My Sleeve Gastrectomy Experience - Mercy Weight Loss Solutions - Cincinnati, OH

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After contemplating surgical weightloss for many...

After contemplating surgical weightloss for many years, my husband and I finally decided to give it a go in October 2013. We attended the required seminar at Jewish Hospital with Dr. Christopher Northup. They took copies of our insurance cards there so they could find out if the surgery would be covered before we started the process. The seminar was informative and Dr. Northup's training/experience are top notch. I waited a week for their office to call me back to set up the initial consultation and when they didn't call me, I called them. They said my insurance hadn't responded yet, but they let me make the consultation appointments anyway.
Our appointments were Nov. 7th and we were weighed and put into separate exam rooms. I started out at 273 with a BMI of 48. I met with a nutritionist who told me what I should and shouldn't be eating (NO SODA!?!) and gave me pointers for losing weight. Then I met with the doctor. Dr. Northup said a sleeve is a great choice for me and the insurance would approve the surgery, but only after a 3 month supervised diet, a psychological eval, attendance at a bariatric surgery support group, and other tests (I'll get into those later). He sent me home with orders for bloodwork and a sleep study. My husband also got orders for a gallbladder ultrasound because he still has his.That was the last day I had a soda. (sobbing a little)...
We had the bloodwork and I found out that I have a severe Vitamin D deficiency, hypothyroidism, and high cholesterol. My husband had a mild Vitamin D deficiendy and high cholesterol.
I made some of the changes suggested during the next month. My husband was a little more resisitant. We ate out less and tried to eat healthy foods at home. We also attended our required support group meeting. I actually really liked it and wanted to go back, but the next meeting was scheduled for a date I would be out of town. Our next appointment was December 5th. At this visit I found that I had lost 2 lbs and he had lost 1.5 lbs. The doctor had wanted us to lose at least 4 lbs, but he was happy we lost something. I was devastated because I thought for sure I'd lose more just giving up my 2-liter/day habit. The nutritionist criticized my eating habits and told me not to drink the Slim Fast I had been drinking. She said it had too many carbs. She also told us to give up the pizza and that I need to eat more protein and get more exercise. After leaving I looked into joining a gym or the YMCA, but it just wasn't feasible on our income.
The holidays posed a challenge for eating healthy, so I was surprised at my visit on January 2nd with a loss of 4.5 lbs! Unfortunately my husband was not as successful and he put 3 lbs on. The doctor and nutritionist still offered encouragement and gave more tips for eating healthy. The doctor also said he had to lose at least 25 lbs in order to do the surgery. His BMI made him too high risk. We also met with the psychologist at this visit and she cleared us for surgery.
After this appointment my EGD (stomach scope) was scheduled for January 10th. I arrived at Mercy Fairfield in the morning and was taken immediately back to pre-op. They wanted a urine sample, but I had just gone in the waiting room and couldn't go, so they added the pregnancy test to the ordered bloodwork. My little room was aflutter with activity with one nurse trying to draw blood and another doing an EKG and yet another asking me questions about my medical history. I said trying to draw blood because it took 4 sticks to get the needle in my vein due to dehydration. The entire time this was going on the nurses were laughing and joking with me. They were great. I met the anesthesiologist and the nurse anesthetist and then they wheeled me back to the procedure room. Dr. Northup asked me if I had any questions and then they put the bite guard in my mouth and gave me the twilight anesthesia. I woke up as they were wheeling me to recovery. I had some ice water and it was time to be discharged. It was a very quick procedure. My husband said the doctor came out and told him everything looked good. There were no ulcers or hernias. My stomach was approved for surgery.
On January 23rd I went to see the pulmonologist and he sent me for a pulmonary function test (PFT) and set up a sleep study. He also ordered an echocardiogram for my husband and prescribed him Lasix to get rid of water retention. Our PFTs and echo were scheduled for January 31st. They were done at Mercy Fairfield hospital. The staff was great again.
Our most recent appointment was February 6th. I had lost another 6 lbs for a total of 13 lbs. My husband had lost 17 lbs! The doctor was pleased with our progress and said it was time to schedule my surgery! He also said patients are more successful after surgery after losing some weight before. It is indicative of our ability to make the changes necessary for the surgery to be successful. The office called me the next day and scheduled my pre-op visit for March 3rd and my surgery for March 26th! I'm a little disappointed I have to wait so long, but I am tremendously excited to finally have it scheduled. It's now becoming a reality! I still have to go to my sleep study on February 21st, but everything else has been done. Now it's time to countdown. With all of the tests and appointments I've done thus far, my insurance has been billed $8646. My out of pocket has been $951. I expect to pay another $2000 - $2,500 out of pocket. I feel it's worth it, though. I can't wait to be able to play in the backyard with my kids and to ride with them at the amusement park. I can't wait to be able to walk from here to there without being out of breath and in pain.

Off Track, But NOT Giving Up

The last week has been hard on my diet. My daughter is a competitive cheerleader and we had to travel for a huge competition in Atlanta. I pretty much ate what I wanted to eat instead of what I should eat. It was the thought that I would never have those foods again, so I should enjoy them while I could. Plus, a trip to the World of Coke tastin room got me off track with my previous 3.5 month no soda. It sounds weird, but I could tell that I had put all those bad foods & drinks in my body immediately. My gastrointestinal track did not like all the sugar and fat I was consuming. My body hurt all over. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but the symptoms had really subsided since I started taking better care of myself. On the plus side, I walked everywhere I need to go all weekend and I walked about 10 miles in 3 days.
Today I woke up and decided to get back on the diet train. As many have commented on my previous post, food funerals are common before surgery. I can do this and I will do this.
I did stop outside of Atlanta and bought a couple pairs of my favorite jeans in the next 2 sizes down. I wanted to have them as my weight goes down. The good news is that I was able to put the next size down on and button and zip them. They are tight and not attractive at all, but it has been over 2 years since I could put that size on and I am so happy to see the fruits of my labor. I was also able to purchase and wear a bra 2 sizes below the size I've been popping out of for several years.
My sleep study is this Friday, the 21st. I'm nervous to get the results, but excited that this is my last test before surgery. I am going to try to post a picture of me in November before I began the journey and I'll upload another picutre this evening of me currently. I don't know if there is anything noticeable yet, but I'll share anyway.
To anyone who is considering this procedure, the work is worth it!

One week pre-surgery

My computer was acting up and wouldn't let me in to update, so it's been awhile. I've had my sleep study and then the titration appointment. I've also been on my liquid diet for a week now.
First things first, I didn't know what to expect at the sleep study, but it wasn't too bad. They hooked me up to a bunch of wires that monitored my snoring, breathing, jaw movements, leg movements, eye movements, etc. I felt like I was some kind of cyborg. Then they told me to sleep. That's easier said than done when you know they are listening to you and watching you on the video monitor. Once I fell asleep, it wasn't too bad. They woke me up at 5:30 the next morning and unhooked me. I had to take a shower to get the goop they used out of my hair and off my face. Then I was free to leave. Two weeks later I got the call that I was indeed positive for sleep apnea. So then it was back to the sleep clinic for titration. Basically, they hooked me up to the wires again and then fitted me for a CPAP. They then played with the settings to determine what air pressures were best for me. I woke up at 5:30 again and took my shower and then I was off. I just picked up my CPAP from the pharmacy last night. I didn't do too well with it. It was difficult to get comfortable. I'm sure it will get easier, though.
So, the liquid diet...yeah. Not my favorite diet ever. I started last Thursday and today (1 week later)I have lost almost 10 pounds. I don't really notice it, but I'm guessing it's in my feet or chest or my pinky toe? I've only found one flavor of the powder that I like and it gets a little old after awhile. I just keep telling myself it is worth it. I did cheat a couple nights ago and had a half piece of pizza. I was sooooo hungry. But I'm back on track now. I had my pre-surgery physical last week and passed with flying colors. My lab work came back and everything looks good. My liver enzymes are in the normal range for the first time in more than 8 years. It feels good to be getting my health back on track.

My Biggest Fear

As I sit here only 6 days out from surgery, everyone keeps asking me how I'm feeling. Excited? Yes! Nervous? Yes! Terrified? Extremely!
I've known quite a few poeple to have bariatric surgery and most of them have done well, but there are a few that have gained all their weight back and then some. I am terrified I will be one of those people. I don't want all this time, money and work to be for nothing. Everyone keeps telling me that I won't gain it back because I am so aware of the fact that it could happen. They say the people who gain it all back are the people who had the surgery thinking it would be a cure to their obesity and they thought they were invincible when it came to food. They didn't use the surgery as a tool to weight loss and they didn't put in the work after the surgery. I know this is true, but deep down I am terrified that I will fail. I really think I will need to attend some support groups after surgery. I find that talking about my fears helps me get past the fear. And I think it will be a good way to keep myself in check. So, here's to 6 more days of the fat life and many more days of the healthy life....

One Month Post-op

It's been awhile. Surgery went well and the pain wasn't as bad as I had envisioned. They gave me a pain pump to use as I needed it and I was feeling pretty good. They wasted no time getting me up on my feet and walking. They wanted me up walking every hour, so I walked around the floor whenever I wasn't sleeping. The nurses assigned to me were amazing and I was very happy with my choice of hospital.

I had to stay the night and the next morning they took me down for an upper GI. I had to drink some barium contrast while they took x-rays to make sure there were no leaks from the surgery. Once they verified that I was good, I got to have clear liquids. They gave me a cup of water and a medicine cup that I was supposed to drink out of. Because my stomach was so much smaller and so swollen I could only take small sips, which is normal. They removed the catheter at this point and once they verified my output, I was unhooked from the IV fluids and the pain pump and I graduated to liquid pain meds.

The doctor came by late in the afternoon and ok'd my discharge.

I was very grateful on the ride home that I had put a pillow in the truck the day before. I put the pillow under the seatbelt to protect my belly. I think I held onto the pillow for dear life.

Once home I got settled in with the help of my hubby and spent a lot of time sleeping. When I wasn't sleeping, I was walking around the house and drinking sips of water. My diet for days 1 and 2 were clear liquids only. Day 3 I was allowed to start thin purees. I had frozen ice cubes of chicken and chili prior to surgery and they were perfect portion sizes. I had a hard time eating at first because it hurt if I ate too much, too fast, or too thick of food. I also tried drinking the protein shakes I purchased prior to surgery, but my stomach did not like them. I also learned that pureed green beans are nasty!

My first post-op appointment was about 12 days after surgery. I had lost 22 lbs since my pre-op appointment. Nine of those were lost after surgery. The doctor was happy with my weight loss, but upset that I wasn't getting enough fluids. I was a mess in the office because it was hard to get my fluids in, painful to eat, and next to impossible to get my protein in. The nutritionist said getting my fluids was most important and not to worry about eating food or drinking the protein. The doctor told me to call the office later that week to notify them of my progress and possibly go in for an IV to prevent dehydration.

Later in the week I was not doing any better, but I had commitments that were made prior to surgery and I didn't have time to go in for an IV. I thought I'd be okay. Boy was I wrong! That Thursday night I was experiencing excruciating pain in my right side. The only time the pain was tolerable was when I was laying flat and not moving. I told my husband that if I wasn't better I was going to the hospital in the morning.

I slept flat on my back Thursday night, but as soon as I sat up Friday morning, I knew it wasn't any better. Off we went to the hospital. I thought I had pulled some stitches or something, but the CT scan showed nothing. My bloodwork, however told a different story. I was very dehydrated. They pumped me full of IV fluids and gave me a dose of pain meds. Unfortunately, the meds dropped my BP to 90/48, so they wouldn't give me anything else. They told me it was probably muscular and sent me home with muscle relaxers. I've since learned that the dehydration is what hurt so bad. Since then, I have done everything in my power to get my fluids in.

The week after the dehydration incident I was allowed to start soft foods and it has been much easier to eat. I found myself breaking another rule, though. I was weighing myself everyday. I thought for sure that I was losing pounds because I was only eating 500 calories/day, but the scale wasn't moving. I went back to work that week and everyone was telling me how good I looked and asking how I felt. How did I feel? I felt miserable. I was very depressed and felt like a failure. I became a real B-word to everyone. I knew I was doing it, but there was no stopping me. It got to the point that people just quit talking to me. I didn't care. I felt like a fool for having this major surgery and not being able to lose weight. I thought they were all lying about how I looked and then laughing behind my back about how much of a loser I was.

Then one day I tried to put on my pre-surgery jeans and they were way too big. There was no way they were staying up. I decided to try on a pair of jeans I had gotten 2 sizes smaller than pre-surgery.  It was a long shot. They'd never fit me if I hadn't lost weight. I got them up my legs and then over my hips and finally I tried to button them. They fit! Sure, they were a little snug, but they fit! I hadn't worn that size in 7 years! Then I tried on my reward bra. It was from Victoria's Secret and I had never owed a VS bra before. I bought it to reward myself when I got small enough to wear it. It fit! It was a lot snug, but a couple weeks before it wasn't even close to latching. I was finally having a skinny day! I wasn't a failure!

That was my turning point. That's when I began to look at my present self, not my past self. My mood changed. I became friendlier at work. I didn't hate myself. While I wasn't losing pounds, I was losing inches. My body was changing and becoming smaller even if the number on the scale wasn't.

I've since added physical activity to my life. I try to do 1-3 miles on the recumbent bike 5-7 times each week. I've also added walking on the weekends. I eat about 4-6 times a day, about every 2-3 hours. I get my fluids in and I'm up to almost 60g of protein each day. I pretty much only eat meat. There's no pasta, bread, or starchy vegetables in my diet. There's no room in my belly for those. Don't get me wrong. I occasionally cheat. I have sugar free frozen yogurt or a bite of cake every once in awhile, but most of the time I don't have room for anything but meat because I have to get my protein.

The hardest part for me is stopping when I'm full. I love the taste of food. I crave it. It's my drug. If I don't stop when my body tells me I've had enough, that one extra bite hurts like Hell! It takes my breath away it hurts so bad. I could probably puke it up, but I had a hard time puking before surgery, so I don't want to know what it's like after surgery. Most of the time I just stand up and walk to let gravity and my digestive system do all the work. I've lost 4 pounds in the last week. I attribute that to the exercise I'm getting and to eating better. This week I get to move to a full diet, but I really want to stick with what I know. The meat/protein works. I want this surgery to be successful.

Am I glad I had the surgery? If you would have asked me that question a few weeks ago my answer would have been no. But things have changed since then. I have changed since then. I am happy I did it. I'm going to add a couple of pictures from before my surgical journey and a couple I've taken in the last couple weeks. I can see a difference. I can feel a difference. I'm becoming more confident in myself and happier in my life.

What I wish someone would have told me is that the whole process can be overwhelming. The surgery itself is the easy part. Life after surgery, not so much. As an emotional eater I ate away my feelings before surgery. That's not an option after surgery. Just because I can't eat at IHOP, McDonalds, etc doesn't mean my family can't . Just because your scale doesn't go down doesn't mean that your size won't. And just because you get thinner doesn't mean you'll see yourself differently. This journey is definitely an ongoing process, but it's definitely a journey I'm ready to continue.

A Year Later

It's been over a year since surgery. My weight loss slowed down, but I haven't stayed true to my diet and exercise. I'm down to 213lbs, so 70lbs total. I'm working on getting more exercise in, but due to bursitis in my hip, it's been difficult.
Last week I did something the pre-surgery me never would have done. I entered a local fair pageant. It was the Gallatin County Ms. Plus Pageant. I got 2nd runner up and Ms. Congeniality out of 7 contestants. I was the second oldest contestant and one of two people with no experience. I was pretty proud of myself. I've never been one to get in front of a crowd for anything because I hated my appearance. But this time I felt great. I had so much fun and made new friends. I think I may even enter another pageant in the future.
Would I have the surgery again? Absolutely! My self esteem is better. My health is better. My evergy levels are higher. I love the new me. I've set a new weight loss goal of 30 more pounds. If I get there, I'll be ecstatic. If I don't, I'm still happy.
Christopher Northup

Dr. Northup has been great. He's been very supportive along the way and he has eased my fears and addressed my concerns. I highly recommend him!

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