My Bariatric Life: My Decision to Have Weight-Loss Surgery (aka Bariatric Surgery, Obesity Surgery)
I looked into weight-loss surgery options because my life had become out of control. I had ballooned to morbid obesity and I recently had been diagnosed with, and hospitalized for, diabetes 2 and hypertension. My triglycerides were bad; my cholesterol was bad. They had been bad, in fact, for a long time. I finally got to the point where I felt like I was going to die. The reality was that I had been dying for decades but it had become so "in my face" apparent that I couldn't ignore it any longer. As they say, I hit bottom.
Even on medication, I never could get my blood glucose readings or blood pressure readings "normal." I still felt awful... and I was afraid of dying. Fat and desperate, I asked my primary care physician about weight loss surgery. He told me that several of his patients had had the surgery with great results. He recommended a surgeon to me and I phoned his practice for information.
I was promptly told by the receptionist that there was an 18-month wait list for Dr. Amazing (not his real name, of course)! She offered that another surgeon in the practice whom had assisted Dr. Amazing in many surgeries now was performing the surgery on his own. I could have my surgery with him fairly quickly. "Ding-ding-ding, it looks like we have a winner!" I scheduled my appointment that day and began researching various weight loss surgery options online.
At my initial consultation, I sat with a group of weight-loss surgery candidates and watched a film presentation concerning weight-loss surgery. Then I met with the surgeon for a private consultation. I asked about the LAP-Band, Gastric Bypass, and the Duodenal Switch - which was my preference of the three surgeries. Although my weight loss would be greater with the Duodenal Switch, the surgeon advised against it, citing that there were greater side effects and that it typically was performed on patients with significantly more weight to lose than what I had to lose. I agreed on laparoscopic RNY gastric bypass surgery.
The process went rather quickly from that point. Back then, there weren't psych evaluations, or 6-month supervised weight loss programs, or the tighter scrutiny from insurers that patients face today. Most obese people qualified for weight loss surgery with a BMI of 35 or greater. There simply were forms I had to complete about my many (many) failed attempts to lose weight, about my comorbid conditions (my other disease), and other questions that screened for mental health and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Insurance approval came quickly. So, in July of 2003, I had my gastric bypass surgery.
I have to be honest here and say that I went on an eating binge in the weeks leading up to my surgery. I made sure that I ate all of my favorite junk foods because I pretty much knew I'd be giving most of them up for life. I ate fast food galore... it was really quite despicable to be this way, but there you have it, a moment of truth.
Binging aside, my pre-gastric bypass surgery preparation was simple. I met with a registered dietician who ran a practice out of my surgeon's bariatric center. We put together a meal plan for several weeks of liquid diet. In preparation for this meal plan, I purchased:
- Liquid multi-vitamins called Peter Gillham's Natural Vitality Organic Life Minerals, and NSI's powdered Magnesium Citrate with Potassium lemon flavor, plus B12 sublingual vitamins, and Syntrax Nectar Whey lemon flavor from Vitacost (good prices on all).
- Profect protein bullets from the manufacturer's web site (be sure to use their online coupon for 20% savings). Profect are ready-made protein drinks 2.7 oz each that can be consumed in just two swallows or frozen and eaten. They are high in protein and low in calories, with 0g of fat and carbs. They tasted awful to me but are a solution for someone who needs protein but cannot stomach anything but the smallest quantities of food - they pack 25g of protein in 2.7 oz.
- Organic creamy natural peanut butter and some condensed cream soups and organic vanilla soy milk. Although I am not one to normally eat canned soup, I opt for them rather than making my own because the sodium content is high and will keep my levels in range. The peanut butter, although high in calories, is good for getting fat grams.
- I already have Optimum Nutrition Gold 100% Whey chocolate in my pantry and organic lowfat vanilla yogurt in the fridge. Lowfat dairy products and soy milk are good sources for carbs while on the liquid diet.
- Baby food spoons, which were the perfect size to help with eating my food slowly and in small bits.
- Diet scale, measuring spoons/cups for measuring my food and prevent me from over eating (this can happen especially when you are getting used to your new pouch).
- Straws to help slow down how much fluid I could take in a sip.
- Mini chooper/food mill for pulverizing food for the first 4-6 weeks after surgery.
I also purchased:
- Disposable plastic gloves that my husband could wear if he needed to wipe me after a bowel movement. Thankfully, we did not need these but many patients cannot bend down to wipe themselves, owing to surgical pain. Another embarrassing moment of truth here, folks...
I was in the hospital for three nights, asleep or out of it most of the time as a result of the automatic pain pump that continuously injected a low dose of morphine into me. I certainly had pain but because I had the procedure laparoscopically I did not have the pain of a large incision, like I did with my c-section many years before. I found the c-section more painful but others I have spoken to found the gastric bypass more painful as compared to the c-section.
I returned to work in two weeks, after my drains were removed.
Costs vary widely for weight-loss surgery and gastric bypass ranges from $25 to $35k depending on the facility. My insurance covered the procedure because it was medically necessary owing to my Body Mass Index (BMI) of 46 (wow!) and comorbid conditions of diabetes 2, hypertension, and sleep apnea. My out of pocket expenses were roughly $800-1200, if I remember correctly.
I subsequently lost 85lbs, nearly all of it in the first 6-months of my gastric bypass surgery. I got off the five prescriptions I had been taking for diabetes (including insulin injections) and hypertension. I thought about all those years of my life wasted, and I wondered why I had not done this sooner.
In Spring 2006, I lost another 15lbs by making some additional lifestyle modifications, which I discuss in a series of other shareposts. This 15lbs may not sound significant, but it was... my BMI moved from obese to overweight, and my belly was much smaller so that I was physically more comfortable and attractive and my clothes fit properly. I felt very, very good about myself.
I regained those 15lbs in 2009... plus an additional 5lbs. And subsequently underwent a procedure that was new at the time, and developed specifically for gastric bypass patients who had minor weight regain. I'll discuss revision surgery and my experience in a future sharepost.
Never have I regained more than 5lbs of the weight loss from my gastric bypass surgery. And my diabetes and hypertension remain normal without medication to this day. I'll share those reasons for my success through a series of shareposts, as well.
You can read about other tools I use, such as FitDay.com, and recipes I've created like OMG! Almond Joy Protein Bars, so as to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management following my weight-loss surgery in 2003. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.