Before and After the Surgery:
tips for successful recovery
(indented text by patients)
I. Things to take care of beforehand
Be prepared for not being able to drive yourself
You will need to find a backup driver, or scale back on your planned activities:
It was more than a month before I began driving after my surgery (mid-fossa in 99) and that was only in day-time. It was closer to six or seven weeks before I was really comfortable driving at night... This might be a good reason for someone to time surgery for spring and summer when the days are longer rather than in midwinter.
Avoiding sore spots and bruises
After my surgery I have some really sore spots on me feet! I had what I would call bone bruises on the very spots where my feet naturally contacted the bed when I was naturally resting. They came to the conclusion that with a very long anaesthetic (17 ½ hours) the lack of movement of my feet caused the bruises because there was so little cushion on the operating table. From then on the surgeon's nurse made it a point to provide a pillow for the patient's feet.
Lack of movement during surgery can also cause bruising of the tailbone, so we recommend ensuring proper cushioning.
Wearing glasses right after surgery
I wear glasses due to nearsightedness, and the first two days after surgery were made more miserable because I couldn't put my glasses on because of the large pressure bandage. Hint: the temple piece (the part that fits over your ear) comes off very easily by removing one tiny screw. Take off the one on the operation side and use a piece of tape wrapped around the stub of the temple piece to hold your glasses in place. I suffered extra discomfort due to eyestrain because I didn't think of this until after the pressure dressing was removed. For the first time in my life, I snarled at a doctor because I thought he should have given me this tip prior to surgery.
Stocking up on chewing gum
Whilst I was awaiting surgery, both my prospective surgeon and the recovery staff suggested frequent chewing of gum as a way of reinforcing the appropriate nerves and muscles prior to and following surgery. This, they said would aid rapid recovery.
Arranging for full-time child care
I did not have small children to care for during my recovery. If I had, I would have had to rely upon other people to care for the child for several weeks. This is a time for someone with small children to say YES to all the friends and family who offer to help 'do something.' Ladies in my church set up a schedule to bring me lunch my first week home from the hospital and it was really helpful. If you have friends or family who would take on the tasks of helping with food, laundry, and child care for the first couple of weeks home from the hospital it would be a tremendous help. You will probably be worn out just trying to get everything else done. Good friends really want to be able to contribute help in a specific way. The specifics of food, child care, and laundry give them a chance to be helpful.
There is life after an AN, and when you are young you have the advantage of more youthful energy and strength. Surgery can really zap your strength, and you may realize for several years that you have little reserve energy. When you get worn out, rest. Recognize that there is much you can do, but you may run in to personal limitations that you have to learn to recognize. Give yourself permission to say NO to the requests or demands of others, and always get plenty of rest.
Cutting back on some herbs and vitamins
Two weeks before surgery, you want to avoid herbs and vitamins that would prevent and impair bloodclotting capabilities. These include Vit E, Selenium, any oils like Evening Primrose or Fish Oil, garlic. Aspirin prior to surgery it also may impair with bloodclooting. (Aspirin, by the way, is derived from willow bark, so I suppose I could refer to as an herbal supplement.)
II. Things that may be useful afterwards
Aleviating problems with follow-up treatments
There are medical procedures for alleviating many of the problems due to AN surgery. Some of them are:
Avoiding eye damage
Dry eye is a frequent post-surgery problem where there is damage to the facial nerve. The main treatment immediately post-surgery is to make damned sure the cornea of the eye doesn't dry out, because that leads to ulceration of the cornea and attendant scarring, both of which are potentially vision-threatening. If you experience facial paralysis, whether it's temporary or not, insist on a referral to an ophthalmologist, in the hospital if necessary.
Here are some tips on coping with dry eye.
Tackling headaches head on
Many things have been found to work against the post-surgical headaches.
Protecting the remaining hearing
If you are concerned and about retaining the hearing in your good ear, you should use both ear muffs and ear plugs for really loud noise -- after all, why not? It's so easy. I have found that silicone 'Silly Putty' from the toy section makes the best ear plugs when you want to eliminate all noise transmission.
Switching from stereo to mono
I do notice that if I listen to one channel and then the other in a separate playback, that I miss instruments or voices. In one channel a particular sound may be more covered up in background or even missing altogether. Usually, mixing the stereo channels into a combined mono is the best.
I have a stereo/mono walkman RADIO that works quite well. It also receives VHF TV stations. Stereo is disabled by pressing a button. The model is the "Sangean DT 200V."
I have found a solution for my Walkman, etc. Radio Shack sells a monaural earphone with reasonable response. Its made by OPTIMUS with a RS part number of 33-1002. They have two types: one the old fashioned 'cone-in-the-ear' and this one that resembles a small speaker that fits in the ear. I travel quite a bit and it has a side benefit - it also fits in the airline's speaker outlet.
Information on hearing aids is also available in the Archive.
Tai Chi for your balance
I found that learning to practice Tai Chi, one of the Chinese martial arts, was very benefical to improving my balance and coordination following impairment due to AN-related meningitis. The exercises as well as "the form" are repetitive and they slow every movement down so that your body really has a chance to relearn.
Walking on magnets
Since my Gamma Knife radiosurgery, my balance is not the best. I've just started using magnets - I have a pair of magnetic innersoles. They are made by a Japanese company. What they do for me, besides provide a sense of general well-being and comfort, my balance has been greatly improved. I could recommend these to folks who are "unbalanced."
More balance tips
There are exercises you can do; also, we recommend contacting a vestibular rehabilitation center.
Visual clues compensate for missing vestibular clues to establish balance. Poor vision can be the root of the problem:
The biggest probem for me had been the balance difficulties. I went to an optometrist who specialized in vision therapy. He did an in-depth exam and found an underlying vision problem that I knew I had since I was a youngster and never did anything about. He prescribed prisms which look just like glasses. Within a day, my balance improved by 80%. Everything that was bouncing all over was steadying, I couldn't get over it. That's why I was having difficulty recovering my balance; my poor eyes just couldn't compensate.
So if any of you have serious balance problems, contact an optometrist who ALSO specializes in vision therapy and see what he/she has to offer.©
Last Edited: Friday, November 01, 2002