This is a first draft and was intended only to get the ideas on paper.
|Why did I decide to get weight loss surgery? I was tired of not being able to walk across a parking lot. Men no longer found me attractive and I was no longer dating. Somewhere in my soul I knew I was killing myself but did not have the courage to face the truth. Most of all I felt bad about how I looked. The final straw came when I saw a home video of myself and did not recognize whom I had become.|
As a teenager, I weighed 155 lbs. My mother took me to the doctor. The elderly German physician showed us a chart that put me in the solidly overweight category. He then proceeded to tell my mother that I had a serious weight problem. A part of me wanted to yell out “no, it’s not true.” But I kept my mouth shut and internalized what he said. I was 14 and fat. I already hated my body and this just made it worse. Being a curvy woman was never what I wanted. But curves were what I had been given, lots of them. This new reality uncomfortable. So I wore baggy clothes that were a couple of sizes too big. I wanted to hide my body, shield it from the rest of the world.
This attitude carried into my adult life. I fished commercially, lived in the Alaskan Bush and met life on my own terms. The life I had chosen was one of adventure. There was a price to be paid for this lifestyle. I never settled down, never had children and struggled with the idea of committed relationships my entire adult life. There was a huge part of me that did not feel pretty , feminine or worthy. In my quest to noncommit, I had bailed on a marriage and a seven year boyfriend.
At thirty-seven, I had a master’s degree and worked on construction sites as a business manager. I avoided anything overtly feminine. Office work that required dressing up terrified me. My typical attire was a orange construction shirt and baggy jeans. My 265 lb. frame was simply not attractive to me or to those I met.
My father saw something different in me. He did not want me to grow old and become like some of the women in his retirement center. They lived a sad a lonely existence devoid of intimate contact. Some of them were so large that they had trouble leaving their apartments. He encouraged me to have the surgery.
I went to my first weight loss seminar. It was in a large conference room at the surgeon’s suburban office. There were maybe 50 people there, mostly them curvatious, larger women. The surgeon came forward and gave a 45 minute presentation. He had an air of confidence about him that made the audience at ease. He went on at length about how the lap band was superior and he only did lap band surgery. There are two major surgeries for obesity, the lap band and the gastric bypass. I later learned that neither surgery was superior to the other, they were just different.
At the end of the presentation, the physician had former patients get up and talk about how their lives. The presentation turned into a pep rally. None of the patients speaking had had major complications and their lives were much better now. I felI for the hype. I was desperate for a solution. After the presentation, I stood in line and waited my turn to talk to the patient billing coordinator. She told me that even though my insurance covered weight loss surgery, they would require an $8,000 deposit before they would operate. I knew that $8,000 was way out of my reach. So I went to my car and cried. A part of me knew that without the weight loss surgery, I would spend the rest of my life seriously overweight.
All my attempts at weight loss had been futile. Weight Watchers had allowed me to join on five separate occasions. Numerous gym memberships had gone unused after the first month. Each time I failed, I would berate myself and use the image to bolster my low self worth. The thought was always there, if I just tried harder, next time it would work. But subconsciously, I knew I was defeated.
When my father passed away after an extended illness, I had no more excuses.
Four days after my father’s passing, I went to Dr. C’s weight loss seminar. Like the last seminar, there was the obligatory talk by the doctor. This seminar was in an auditorium with specially designed seats for 400 lb people, of which I certainly was not. I felt tiny. Before the seminar, people milled around and talked to each other. These were fat people, I was just a little overweight. I looked nothing like them. After all, my mother had always told me I carried my weight well.
Dr C. was enthusiastic. He had a natural excitement for life that he exuded as he talked. His favorite part of the seminar was showing the video of the actual procedures. It was more than I could stomach, but you could detect the glee in his voice and body language as he spoke. It turns out that Dr. C is not just passionate about surgery, he is passionate about everything. He spoke about the differences between the lap band and the gastric bypass. Dr. C explained that the bypass is for carb addicts and the lap band is for volume eaters. I was a textbook carb addict. I thought to myself “maybe the lap band is not the best surgery for me after all.”
At the end of the seminar, he asked for questions. I wanted to raise my hand and ask “how many patients have you killed?” but was too embarrassed. It turns out he has never lost a patient, but I almost became his first.
After the surgery, I skipped the financial assistance table. Dr. C was a preferred provider on my insurance plan. The next day I made an appointment to see Dr. C. Surgery seemed to be a slam dunk. The only problems I had associated with my obesity were sleep apnea (snoring) and asthma. I was healthy and as active as I could be at my weight. I also had a case of serious denial about how overweight I really was.
I missed my first appointment, but managed to reschedule. Dr. C had a very nice office with modern furniture and almost no wait. Before the appointment, I had a large lunch. I knew that Dr. C required 5% weight loss before the surgery, so my goal was to make myself as temporarily heavy as I possibly could. It worked. I weighed in at 272 lbs. He set a 13 lb. weight loss as my goal and put me on a modified Adkins diet. I did well on the diet for the first couple of weeks, but gradually my motivation began to wain.
So my first appointment came. I had lost 6 lbs. I knew I would have to get serious to lose the other 7. So I cut out the carbs. Instead I ate meat, meat and more meat. I had never been a big vegetable fan so I stuck to the meat and cheese. I worked well. In addition, I bought a $60 scale to keep track of my progress.
At my next visit, 2 weeks before surgery, I had lost 18 pounds. I had kept trying to loose weight as insurance. Dr. C has a reputation for cancelling surgeries if you do not lose the weight. I was so afraid that I would end up being 1 lb over and the doctor would cancel the surgery.
I had a job with some responsibility. So my surgery was scheduled for Tuesday and I planned to be back to work the next Monday for payroll.
The Sunday before the surgery I started the liquid cocktail that would empty out my digestive tract. In the middle of my cleansing, my mother called. We had been arguing since my father’s death over the estate. (She had been divorced from him for 17 years.) She had taken out a life insurance policy before they divorced and using the proceeds of the policy to make the premium payments. The insurance company had told her that in the State of Washington, ex-spouses were not entitled to collect. The two of us had a tremendous fight over this and I ended up hanging up on her.
So I went to work on Monday. Living in Eastern Washington and having a surgeon in Western Washington can present certain challenges. A large snow storm was predicted to hit. So I left work early to beat the weather. The pass was almost impassable. Traffic was moving at 20 miles per hour and there was almost no visibility. I was never so glad to make it over the pass.
My plan was to drive myself to the hospital, but my cousin managed to talk me out of this. So we drove to the hospital and arrived 15 minutes early. We were the second ones in line to check in for surgery. Soon enough we were checked in and I was headed down the hall for preparation. I changed, was weighed and laid down on the gurney. A part of me wanted to bolt out of the door, but I managed to maintain my composure.
The doctor came and checked up on me. He was the most upbeat person in the hospital as he told me “sweetie, you are going to be just fine.”
I said goodbye to my cousin and they wheeled me off.
In the surgery room, the anastheologist gave me some medication he said would make me sleepy. I was out in ten seconds.
I woke up in the recovery room. My first thoughts were of my job. I was going to be the fastest healing patient Dr. C had ever had because I needed to go back to work. So I fought the anesthesia. Wake up, stay awake I kept telling myself.
The first day was uneventful. I slept, had a bad reaction to a protein drink and walked all the way to the bulletin board outside of my room.
But Dr. C was concerned. Something was not right. He could not put his finger on it, but my body was not recovering as it should. That night he accompanied me to x-ray but the tests showed that nothing was wrong.
The next day, the day I was to be discharged, I developed the hiccups. The nurse noticed that my pulse was high on the meter. When she went to check on me, I was sleeping. Dr. C grew more concerned.
That night my pain grew. Dr. C accompanied me to the CT scanner. After the scan, I was placed in the hall while the Dr.’s figured out what to do. At this point I was in so much pain that it was almost an out of body experience. My mind had to go somewhere else the pain was so unbearable. When they asked me where I was at with pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I told them I was a 9.5.
So I was wheeled back up to my room. The doctor, weight loss surgery coordinator, nurse and nurse’s assistant were there. Dr. C was going to operate on me again to see if he could find out what was wrong. So he left to call my mother and cousin and I called my priest. My priest was stuck in his house because of a water pipe leak in front of his house. My cousin’s husband was on the internet and my mother had accidently left her phone off of the hook. So I was all alone.
At 9:30 p.m., they took me down for surgery. The presurgery prep area was empty. So back into surgery I went.
The next several days were a blur. I would wake up off and on long enough to press the pain med button. Waking up, the pain medication button was always in a different spot than it had been before. So I had enough presence of mind to strip the O2 monitor off of my finger. This would send the nurses running into my room. When they would discover what I had done, they always had an irritated look on their faces. Later I learned that I had developed pneumonia and had had a bowel obstruction. So they put me on a respirator. When I was fully awake, I would fight against the machine. It was as if I had lost all control of my body. My arms were tied down to keep me from pulling out the tubing. Every breath I took was determined by a machine with different rhythms then my own. When I was drifting in and out, it seemed as if the respirator was in another room and belonged to another person.
After 24 hours they tried to disconnect me from the respirator. My body started to hyperventilate and I could not stop. As I hyperventilated I paniced. Every fiber of my being wanted to be off of the respirator. I tried to stop hyperventilating, but my body would not stop. I was scared and out of control. There was a respiratory therapist behind me that I could not see. He told my cousin that either my lungs were not ready or I was having a psycholocial reaction. The disembodied voice felt that it was my lungs. If it was psychosomatic, I would have passed out by them. So they put me back on the respirator for another 24 hours.
I have no memory of when the respirator came out. A doctor later told me that they do this intentionally so that the patient has no memory of the event.
Eventually the respirator came out. The tubes pressing on my vocal cords had left me temporarily mute. My friends and family would come to visit. I wanted to talk so badly, but no words would come out. The looks on their faces stunned me. They had no words and would shuffle out of the room quickly. I wanted them to stay, to talk, to be with me. But I had no words to communicate this.
After several days I regained my voice. My body swelled to 280 lbs with all of the fluids that they were giving me. My arms became tree trunks. I was too heavy for the nurses to life, so they put me on a hover mat. The mat was placed under my body and raised my body above the bed.