Amazing though it may seem, how little we know about all the aspects of post operative recovery. I have had more operations than I can count and at the outset, the last one was just one more from my perspective. I understood the need for it and was grateful that it was possible because the longer term prognosis without it was unacceptable to me. The experience of the operation was fairly predictable, until I was advised that I would have to self-administer injections for 27 days at home. This came as quite a shock to me. I am stoic in the face of a nurse or doctor when they say “I just need to take some blood”, or “I just need to give you an injection of…” but the thought that I might have to do it myself had never occurred to me.
On the day I left hospital I was provided with packs of pain killers and 27 hypodermic syringes filled with measured doses of Dalteparin sodium 5,000 IU/0.2 ml, neatly packed in connected strips of 5, 2 strips in two full boxes and the remaining 7 doses in a third box.
It was unthinkable to take the cowardly way out and ignore the medical advice because it concerned my health and wellbeing. The injections were to reduce the risk of blood-clotting, the dreaded DVT – deep vein thrombosis – a potentially fatal outcome after an operation like that which I and many other women have undergone. I am sometimes quite good at giving myself a good talking to aka motivating myself when I am faced with an unavoidable situation. I thought about all the other people in the world who inject themselves daily, especially diabetics like my younger sister, and buoyed my motivation with the thought that if she could do it, so could I. I learned later that in fact her injections were administered in the local clinic!
In the evening after leaving the hospital and after dinner, I opened the pack and extracted the first syringe
At the hands of the medical profession my strategy was always to relax completely, knowing this would make the needle being pushed into my arm or wherever, less painful. Could I really expect to do the same when injecting myself? The nurse at the hospital had allowed me to inject myself under supervision and I managed to do that without too much trouble but doing it cold at home was another matter.
I looked at the needle, picked it up and scoured my upper thigh to find a place in which to stick it. I could see faint traces of my veins and knew that I should avoid them as the fluid was supposed to go into the fatty tissue. Copying the technique of grasping some fatty tissue between two fingers as instructed by the nurse, which was rather hard to do as my legs are not abundant in fat I found a likely spot and quickly pushed the needle into it. Surprisingly, it did not hurt. The needle was in fact very fine and slid easily into my flesh. I depressed the plunger very slowly and when completed, removed the syringe completely. It did not bleed; a good result.
Over the remaining days of self-injecting there were times when I know I hit or perhaps went through a vein. Sometimes it was mildly painful, sometimes not. There can be some pain with repeated injections within a confined area but the whole experience was not horrendous. I learned the difference between hitting a vein that was filled with blood after passing through the heart, and hitting a vein that was filled with blood going to the heart. There is a colour difference between new (red) oxygenated blood and used (black) deoxygenated blood. The best outcome was that I learned that it is amazing what you can do when you have to, and that should the need arise again I have the confidence to do it.
More photos available to view at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vwselburn/sets/72157625915450741/
© Vee W Selburn 2012: All rights reserved.