stomach for a week.”
For a week after gastric bypass surgery, many patients have a bag hanging outside of the body connected to a thin tube attached to the stomach; this allows any excess fluids to drain from the abdomen, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. And every day you have to clean it, Wolinsky says. “It’s excruciatingly difficult,” she says. “It’s such a gross and painful feeling, knowing it’s attached to an organ in your body and you can see it.” Fortunately, Wolinsky’s aunt is a nurse and helped her to clean the port until it was removed.
4. “I had to sleep sitting up.”
For the first couple weeks following surgery, Wolinsky slept in a semi-sitting position. “I’m a stomach- or side-sleeper, but you can’t sleep on your stomach for two to three weeks,” she says. “It’s odd and uncomfortable, especially when you’re trying to recover from major surgery,” she says. Fortunately, the pain medication along with extreme exhaustion from the healing process made getting her z’s possible.