Surgery, Breathing and Asthma

I had surgery last month, but before I did, I had a meeting with my surgeon. She wanted to know my full medical history and if I had any chronic medical problems. Diabetes? Asthma? Kidney problems? Heart problems?

Of course, I had to stop her when she got to asthma!

Then she started asking how severe my asthma is, what medications I take (daily controller? or just rescue inhaler?) She wanted to make sure I was "in control" and asked if I had seen Asthma Doc lately? I assured her that I'm acertified asthma educator, so I know how to take care of my asthma. She seemed to relax a little after that.

Then Surgery Nurse called a few days before surgery to review my medications. She wanted to know if me or anyone in my family had a bad reaction to anesthesia. She also wanted to know about my asthma medications. She asked me to bring my rescue inhaler to the hospital. "Don't worry," I told her. "I never leave home without it!"

After I hung up the phone with Surgery Nurse, I thought about a few things I have noticed about surgery, breathing and asthma.

My oxygen level drops

I have had good and bad anesthesiologists (the guys that "put you to sleep" for surgery.) Sometimes I wake up and my throat feels fine. Other times, I wake up and my throat is really sore from having a tube down my throat to help me breathe during surgery. For some reason, this makes my oxygen level drop. Usually, I wake up in the recovery room when I hear "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!" Which is the oxygen monitor going off because my oxygen level is too low. And then the nurse leaning over me and saying, "Andrea! Breathe, breathe!"

I usually tell my Surgery Nurse that my oxygen level always drops after surgery and to PLEASE watch out for that. I also have a habit of pulling my oxygen off (when it should be kept on - because the machine is beeping due to low oxygen.) So I will also ask her to put my oxygen mask back on if I pull it off when I'm groggy.

It's hard to take deep breaths afterwards

My lungs felt worse on this surgery than my last surgery a few years ago, and that had me worried. The last thing I would need is to develop pneumonia. Especially when part of my body is being held together with stitches, I don't want to start coughing and pull the surgery site open.

I was already sitting upright, which helps me breathe easier. But I knew I needed something to expand my lungs and help me breathe deep. I used my Incentive spirometer to help expand my lungs. You can watch a video here to see how it works. I had to take it slow and easy and not push myself.

I also used my nebulizer to help open up my airways.

I'm recovered and back at work, and my lungs are happy again.

Has anyone else had a tough time with surgery, breathing and asthma?

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