Freezing During Surgery

As someone who had never had surgery before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’d heard a few rumors, though, and wasn’t looking forward to it because I hate to be cold.

Credit: Preventing Hypothermia, by ER Doc

Somewhere I got the idea that surgery involves freezing.  Nothing I’ve experienced at the hospital – either as an inpatient or as someone needing outpatient tests – made me think that warmth was an option in that building.

I was pleasantly surprised, though.  My surgeon uses something similar to my mom’s old hairdryer on his patients.

Back before blow-dryers were invented, my mom had a hair dryer with a soft hood that went on her head.  This wasn’t hard and rigid like at the beauty solon.  The hood was like an oversized soft plastic cap.  A flexible hose ran from the machine up to the hood and blew hot air that would dry a person’s hair.  That hose could be disconnected from the hood and used to dry the insides of shoes, too.  It was also a great tool for bugging little brothers.  But I digress.

While getting ready for my operation, the nurse explained that they’ve discovered that patients do better in surgery if they’re kept warm.  To demonstrate their commitment to this, she told me to remove my long underwear, flannel-lined jeans, and wool sweater, and replace them with a thin paper gown.

Once I’d done that, to further demonstrate their commitment to keeping patients warm, the nurse took away my nice, warm, thick, wool socks and made me put on some thin, ice-cold hospital slippers. Those grippers on the sole of the foot are mandatory because they don’t want any patients who get up and walk around during surgery to slip and fall.

Once I was settled in and resigned to freezing, things changed.  It was great!  Just as my mom’s old hairdryer hood had a place to hook up the hose to warm/dry the head, my gown had a place to hook up a hose to allow warm air to blow on me.  It was fabulous!

I was even given a control knob and told that I could turn the temperature down.  Why on earth would I ever want to do that?   I kept the heat cranked at 100% the entire time.

When it was time to move me into the operating room, much to my disappointment, they disconnected the heater hose.  Fortunately, that was temporary and I was hooked back up again in the OR.  They kept me warm.  It was wonderful to discover that surgery does not automatically mean the patient is going to freeze.