Surgery Day – Recovery Room

Wake Up!

I have a very predictable and unusual reaction to anesthetic, so I can’t tell you how you will feel when you wake up after surgery. I always wake up suddenly and am very lucid and freezing cold. Once I am warm and have my little morphine button, I tend to doze in and out until they move me to my room.

The reason I know I am unusual is the reaction of the nurses; they are always shocked when I am speaking in full sentences and making demands. From what I can gather, most people wake up still foggy and pretty out of it, not even fully aware of their surroundings. I think that sounds pretty good actually.

The recovery room is a pretty bustling place. It’s a limbo zone between the operating room and your hospital room. Everybody is on monitors, and most of the patients are unconscious, so it is relatively noisy compared to the ward, or maybe it just feels that way.

Why You Are Here

The key purpose of the recovery room is to ensure you are stable after surgery, so you usually stay there until you are awake and all of your vitals are normal. Usually you are there about an hour, based on my experience, but it can be far more, as in my dad’s case. Family and friends are not usually permitted, but if they are it is only briefly. This is a very busy and critical room, and they can’t afford to many visitors coming and going.

At the children’s hospital, the recovery rooms were like an ICU, private and one family member was permitted. It was always nice to wake up to my mother’s face. I haven’t experienced anything like that since I was a child. I was allowed to stay with my dad for a while in the recovery room because he was there for 8 hours. Following his surgery, his blood pressure was very low, so he stayed in the recovery room until they decided to send him to the ICU. He didn’t go to the regular hospital ward until his blood pressure stabilized.

How Do You Feel

Waking up in the recovery room after surgery can be a little freaky, probably less so if you have the luxury of staying loopy for a bit, but I digress. I find I feel disconnected from my body for a while. I tend to lay there staring at the ceiling, taking stock of myself. Can I wiggle my toe? Yes, but it hurts, so I won’t. Can I wiggle my fingers? Yes, it doesn’t hurt, but… everything just feels funny. If it hurts, tell the nurse.

So, wiggling my toes is out; wiggling my fingers feels funny. The lights seem very bright, and everything is very noisy. But I have been in the recovery room as a visitor, and it is actually fairly quiet, for a hospital. It is like waking up when someone walks in your room and turns the lights on and saying wake up! Everything just seems louder and brighter than it really is. You probably wont be there long and it will feel even shorter.

You will be hooked up to stuff. Starting with IVs, sometimes a few of them. I’ve woken up with 3 once. I usually have two, one for saline until I can eat and drink again, and one for my pain medication. Sometimes they put it in the same one, it depends. You may be hooked up to a heart monitor, a blood pressure cuff, and a pulse monitor. I usually wake up on oxygen (that little tube up your nose); that always freaks John out, because it makes me look sick. None of these things is cause for alarm, like I said, you are here for them to make sure you are fine. All of these machines is how they do it.

Time To Go

As soon as the doctors and nurses are confident that you are fine, you are transferred to your room. If you have a little pain relief button, use it before you go. No matter how gentle they are, nobody can wheel you up and down halls, and in and out of elevators, without jostling you around. The good news is that this will likely be your last stop for a while. And it is usually fairly comfortable, as hospital experiences go.


Check out my last post in this series: Surgery Day – Operating Room
Check out my next series: After Surgery – Hospital Room