What do you do in the last week before surgery?

I don’t know what others do in the last few days before STAAR surgery (surgical thoracic aortic aneurysm repair), but I am occupied with a variety of things. Yesterday I completed my will, a power of attorney, and a power of attorney for health care (also known as advanced directives). I have always disliked this process, particularly when my parents have wanted to discuss these things (regarding their own lives) with me. And I am certain that my daughter will not like reading this either. However, it is necessary. The will and power of attorney are obvious. What is equally important is the act of giving someone else legal ability to make healthcare decisions for me should I be unconscious, sedated, or otherwise incapacitated. While I plan to get through this surgery surprisingly well and recover better and much more quickly than most and while we have been together for 12 years tomorrow, my boyfriend and I do not live in a common law marriage state and are not married. Without some sort of legal documents, he would have absolutely no ability to make decisions for me. There are others (family) who are capable of making these decisions; however, the person with whom I spend all of my days and nights and with whom I fell in love years ago should be the one to direct the process if necessary. So now, during the upcoming week, I have to find a notary at work and then make several copies.

I have printed up medication lists for the pre-op physical at the surgeon’s office, for the pre-op appt at the hospital, and for my boyfriend to have while I am in hospital. He will use the list to make sure that I am receiving my regular medications (e.g. we really don’t want me to go without my hormones for several days). I have also printed up a list of my doctors – primary care doctor, cardiologist, and gastroenterologist (am not including eye doctor, dentist, and chiropractor as those do not seem pertinent to the process). These lists will go to the same people.

Thanks to the map and direction programs on the internet, I checked and double-checked directions to the surgeon’s office and hospital and then printed them. Today I will add directions to the hotel (where we will stay the night before the surgery and where my boyfriend will stay throughout the time I am in hospital) and to the restaurant where I would like to have a big cheat meal the night before the surgery. As an aside, I plan to have antipasto, spaghetti carbonara, and yes, dessert – probably cannot have a glass of wine, though that would make the meal even more complete.

Today I plan to bake a big batch of chocolate chip cookies to take to work on Tuesday. Why? I have no idea. It’s just something I want to do. I will also be doing a lot of cleaning today and tomorrow.  It is best to come home from the hospital to a clean house. I don’t want to be trying to recover and fretting about dust bunnies.

Over the coming week at work, I will meet with each of my patients one last time before I temporarily transfer them to other therapists. I would imagine that there are a variety of views about how to handle this situation as a therapist. In practice, we try not to bring our issues into the therapy room. However, I am a psychodynamic therapist and a large part of the process in this type of therapy is the relationship. I have seen all of my patients for at least 10 weeks and some for several years. If I were to go away, not explain why, and come back with a relatively large scar on my chest, this could be very distressing to them. You might then say, but knowing beforehand can be very distressing. Yes, it can. However, I have approached this with honesty and without alarm and have found that it has furthered the therapy process in all cases. I am able to model a lack of catastrophizing (I can do that on my own without the patient present), empathy for their responses, and have demonstrated concern for their well-being both by discussing any concerns they have and by planning for their care while I am away. There are a lot of other details to attend to at work. I have a list and am slowly working through it, item by item.

I plan to work out at least three more times and on Saturday I have a hair appointment (cut, color). My last day of work is Monday and I have a chiropractic adjustment and therapeutic massage at the end of the day. We will leave for California at about 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday, September 11.

Sounds like you have everything in order.

Yes, that’s what I do. When I am feeling stressed, I organize. Here is my biggest concern over the coming week. As the week winds down, I have progressively less to do. I am already finding that my ability to concentrate is impaired and memory is not as sharp. I worry that by Thursday or so I will be a lot more stressed (in part because I have less to distract me). The goal – even if this happens, I must stay focused when driving and at the gym as those are the two areas where I can hurt myself or others if I don’t pay attention.

One last thing, the thing that I am most likely to forget to do…

BREATHE!

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