FORT WORTH, Texas, October 11, 2014 — Surgery day! This moment arrived after many weight loss attempts. Not just through diets, exercise or delivered meals, though. I first looked into bariatric surgery several years ago. But when faced with the realities of post-op responsibilities I knew I wasn’t ready.
A previous column mentioned that when I looked into bariatric surgery the second time, I thought my insurance didn’t pay for it. Then a good friend of mine introduced me to a weight loss system that worked great but in the end was too expensive to continue. I felt hopeless.
Thank God for the mini-stroke in July. If it had not happened, I would have never contacted my insurance company to plead my case for lap-band or gastric sleeve surgery and found out that the doctor I had visited previously was out of network. The mini-stroke hospital stay more than met my deductible for weight loss surgery.
The two week partial liquid diet flew by. My weight also decreased by six pounds. I was so excited I was afraid sleep wouldn’t find me the night before, but it did. Waking up was no problem. I just had to remember I couldn’t eat or drink anything before surgery. When leaving I kissed my kids good-bye and told them that I would see them at the hospital that evening.
There was no fear about surgery, although being a former Surgical Technologist, I am well aware of the dangers that can happen in the operating room. I just knew it was the right thing – never had a doubt. A couple of good friends met my husband and I along with my sister Mary at the hospital shortly after we got there. One of them, Susan, remarked that she couldn’t believe how calm I was.
Again, I just knew it was the right thing. All the doors that got me to the operating room just fell open, so to speak; financially, kid-wise (a friend of theirs took them to school that morning), and the day before meeting with the surgeon for the first time my hairdresser told me she had gastric sleeve done a year earlier. She also told me that a friend of hers had it done the day before and another one was in surgery as we spoke. Now I‘m not superstitious but that certainly seems more than coincidental. It’s like God saying, “Yep, this is the way to go.”
And I did.
Surgery went terrific, in the words of my surgeon, Dr. Richard Carter. I asked if my liver looked good since I took such pains to follow my pre-op diet correctly. He said it looked great. He could tell I did what I was supposed to do.
My time in post-op was short, and I was in a regular room in no time. I slept most of the rest of the day. Pain meds took care of that. The only nuisance I dealt with was calling the nurse when I needed to empty my bladder. I know they are busy and hate to ask them for help for something I’m used to doing on my own. But I swallowed my pride and understood that the pain medicine and my past history with a T.I.A. made me a risk for falls. The nurses were wonderful.
That first day I didn’t get to eat or drink anything while the anesthesia worked its way out of my body. Oh, and 90% of my stomach was gone. The second day also came and went without water or even ice chips. This was necessary to rest my remaining stomach and to be sure it didn’t leak. The next day I had an x-ray after drinking barium. If there were any leaks to the stomach incision, they would show on the fluoroscope. Thankfully there weren’t any, and 36 hours after surgery I got to drink for the first time.
Dr. Carter told me it takes about six weeks for the stomach to fully heal. He says it is imperative to not overeat during this phase of recovery. Most leaks that occur are because of overeating. This leads to stomach acid (composed of hydrochloric acid [HCl], potassium chloride [KCl] and sodium chloride [NaCl],) leaking all over your vital organs. Patients have developed sepsis and died because of this.
That’s another good reason to see a psychotherapist while taking this journey. In order for one to be successful at controlling food intake, you have to take care of the psychological reasons for overeating as well as the physical ones.
My wonderful Bariatric Coordinator, Debra Rundles, RN, BSN, CBN, came by to teach me how to drink while getting used to having a much smaller stomach. She brought a stack of four-ounce medicine cups for me to start with. My first sip was about a quarter of an ounce. It was painful. But I was thirsty, so I slowly drank three more quarter-ounce sips over about five minutes.
After some practice, Debra gave me apple juice the next time I drank. I was to mix half juice with half water. If I tried to drink something too sweet, I might throw up. Later on I had an ounce of water and three bites of jello. Ugggh! I felt like I had eaten an entire Thanksgiving dinner. I hoped I had not damaged my incision.
I had not. But I learned my lesson. And I am still learning. It’s not easy to convince your head you are not really hungry when your stomach says otherwise.
My hospital stay lasted two and a half days. At home water and apple juice chilled in the refrigerator. Jello just didn’t sound very good at this point. In fact, I still was not hungry.
Join me next week as I recover at home. Find out about the new mindset that begins to take hold in my brain and heart.