Tag Archives: short-term disability

My Recovery From WLS – Answer To Question #1

Yesterday, I asked what kind of questions people had about my gastric by-pass surgery, recovery, and weight loss.  I actually got several great questions!  I am going to pick a new question each day and use that question as the subject for my blog post.

Today’s question comes from Carrie K.  She asked:

What was your recovery like and how long did it take for you to recover?

That is a great question.  I think to properly answer that, I need to discuss the kind of surgery that I had because there are several options and they each have their own recovery time.  Back in January, I did a whole blog entry about the different types of bariatric surgeries.  The Mayo Clinic has a great site that discusses all of the options as well.  Their site is obviously much more comprehensive than mine.

I had the open rouen-y gastric by-pass but instead of slicing off a portion of my stomach, the doctor stapled off a smaller portion and rerouted my intestines to the new pouch.  My surgery is reversible should the need ever arise.  The surgeon made a 5 inch incision in my belly just below my breast bone.  That is what made mine an open surgery.  Most of the bariatric surgeries are done laparoscopically which reduces the recovery time.

For example, I have a friend who just recently had the gastric sleeve surgery.  I believe hers was done laparoscopically because she is a lot further along in her recover than I was a month after my surgery.  She’s already eating solid/soft food.

I had my surgery October 24.  I was in the hospital for two days after the surgery.  I had my surgery on a Wednesday and was released on a Friday.  I think that I should have stayed one more day, but I let them send me home.  I had a very rough night that night.  I took one month off of work, which was covered under FMLA and I collected short-term disability.

It was probably two weeks before I could actually lay down comfortably and get up out of bed on my own.  I slept in my sister’s big overstuffed chair for about two weeks because I could not lay down and get up by myself.  It was probably two weeks before I could bend over and pick up stuff that I dropped on the floor.  Even still, my sister would not let me bend over because she did not want me to hurt myself.

I went back to work November 19, but at the time, I was working from home.  If I had to commute, I probably would have stayed out of work another month.

I stayed at my sister’s house for the first month after the surgery until the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I went to the mall, Target, the library, etc with her or my brother on almost a daily basis while I was there to walk.  It was pretty cold out at that time and walking inside was best.  So, even though I was off work and still recovering, I was mobile and up and about.

I’d say it took me until about two weeks after the surgery to feel that I could move around somewhat normally with minimal pain.  I was off the pain meds by the fourth day home from the hospital.  After my second day home, I only took the pain medication at night when the pain was really bad.  By the time I was back at my place in November, I was walking about with no problem, which was a huge improvement over my life before the surgery.

I ate pureed food for the first six weeks.  Then soft food until the end of December beginning of January.  I am basically eating somewhat normally now, albeit very, very small meals.

I had a pretty invasive surgery which accounts for the long recovery.  Also, while the doctor was operating, he noticed that my liver was not in the greatest of shape.  It was covered in fat and enlarged.  So, he took a small sample of my liver for tests.  I had some pain and irritation on the right side under my ribs as a result.

Fortunately, the pathology from the liver test did not reveal any major problems, which is a huge relief for me.  There is a hereditary illness in my family called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency which affects the liver.  I am a carrier, but to date, I have not experienced any symptoms.  My liver was fatty, which is bad, but the surgeon feels sure that after I lose weight, the liver will correct itself.  I am glad to hear that.  Having a fatty liver also explains why my triglycerides were out of control high before the surgery.  Now, 110 pounds smaller, my triglycerides are in the normal range.  My personal doctor will probably want me to get my liver looked at again once I have lost some more weight.

I hope that answers your question, Carrie.  Each person’s recover will certainly be different.  The type of surgery they have, their own personal reaction to the surgery, their health before the surgery will all affect the length and quality of their recovery.  Mine took a while, but I was in pretty bad shape before the surgery.  Now, I’m doing great!

Keep the questions coming!!


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.