Anxious. Scared. Excited. Ready. These feelings are just some of the ones I felt the day of my gastric sleeve surgery. It’s completely normal to have mixed feelings the days leading up to and the day of surgery. While everyone has a different experience, generally you’ll follow a similar day: registration at the hospital, prep for surgery, the actual surgery and recovery. However, one thing that is the same for everyone is that your life will never be the same. You’re making a positive change and taking control of your life. Embrace it. The day of your gastric sleeve surgery is different for everyone, but it will change your life forever.
Note: The day of your gastric sleeve surgery is different for everyone. All hospitals and doctors do things a little differently. Also, do exactly as your doctor and hospital instruct you in regards to food, drink, medications and bathing. Everyone has different outcomes and reacts differently to anesthesia and surgery. What follows is an account of how my day of gastric sleeve surgery went and your experience may differ.
Can I Eat the Night Before Gastric Sleeve Surgery?
No. Generally, you will only be allowed clear liquids the night before your gastric sleeve surgery. Your stomach and digestive system need to be clear so that the doctor can operate safely. If you eat something the night before your gastric sleeve surgery, you risk having your operation canceled because there is food in your digestive system. The day before your surgery, I suggest drinking lots of water. You’re going to feel pretty dehydrated for the next few days, so consume as much water as possible the day before surgery.
The night before your gastric sleeve surgery, they might ask you to use a special soap called Hibiclens to clean from your chest to your pubic area. This soap is antimicrobial and antiseptic to help prevent skin infections. Your doctor will provide specific instructions if you are to use this soap. Additionally, you might want to take some final before pictures, measurements and weight. It’s always nice to see how far you’ve come, especially if you’re in a stall later in your journey. Make sure you pack your bag for the hospital. Soma Bariatrics has a helpful article with a checklist of what to bring. Try to get some sleep, but if you are anything like me, it was like asking a kid to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. I was so excited for the next day I could barely sleep.
The Morning of Your Gastric Sleeve Surgery
The day has finally arrived! All of your hard work to complete the weight loss surgery requirements, the liver-shrinking diet and any weight you had to lose before surgery is about to pay off. You’ll most likely be told to report to the hospital one to two hours before your surgery time for prep. You may have nothing to eat or drink the morning of your procedure unless otherwise directed by your physician. Generally, you should avoid medications as well, but your physician and hospital will let you know if it’s okay to take anything.
Take another shower and wash with the Hibiclens again. Wear some comfy clothes that are easy to take off. Remember to bring your CPAP machine and mask, don’t wear contacts if you have them and leave your valuables at home. Don’t forget your identification and insurance cards as well. Leave in plenty of time for the hospital and make sure to account for extra time for traffic. Have someone drive you to the hospital, as you won’t be able to drive home.
Arrival at the Hospital
Once you arrive at the hospital, proceed to the designated registration desk. Be prepared to tell them your name and date of birth many times during your hospital stay. You’ll probably have to confirm some demographic information and the procedure that you’re having. All of these questions are for patient safety and to ensure they are doing the correct procedure on the correct patient.
After you are registered, they’ll give you an armband. Be sure your name and date of birth are correct on the armband. I was also given a “Fall Risk” armband since I was going under anesthesia, but each hospital has their unique policies. You may or may not get one of those armbands. You’ll probably have to sign some consent forms and may be given paperwork or labels to give to your nurses.
Next, the nurses will call you back to be prepped for surgery. They’ll ask you to change into a hospital gown and will get your weight. I’ll never forget my weight that day – 348.2 pounds. I was proud of how far I had come in my weight loss and thrilled that I knew that was the heaviest I’d ever weigh again. Take a deep breath. Every time you step on a scale after this moment will give you such a thrill. You are about to begin a whole new chapter in your life.
You may have to take a pregnancy test to ensure you aren’t pregnant. The nurses will also take your vitals, like your heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure and temperature. They will also likely scrub your stomach with iodine to ensure there are no surgical site infections. You’ll also have an IV line placed and given some medications to prevent blood clots, antibiotics to prevent infections and saline for hydration. They will also likely put some wraps on your calves that will gently massage your legs. This helps prevent blood clots during and after your surgery. You’ll keep these on your legs anytime your in the hospital bed, and you’re not up and walking.
Your doctor and anesthesiologist will likely be around to discuss any final questions with you before your procedure. Once you are all set, you’ll wait in the pre-op area until they are ready for you in the operating room.
Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Being wheeled into the operating room on the day of your gastric sleeve surgery is kind of surreal. You enter into restricted areas of the hospital you have never been while laying down on a stretcher. I remember watching the overhead lights as I went, and because they had already given me something to relax, it was almost like a dream. One of the first things you’ll notice about the operating room is how cold it is. I remember wishing I had extra blankets at that point, but it goes so fast, that you don’t remember much.
You may have to transfer to the operating room table. At that point, you’ll be asked your name, date of birth and procedure one more time. The anesthesiologist will place a mask over your mouth and ask you to count backward from 100. You’ll most likely be out before you even hit 90. At that point, the doctor will perform your gastric sleeve surgery while the anesthesiologist monitors your sedation. Your family will be waiting in the surgical weighting room as you undergo your procedure.
When you wake up from your gastric sleeve surgery, you’ll most likely be groggy and probably won’t be in severe pain. You may have a little pain, but the doctor most likely gave you some pain medication through your IV before they woke you from the anesthesia. I remember waking up from my procedure on the day of my gastric sleeve surgery. I was relieved that it was over, and I made it through but also a little scared. Scared for the future, scared for how my body would react, but mostly scared that I was going to somehow mess up this second chance at life I was given.
Luckily, I’ve embraced this second chance at life and thankfully had very few issues post-op. Almost immediately, you may feel nauseous. I have heard stories of people dry heaving because there’s nothing in their stomachs to throw up. I relied on Zoloft at this time, particularly when they gave me pain medication. It helped tremendously. Within an hour of waking up after surgery, they will have you walk a little. The walking helps loosen some of the gas they pumped into your stomach to allow the surgeon room to operate. The gas needs to move through your system, and walking helps get it out. This gas can also be painful, so walking can help ease your pain. The walking will also help prevent blood clots in your legs and aids in recovery.
I had six incision sites on my abdomen. They were stitched shut with dissolvable sutures and steri-strips. I left the steri-strips on until they naturally fell off. You might have more pain at once incision site than another. It’s most likely going to hurt more where they pulled out your excess stomach since that incision had to stretch a little more. You might have some bruising as well. My stomach lit up all colors of the rainbow, especially after a few days. It lasted a few weeks but then cleared up. Each person is different, so you may have a different amount of incisions or more or less bruising than I did.
Pain After Gastric Sleeve Surgery
I just wanted to touch on the pain again on the day of your gastric sleeve surgery. You should expect to feel some pain, but it should be manageable. Hospitals always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable. Before my surgery, the nurses asked me what my highest tolerated level of pain would be before wanting more pain medication. I told them a seven. So, if my pain level wasn’t at a seven after my surgery, I didn’t ask for more pain medication. You shouldn’t be writhing in pain, but you also shouldn’t expect to be pain-free.
Your stomach will feel like you just did 1,000 sit-ups all at once. You will be sore. It will hurt to get out of bed. Now is when all that physical therapy to build up your leg muscles and strengthen your abdominals comes in handy. Use your legs and arms to help move you at much as you can. It will take some of that pressure off of your healing stomach. It may be easier for you to sit in a chair to get up and down than to lay in a bed. You’ll soon find ways to cope with getting up without having to use your abdominal muscles too much. Eventually, that soreness will go away.
Gastric Sleeve Before and After
People love seeing before and after pictures. I post one every Friday on my Facebook page. I wanted to include some on this post so you can see what I looked like the day before my surgery and one year later.
And one more from my heaviest weight of 428 pounds to my lowest weight of 190 pounds:
Day of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Before you know it, the day of your gastric sleeve surgery will be over. You’ll soon forget the pain you experienced and remember how much it changed your life. Follow your doctor’s instructions for the prep the day before your gastric sleeve surgery and the morning of your surgery. Arrive on time at the hospital. After you’re prepped and they are ready for your case, you’ll be wheeled to the operating room for surgery. You’ll wake in a few hours feeling groggy and sore, but relieved the gastric sleeve surgery is over. Each person reacts differently to surgery, but it changes your life forever!
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Most likely no, but check with your doctor to be sure. You need a nice, clear digestive tract and stomach so the surgeon can operate clearly. Each doctor has their requirements though, so check with yours to be safe.
You’ll arrive at the hospital and register with the staff. You’ll be prepped for surgery, including vital signs, an IV insertion and your skin prepped with iodine. You may be given a medicine to help you relax, as well as have compression stockings put on to massage your legs to prevent blood clots. After surgery, you’ll wake up groggy and in mild pain. You’ll eventually be asked to get up and walk to prevent blood clots.