Elaine on Managing Post-Op Pain

Reading everyone’s donation story proved to be very helpful to me during my post-op donation period. Only a few donors commented in detail on some of the post-op symptoms so I wanted to elaborate on mine in case they help others down the road.

I donated my left kidney laparoscopically to my first cousin June 29, 2010.  The hospital and staff were great caregivers and treated me as a VIP. I was a little surprised by the amount of post-op pain from the procedure. Never having anything except a tonsillectomy as a child, I didn’t have a basis for comparison, and I thought laparoscopic surgeries with non-muscle cutting incisions would be relatively painless.  I was wrong, but I would still go through the procedure again for all the good it brought.

Fleetingly waking up in the PACU, my belly felt on fire. Perhaps this was before the IV pain meds really kicked in. Waking up in my room, the pain was more tolerable thanks to the IV PCA pump, but it was still no picnic. Getting out of bed on day 2, my right thigh/groin had a burning, searing sensation. I couldn’t move it more than an inch without feeling the burning pain.  All of the incisions hurt too, but the leg pain was the worst part. The nurse thought it could be a bladder spasm so she got an order for another medication to deal with that.  When my lower belly started having a red streak that extended from my incision (I had the c-section like incision) to almost my right hip, they marked it with a pen and watched to see if it got larger, which it did. The doctors all agreed it was not cellulitis or an infection, but rather muscle spasms and bruising from being propped on that side during my surgery.  At two hours, 47 minutes, my surgery was not particularly complicated and I’m just an average sized person so I doubt any fancy maneuvers were necessary.

Now that I am 8 days post-op and the bruising has fully emerged, I know the doctors were right. I have bruising all the way to my right hip and going down my right thigh.  I will ask about it at my post-op visit, but I suspect it was just a by-product of them having to manipulate things to get the kidney out intact.  It wasn’t until day 7 post-op that my belly finally felt somewhat normal. Up until then it felt like all 4 port openings and the 4.5 inch incision were being pulled by ropes inside by belly.  My belly was taut and it hurt to move sideways or to bend down or reach up.  I did not struggle with gas pain nor pass much gas so I don’t think it was gas. Sleeping was very uncomfortable because I could only lay on my back and could not scootch around onto my sides.  Pain meds (Percocet and Tylenol) didn’t seem to help this pulling sensation so I quit taking them on day 7.  But the good news is those pains did go away. It’s post op day 9 and I can move about more freely now.  I still don’t have much energy to do more than read or watch TV. I’ve walked around the block from the day I got home, not because it helped me pass gas, but because while walking that tight sensation seemed to be relieved a little.

My appetite and energy levels are still not back to normal but I’m confident these will come in time.  As I mentioned before, it was definitely a worthwhile experience and my cousin appears to be doing fine.  Reading these blogs before the surgery (which I didn’t have time to do) would have probably helped manage my expectations about pain.  Then again, maybe not knowing helped me go into it less scared than I would have had I read the blogs first. J