The answer is that patients should be ready to rejoin the labor force exactly 4.75 days after vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Okay, I’m kidding. Like every aspect of VSG, the length of time you’ll need for a full recovery is very individual, though many patients are back to work within three to five days. There are multiple factors to consider, however, when putting in your request for time off.
What kind of job do you have?
If I were to ask whether you have a physically demanding job, most would say no. But is that really true? Working retail means being on your feet for your entire shift, and climbing in and out of a car all day for a sales job might be tough with a tender belly. For those who truly have a desk job, a week would be ideal, but you should be able to push through in that three- to five-day window. Remember that gastric sleeve in our Mexico hospital is done with tiny incisions, which makes recovery fairly quick. Patients get up to use to the restroom two or three hours after surgery, and they’re walking up and down the hall the same day.
If you do heavy lifting, you’ll either need to take more time off or modify your existing job duties to accommodate your healing body. Lisa says, “I took eight weeks off because of weight requirements…have to be able to lift 70 pounds at a time for work.” In those rare cases, being cleared for work usually happens when you’re cleared to hit the gym for heavy lifting sessions.
How do you typically respond to illness or pain?
If you typically bounce back from other surgeries or illnesses, chances are good that you’ll be good to go earlier than those whose bodies don’t cooperate quite as well. So think back. Have you had any other laparoscopic procedures—maybe had your appendix out? It’s pretty similar in terms of recovery, so if you were bouncing off the walls by day two, you can expect to be ready for work within a few days. Laid up longer? It might be good to take a week or more off. And for those who have a high pain threshold, the sky’s the limit. Not that there’s a lot of pain afterward; some patients don’t need pain meds at all. But there’s definitely some soreness the first week or two. Denice took just one week off work but knows her spouse will need more time when it’s his turn. “I’m gonna give my hubby three weeks.”
What other factors are in play?
Believe it or not, weather can play a huge role in how soon you’ll feel like clocking back in. If it’s icy out and you’re still a bit sore, how does the thought of falling on that ice sound? Probably like the worst thing in the world, would be my guess. But warm weather is actually more dangerous. Courtney, a home health nurse, had surgery on a Friday and was back to work the next Thursday. She was in and out of sweltering July heat, though, and admits she probably should have taken more time off. “It was HARD—drinking fluids, feeling exhausted and woozy,” she says.
The reality is that not all of us are able to take unlimited time off, whether it’s because we don’t have many vacation days available or because we can’t afford to go without a paycheck for very long. Only you can decide if it’s worth pushing yourself before you’re ready, though I do caution you to remember that pushing now can mean a longer overall recovery. Melissa went back to work at a fairly high-energy job on a Tuesday, four days after her surgery. “I was exhausted and, honestly, stayed home on Thursday to sleep,” she admits. “After a full week I was good to go without being quite so tired.” If you do go back before your body is completely ready, make sure your manager knows that you’re recovering from surgery, especially if you have an active job. Tapping already-low energy stores, thanks to post-op diet restrictions, is a bigger worry than hurting your incision sites, though both can seriously delay healing.
The “surgery” part of bariatric surgery in Mexico makes patients think they need to take weeks off work to recover. And while that’s true in a small percentage of cases, most people are back to work within a few days of VSG with no complaints other than fatigue.
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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.