Gastric Sleeve with Dr Garcia, Tijuana - "Only Wish I'd Done It Sooner" - Mexico

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Six months ago I had a single incision gastric...

Six months ago I had a single incision gastric sleeve performed by Dr Fernando Garcia at Tijuana Bariatrics, Mexico. It is the best thing I've ever done! I've gone from 113kgs to 82kgs, making my BMI now a healthy 25 compared to a BMI of 34 ('obese') when I had the procedure. My life has been transformed in terms of confidence, health, and energy levels and I'm now looking forward to a long happy middle age free of disability :)

I decided to do something radical after struggling with my weight for the last 15 years (I'm a 39 yo male). My doctor had advised me that I was at a high risk of heart attack and diabetes, and aside from that I was feeling like rubbish most of the time. Of course I'd done all the diets and exercise regimes - we've all been there right? But at the end of the day I knew I had to change my physiology if I was going to be able to sustain a healthy weight over years and decades as opposed to weeks or months.

I chose gastric sleeve based on the evidence. Although it is a relatively new procedure, the results in the research literature are surprisingly consistent - Gastric sleeve reduces excess weight by an average of 65% with a relatively low complication rate. The main (serious) complication is leakage and here it is very important to pick a good surgeon. The more experienced the better as the surgeons that do this stuff all day every day actually tend to have much, much lower complication rates than the average (which is about 1%). I chose Dr Garcia for this reason - he's done thousands of sleeve procedures and only ever had a couple of patients with leaks - in both cases they were revision surgeries with scar tissue etc. involved. Him and his whole team seemed to receive consistently great reviews, and I was reassured that the hospital there was well equipped if anything did go wrong.

So with some trepidation I did the paperwork, got accepted for surgery, and paid the deposit. I had to fit the day of surgery with a week off work, so it was some months before I flew to San Diego (11 hour flight) and was picked up by the Tijuana Bariatrics driver. I had a coordinator called Alisha from the centre and she was excellent - all my questions were answered rapidly and clearly and at every stage I knew what to expect. The liquid diet before and after surgery is a bit of a pain, but I was really so nervous in the days and weeks leading up that my appetite went right down anyway. I was taken to the Marriott in Tijuana which is a fine hotel. The next morning was a blur - I was taken to the hospital where I was assessed by various members of the medical team including very briefly by Dr Garcia. I was reassured that he had read my file carefully based on him anticipating my specific questions. The whole team of docs and nurses really are excellent - they do this day in and day out, and it's all a slick well oiled machine. I never had any doubts about their skills clinically, and they're all nice people too which helps :) Mostly they spoke good English.

Early in the afternoon I was taken to the operating room for surgery and that's really the last thing I remember until I woke up back in my room feeling extremely unwell. I immediately started vomiting blood. A lot of it. This was probably the worst moment of the whole experience, it was scary how ill I felt and just how much blood and bile was coming up. In addition the gas that they use to inflate the abdominal cavity is very uncomfortable until it has a chance to work its way through the body which takes hours. I was reassured that what I was experiencing was all normal (I had had my stomach chopped in half after all!) and would pass, which indeed it did over the following six hours or so.

Since then it's really been smooth sailing. As I got a single incision procedure (which cost an extra $1000 but was well worth it) there was only one small drainage tube to be removed. I had some minor pain post operatively but nothing much. I did have terrible heart burn/indigestion for the first few weeks too, but that was well controlled with a 40mg once a day PPI (I'm now down to 20mg per day, the same as before my operation). In total I only had one week off work, which was fine as I have an office job. I was up and walking without any problems from day two and really within two weeks I was feeling pretty 'normal'. I followed the dietary advice to the letter which means I was eating normally (but small amounts) from week four.

Now six months later life is completely normal except that I'm 30kg lighter. I've not had any major problems adjusting to my new sleeve. I did eat too much a few times and feel quite revolting at the time, but it passes fairly quickly (and believe me, you learn quickly how much you can and can't eat!). I've only eaten so much that I've vomited twice. The first time about a month in and the second just a few weeks ago. Changing lifetime habits takes a little while I guess. It seems to be true that the removal of the grehlin producing part of the stomach does reduce appetite. And my experience is that bulky carb heavy food is much less appealing - I will only ever eat a fraction of the rice/potato/pasta that is put on my plate but I can usually manage normal portions of protein. That's good because I decided at the outset not to tell anyone about my surgery. Nada. Not a single sole. I have been doing serious exercise before and after surgery, and so if anyone asks about my weight loss I just say I've been watching what I eat and swimming a lot - both of which are true statements! The way I see it, no one was that interested in the details of my weight gain journey, so they don't need to know the details of my weight loss either!

So the total cost of this life saving operation? A bit over US$6500, which included transport, several nights in hospital, several nights at the Marriott and the additional costs of the single incision procedure and an umbilical hernia repair also as an added bonus :) An absolute bargain. Even with the flights thrown in, the total isn't more than US$10,000. Since I'm now spending at least $50 less on food per week, I figure the thing will have paid for itself in a few years!

If you're thinking about this operation my advice is 'believe the hype'. Do your research, make sure you understand exactly what you're doing, and pick a very good surgeon that has done thousands of ops with a good track record. Then go for it - you'll feel exactly like me a few months later - you'll be saying "I only wish I'd done it sooner!"
Mexico General Surgeon

Excellent - he is a very good surgeon that I completely recommend.

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
3 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
3 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
4 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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