Never Had Surgery? This Is What It’s Really Like

There’s a lot more to it than you see on TV.

Surgeons in an operating room
Surgeons in an operating room
National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

One Week Before

I’ve always been told to not take any vitamins or supplements starting a week before surgery. There are other medications you may be asked to stop as well. The reason is that they can interfere with your blood’s ability to clot, and thereby prevent your body — specifically your incision — from healing properly. You stop these one week before because that’s how long it takes for medicines and minerals to fully exit your system.

The Day Before

The day before surgery, or “prep day,” as I think of it, has an important list of things you need to do.

  • Insurance Card(s)
  • Living will or power-of-attorney paperwork, if you have it
  • Co-payment, if you have one
  • Medications: Some hospitals or doctors will want you to bring your own from home. Others will provide all of the meds you need. If you opt to go this second route, I recommend taking a printed list of your regular medications. If you rely on the hospital to know everything you take, things can get horribly mixed up.

Surgery Day

Depending on what time your surgery is — and most scheduled surgeries happen in the morning, but I refer you to the aforementioned eye surgery as a reminder of what can happen — set aside some time to take another Hibiclens shower. Follow the same procedures with this as the night before.

Hospital waiting room
Hospital waiting room
Greg Rosenke / Unsplash
Operating Room
Operating Room
Marcel Scholte / Unsplash


After surgery is over, you’ll be taken to a recovery room. This is a space very similar to the pre-op room, but a nurse will keep a close vigil beside you, monitoring your breathing and making sure you wake up fully. After my first back surgery, I had a very difficult time waking up, and I remember the nurse there continually telling me to wake up, because the heavy sleeping was lowering my breathing and heart rate to unacceptable limits.

Hospital room
Hospital room
National Cancer Institution / Unsplash

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Unlikely warrior fighting invisible illnesses and visible human stupidity. Storyteller by trade, ninja by imagination. Sports above-average beard.

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