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Lost the Weight, Kept It Off, but Not W/o Complications... - Washington, DC

Whoever says that the gastric bypass is the...

Whoever says that the gastric bypass is the 'easy way out' obviously has not had one and is mentally challenged. Do not be fooled; this is one of the most difficult things I've done in my life.

I had an open Roux en Y gastric bypass performed in July 2007, lost 100 lbs to reach my goal weight, and have been able to maintain my weight for the past several years. So at face value, that's the good news. The bad news is that none of my co-morbidities resolved themselves and my health is actually worse now than it was when I had the bypass. Some of this is just bad luck, but at least one condition is a direct result from the bypass itself.

My reason for having the gastric bypass was that I was 100 lbs overweight and gaining steadily despite being on strict doctor-supervised diets. I had a very severe case of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome that could not be regulated by birth control pills or Metformin therapy. All of my specialists claimed that weight loss would be a cure and as the diets weren't working, I found a surgeon I liked, made my appointments, and had the procedure with the blessings of all of my physicians. Insurance covered most things but I did pay more as my surgeon was out of network.

My surgery went smoothly enough (a surprise but brief stay in the ICU was needed because of an adverse reaction to anesthesia) and the weight came off steadily throughout the first year. I chose my surgeon because he was so hands-on with his patients and monitored us with monthly visits. This really was wonderful and I highly recommend this approach; not only did you really get to know your doctor, but monthly visits meant that you had plenty of opportunities to ask questions as you got to know your new body better.

My surgeon also was adamant about participating in group sessions with other bypass patients. This was also helpful to an extent; there were lots of wonderful people I never would've met otherwise. Another bonus that really is priceless: you can get real answers and advice from real people going through the same thing that you are experiencing. My surgeon was great and always had good advice, but he didn't have a bypass himself. Now he could give great insight into complex medical issues, but it was the fellow patient with only a high school diploma who gave me the protein supplement recommendation that got me through the first 8 months before I really could eat significant amounts of meat again. Having both a medical team as well as a support network really made this experience far better than going it alone.

Things fell apart for me when I got seriously ill with mononucleosis ten months after my bypass; there was some liver damage and was still badly anemic as a result of the combination of the gastric bypass iron malabsorption and hemorrhaging thanks to the PCOS. I had mono for eleven months (yes, I have actual blood results documenting this) and have never been the same since. This illness seemed to be the start of several health issues for me, but not all of them.

It turned out that all of my doctors and all of the medical journals I had studied prior to my bypass were wrong about PCOS being helped by weight loss; I lost 100 lbs, have maintained that weight loss and now am at a normal BMI, but my PCOS symptoms only continued to get worse and I was crippled by severe pelvic pain and hemorrhaging on a regular basis. I have visited over 60 GYN specialists in 3 different cities for the issue and finally, I had a total hysterectomy in March 2011. For the record, I am in my mid-twenties, am still single, and have never had any children prior to this surgery. I was so desperate to be able to live without crippling pain that I chose to sacrifice all possibility of having a family in the future for the hope that a hysterectomy would help my symptoms. I know my case is an extreme example, but be aware that the bypass is NOT a cure-all.

For the past three years, I have had hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and my endocrinologist does blame the gastric bypass for causing this. I have also read many medical journal articles also linking my RnY procedure to the health condition. I am dependent upon Metformin to regulate my blood sugar so that it doesn't drop too much after meals. I also have to pay attention to what I eat; I always ate well (even pre-bypass), but now carb-heavy meals really mess with my blood sugar and I do become faint and need to lie down wherever I'm at.

Don't have the RnY just for the sake of vanity; you'll probably be sorely disappointed if you do. I had this procedure done when I was young and still have plenty of excess skin hanging around; I may look good in clothing, but my nude body is something that I go to great lengths to hide.

My advice for those of you considering this surgery is to realize that no, it is not easy and it isn't guaranteed to make your life easier or better. You need a good doctor, a good support network, and guts of steel to do this. Good luck to all of you in your journey and please feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Dr. Joseph Afram

This doctor was great and his office was truly phenomenal. The staff was a small group of women who got to know each and every one of his patients so any time you called the office, you knew exactly who you were talking to and better yet, they knew you too. Dr. Afram was great at the follow-up appointments; the monthly post-op visits were more like brief check-ins so it kept you on-track with your progress and also gave you several opportunities to ask any questions that came up as you got to know your new body. I really cannot recommend this practice enough and would definitely go back to them again.

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
5 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait tmes
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Comments (3)

Hi there,

Thanks for your review. You've been through an awful lot and you're right that WLS is not an "easy way out". It's a difficult decision to make and it takes a life time of work to maintain your weight and your health. I'm grateful to you for sharing your journey with us.

Are you considering any kind of surgery to remove the excess skin?

Best wishes,

Kirsty

  • Reply
Hi Kristy,

I know that my story is not the normal RnY experience, but I felt that it was important to share just so others can see what does happen in a few. Especially the hypoglycemia; it appears that there is a proven link between the bypass and the condition that no one warned me about when I had my surgery. It would not have changed my decision to have the procedure, but more and more RnY folks are developing this every day and it is very important that people are aware of it and that it is treated and monitored.

Regarding my excess skin, I feel like my body is a mess but I know that this is nothing compared with those who lost much more weight or had less elasticity in their skin. Despite chronic yeast infections in my belly button during the summer, there's nothing severe enough that would get my health insurance to cover a procedure and I can't afford surgery yet. My excess skin is primarily limited to my rear and abdomen; my arms and thighs are flabby, but I would not have these corrected if I had surgery. I'd like an abdominoplasty but in the meantime, I wear full body compression garments so that you don't see the rolls of flesh through my clothes.

But my breasts were the biggest problem; they were small even at my highest weight of 245 lbs and were really misshapen once I lost the weight. They resembled the droopy half-formed breasts of male gynecomastia patients. I decided to have a mastopexy to lift the loose tissue into place and my surgeon augmented my breasts with 286cc silicone implants. It's only been 10 days since this procedure and so far, things are healing well.
  • Reply
I've read several studies myself regarding RH after bypass. In most cases it is because the patient is eating too many carbs and the situation resolves itself when carbs are restricted. This isn't easy, and is one reason rny isn't the easy way out for sure.

As hard as it is when we sign up for rny we need to accept that avoiding carb heavy foods is a lifetime commitment.

I'm sorry u have such a hard time with pcos. Bypass itself won't make it better but weight loss often alleviates symptoms. Unfortunately in your case it seems so severe that even weight loss didn't help.

I wish you well in your future, I'm approaching menopause so my issues with pcos are almost over and issues have diminished over time in any case.
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