Patients waiting for surgery have long been told, “nothing to eat or drink after midnight.”
That wait was too long for Doug Lynch, who went for 20 hours with no food or liquid while awaiting surgery at another hospital before being transferred to Sunnybrook.
“You’re already uncomfortable to begin with, and not having water or juice, it just aggravated the whole thing,” says Doug, 59, of the experience.
Once he arrived at Sunnybrook, however, Doug’s experience improved, thanks to a new oral hydration trial called ‘Hydrate While You Wait.’ Sunnybrook is the first hospital in Canada to allow eligible patients to consume clear fluids like water, juice and Jell-O throughout the day, up to two hours before their anticipated surgery time.
In the past, patients had to stop eating food and drinking most liquids after midnight on the day of their surgery because there was no consistent system for tracking how long they might be waiting. There were also concerns that consuming fluids close to surgery could cause complications. New medical evidence has put these fears to rest.
The Hydrate While You Wait process begins in the operating room, where the medical team decides on the urgency and order of surgeries. Icons are entered beside each patient’s name in a special computer system: green means hydrate, red means don’t. Nurses on the patient care units check that status throughout the day and hydrate patients accordingly.
Early results of the trial have been promising: four months after launching the program, patients are now spending a median of just 53 per cent of their pre-operative time without food and fluids, down from 79 per cent last year.
While participation in the Hydrate While You Wait trial is limited to eligible patients admitted to two units for now, there are plans to expand the initiative across the hospital.
For Doug, being able to stay hydrated made all the difference before, during and after his surgery.
“You actually feel healthier,” he says.
By Sybil Millar
Q&A with Doug Lynch
Before coming to Sunnybrook, you were initially taken to another hospital. Tell me about that.
Everything is unknown. You don’t know if you’re going to have surgery in five hours or the next morning, depending on if you get bumped in the queue with other cases coming in, so you could go days with having nothing in your system. It’s not easy.
What happened next?
When I came to Sunnybrook, I had already gone 20 hours with nothing to eat or drink. The care team here mentioned this protocol, called Hydrate While You Wait, where you could have clear fluids, things like coffee, juice, water or Jell-O. I hadn’t had Jell-O in years, but after going that long with nothing in my system, it tasted like a steak dinner. It made a huge difference.
What impact did that have?
I felt healthier. My daughter could even see the difference in me after that. Jell-O or juice may seem like a small thing, but it can’t be good for your health to be going into surgery hungry and thirsty.
You are through your surgery now. Did this program help in your recovery?
Since water is a necessity of life, I truly believe that being able to hydrate enabled me to enter surgery with my mind and body in the best state possible. Could you imagine entering a marathon dehydrated? What do you think the outcome would be? This also led me to come through the surgery in the best possible state and set me up for success for recovery.
Video & Q&A by Monica Matys