Monthly Archives: October 2012

Convalescence

I was released from the hospital late in the afternoon on Friday.  Now I am at my sister Sandy’s place convalescing.  And yes, we have taken to calling her Hurricane Sandy.

Friday was rough.  They brought me pureed food for lunch in the hospital on Friday.  Up until then, I had been having liquids only.  Chicken broth, jello, and juice.  I have to say, I think they overdid it with the sweet stuff in the hospital.  Between the juice and the jello and the constant deliveries of bottled crystal light, I became  nauseous just looking at anything sweet.  The food services people refused to remove the things I did not eat because I may want them later.  I finally had to make my mom or sister throw them away because I could not even stand the sight of anything sweet.

I was never much of a sweet drinker.  I gave up drinking soda in 1992.  If I had iced tea or even hot tea, I did not put sugar in it.  The only sweet thing that I really liked was the occasional glass of cranberry juice.  I mostly just drank water.  Or coffee.

This post is going to get kind of gross from here, so be forewarned.

The goal of bringing me something other than liquid was to try to make me have a bowel movement, or at least have gas.  Then they could release me.  Instead, I became bloated, had a lot of stomach pain, took a long time to digest the food.  They finally had to give me an enema to help me along.  To say that was unpleasant would be a horrible understatement.

Eventually, it worked, but I was still kind of in pain and uncomfortable.  They sent me home with prescriptions and specific orders and instructions to call if I had any problems.

Getting the prescriptions filled was a huge problem.  The pharmacy kept telling us the doctor wrote the prescription wrong and because it was for a narcotic, they could not take a called in adjustment from the surgeon that we would have to go back and get a new handwritten prescription.  Finally, they agreed to a call in for a non-narcotic pain-killer.  Then, they gave me time-released capsules for gas and bloating.  I could not take capsules and there was no way to crush them.  Thankfully, I was able to crush the pain pills.

I could not eat anything else on Friday.  My sister did make me take my pain pills with a bit of applesauce.  Since I could not lay down on the bed without discomfort, I slept in the recliner in the living room and my sister slept on the couch.  I woke up in the middle of the night horribly nauseated.  I sat there and tried to struggle through it hoping it would pass.  It did not.   Until this point, I had been trying to be quiet so as not to wake my sister.  She was very stressed out and did not know how to properly care for me and kept wanting to take me back to the hospital.  I cannot say I blame her.

When it became clear, at 3:00am I might add,  that I might vomit, I said one word, “Um,”

My sister shot straight up to a full standing position and was like, “What?  Are you OK? Do we need to go to the hospital?”

I just told her that I thought I might throw up and she ran and got me something to throw up into.  I didn’t actually vomit, but I did heave a few times.  She questioned me about the stomach medication and I explained the capsule situation to her.  We called the doctor’s emergency number and got him out of bed.  If we had to be up at 3:00am, we certainly had no problem waking him up at 3:00am.

He told me to open the capsule and take the medication inside with a little bit of water.  He told me to call him back if I continued to have problems or go to the emergency room.  He was a little bit concerned about the heaving and told me to keep an eye on my wound to see if I had any seepage.  I did not.

Once I took the stomach medication, I felt much better.  My sister also gave me more pain medication and after that, we both slept for a long, long time.

Saturday was much better.  I reverted back to a mostly liquid diet.  I did have lentils ground up with chicken broth last night.  That was pretty good.  Lentils have protein and are vegetables, so they fulfilled all food groups.  I also had some applesauce with my pain pills mixed in.

Today is better.  I had an egg and applesauce for breakfast.  I’ve also had my protein drink and my vitamins.  I have been walking every day.  Not a lot, but I’m trying to increase the distance each time.  I get a little bit better each day.  I’m slowly trying to increase my calorie intake to match the diet that I should be following.

This has not been easy.  I’m not used to relying on other people to do basic daily activities for me such as standing up from a seated position or fixing my own meals.  Each day, I try to do a little bit more on my own.  I’m sure my sister is relieved when she sees me standing up own my own or doing anything without her help.  She’s been a trooper and I do not know what I would have done without her.  I feel bad about relying on her so much and I worry about her stress level.  I’m sure that over the next couple of weeks, things will get easier for me and I won’t have to rely on her quite as much.  Until then, I’m glad she’s been so good to me.

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Post Surgery

I had my gastric by-pass on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 8:00am at Inova Fair Oaks hospital in Fairfax, VA.  Today is Friday, October 26, 2012 at 3;30am. I woke up about an hour ago and now I cannot get back to sleep.  So, I am going to blog a bit about my experience so far.

I have to say that everyone at this hospital has been wonderful.  From the moment that I checked in until now, everyone is nice and helpful.  They have been great in answering any of my questions, calming my fears, and helping me do everything.  My surgeon, Dr. Osvaldo Anez, is very professional and friendly.  He’s been to check in on me twice.  He wants to check me out later today.  I have to admit, I am a little bit nervous about that, but he seems confident in my progress so far.

So, let me start with the surgery itself.  The surgery went smoothly from what I am to understand.  They did wake me up after the surgery while I was still on the table.  I had a tube down my throat to help me breathe.  They need to make sure that I can breathe on my own before they remove it.  I remember them yelling my name and saying, “Colleen breathe!”  “Take a deep breathe!”

I remember feeling that I could not breathe, but I also remember them pulling the tube out of me, so I must have been breathing.  But they kept waking me and telling me to keep breathing.  Then to assure that I could breathe, they put my c-pap mask on.  The pain was unbelievable.  I remember telling them I was in pain.  Through all of this, I was being wheeled into post-op and everything was foggy. I vaguely remember them taking me to my private room.  My mom and sister were there.

The whole day of Wednesday, was very rough for me.  I had horrible nausea that was caused by the anesthesia.  I do not know how much medicine they gave me, but they kept giving me all kinds of anti-naseau medication.  The anesthesia doctor came in to see me several times.  Finally, she gave me a steroid of some kind that helps with nausea.  That knocked it right out of me.  The bariatric nurse that taught the nutrition/bariatric class came to see me as well.  She was the pretty blonde Ukrainian lady.  She is so nice.  She told me to make sure I was giving myself plenty of pain medicine.  I can give myself pain medication by pressing a button.  I was only pressing the button when I had intense pain.  She told me no, to stay ahead of the pain so that I am able to take deep breaths and walk as much as possible.  I have been taking that advise and it has made a world of difference.

They made me use the bathroom and talk a way about 3pm the day of the surgery.  I did not want to.  I kept saying that I did not have to go to the bathroom and I did not want to walk.  The nurse did not tolerate that.  She had been so sweet all day, but she turned to me and said,”No, you’ve been sleeping and drinking water all day, you’re getting up.  It is time.”

Getting up was hard.  Ultimately though, I’m glad she made me get up.  I only walked about 40 feet the first time, But about an hour later, I took a little bit of a longer walk.  A nurse or volunteer was with me at all times.  My mom and sister left at 6pm on Wednesday and my brother showed up about 730pm.  He was not here long.  About 830pm I went to bed and slept most of the night.

Day one: A lot of pain and nausea, but ended the day on a much better note.

I had the morning to myself yesterday.  I got some walking in and continued to use the bathroom without problem.  I sat up in a chair for about three hours.  My friend Lynn showed up around noon followed quickly by my sister and mom.  I enjoyed visiting with them.  I took a couple of walks with them.  I kind of over did it yesterday with the walking.  My doctor came back to see me.  He is very pleased with my progress.  Everyone has told me how good I look.  I was able to walk by myself and I apparently had a lot of color to my face.  And I have to admit that I felt pretty good.  Yesterday, I started eating.  So far, I have had only liquid food.  I had chicken broth, cranberry juice and jello.  I had to stop drinking the sweet flavored stuff.  I know that there is no sugar, but the sweet taste was not good.  So, I am sticking with the chicken broth and water.  From what I understand, I am going to have pureed food at some point today.

My brother showed up about 630pm is with his wife and my niece. She is four.   She had made me two get well cards.  I was worried about my niece seeing me in the hospital.  I am hooked up to an IV and a pain machine.  I was afraid that I looked terrible and the IV would scare her.  I was right.  She wouldn’t come very close to me.  Her parents tried to convince her to come closer and give me y cards.  I told her it was OK to give them to Aunt Sandy and then Sandy would give them to me.  I told her that I know the wires and stuff are scary, but I explained that they give me medicine to make me feel better.  She did ask about the boo boo on my tummy.  I told her that they gave me a tight t-shirt to keep it covered so that nobody could see it.  What they really gave me is a support garment.  It helps a lot.  She mostly stayed behind her mother’s legs, but before they left, she did say good-bye and tell me she loves me.  My brother took my mom and my sister to dinner.  My mom went back to the hotel to rest.  My sister came back here and sat with me until I fell asleep for the night.

Apparently, my niece talked about me through dinner.  She said that I am only a little bit sick and that I have machines giving me medicine so that I will feel better.   I had told her she can come visit me at Aunt Sandy’s house this weekend, so she talked about that a lot too.  So, she might have been a little scared at the hospital, she did recognize that the scary machines are helping to make me better. I love that little girl so much.  Being an auntie is awesome.

I am getting tired, so  am going to try to get some more sleep.  I am supposed to be discharged today. We shall see.  I will write more later.

ONE

One more day.  Tomorrow is it.  My gastric by-pass surgery.

I have been thinking about everything I have been through this past year since I made the decision to get serious about dealing with my weight and all of the connected health related problems that I have.

A year ago, these medical problems were either completely untreated or not really under control:

  • Volatile high blood pressure that despite my efforts to control it, was still running on the mid-high side.
  • Severe sleep apnea.
  • Stress levels that were out of control.
  • Borderline to high cholesterol.
  • I ate out for nearly every meal.
  • I did not even think about exercising.
  • I have asthma that was sort of controlled.

In other words, I was going down a very dangerous path.  I said in an earlier post that it was a prescription for an early death.

Since seeing a gastric by-pass surgeon, I have changed quite a bit of what I was doing.

  • I saw two gastric by-pass doctors before my friend directed me towards my new doctor.
  • I stopped eating out for every meal.
  • I underwent a sleep study.
  • I use a c-pap machine and my apnea is now controlled.
  • I’ve been taken off of one of my high blood pressure medications.  Now the medication I do take keeps me at a normal level on a consistent basis.
  • My cholesterol is 151.
  • I’ve met with a nutritionist who helped guide my food choices.
  • I am eating more fruits and vegetables.
  • I’ve dealt with some of the other things that were causing me undo stress.
  • I’ve had a stress test.
  • And I’ve had many other tests to make sure I am healthy for surgery.
  • I lost about 10 pounds.

I feel better.  I feel rested.  I’m more positive.  And I feel that I am ready for this surgery.  Granted, I’m still not exercising at the level I would like. I can and will correct that after surgery.  I want to get my triglyceride level down to normal levels, raise my good cholesterol levels, and continue to lower my bad cholesterol levels.  Obviously, I want to lose weight.  I also need to bring my sugar levels down some too.  All of this will happen after the surgery once the serious weight loss begins.

Making the decision to have the surgery was not an easy one.  I did not originally want  do this.  I invested a lot of time and thought into the decision and finally came to the conclusion that if I wanted to live a drastically different life, I had to make some drastically different choices.

There are definitely some things I did not want to do.  I did not want to do the sleep study.  I did not want to sleep with a c-pap machine.  I have to admit that when I was told that I needed a c-pap machine and that I would have to take my c-pap machine to the hospital for the surgery, I was unhappy.  I do not know why, but the idea of carrying a medical machine into the hospital really turned me off.  I thought the machine would be much bigger than it was.  Part of my fear was the machine would be much bigger than it was and I really do not have the strength or ability to haul around medical equipment.  I also did not relish wearing a mask every night.

The truth is The c-pap machine is small.  Sleeping with the mask is an inconvenience, but being well rested is something I would not change.  Controlling my sleep apnea has helped lower my blood pressure and improved many other health related problems that I have.  Now, I’m glad I did it and I’m not afraid to carry my small c-pap machine into the hospital tomorrow.

Like I said, this was not an easy decision, but I knew I had to do something.  I want a better life than the one I am leading now.  The only way to do that is to make some serious changes in the way I live.  I am glad I made those changes.  While I am nervous about my surgery, anxious about the changes to come, and sad that there are some food that I love that I may never be able to eat again, I do not regret the decision.

I thank all of my blog followers, friends, and family who have stuck with me up to this point.  I am grateful for all of the well wishes and support I have received.  I hope you’ll stay with me now as the real food changes and weight loss begins and the new healthier Colleen starts to take shape.  As my baby sister called it the other day on the phone, get ready for Colleen 2.0.

Two

Two more days until my surgery.  It still feels a little bit unreal.

Today is my last day of work before the surgery.  I am what is called the Lead Agent on my account.  My manager is the official manager, but I try to lead the team.  I work very closely with my manager.  I share my ideas with him.  I wrote the training manual. I train new employees, temps, and back-up agents.  I approve/disapprove vacations.  And I do many of the reports for the client.

I had to divide my work up between two different people while I’m out.  I feel that I have them adequately trained.  I had my manager trained to think that he could not live without me.  Now I am going to be out for a month and he’s a little nervous.  The people I have trained to back me up are awesome.  He will have no problems while I’m gone.  My fear is he will learn that it is all a lie.  He can live without me and like anyone in today’s workforce, I am absolutely replaceable.

Nah, I kid.  I’m not really worried.  I know they’ll be fine without me.  We have a great team.  I know they will miss me and will be glad when I come back.  For that, I am thankful.

Today I have to start using this antiseptic scrub on the area where the doctor will do the surgery.  I have to use it today, tomorrow and the morning of my surgery.  I have three bottles of this stuff.

 

My mom will be here tomorrow.  I cannot wait to see her.  Of course, being my mom, she keeps asking if there is anything that I need.  Do I have deodorant?  How about shampoo?  Should she pick me up some more pajamas?  She is awesome.  I have all of these things and I feel I am good.  I did tell her that I need a B50 complex chewable vitamin with thiamine.  I still have not bought that.

I do not want her spending too much of her money on me.  Both her and her husband are senior citizens on social security.  I think he has his retirement as well, but my mom does not have a lot of disposable income.  She is spending a lot just traveling here and staying in a hotel for 3 nights.  She wanted to stay in a hotel.  She will be one mile from the hospital, which is closer than where my brother and sister live.  She will also have a place where she can go to be alone for a few hours and relax.  It is hard enough having a daughter in the hospital.  Not being able to relax properly because you’re a guest in someone else’s home is not what she needs right now.  I’m also glad she will be so close to me.

I have a list of things I need to do today.

  • Contact surgeon’s office and verify time they want me to arrive at hospital.
  • Fax short-term disability forms to STD insurance company.
  • Pay one bill.
  • Make a food shopping list for my sister.
  • Mail absentee ballot application to Virginia for election.

That’s right. It is an election year.  No matter what our individual political beliefs or medical conditions, we all must vote.  I never understood people who didn’t vote.  It is our civic duty.  Do it.  Vote.  OK, that’s as far into politics as I will delve.  And that’s all for today!  🙂

Three

Three more days.  I have to admit that I am getting very nervous.  This past Thursday I noticed that some  of the anxiety I experienced a few weeks ago was starting to rear its ugly head again.  I was not as crippled by that anxiety as I was the last time I wrote about it, but I was definitely feeling tense.  I recognized it right away, started talking about it, and started taking some action.

I know that it is normal to be nervous before any surgery, especially one  that will be as life-changing as a gastric by-pass.   My challenge is to not let that nervousness prevent me from doing what I need to do to get ready for the surgery.  There is no chance in my mind that my nervousness will prevent me from going through with the surgery.  I have come too far to turn back now.

I want this change.  I need this change.  I just know that I cannot continue to live the way I have been.  Being morbidly obese is difficult.  It is painful.  It is killing me.  I have dangerously too many symptoms that could eventually materialize as heart disease.  My feet and legs hurt a lot much of the time.  My back constantly hurts and makes walking and standing difficult if not nearly impossible. Being morbidly obese is not a prescription for living.  It is a prescription for an early death.

I want to live.

Four

Four days until the surgery.  I cannot believe how quickly this is coming up on me.  For so long, it felt so far away.  Now it feels like it is happening way too soon. 

Today’s projects:

  • Finish organizing closet.
  • Mop kitchen and bathroom.
  • vacuum entire apartment including couch.
  • Clean work mailbox so that my Outlook doesn’t crash while I’m on leave.
  • Finish packing up final bag o’ stuff to take to my sister’s place on Tuesday.

Mom arrives on Tuesday.  My sister is picking both of us up at my place sometime on Tuesday.  Then my mom is going to a hotel near the hospital.  She’s so smart.  It is probably the only time she has had all to herself in years.  Don’t get me wrong, her husband is awesome and treats her very well.  But he’s retired and is home all day.  The only time she has away from him is while she’s at her part-time job.  Not exactly a get-away.  Visiting me at the hospital isn’t exactly a get-away either, but at least she’ll have a place to go back to and rest quietly without distraction.

This afternoon, I am having lunch with a friend.  We are going to an Indian restaurant.  I love Indian food.  I love food with strong spice and flavor.  I will eventually be able to eat some Indian food eventually after the surgery, but it will be a while.  My favorite is the chicken saag, which is chicken and spinach.  I’m a huge fan of spinach. 

They say your taste change after surgery sometimes.  I really hope I do not lose my taste for Indian food.  I can give up a lot of stuff.  I haven’t had pizza in eight years.  I would even begrudgingly give up chocolate, but only if I absolutely had to.  Take away my taste for curry, palaak, and somosas…that’s a step too far.

Come to think of it, no I probably would not give up chocolate either.

Five

Five days until my surgery.  Do I have enough topics to write about until then?  I’m sure I can come up with something.

I talked to the doctor who did the endoscopy and colonoscopy.  Good news.  No H pylori, no celiac disease, and nothing that would prevent me from getting the surgery.   Thank goodness.  Now, I just need to get them to send the pathology  information to the surgeon.

I hate having to hunt down information.  I had to go to my doctor to get copies of my chest x-rays to the surgeon’s office.  Then I had to chase down the GI doctor to get results.  This whole process has been an oddessey.  I understand the necessity of all of these tests, but sometimes chasing down test results and running from doctor to doctor is really irritating.  That said, it is good to know that so far, nothing major is wrong with me that cannot be fixed ask I lose weight.

Seriously though, if you are considering weight loss surgery, prepare  yourself for a lot of doctor’s appointments.  More than you think. Here are some things to consider that I have learned along the way:

  • Plan a year in advance before the surgery.
  • Purchase short-term disability insurance.  My employer offers it and it is inexpensive.
  • Short-term disability pays only 60% of your paycheck, but it’s better than zero if you run out of vacation time.  Check your employer’s plan’s policy.
  • Purchase supplementle insurance.  I did not, but if you’re concerned about expenses and covering for time off, you could consider it.  Figure out how much you would pay vs they money you think you might need.  If the insurance is more than what you think you need, set the money aside in a savings account instead.
  • Set aside as much as you can in your flex-spending account.  I did $2,000, which is about $76.00 per pay check based on 26 paychecks a year.  The money is taken out pre-tax, so it was not as big of a hit as it looks.  The peace of mind in paying insurance co-pays and prescription drugs co-pays was well worth it.
  • Many leave of absence requests only allow you to use the time you have accrued so far that year.
  • Save your vacation and sick time for your leave of absence if you can.
  • Purchase a week’s vacation if your company allows for that.
  • If your company allows you to  roll over vacation/sick/personal time, plan ahead and save some of your time from the year before.
  • Check your insurance plan and make sure you use doctor’s that are covered by your insurance.
  • Make sure the doctors you use obtain the correct pre-approval for all the tests you will need.
  • Ask your surgeon if anyone is assisting them and if there are additional costs.
  • Check with your insurance company to find out if they cover assisting surgeons.

I have to say, I am very lucky.  My employer has been fantastic about everything.  Everyone from my manager on up the leadership chain of command have really been cheering me on.  Some of them even occasionally read my blog.  I have also been very open with them about everything I am doing.

I work for a very large corporation with a lot of employees, but I really do feel that my leadership is truly concerned about my health.  Of course, if my health is good, I show up to work more often, I work harder and more effectively, and I bring positive energy to my job.  I know that they want to see that.  But I do also feel that my boss and his boss really care about me personally.  There might be aspects of my job I do not like, but that comes with any job.  Nonetheless, I do feel valued and they have really worked with me this year with all of the surgery preparation and my leave of absence.

So, my advice is plan ahead and prepare.  Prepare yourself by planning your time off for both the leave of absence and doctor’s appointments.  Prepare your insurance and money ahead of time.  And prepare your employer as well.  You’re not required to tell them everything or be as open as I have been, but if you at least talk to your immediate supervisor or someone in management that you trust, that way they can be prepared and may be more supportive.