A lot of people are curious and ask me what I can eat. How that whole thing works. Well, let me share. Basically, once you are post-op, you trade in your regular fulltime job for a new one: getting in enough protein and fluid.
When you go to your pre-op appointments, they tell you that in the first few weeks you are required to take in 60-80g of protein, 64oz of fluid, and 600 (yes, only SIX HUNDRED) calories. They say to try all the different protein drinks they recommend. Pick the one you like, and stock up on them because you will be living on them post op. (an expensive task by the way, but I digress) Being the diligent, order following nurse that I am, I did just that. Just ask some of my co-workers. I made them try them all with me. Things are always more fun in groups.
Post-op day 1, after I passed my swallow study to make sure there were no leaks in my rerouted pipes, I started drinking water out of a medicine cup. I was literally sipping out of something smaller than a shot glass, an amount that I never had trouble throwing back in less that a second before surgery. (Sorry, mom and dad…your little girl loved a good “lemon drop”…)
So, I braced myself and sipped….but no nausea, no vomiting…I just felt full. Like in an I-ate-an-entire-thanksgiving-dinner-but-went-back-for-seconds-anyway kind of way. My family refers to this feeling as being “distressed.” The perfect description, really. But, slowly I had more: from water to crystal light, crystal light to protein drink, 1 medicine cup to 4. sipping every 5 minutes. (Yes, I watched the clock.) I was told I was a "super star" and they sent me home early. Awesome. But I was warned…”get in your fluids and protein or you will have problems.”
On my first day home I knew I wasn’t getting in enough. So I tried to push it…and I got nauseous, I got lightheaded, I got dehydrated, and I passed out. I don’t know what was worse, waking up to my mother nervously saying, “have you come back to me, yet?” or her actually driving me to Boston to get me to the ER. (pot holes and abdominal surgery DO NOT mix) When I got there, I got 2 bags of IV fluid and was told that getting all the protein in was a gradual process. Great. Now you tell me.
Things are much better now. After 2 weeks, my diet was advanced again from mostly liquids to soft, purred foods. Which I have thoroughly enjoyed for the last 10 days. My favorite meal right now is 1oz shaved turkey and 2 Ritz crackers with a little salad dressing drizzled on top. I like broccoli soup with 1oz low fat cheddar mixed in...or 1oz cooked ground beef with 2 tbsp mashed potatoes and gravy. A couple of teeny tiny meatballs with some tomato sauce are really great, too. Everything has to be moist…low fat and low sugar. The weird thing is that I’m not really every hungry at all...and these little bits really do make me feel extremely full. Sometimes to the point that I am doing laps around my living room to get things to move down. (a trick that really works, by the way) My neighbors must think I’m insane.
Post-op I discovered that I really hated my milkshakeish protein drinks…but talking to some of my friends who have had this surgery, I found one called ISOPURE, which isn’t thick and milky, but thin, like crystal light. Sure, it tastes chalky, but I can usually get in 20-40g in this way, so I deal.
Do I always get in all my protein and fluids?...nope...but I try my best…listen to my body…and thank god in heaven that those first few weeks are behind me!