Besides the limitations (and discomfort associated) with moving my left arm, there is the drain.
Yes, a tube exits the incision, is stitched to my skin and is connected to a grenade shaped bottle. This can’t be removed for anything. Its contents must be examined and measured at least every 12 hours so that the doctors know that excess fluid is properly exiting the body through this drain. The body absorbs quite a bit of excess fluid of this sort but helping this much exit the body as quickly as possible is necessary for healing to happen.
There isn’t a really great way to handle this drain. In the hospital, the nurses had the drain positions on my abdomen but nothing seemed to be making its way down the tube. So I moved it to rest on the mattress next to my side. What worked best for me was keeping the drain as much below the area being drained as possible (within reason) and that makes it even more of a hindrance after leaving the hospital and trying to get back to normal activities. Thankfully this drain system is waterproof (as is the tape that covers my incision) so I’ve been able to shower since 48 hours after surgery.
The drain works on a suction principle so I’m sure that is the reasoning that leads medical professionals to consider it fine for the drain to work properly when positioned in any way – not just lower than the incision – and they give you a somewhat functional bag that hangs around your neck for “carrying the drain.”) I understand their thought process. But I am a proof case. And my experience proved that it just doesn’t work well when the bottle is above the incision. And the bag is far from pretty and awkward – unless you just like having a bag hanging from your neck.
At this point, this may be TMI for you. But it may save someone getting ready for similar surgery from going through a trial and error process to make this work for them.
Gym Shorts Genius
When I first came home from the hospital, I thought I was a genius by slipping my drain bottle into the pocket of my gym shorts. This is a fine idea with one exception – you sort of need to use your left hand to get the bottle out of the pocket. And this motion is pretty painful during the first several days of recovery. You can try to reach around with your right hand to retrieve the bottle but even twisting my torso was quite uncomfortable for the first several days. This also has a downfall when you have to use the bathroom. When you pull the gym shorts down you might just pull the bottle too far down and – believe me – tugging on that tube is not what you want to do! With these downfalls in mind, I abandoned the gym shorts method and sought out alternatives.
A Better Way
My navigator gave me a little pink lanyard that can attach to the drain bottle on a thick plastic tab. You can hang the bottle from your neck if you’d like, but I find it quite easy to pin the lanyard to my “corset” so that it will hand just below the hem of my shirt (if I’m going out in public) and allow the drain to be below my surgical incision.
I have found another use for plastic tab. It is perfect for gripping with your teeth so that you can hold the drain bottle in the shower or while re-wrapping – anytime when you can’t lay the drain on a counter or pin it to the corset.
I mentioned a camisole that you can purchase (for $65) in another post. https://wideeyedat4am.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/i-didnt-buy-the-camisole/ This item keeps the drain tucked at your waist line. I already have an ace bandage wrap around my chest plus an elasticized pink ruffled corset that layers over the ace bandage. I really don’t want to wear a camisole over that and then have to put a shirt on as a fourth layer. Talk about overkill.
Dealing With It
So at day nine, we continue to monitor and manage the drain. I’ve learned to watch how I walk around things at home (when I’m likely to just have the bottle pinned to my pink corset) because the tube can hang on things – like door knobs, bed posts, chair backs. If that sounds like the voice of experience, it is. But I was lucky to realize my errors before they became harmful or painful.
Since I have a second surgery to go now, I probably won’t be shedding this drain for a few more weeks. The same may go for my “wrap system” (which on its own is a nuisance). But these are just some of the irritants that have to be tolerated to recover. I’m sure I will discover many more of these throughout this journey.