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Surgery/recovery tips


LexieCat

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I have VATS scheduled for next Monday--probable lobectomy (if the nodule is cancerous).  Anyone have any great tips for the hospital/recovery?  Bridget suggested getting a wedge pillow, which I already received and tested out--it's great and I can see how useful it would be for maintaining a good position during sleep.  I also got a locking mesh bag for my iPad, phone, etc.  Last time I gave birth and was in for a couple of days following a C-section, my wallet was stolen (yeah, I'm a prosecutor, should have known better) and credit cards run up.  Lesson learned--don't leave anything valuable unsecured in your room, even briefly.  

I've had three major abdominal surgeries in my life (counting the C-section) and I generally heal quickly, tolerate pain OK, and am anxious to get home as soon as is reasonable/safe to do so.  My surgeon predicts that (barring complications) it will be 2-3 days max.  I took today off so I'd be able to do some cleaning and laundry and stuff so I will come home to a clean house and not have to do anything but recover.  I live alone but have terrific, dependable neighbors at home all day, who will run errands or do anything I need help with.  The surgery will be on my left side, which at least means my dominant side won't be compromised.

I am fortunate, too, to work from home, and my job will accommodate a flexible schedule as long as I need it--I can work for a couple of hours as I feel up to it and then rest/take a nap.

So, is there anything anyone found particularly helpful or that you wish you had known/done before surgery?

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LexieCat,

My dressing change was every other day. A agree with the already suggested wedge pillow but if discharged with a chest tube, you may need an assortment of smaller pillows to make sitting on your furniture comfortable.

Getting out of bed with a chest tube and healing incisions will be a challenge.  Before surgery, I'd hoist myself up on my with hands and elbows, and rotate vertically out of bed. First time I tried that at home, I realized I needed a better solution.  I had to move myself to the left side of the bed and roll out on my feet.  It was a complicated maneuver especially with a chest tube.  You should practice with a phantom chest tube that will likely be installed in the small of your back on the same side as the incisions.

Also ask for a chest drain receptacle that you can drain yourself to avoid returning to the hospital and driving with a chest tube is near impossible.

My experience was or should be considered worst case.  I had three thoracic procedures in four months and each used the same entry location.  Hopefully, you'll be one and done.

Stay the course.

Tom

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I have TONS of small pillows, so getting comfortable/supported should be no problem.  And glad to hear the dressing changes aren't likely to be too terribly frequent--if it's every other day or so, shouldn't be too difficult to manage finding someone to do it.  I'm pretty sure my insurance would cover nursing visits to check on that sort of thing--just left a message for the Nurse Navigator to find out.  I have friends who would be willing, but they aren't that close by.  I'll figure it out.  

It also just occurred to me that I should probably color my hair before I go in--normally I'd wait another week or so before doing it, but I imagine it's going to be painful holding that one arm up in the awkward positions for a while.  

And I remember with the abdominal surgeries having to be careful about getting up/out of bed.  

And yes--one and done is the plan. :-)

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Hi again,

My dressings were changed twice a day. I usually had some leakage around my chest tube, so it was a bigger, more absorbent dressing.  The other incisions from the VATS were easy to deal with and I probably could have changed those dressings myself, but the chest tube insertion point was somewhat around back and not reachable without contortions and discomfort. My tube was attached to a one-way valve called a Heimlich valve, and then to a long tube that went into a drainage bag that I could empty myself with no probem. The only issue with the bag was that it had a small opening at the top so air could escape and it also let fluid escape if it wasn't kept upright. I rigged up on a place to hang the bag at night lower than my body, so it could drain. When I was walking around, I hooked it onto the waistband of my pants. When I went outside, I put an oversized raincoat over the whole thing. 

As I may have said previously, I was discharged the day after surgery. I had the tube for 10 days. I think most are out sooner, but I was still leaking air. I walked around outside a lot during  that time--not much distance but often to a nearby store that has a coffee bar. I felt better than I expected to. Driving with a chest tube in is NOT a good idea, nor is driving while taking opiods, so youll need somebody to help with that. Here we have a service called Ride Connection that helps with transportation needs for elderly and/or disabled. It's not the same as the paratransit connected to our public transportation, but uses some volunteers as well as some paid drivers. For both my VATS and another past medical issue that made it had to dirve and painful to walk, I used Ride Connection short term, for times that my partner was unable to drive me. I wonder if your area has something like that? I also found grocery delivery helpful.

Bridget

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Thanks, appreciate it.  I think I'm pretty well fixed in the grocery department.  I have lots of good, easy, microwaveable stuff.  I just found the VATS sheet from the hospital, and it says there "shouldn't" be any dressing changes necessary.  That's assuming, of course, that the chest tube comes out, I'd guess.  I've gotten most of my housework done this long weekend and can finish up the rest this week.  I know I'll feel better if I can come home to a clean place (world's most lackadaisical housekeeper here).  LOL, living alone has the advantage of requiring cleanup of only my OWN messes, but the disadvantage of the temptation to let a lot of the routine things slide.  

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Lexiecat

I had a lobectomy by VATS on my upper left lobe. I had surgery on a Friday, most everything was unhooked on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. Monday morning I was released from hospital and took a 1 1/2 hour flight home Monday evening. It sounds like you have been doing your preparation and research. Rest when you need to and eat as much or as little as you like. It was not near as bad as I had expected but don't push it even if you do feel ok.

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Now THAT is encouraging!  And so is your followup--you've been kicking around for a while, now.

Do you continue to have scans or x-rays periodically?  How often?

My nodule is just about 1 cm, so I'm hoping for 1a.  Nothing else has lit up on the PET scan, other than the one nodule. I'd love to avoid the chemo, but will have to wait and see.  At least I'm keeping busy this week.

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You might consider sleeping in a reclining chair the first few days. That will support your ribs and rib expansion better. Tuck those pillows in & around for some extra support. Also easier to get out of than a bed. Have one pillow to hug incase you cough or sneeze.

You will be given an incentive spirometer to help prevent anesthesia induced pneumonia and to strengthen the lungs. Use it religiously.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Thank you !  I'm familiar with a spirometer--I had a partner once who needed to use one after heart surgery.  I have a recliner, but the downside for that is that I also have cats--who WILL be all over me if I try to sleep in it.  I can close the door in the bedroom, so I think all things considered I will stick with the bed.  The wedge pillow I got seems to provide a lot of support--it's a memory foam/gel, and pretty firm.  And yes--I remember the pillow-hug for coughing from my abdominal surgeries.  

Did you find that the primary pain is from the incisions?  I'm assuming there's not a whole lot of pain where the lobe is cut out.  I'm ecstatic that VATS is possible.  I really didn't like the descriptions of the full incision surgery, with rib-spreading and all.  I've had a cracked rib before--NOT pleasant.

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I had my surgery in September 2010 so getting close to the 10 year mark.

I have chest x-rays once a year now.

I think my nodule was 1.5cm but near a blood vessel so they staged it at 1b instead of 1a

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  • 3 years later...
On 7/4/2017 at 6:29 PM, LexieCat said:

Thank you !  I'm familiar with a spirometer--I had a partner once who needed to use one after heart surgery.  I have a recliner, but the downside for that is that I also have cats--who WILL be all over me if I try to sleep in it.  I can close the door in the bedroom, so I think all things considered I will stick with the bed.  The wedge pillow I got seems to provide a lot of support--it's a memory foam/gel, and pretty firm.  And yes--I remember the pillow-hug for coughing from my abdominal surgeries.  

Did you find that the primary pain is from the incisions?  I'm assuming there's not a whole lot of pain where the lobe is cut out.  I'm ecstatic that VATS is possible.  I really didn't like the descriptions of the full incision surgery, with rib-spreading and all.  I've had a cracked rib before--NOT pleasant.

Hey, I'm new here. Thx for the recommendations, I'm really happy to know that wedge pillows can solve some of my problems

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Frank

Welcome. I suggest you post a new comment so for sure get responses. The wedge is great!

Lexie

Speak of the devil. Gotta believe this was one of your first posts? And look who was there right off the bat to help, Bridget and Tom G. Not at all surprised. 

Now you are very much like them and graciously offer your help as soon as you read a new post. You rock!

Peace

Tom

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Hi there, Frank, and welcome! I'm still around, taking the scenic route. Unfortunately, after a very successful lobectomy, almost three years later the cancer returned elsewhere in my lung, and with a small metastasis to my sacrum. So it's Stage IV now, been through chemo and immunotherapy and after a bit of progression (growth of tumor), I'm starting a clinical trial soon that combines two immunotherapy drugs.

That isn't by way of discouraging you--plenty of people have the lobectomy and never need any other treatment. But it does point up (a) the importance of continuing faithfully with followup exams and (b) knowing that every day new research and treatments are moving forward. I always say the secret to surviving lung cancer is to stay alive long enough for the next new advances. There are lots of tools in the toolbox, unlike only 5-10 years ago.

One of our members, Lou, has complied a list of tips and tricks for surgery you might find helpful: https://forums.lungevity.org/topic/47249-thoracic-surgery-tips-and-tricks/

 

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2 hours ago, TJM said:

Frank

Welcome. I suggest you post a new comment so for sure get responses. The wedge is great!

Lexie

Speak of the devil. Gotta believe this was one of your first posts? And look who was there right off the bat to help, Bridget and Tom G. Not at all surprised. 

Now you are very much like them and graciously offer your help as soon as you read a new post. You rock!

Peace

Tom

Yup, Bridget and Tom (and a few others here) were my heroes then and still are, today. I got to meet both of them (along with a few other folks from the forum) a few years ago for the HOPE conference in DC. Hopefully it won't be too long till we can have in-person (as opposed to virtual) conferences again. It really was fun putting faces with the names and hanging out together (as well as attending the interesting/informative sessions).

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