Learn to bum shuffle and use your legs to get out of the bed. Pushing down, even slightly on your arms will hurt! I highly recommend sit ups months before your surgery in preparation- my core strength has had a work out! Lifting anything heavier than a phone will hurt and stretching your arms out too is a no no. You can reach things, but I wouldn’t try your Stretch Armstrong impressions during this time! Flushing the toilet… now this caught me by surprise, after mastering the art of holding my drains and going to the toilet whilst feeling like I am floating on clouds was difficult enough, but when I pushed down the handle to flush I got a searing pain through my chest. Not something you would think of! This eased quite quickly after the initial day.
Using elbows to lean and move yourself maybe easier. Do not avoid using your arms, at the end of the day you need to strengthen your chest muscle back up, the only way to do that is to use it, little and often. Where can you reach? Anything that waist height is do able, stuff on the floor… no hope. If it doesn’t hurt your chest, your drains will hurt bending over and then also anything that is head height or above is a challenge. So kitchen cupboards etc were are no go for me. Also, pulling or pushing actions hurt for around a week- opening drawers, doors etc. But again, little and often!
One Week Later
I could open drawers and doors. Bending down is still a challenge, however I became a master at picking up things with my feet! My side of my body was still very tender but the bruising had gone from plum to more of a Marge Simpson colour. Lifting will still be very difficult and I wouldn’t push it either, a water bottle is fine but know your own limit and if it really hurts, don’t do it. Twisting bottle tops I still could not do, reaching is difficult, but I could brush my hair and put it in a pony- so that was progress! I could wash myself from the sink with the sponge. You will find what works for you and based on the set up of your bathroom. I was able to shuffle bath mat (with my feet) to the sink and wash with a simple bath sponge from Boots. I hung my drains on the radiator behind me and when it came to my legs, I bought my legs to the sponge rather than bend down. Washing under your arms is the biggest challenge, and without being gross, then trying to smell your armpits to check how successful you have been, is also a task!! If you have a loved one, friend or family member that owes you one, I would enlist there help and honest opinion with the armpit situation.
A Few Weeks On
Showering!! Oh how I missed showering! It is a weird feeling and with reconstruction you still have these two aliens on your chest that seem to be in your way. But my goodness does it feel good to shower and be properly clean!!
After a few weeks I was much more mobile and could reach things that had been challenging. Some aspects will still be a challenge and you must not push yourself too much. Do your exercises and do a little more day to day things as time goes on.
What Will Catch You Out?
REFLEXES- if you or someone drops something close to you, you will try and catch it, its instinct and it just happens so quickly! I fell afoul of this and it only happened the once to teach my brain to just let things fall!
DOOR HANDLES, ENDS OF RADIATORS OR ANTYHING THAT STICKS OUT- watch your drains when going past these, I caught mine on the bottom of a kitchen stool. Once again- you learn this lesson fast!
COUGHING OR SNEEZING- there is nothing you can do about this one, it will happen at some point, its sods law. It may hurt, but it isn’t the end of the world and it gets easier.
I can’t advise on sleeping, I found it bloody difficult. I can safely say, I am naturally an active sleeper, I toss, turn, move, kick, talk, everything… therefore being constrained to lying on my back with little arm movement was an experience. I got a bed wedge which supported me when in bed as sitting up right is recommended. I tried every eventuality with all the pillows in the world but still could not get or stay asleep for long periods of time. Throughout the night I changed from being propped up to flat. But either way, I woke up uncomfortable. I think it is a case of being persistent unfortunately. A few weeks later, I did manage to get comfy with my V pillow and a few normal pillows.
The photograph is three weeks post op and I think I have almost nailed it! Try out different arrangements is my advice, everyone will be different.