FORT WORTH, Texas September 15, 2014 — “I think I’m having a stroke.” It was early July and one month before my fiftieth birthday. My husband and daughter looked at me in bewilderment. The disorientation that took over me just a moment before began to abate while the right side of my body began to feel numb. My legs and arms still moved, but when I tried to stand, complete control was not there. It was like someone had drawn a line from my head down the center of my body.
My husband held and walked me to our bedroom then deposited me against the bed. He left and came back with the blood pressure cuff. As he slipped the device on my arm, feeling started coming back to my right side. And soon all was back to normal. My blood pressure was 145/84. According to the American Heart Association a healthy blood pressure is 120/80. The whole episode lasted about two minutes.
When something huge like that happens to you, your brain does not want to accept it. I had just gotten home from cleaning houses and was relaxing on the couch with my daughter. My body was sweaty and stinky. I needed a shower. All I could think of as the disorientation and numbness took over was that if I had to go to the hospital, I was taking a shower first. And going to the hospital was the last thing I wanted. I went anyway.
The neurologist confirmed I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), more commonly known as a mini-stroke or warning stroke as they often precede a massive stroke (CVA). According to the American Stroke Association the difference between a Cerebral Vascular Accident and a TIA is the TIA vessel blockage is temporary. He came to that conclusion after an MRI and CT scan showed no abnormalities in my brain or its activity. A Doppler of my carotid arteries was clear. All blood work came back normal. A follow-up at the end of the month saw that there were no new neurological events and my neurologist pronounced that I am out of the imminent danger of having a CVA.
Sounds great, huh? However, with a history of borderline high blood pressure, obesity, sleep apnea and Type II Diabetes, I am a target for a myriad of even worse maladies. These are all huge risk factors. If change doesn’t start now, a major stroke is most certainly in my future. Death would be terrible, but being bed-ridden and dependent on others for my daily care would be a living hell.
My mother had Alzheimer’s disease for fifteen years before she mercifully died. My siblings and I helped our father take care of her. I will not live like that if I can help it and will not put my children through that if there is still a choice. But first I had to take full responsibility for my health and determine to change.
And I have. The one thing that is a risk factor for all the conditions which currently plague me is obesity. My doctors have told me that if I make my height and weight proportionate again, the diabetes, sleep apnea, and borderline hypertension will almost certainly go away.
In my heart, I knew it from the moment the TIA struck. The thought saddened me. Not because I wouldn’t be able to eat like I did, but because every attempt to lose weight in the past ended in failure. Bariatric surgery came to mind, but when I’ve looked into it in the past, my insurance company didn’t pay for it. And then there were the horror stories of patients not being able to absorb nutrients after the surgery, others developing cardiac problems, and still others who somehow overcome the surgical barriers.
But I had to try something, so I called my insurance company ready to argue that it would cost them less in the long run if I had bariatric surgery than if I didn’t. Thankfully they did—80%, which is wonderful. But 20% of the total cost was still more than was in my bank account. I would have to save. It turned out that the doctor I looked into in the past was out of network and didn’t take my coverage. The insurance representative gave me the names of their best bariatric surgeons in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and gave me three board certified bariatric doctors to choose from.
Fortunately, I later found out the hospital stay for the TIA more than met my deductible for my insurance company. I wouldn’t have to pay a dime.
In my research I found that I did not want my gastrointestinal tract re-routed, so Gastric Bypass was out of the question. The Lap-Band sounded promising, but I also learned about the Gastric Sleeve. The Lap-Band constricts the top portion of your stomach making a small pouch. This way you can only take a few ounces of food or drink at a time. With the Gastric Sleeve, the surgeon removes 70 to 90% of your stomach with no re-routing or stricture impeding the flow of food. It’s just a lot narrower than it used to be. After meeting with the bariatric surgeon, I opted for the Gastric Sleeve.
I have decided to share my journey in this forum in hopes it will help others and open eyes and hearts by showing what it is like to go through the process of bariatric surgery and the recovery of my health. Join me.