Firstly, I recommend that anyone facing this surgery, as well as their close friends/family members should read Scoliosis Surgery: The Definitive Patient's Reference (3rd Edition). It's a really easy to read book that is written from the perspective of somebody who has been through the surgery. It contains loads of information on how to prepare for scoliosis surgery, what's involved in the surgery itself, recovery tips and more.
It really helped me and my family to understand what I would be going through and I think even my surgeon was surprised at how much I knew about scoliosis and scoliosis surgery having read this book!
I also recommend that you get talking to others who have been through the surgery, join a support forum and ask as many questions as you can think of.
I spent a lot of my time during the months leading up to my surgery emailing and chatting to others who had been through the surgery. The amount of help, advice and support I received was invaluable and inspirational. I found that the people I spoke to had had amazing results and lived a normal life post surgery, which reassured me that I was doing the right thing.
So remember, you're not alone in this. It's good to talk about what you're going through with others who understand. If it wasn't for the help and support of others going through the same thing, I doubt I would have been able to go through with it myself.
Some practical ways to prepare in the months leading up to scoliosis surgery are:
- Exercise - I got myself as fit as possible as I thought the stronger I was, the better chance I'd have of a quick recovery. Post surgery it's important to have strong 'core' muscles and strong leg muscles to support your back. Leading up to the surgery I did alot of swimming, Pilates and I went to the gym about 4 times a week. I guess getting super fit was my way of regaining control of a situation that was out of my control. Exercise also helped me to "de-stress" and forget about the surgery for a while.
- Diet - I tried to eat as healthy as possible, I ate lots of fruit and vegetables, drunk plenty of water and I also took vitamin tablets. Again, I just wanted to give my body the best chance possible (remember you should always check with your doctor before changing your diet - places like Holland & Barrett offer a huge range of vitamins and supplements).
- Get a haircut - I had my long hair cut into a bob before surgery and I'm glad I did! I couldn't wash my hair for a good few weeks and it looked a right state in hospital all matted from lying down for days on end. It's really difficult to wash your hair once you are home recovering too, as you can't get your scar wet and it's impossible to lean over the sink or bath. It's alot easier to manage with short hair believe me - and don't forget to stock up on dry shampoo!
- Quit Smoking - If you smoke, you should try and quit straight away! This is because smoking can actually interfere with a fusion and stop it fusing properly. If you're worried about this, speak with your surgeon.
- Check what equipment your hospital will provide you with post surgery - you will need some equipment to help you cope around the house post scoliosis surgery. Such equipment includes a good chair, a raised toilet seat, a grabber (to pick things up off the floor), a bath/shower chair (useful to help with shaving your legs!) and anything else you can think of that will help you to stay as comfortable as possible - i.e. lots of cushions! The hospital should provide you with most, if not all of these things. So make sure you check with them before you buy anything!
- Stock up on DVDs - or books or magazines or anything you think will help keep you busy whilst at home recovering. The first couple of weeks you will feel too ill to do much but after a few weeks at home with daytime TV - believe me, it can get boring!
- Prepare your meals in advance - if you live alone you will need a bit of help making meals your for a while. If this isn't an option, a good idea is to make some meals before you go into hospital and freeze them so that you can just heat them up. You could also stock up on ready made meals, tinned and easy to prepare food.
- Stock up on toiletries and anything else you may need for when you get home, as you won't be able to leave the house for a good few weeks. Even after then it can be daunting venturing into busy shops immediately post surgery - I know it was for me - I was scared in case anyone bumped into me! Of course you can always send other people out to get what you need, my mum was great at picking up my prescriptions for me. :)
- Stop taking Ibruprofen (if you take it) about two weeks before surgery. I was told this at my pre-op - if there are other meds or supplements you shouldn't be taking you will be told at your pre-op. The best thing to do is check with your Dr/surgeon if you are concerned about anything you are taking.
- Pack what you need for hospital - in plenty of time so you can get everything you need without getting stressed. Take a look at my hospital list that I created before I went in for my surgery for ideas on what to take with you. :) Travel sized toiletries are ideal.
- Pamper yourself - Don't forget to pamper yourself a bit leading up to surgery - this can help you relax and take your mind off things which is very important. Plus you deserve it after what you are about to go through! I would recommend having some fun with your friends or (for the women!) getting a leg wax (as it's difficult to shave your legs after surgery for a long while!!) and it just makes you feel alot better in yourself, which is important.
- Relax - I know it's difficult but you really do have to relax. I really stressed myself out before surgery and suffered with insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, panic attacks - the works! Try to get a good night sleep before the surgery if possible (I didn't - even with sleeping tablets) and try relaxation techniques such as hypnotherapy or listening to some relaxing music. Exercise such as pilates or swimming can also help you to relax, whilst strengthening your back muscles at the same time!
- I hope this post has been useful, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about preparing for scoliosis surgery and I'd be happy to share my experiences with you. :)