Getting Ready for Surgery Helps | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Getting Ready for Surgery Helps

Abbey Cameron,

ANZCA National Anaesthesia Day is celebrated each year across Australia and New Zealand on October 16, the anniversary of the day in 1846 that ether anaesthetic was first demonstrated in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Anaesthesia is one of the most significant discoveries of modern medicine. And many of today's operations, especially for the very young, very old or very ill would not be possible without it. 

Preparing for your anaesthesia is the theme of ANZCA 2019 National Anaesthesia Day. The aim is to help the community understand the importance of preparing for an anaesthetic – such as getting fit, stopping smoking or discussing any medical conditions or allergies they may have.

Northland DHB consultant anaesthetist Dr Lucy Stone says preparing for a major operation is a bit like preparing for a half marathon (or maybe a 5km run).  “The fitter you are, the easier the recovery will be.

“Your body needs to repair itself after surgery – eating a healthy diet before and after your surgery can really help,” said Dr Stone.

When Dargaville man David Nielsen went to Whangarei Hospital to discuss his shoulder surgery, he was told that the table they perform surgery on could take a maximum of 158.75 kilograms.  Which meant at 171.5 kilograms, David was too heavy and didn't meet the criteria to get on the surgical list.

His surgeon gave him an appointment for two months later to have his weight reviewed. Then he met with the Hospital dietician to discuss how he could go about shedding 20 kilograms.  He was encouraged to walk to the end of the driveway or around the block daily to help him meet his target. David said he didn't think just going down the drive would be enough of a challenge, but if he walked around the block, he could see himself feeling stranded if he got too tired. 

"The whole concept of taking up exercise seemed quite daunting. Like most people waiting for surgery, I was in quite a lot of pain." 

He and his wife Gloria thought water therapy might be suitable, but since they were on a limited budget, the cost of driving to Whangarei and entry fee to the Aquatic Centre was prohibitive.

Eventually, they decided to invest in a good quality treadmill from Trade Me so he could start his weight loss regime under his own roof.  Gloria says that their lounge now looks like a gymnasium, but it was the best decision because David has gradually increased his time using it from three minutes a day to now spending at least half an hour at a time, every day.

For the first two months between appointments, he was on a strict diet, and together with his increased exercise, he reduced his weight to 150.6kg.  

Gloria said that losing the weight was easy; keeping it off has been more challenging.  David has managed to shed another five kilos and no longer has such a strict diet but has kept up the treadmill exercising. 

Together they have reduced their plate size, which has helped them both lose weight.  He says he has more stamina, feels much more agile, and plans to carry on exercising and watching his portion size even after surgery.

David said that he has always been heavy despite living an active life.

"When I was 15, I was a harrier and played rugby, but was 100 kilograms, so I've always been big-boned. I was also a farmer, and when we moved into town, I did a lawn mowing round. Eventually, my knees gave in, and I got Osteoarthritis which led me to sit more. That's when I got much bigger." 

David believes that Valerie Adams has it right when she recommends to, 'Move a little more, eat a bit better, take a moment.'  He adds, "It is hard to make a change, but it just takes one thing, and it's amazing what incentive does." 

Northland DHB will be celebrating Anaesthesia Day with a display manned by the anaesthesia team outside the outpatients department to talk to patients and staff about the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices when preparing for surgery from 8.30am – 12.30pm.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) offers the following advice to those looking for more information on improving their physical activity: link) link)

Image:  David Nielsen


For further information, please contact:

Paula Martin, Communications Officer

Phone 09 4304101 extn 60519 


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