The scoop on varicose vein stripping (1)

  • For those of you interested in the whole experience, here's the deal. I went in early (7:30 a.m.), nil by mouth, for the op. Luckily Man could come with me, so that was great. Kind of compensated for the lack of coffee. Blood pressure was checked and I got a bed and a hospital gown. To my surprise, I was allowed to keep my cell phone, which was a lot more convenient than having nurses call people later.
    Around 9:00 the nurse got the call that she could bring me to the OR. Man was allowed to walk part of the way, then we said goodbye and I got wheeled on to the OR. Bed transfer, check of who I was and what I was there for, and got wheeled in. It just kind of flowed over me. I let it happen.
    Veins were drawn on, I got an IV and got put on the heart and blood pressure monitors. Anesthesiologist whipped in, injected some Dormicum, and I sat up to get the epidural. Actually, I think it was a spinal. It was only one injection and there wasn't a catheter. It worked quickly; I could feel my legs getting warm within 30 seconds or so. Got laid back down and they draped the scene. Legs were then numb and I couldn't move them.
    At that point it would take a little more than an hour to do both legs. (I later heard that this surgeon likes to work fast. Also, he had an assistant.) I couldn't see the area directly because of the drape (and didn't want to), but I could look into the OR lamps and vaguely (no contacts in) see what they were doing. The nurse anesthetist was great; she was fun to talk to and at one point she asked whether I wanted to see one of the blood vessels. I said OK and she came back with a clamp with a kind of worm on it with some branchlike vessels. Unfortunately, that was right when my blood pressure started to drop, so I felt like a wuss when I said, "actually I'm not feeling too well." (Turns out that this is pretty normal and is related to either the spinal or tension, or both.) She wasn't worried at all, injected something into the IV and I felt better within a couple of minutes.
    Felt a lot of movement and looked down to see my own feet on the shoulders of a couple of nurses. Really weird. They were putting on the compression bandage. More on that later....
    Got wheeled into the recovery room and was totally bored there because I was awake and not feeling ill, but they keep you there until you can start to move something below the waist. I expected the toes, but in my case it was the stomach muscles. The toes turned out to be the very last things I could move. One of the nurses put on jazz radio for me, which was pretty cool!
    After about an hour, when I could move the stomach muscles, I got picked up and wheeled back to the room. At that point I was allowed to eat and drink (woohoo!) and just had to wait until I could stand up. That took about three hours total from the time I left the OR. Spent the time texting everyone, having some lunch, and napping.
    At about 3:30 p.m. I could stand up, a bit shaky, so I was allowed to call my friend and Man to come and pick me up. (Man doesn't drive, so a friend picked him up and waited while he got me out of the room.) 
  • Recovery: well, this is what I looked like when I came home:

  • And why does it look so weird there on the thighs? Well, apparently I got the trainee bandagers there in the OR. The whole thing started to slide south as soon as I got out of the car to walk into the house. I pulled it up and around and secured it as well as I could with sport tape, but sheesh. I'm an amateur, but I'd think compression bandages are supposed to compress. Which means they should stay on. Correct me if I'm wrong.

  • By the next morning it looked like this, and the whole foot part was loose. I almost tripped over it.

    So I cut the foot part off; I was allowed to remove the bandages later anyway.
  • And the further recovery. Well, the first few days you walk around like you're wearing a full diaper. And you are supposed to either walk or put your feet up (as little standing as possible). The pain is controllable with Tylenol/paracetamol. Actually, most of the pain is from the bruises, not really from incisions. (I had the two larger groin incisions, 9 little ones on the right leg, and one little one on the left one.) Now, 10 days later, I'm doing most normal things, but still putting my feet up often and not doing heavy lifting. Have an appointment with the surgeon two weeks after the operation. I notice I'm having some kind of reaction to the dissolvable stitches in the groin, but it looks like that's going OK.
  • Any questions? Feel free!
You can find the 4-week update here.

1 comment:

  1. The fact is, varicose veins is much disease - with an aesthetic manifestations and often little pain, but a disease nonetheless.

    varicose veins