Tag Archives: surgery

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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Home At Last

I am home from my long week in Pittsburgh.  Finally.  It was a very, very long week.  My mother had surgery on her arm which she had broken.  We buried my step-father.  I saw family that I have not seen in years.  It all felt kind of unreal and was very stressful.

I tried as hard as I could to stick close to my diet plan.  I did have a couple of hiccups though.  Then I developed horrible constipation during my last couple of days there.  It got so bad my mother wanted to take me to the ER.  It finally cleared up last night and I was able to make the drive back home safely.  I think it was brought on by a few bad choices and the stress of a very difficult week.  Needless to say, I am very glad that week is over and I am glad to be home.

All that aside, I had three really great experiences I would like to share.

The first, of course, is everyone’s reaction to seeing me 112 pounds smaller.  My stepbrother, Bill, last saw me a couple of years ago.  He and his wife have been getting updates from my mom with pictures.  But pictures really do not do the change I have undergone justice.  When they saw me, they were absolutely flabbergasted.  Bill picked up my baby sister and her husband from the airport and dropped them off at my mom’s house.  He helped bring the luggage in.  When I said hello, he replied with, “OMG Colleen!  When I saw you from the street I thought you were Sandy (my other sister).”  He then gave me a big hug and told me how great I looked.  As we stood there and talked, he just kept shaking his head and saying, “Unbelievable!”  When his wife saw me, she reacted the same way.  Pretty much everyone who saw me had the same reaction.

The other experience had to do with my other stepbrother’s wife.  Michelle had the gastric by-pass surgery a few years ago.  She was so excited when she found out I was getting the surgery.  She has also followed my progress through my mom.  I have not seen her for maybe seven or eight years.  She was always a big woman.  The day of my step-dad’s funeral this tall, thin, gorgeous woman came up to me and gave me a hug to tell me how good it was to see me and how wonderful I looked.  My mouth fell to the floor.  It wasn’t until she started speaking that I knew it was Michelle.  Talk about the tables being turned.

The last and best news that I have to share is I weighed myself when I returned home.  I’ve lost 3 pounds.  I am now down to 183.  At least there is something good that came out of a very long and difficult week.

What Do You Want To Know?

Lately, I have not been blogging quite as much.  I was on quite a tear there for a while blogging every day or nearly every day.  I seem to have run out of ideas lately.  My weight loss has slowed down.  I have been walking a lot more, exercising a little bit.  And in many ways, my life has become much busier recently.  And I seem to have run out of ideas to keep the daily posts going.  I fear that I am repeating myself a lot.  Still, I feel guilty about not blogging every day.  I feel that I should at least say something, because after all, the struggle to lose weight and make healthy choices continues every day even after weight loss surgery and losing a huge amount of weight.

I know that I have lost a lot of weight, I have purged my closet of big clothes several times.  I have bought some new outfits.  I even bought some used clothes.  And I inherited a large number of t-shirts, etc from my sister.  Even after all of this, I am still not done losing.  To reach my goal, I have 63 pounds to go.  If I never reach that goal, I’m OK.  I have achieved a lot thus far and I am happy with what I have achieved.

I can walk.  I can breathe.  I can walk and breathe at the same time.  I have a lot more energy.  My blood pressure is controlled without meds.  I no longer use the c-pap machine.  My cholesterol is under control, and my triglycerides are normal.  That last one makes me very happy because heart disease runs in my family.

I love the blog and I do not see an end to it, but I guess I need to find some more topics to cover.  I have written about a lot of different subjects.  I have tried to be as truthful as possible about my experience with gastric by-pass surgery, the good and the bad.  I have described the surgery, the recovery, what it is like to be fat, what it is like to feel invisible, what it’s like to no longer feel invisible, all kinds of subjects.

So, I am going to turn this blog around a bit and I hope this experiment works.  I want to hear from you guys, my readers.  I know most of you are friends and family and I have talked to you guys endlessly about the surgery.  But I also have a couple of readers I do not know personally.  In either case, I am looking for questions from all of you.

Tell me what you want to know.  Is there a subject that I haven’t covered that you want to know about?  Do you have a question about weight loss surgery that I have not answered?  Are there things in my life that have changed that I have not shared with the blogosphere that you want to know about?  Ask away.  I will use your questions as new subject matter for me to explore and write about.

I will answer any serious question about weight loss surgery or changes in my life as honestly as I can no matter how personal.  I know that opens up a can of worms for people to ask all kinds of ridiculous things, but I trust my readers.  If I come across questions I feel I cannot or will not answer, I will address that as needed.  I also reserve the right to mock people who ask questions that are intended to insult fat people, women, me, or otherwise corrupt what I am trying to do with this experiment.

So, tell me…what is it you want to know?

What Is Gastric By-Pass Surgery Exactly?

So, I have had some questions lately from friends.  Some people have asked me to describe what is involved in a gastric by-pass surgery.  Not what I have to do to get ready, but what the doctor actually does to your insides that helps you eat less and thus lose weight.  I have also had people who are considering different procedures and ask my opinion, because you know, I’m an expert, right?

OK, you can stop laughing now.

But seriously, unless you are researching gastric by-pass surgeries because you want to have one, you may not be aware of what actually happens when the doctor performs the surgery.  I know I was not aware.  And if you are considering the surgery, the best thing to do is to reach out to people who have had one of the procedures and ask questions.  Each procedure is different and each person reacts differently to the results after the surgery.  Oh and yes, there are several different types of gastric surgeries one can consider.

I want to spend some time today discussing some of the different surgeries and the doctor does.  I will also include some YouTube videos and other links that will describe the surgeries better than I can.  This post might be kind of long.

What is Gastric By-Pass Surgery?

Gastric By-pass surgery is when a surgeon somehow creates a much smaller stomach and re-routes your digestive track to that smaller stomach.  This will help an obese overeater eat less and help them lose weight.  There are several ways to achieve this smaller stomach.

The surgery can either be an open surgery or a laparoscopic surgery.   An open surgery is exactly what it sounds like.  This is a traditional surgery where the doctor makes a long incision to operate.  A laparoscopic surgery is when a series of small incisions are made and tiny surgical tools are used to perform the surgery.

The different types of Bariatric surgeries are the Roux-en Y gastric by-pass, the lapband, the gastric sleeve, the lapband and gastric sleeve combo, and the duodenal switch.  The Mayo Clinic has an excellent site with pictures and vivid descriptions of each of these surgeries, but I will give a brief description here.

Roux-en Y Gastric By-Pass

This is the surgery where a small pouch is made and the rest of the stomach is cut off and then the intestines are rerouted to the small pouch.  An alternate version of this is to staple the larger stomach off from the pouch.  This is the surgery that I had.

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This YouTube video further describes the procedure if you’re interested.  It is not graphic and does not show a live surgery, but uses pictures to show what he doctor does.  I could not watch videos of live surgeries.   Too gross for me.

The Lapband

The lapband is when a small band is used to create the small pouch instead of stapling.  Sometimes the larger part of the stomach is reduced to create a gastric sleeve.  There are a couple of different bands.  One is a metal band that stays in your stomach.  The other is an adjustable band that occasionally needs to be filled back up with fluid to keep it firmly tight around the pouch.

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Gastric Sleeve

A gastric sleeve is when part of the stomach is removed to create a smaller narrow sleeve type stomach.  This can be done on its own or in combination with the lapband.

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Duodenal Switch

This is the most drastic surgery.  Usually, the stomach is left in tact or this procedure can be done in combination with gastric sleeve and the digestive tract is rerouted to by-pass most of the intestines.  This is very drastic.

I am not very good at describing this surgery, so I am going to refer you to the YouTube video and the link I provided above.  This was not a surgery that I wanted to have.  Too drastic for me.

These are the primary procedures.  Each surgeon has their own speciality.  You will need to work with your surgeon to decide which procedure is best for you.

Advice

As far as my advice, I am happy to listen to anyone who wants to ask questions.  I will happily answer them.  If you have decided you definitely want one of these procedures, great.  I have all kinds of advice and ideas.

If you are on the fence, my advice is to think about this some more.  Go back to the drawing board.  Talk to your doctor.  Join a gym, try a new diet plan.  Buddy-up with a friend.  Seek counseling.  Join a support group.  Try to lose weight the traditional way through diet and exercise.  Do not rush into a procedure because you feel helpless.

If after you feel you have tried everything and you feel surgery is your best option, go for it.  Just remember, the surgery is a tool, not necessarily the answer.  You will still have all of the problems you had before the surgery.  The desire to eat or overeat is still there.  Any depression or self-doubt persists.  Laziness is still a problem.  So, unless you are willing make those changes as well, the surgery will just be one more, albeit very expensive and drastic, short-term fix.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets.  I learned a lot about myself and my health, both physically and mentally, through this process.  I am glad I did it.  I could not, however, have done this before I was ready.

A Revolutionary Idea For Resolutions: Not Just For New Year’s Only

In my opinion, resolutions do not work.  Don’t you just hate New Year’s Resolutions?  I do.  They are so ephemeral.  Fleeting.  Useless.  Everybody makes them.  Nobody keeps them.

I do like the idea of a New Year, however.  I love the idea of starting over and getting a fresh start to life.  I really feel that I have been given that fresh start this year in so many ways.  I have made the decision to avoid making resolutions, however.

Resolutions do not work in my opinion. I think everyone has good intentions at the start, but life and complacency often get in the way of the best intentions and resolutions usually go by the wayside by February.

I have found that what does work is setting realistic goals.  I’m not just talking about a name change from “resolution” to “goal” either.  I’m talking about real goal setting.  Every successful person does this.  Here is what real goal setting looks like.

1. Decide what you want to achieve.

2. Set a realistic goal.

3. Develop a plan to achieve that goal.

4. Follow plan.

5. Periodically check the plan to make sure you’re on track.

6. Make adjustments to plan as necessary to keep you on track.

6. Stay focused and persistent.  Achieving a goal is a marathon, not a sprint.  Don’t stop. Keep moving forward.

If you follow these steps, you should be successful. You may not achieve your goal completely, but you will be a lot closer than if you did nothing.  Or announced a resolution on New Year’s Eve and then quit in February.

We set goals in my writer’s group every year.  We try to set specific, realistic, achievable goals.  They can be big goals or small goals, but we try to do something.  Setting a goal of “writing more” is vague and not really measurable.  We push people to be more specific than that.  One short story? Two?  Will you try to get it published?  You get the idea.

I set goals for my health last year…do something about my weight and overall health by exploring WLS.  I did it.  I had the surgery and I’ve lost 57 pounds.  In addition, the steps I took to improve my heath before the surgery were crucial changes as well.  It was a big goal that brought on big changes in my life.

So, what are my health goals for 2013?

1.  Continue with the diet plan set by my doctor to achieve my weight loss goal.  I also need to tweak that diet a little to kick up my calorie intake so that I reach 1200 by the six month mark.

2. Kick up my exercising.  Exercising is a requirement for the health plan set forth in the guidelines of the bariatric surgery.  I exercise already by walking or riding the bike in my exercise room.  I have been doing pretty good, but I feel like I’m not doing enough.  I am going to join a gym and work with a personal trainer.  This was always my plan, but I needed to wait until the surgeon gave me the clearance to begin some mild strength training.  I have that clearance, so I am going to join Gold’s Gym and work with a personal trainer.

3. Get caught up on all of my medical tests and get started on some dental work.  My teeth need some work and I need to get things like a mammogram done.

4. I also have more plans or this blog.  I want to add a page with food ideas and recipes.  Many of the recipes are tailored for food allergies and are gluten-free.

So there you have it.  Health goals.  Blog goals.  Simple.  Achievable.  Already part of a plan I’m working on now, but expanded a little bit to achieve my overall goal of better health.

What are your goals or 2013?

Happy New Year!!  May 2013 be your best year yet!

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To Youtube or Not

So, I started a new Youtube channel and made one video.  I have not uploaded it yet.  I’m not sure I want to do videos.  Part of my fear is that I will have to do videos all of the time.  I’m also not sure I want to see myself in videos all of the time.  Yet another part of me wonders what will happen to writing blog entries.  Will I become too dependent on videos and stop writing?

I enjoy these blog posts.  I think writing posts is fun.  I don’t know.  I’m on the fence.  What do you guys think?   Do you want to see me add videos as part of this blog?

Back to Business

Now that I have the hard emotional post out of the way, it is time to get back to the business of discussing my preparation for the gastric by-pass surgery.

These are the tests, etc that I have to complete before surgery.

  • More blood work – the list of blood work tests they gave me is very long.
  • Urinary test.
  • Chest X-Ray.
  • Sonogram of gall bladder
  • PFT test – Pulmonary Function Test.
  • Another EKG.
  • Pulmonary consult and clearance.
  • Bariatric education class at hospital.
  • Nurse interview at hospital.
  • GI Consult.
  • EGD – that’s where they stick a camera down your throat all the way to your stomach to take a peek inside.  Fortunately, I will be unconscious for this.
  • Last pre-op visit with Surgeon’s office the week before the surgery.

Here is what I have done so far.

  • GI Consult.
  • Nurse interview at hospital.
  • Bariatric education class at hospital.

This is stuff I am getting done this week.

Wednesday:

  • Blood work.
  • EKG
  • Pulmonary consult and clearance.
  • Urinary test.
  • PFT test – Pulmonary Function Test.

Friday:

  • EGD.
  • Colonoscopy.

What I still have left to do before the surgery:

  • Chest x-ray.
  • Sonogram of stomach, gall bladder.
  • Last pre-op visit with surgeon’s office and appointment with their nutrition counselor.

Fortunately, my primary care doctor is a pulmonary care doctor, so I can get the pft and pulmonary clearance done right there in the office.  I can also get the EKG done there.  They will also do all of the blood work, etc.  The GI doctor that I saw is also going to do a test for Celiac Disease.  My sister has it and the doctor thought it would be prudent to see if I have it as well.  I insist that I do not, but we shall see.

I am waiting to do the chest x-ray and the sonogram of my gall bladder until after I see my primary doctor.  I want to make sure that they give me recommendations for those tests as well as the EGD and colonoscopy, which is scheduled for Friday, so that they can get clearance from my insurance company.

Oh the hoops I have to jump through.

The bariatric/nutrition class at the hospital was very informative, if not a little bit scary.  The nutrition part of this class was actually very interesting.  The nutritionist reaffirmed many of the things that I’ve already learned, plus she talked specifically about what we will be eating.  A lot of the diet isn’t going to work for me.  Mostly because of the dominance of milk-based products.  I am allergic to milk, so I am not going to be able to follow that part of it.  Fortunately, she did say that there are many alternate choices for me.  I will have to work with the nutritionist at the surgeon’s office to create something specifically for me.

I think the heavy reliance of milk-based products is because milk is a great source of protein, which is very important after surgery..  Milk is also a food that can be found in many soft forms, yogurt, cottage cheese, soft cheeses.  Soft, gentle foods are also important in the immediate first eight weeks after surgery.  With that in mind, milk products are great.  They offer the double punch of being soft and packed with protein.  Excellent food choice for post bariatric surgery.

Not for me.  I have to find alternate sources of soft, protein rich foods.

The scary part came when the bariatric nurse gave her talk.  She was terrific.  She is a tall beautiful blonde-haired woman with a delightful eastern european accent.  I think she said she was from Ukraine.  She was also tough as nails and did not hold back at all.  She was very specific about what life will be like the few days immediately following the surgery.  She talked about the pain levels we should expect.  She told us that some of us may have feelings of regret in the first days after the surgery.  She also said that some of us may need to give ourselves pain shots after we get home.

She basically tried to paint a very real picture of life immediately after the surgery, plus what we should expect for the first eight weeks.  She stressed the importance of following the diet and the doctor’s orders.  Basically, she put it out there that if you were having doubts at all and did not think you can handle what is coming, now is the time to talk to your surgeon and perhaps reconsider.  This surgery is not for the faint of heart.  It is not easy.  She also made it clear that this surgery is not the answer.  It is only a tool.  It is up to use to use that tool to make more substantive changes to our lives to see the best results.

I definitely left there with a more clear picture of what to expect.  I am definitely not turning back.  Yes, I was a bit scared about the possibility of giving myself shots.  I really do not think that I can do that.  I will somehow manage to muddle through.

Yes, the pain of the surgery does scare me.  The things I may have to do in the immediate aftermath of the surgery scare me as well.  The pain I feel every day, whether it is excruciating back pain, agonizing foot pain, both of which are almost constant, or the difficulty I have breathing are so much worse to me.  I am willing to face a little bit of short-term extra pain and difficulty to   experience long-term positive health benefits.  In short, I want to take my life back from my obesity and I’m not going to let the short-term pain of surgery stop me.

Today’s cat is Milo.  My sister adopted two abandoned kittens.  One was a girl, which we named Oscar.  The boy kitten was Milo.  She took both kittens so that they would not be tossed into a dumpster.  She intended to keep Oscar and find Milo a home.  She did eventually find Milo a home, but not before he left his mark on Oscar.  She had a little of four adorable kittens, all of them found a loving home.  Then she had Oscar fixed.  Nonetheless, we loved Milo.  He is a beautiful cat.