A Room With A View: What Gastric By-Pass Surgery I Really Like

Today’s Writing 101 Assignment is called “A Room With A View” and they are asking us to look ahead and talk about a place we’d like to go. I am going to turn the assignment on its ear a bit and talk about where I have been.

One of my Facebook followers asked me to talk about what the surgery is really like because not everyone has such positive results. She is absolutely correct. So I am going to talk about my experience the first day or so after the surgery.

A day and a half after my surgery, I blogged a bit about what it had been like. Re-reading that post, I realize that I did not give many details or really describe how I felt physically, so I will talk about that some here.

The doctor said the surgery went well. He did notice that my liver was very large and covered in fat. He took a sample so that they could have it analyzed to make sure that it is OK. Bottom line, my liver is not that bad off. Mostly just covered in fat, which is getting better.

I awoke on the table, which they told me would happen. They woke me up to remove the tubes from my lungs. I had been intubated for the surgery. I remember them  yelling at me to breathe and I remember having the sensation for a long time afterwards that I could not breathe. I also had what I thought was horrible chest pains. I told them I was having chest pains. I was afraid I was having a heart attack. The nurse asked me where the pains were, and I apparently pointed to directly to my incision. The pain was unbelievable.

I was clearly briefed on all of this before hand. They also told me that I would not remember waking up. They were wrong. I remember and it was horrible.

I do not remember being in recovery. I do remember finally being wheeled to my room. The room was incredibly hot. When I weighed 300 pounds, I was much more sensitive to temperature than I am now. I could not stand being hot. So, being wheeled into an overly hot room, did not go over well. It took the hospital an hour to get someone in to change the temperature and bring me a fan. Finally, my sister, who works at one of their other hospitals, flashed her badge and raised a stink. I five minutes, the problem was solved. Apart from that minor hiccup, the hospital, the staff, etc, were fantastic. I have no complaints.

I was in a lot of pain. A lot. Of. Pain. Anybody who tells you that the surgery is the easy way out, is clearly an idiot. I challenge them to allow me to cut a 7 inch incision into their stomach to slice and rearrange their innards and see how they feel. It was just awful. All I could do was lay in bed, moan, and sleep. When the nurses told me I had to get up, use the bathroom, and take a walk, I seriously thought they were nuts.

The good news is, I did have a pain machine. I did not use it at first, mostly because the other drugs they had me on kept the worst of the pain away. Also, I thought that I had to be careful about using it. I didn’t want to take too much. The head bariatric nurse came in and told me to go ahead and use it as I needed it because they wanted me to not allow the pain to keep me from getting up and walking. And they wanted me to do a lot of walking.

So, I did use it. And I walked. The pain meds were kind of nice, I have to admit. I regretted leaving the hospital and leaving the serious meds behind because once I got home, that’s when the real misery began.

The pain meds made me sick the first day I was home. I almost ended up back in the hospital. I almost vomited. That would have been really bad as I could have done a lot of damage to the incision and staples. My sister called the surgeon at 3am my first night at home. He had prescribed some stomach medication, but they were huge capsules. I couldn’t take them. Finally, he told me to empty the capsules and dissolve them in water. I felt much better afterwards and the emergency was averted.

Life was very hard for about two weeks. I couldn’t stand on my own. I couldn’t lie flat. I slept in a large overstuffed chair in my sister’s house. And I had a hard time keeping on the food/water schedule.

That said, I did get out and do what the doctor wanted me to do. I walked. At first, I only walked to the corner and back to the house. My brother would pick me up from my sister’s and take me to Target or the library. Target was good because I could use a cart to steady myself. My sister even created a route through the living room and dining room for me so that I could walk around when I was home alone while they were at work.

Learning to eat again was painful. I was eating pureed food for six weeks. In some ways, it wasn’t so bad. In others it was So disgusting. I got really tired of hummus and now I cannot even stand it. Sometimes I can eat it, but often, I cannot even look at it. Not every meal sat well with me. My brother-in-law made grilled chicken for me and then put it in the food processor. It was awful.  I took one bite and while the chicken taste was OK, the texture almost made me hurl. Nonetheless, I couldn’t not eat it because he really went to a lot of effort to make sure that I had appropriate food that I could eat. So I ate as much as I could.

Also, I could eat something one maybe two times, then the sight of it made me sick. That did not bode well for the big pot of pureed lentils they made me. I love lentils. I eat them all of the time now, but just after the surgery, a few servings made me not want to even look at them.

I also had a lot of constipation in those early days. The worst part was, I was not allowed to push to help expel. Pushing could have strained or potentially ruptured my incision and internal staple line.

I was home after a month at my sister’s place. I was able to take care of myself. I went back to work six weeks after the surgery. I worked from home at the time, so I was able to return and not worry about the impact traveling to/from work would have on my health. I had the surgery on October 24, 2012 and by New Year’s I was slowly starting to introduce solid foods.

The first few months after the surgery was very difficult. The rapid weight loss made it a little easier to bear. I was slowly able to walk with ease and breathe. That alone made it worth it. Sitting where I am now, 127 pounds less. Able to walk anywhere I want, able to exercise, eating a little more, and feeling healthy, to me it was all worth it.

That said, the surgery does have the potential for some very serious problems. I encourage anyone considering the surgery to research and arm yourself with the knowledge of what the potential complications could be. Do what you can to make yourself as healthy as possible before the surgery. It will help a lot to prevent some of the complications.

The surgery is not for everyone. It is a huge life change. There are foods that I may never be able to eat again. I will always have to take vitamins and protein supplements. And I will always have to be prepared for adverse reactions to the food I eat. I also do not know what sort of health issues I may face in the future.

That said, to me the surgery was worth it. I was facing some seriously scary health problems as a result of my morbid obesity. The potential health problems that could result from the surgery were no more serious than the health problems I faced every day.

Looking back, the pain and difficulty during the surgery, the months of prep, doctor’s appointments, medical procedures, tests, and personal sacrifices that I made to have this surgery were worth it. I learned a lot about myself, the food I eat and why I overeat. The surgery has been a great tool to help teach me control.

I think that’s the most important thing for anyone considering the surgery to understand. The surgery is a tool. It’s not a miracle cure. You will not be all better. It will not solve your psychological problems. And it’s a temporary fix for your bad behavior.  You will be able to eat more eventually. You can go back to eating high caloric food, fattening food. The surgery only temporarily helps you control what you eat. The behavior modification has to come from  you.

I have reached a point where I can eat more and eat different kinds of foods. The surgery taught me control. The doctor and nutritionist taught me healthy eating. They prescribed exercise. They gave me all the tools I need to successfully lose weight and live a healthier, fuller life.

Now it’s up to me.

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One response to “A Room With A View: What Gastric By-Pass Surgery I Really Like

  1. That definitely doesn’t sound like an easy way out to me and I wish you everything strength to overcome the emotional issues with food. As you say, no surgery will overcome those for you and that is an altogether different battle. Thank you for sharing your story.

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