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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

5 Posts tagged with the appendectomy tag

A few weeks back when I knew I needed my appendix removed, I asked the surgeon what to expect after the surgery and how long it would be before I could get back to doing normal workouts. In this blog, I outlined what might be expected for me.


Before Igive you details of what I did, I want you to understand this is no recommendation for anyone else. It is just the details of my recovery. I know there are plenty of people that take longer and probably some that take less time as well.


That written, all workouts below were aerobic. The early workouts were what I would call uncomfortable, nothing was painful. I expected some discomfort early in the game.


Surgery Day –The surgery went well and I was home a little over 3 hours after heading out to the hospital. I took ½ of a narcotic pain medication to bridge a gap until I could take ibuprofen. Obviously no workouts today.


Day 1 – Ibuprofen only, no narcotic meds. No workouts.

Day 2 –Ibuprofen, 30-minute walk.

Day 3 – Reduced levels of ibuprofen, 30-minute indoor trainer ride. (This felt fantastic and seemed to help removed some of the CO2 bubble below my diaphragm.)

Day 4 – No more ibuprofen from this day forward. Did a 40-minute indoor ride followed by 10 minutes on an elliptical trainer. The elliptical experience was enough to know I don’t want to run yet. (After this workout the CO2 bubble was gone. Hooray for getting the blood moving.)

Day 5 – Didn’t feel like an aerobic workout so did a 20-minute walk.

Day 6 – 45 minutes of indoor cycling followed by 3 sets of walking lunges and 3 set of squats (body weight only).

Day 7 – Very easy 90 minutes on the road bike. (Outside, yeah!)

Day 8 – 38 minutes of a run/walk combination. I felt better at the end of the session than at the beginning. It seemed that my abs needed to be stretched out a bit and get some blood moving into them  – which didn’t seem to be happening on the bike.

Day 9 – 75 minutes road bike.

Day 10 – 60-minute swim and 30-minute run later in the day.

Day 12 – Road bike to Estes Park, one way, for a total ride time of 2:40. (This is half the distance and a bit over half the time of what was “normal” for me on a weekly basis prior to the surgery. No, I don't ride to Estes each week, but similar distances and times.) I capped intensity at the top of Zone 2 on this ride and felt great the entire time. I had no issues whatsoever.

Day 13 – Had the post-surgery exam and everything looks great.


Additional items I did that may or may not have helped: I wore travel compression stockings through Day 3 since I wasn’t doing much moving. I consumed fresh pineapple (for the anti-inflammatory properties) through Day 10. I supplemented with Branch Chain Amino Acids and L-Glutamine through Day 10 (and four days preceding the surgery). Though no fun, I iced my belly Day 1. They did recommend ice on the day of surgery “if I feel like it” – I didn’t. I suspect this would have helped with healing the stretched out abdominal muscles even more, but…


I was sleeping around 10 hours per night the first five days and taking a nap each day. Sleep is critical to recovery. I will say I didn’t sleep “well” until Day 8. 


I’ll stay away from lifting any weights until after Day 14. When starting back to weights, I’ll keep it light. (The concern is getting a hernia.) There are no restrictions now on mountain biking, skiing, running or riding.


If you have to do some type of non-emergency abdominal surgery, consider going into the surgery not exhausted from training. Don’t view your last few workouts as an opportunity to binge on volume or intensity because you’ll be off workouts for awhile.Instead, go into surgery well rested so you can get back to workouts more quickly. When you visit the surgeon, let him or her know what is normal for youbefore the procedure and what you might expect afterwards.


If you’re reading this prior to heading for a procedure, all the best to you ~

 

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662 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, cycling, swimming, workouts, recovery, appendectomy

On the road to recovery, there were a few things that surprised me (as in, I had no clue I’d feel this way) and some things I’m pleasantly surprised about.


I’ll give you lots more details on workout specifics after I see the doctor early next week for my follow-up appointment; but a few brief, pleasant surprises. First, I was on an indoor bike for 30 minutes three days after surgery. To date, after every aerobic workout I’ve felt better than before the workout - and it lasted. That is, I didn’t just get an endorphin high that left and also left worse off for recovery. In all cases so far, aerobic work seems to have sped up the recovery process. Within the last few days I’ve had a real run (not walk, jog, shuffle), an hour swim and a decent outdoor bike ride.


One of the things that surprised me is that I was afraid to drive the car for the first time. I had this odd fear that if I’d crash, the seat belt would dig into my surgery area and REALLY hurt. I was paranoid about having an auto accident. Never in my life have I had that fear.


I was also surprised to be afraid of riding my bike outside for the first time. When I tried to analyze why, it seemed I was afraid of falling – perhaps popping open wounds – and I had an odd fear that I would get so tired that I wouldn’t make it home. Turns out there was nothing to fear, I didn’t fall and I made it home fine.


Finally, because it’s not comfortable to have anything tight around my belly button area or even low and pushing up against the belly button (like low cut jeans will do when sitting) – I’ve found myself being attracted to those velvety workout-looking pants and hoodies. I can see how they make the perfect public attire for those not wanting to wear anything tight.


I have yet to purchase said soft-looking, stretchy outfit – but I was surprised at how I was suddenly attracted to them. Those that know me well say they day will not come when such a purchase will occur…

 

...don't count on that. When comfort is key, people will do unusual things.

 

 

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Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.

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1,802 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: recovery, appendectomy

As most of you were preparing for Thanksgiving, I strategically scheduled my appendectomy for Wednesday so I wouldn’t have to host dinner this year. At least that’s what my brother is accusing me of doing.

 

My choice was to schedule for Wednesday afternoon or push the surgery out for two weeks. Sorry family, I’m taking Wednesday.

 

In the days prior to the surgery I reduced training volume, kept workouts aerobic, kept a keen eye on nutrition, cut out fish oil supplement per recommendations from the surgery center and kept the rest of my normal pre-race supplementation.

 

Yes, I treated the surgery event like a race with the goal of optimal body performance during the event and optimal recovery after the event. I’ll write more about this later.

 

Right before the surgery the doc asked if I had any questions. Yes, I had two:

 

  1. How is the incision in my colon closed? – It is closed with a staple gun and a series of staples.
  2. Can I have whatever part of my appendix isn’t going to pathology for testing in a jar to take home? – Uh, no. We used to let people take gall stones home in a jar; but due to concerns about the spread of hepatitis and AIDS, we aren’t allowed to let people take body parts home.  

 

 

Darn. I thought it would be cool to have my appendix in a jar.

 

That’s what I thought before the surgery.

 

Turns out the thing was big and the timing to have it plucked out was good. An average appendix is around 11 cm (4.33 inches) in length but they can range from 2 to 20 cm (0.79 to 7.87 inches). Diameter is usually around 7 or 8 mm (0.28 to 0.31 inches).

 

My appendix was roughly the diameter of a bratwurst and about three quarters of the length of a brat.

 

Now that I’ve seen photos of it, I’d rather not have it in a jar on my desk.

 

 

 

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   Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.

 

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3,124 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: preparation, jar, appendectomy, appendix

In yesterday’s blog I covered the wide variation in recovery time and costs for an appendectomy. I told you I’d let you know what the surgeon told me to expect.

 

Most likely if you’re reading this blog, you understand that once you’ve reached a certain level of fitness it is easy to maintain that level and most importantly – you feel good. You also understand that doing nothing for several days or weeks means a loss of fitness, endorphins and you just don’t feel good.

 

When I went to visit the surgeon to find out details about an upcoming appendectomy, I wanted to know how much downtime to expect. Doing some research prior to my visit to his office, I expected to have him tell me it would be two weeks before I could do much of anything.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by his answer.

 

Before asking him what I could do post-procedure, I told him my current routine that I’ve carried for more years than I can remember. That is strength train once or twice per week, swim two to three times, run two or three days and ride two or three days. Weekly hours are between eight and 10 this time of year, more in the summer.

 

Given my current fitness and history, here are my guidelines

  • I will likely be on pain meds of some kind for three to five days. As soon as I’m off pain meds, I can run and ride.
  • The incisions close in two or three days, but don’t start back to swimming for a week to be safe.
  • Avoid weights for two weeks.

My plan:

  • Initial workouts should all be less than an hour and all aerobic. I’ll be on an indoor bike and treadmill to be sure all is well before heading outside.
  • The primary goal of workouts is to speed recovery.
  • A secondary goal is to minimize loss of aerobic fitness.

 

 

Getting back to light workouts in some three days or so is a target for me. We’ll see how it all pans out.

 

 

 

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   Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.

 

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746 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, cycling, swimming, athlete, strength, time, recovery, weights, appendectomy

I’ve had a recent, personal interest in how long it takes to recover from an appendectomy and how much do these surgeries cost? What I’ve learned will surprise you and may have you making a routine doctor’s appointment – today.

 

Because I have a family history of colon cancer (my Mom is a 40-year survivor!) I started having colonoscopy screenings in my 40s. I’m happy to report at my last screening, about a week ago, there were no polyps found. Yeah!

 

 

But…when the doc was cruising around my colon, he noticed what appears to be a mucoidal mass attached to my appendix, right where the appendix opens into the colon. He recommended that I have my appendix removed so that I don’t have a sudden emergency problem. (Which is most likely to occur when I’m out of the country, if Murphy’s Law prevails.) Additionally, though it appears to be a benign mass, it’s always good to be sure given my family history.

 

 

That led to making an appointment with a surgeon and immediate doctor-Gale-by-the-internet searching for information. I have watched three YouTube videos of laparoscopic appendectomies. I can say some docs have much more finesse and skill than others. When watching one of the videos I was shouting at my computer, “Take it easy on those innards, will ya?! Geeze, no need to be so rough!”

 

 

What I found for typical recovery time is that it depends on your current health status and whether or not the surgery was an emergency situation or non-emergency. Know that a ruptured appendix is life-threatening. Yikes.

 

 

While there are no real standards for recovery time and all answers “depend,” I can tell you that a ruptured appendix that spreads infection internally requires a trip to the emergency room, days in the hospital and more time (and money) than a non-emergency situation.

 

 

What I found is some people that have had emergency surgeries and some complications can take some six to eight weeks to return to “normal” activity. Yikes again.

 

 

Athletes with a ruptured appendix, like Rockies player Drew Pomeranz, may be out for “the rest of the season.” Still other athletes, like former Rockies player Matt Holliday, come back to play just nine days after his non-emergency procedure.

 

 

And the costs? There is HUGE variation in costs for appendectomies. A study found costs for a California procedure ranged from as little as $1,529 to as much as $182,955. Some of the cost depends on where the surgery was done and I suspect some of it depends on complications. The study did look at procedures with less than four days in the hospital.

 

 

What does this mean for you?

  1. Routine health screenings find small problems before they become big ones.
  2. Problems caught when they are small require less downtime and less cost.

 

 

Have you been putting off a routine procedure? Maybe you should be making a call to schedule an appointment today.

 

 

Next blog – what my surgeon says about my personal recovery time.

 

 

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   Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.

 

 

   Comments can be added on Facebook.

 

 

   Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

 

576 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: athletes, cancer, colon, laproscopic, recovery_time, appendectomy