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Post-Op Day 6

8/1/2007

A little late getting started . . .

I had every intention on starting this blog a long time ago, but time did get away from me in a hurry. Part of that was because of the quick and very efficient turnaround time that Lisa and the staff gave me once I was approved for surgery. It felt like a whirlwind.

Let me start by saying the other patient blogs on this site were immensely helpful to me. So many of the things they experienced and shared were emotional frontiers I wouldn't have bothered to explore, and as a result would not have been prepared to face. For that I'm really, really grateful to them. And I'm hopeful I can be a little useful to others who are considering having this surgery.

I had my surgery just under a week ago. Dr. Walsh (a.k.a. Dr. Superhero) performed it, and I could not have been in better hands. Pre-op I weighed in at 332 pounds, but I had lost about 18 pounds over the last few months in preparation for having the surgery, so I was at 350 pounds at my heaviest.

I took 13 pills and two shots a day - diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea are just some of the conditions from which I suffered. So I was in really bad shape. I was turned down 4 times by my insurance company for other forms of bariatric surgery and I resolved to save up the money to have this done. What a great, great experience that turned out to be. I avoided making some really bad choices (lap band, for instance) and all the information I gathered in the process helped me to make a very educated decision in what surgery to have.

The bottom line is that for people who are less than 450 pounds, this is the best alternative out there - period.

I'll be happy to explain why to anyone who is interested. Let me discuss a little about my experience leading up to the surgery.

I went to my first clinic in High Point about 6 weeks prior to my surgery. It was the first clinic I attended with my wife. Dr. Walsh spoke at it, and he started it by asking the spouse of someone having the surgery the next day, 'What things are you worried about?' When the spouse shrugged and said he was just there to listen, Dr. Walsh was relentless. 'Aren't you worried that your wife is about to have major abdominal surgery that could lead to respiratory failure, cardiac failure, liver failure or death?' To be honest, I grimaced a little, because this was my wife's first exposure and her first impression of the professionals in this business. But as we were driving home she told me about how impressed she was with his frankness. It really boosted her confidence in Dr. Walsh and in the surgery that he was so honest about things.

Once I completed my patient letter (read: dissertation) and finally cracked the whip hard enough on my doctors to get all of the supporting information sent, (don't take 'I'll fax that later' for an answer!) I was really, really surprised to get that phone call from Lisa telling me that my surgery date was about 2 weeks away.

I spent that first week saying good-bye to all those old friends who had been such a bad influence on my life. Many of you know those friends: fried food, fast food, tex-mex - just to name a few. I said good-bye to them and vowed never to look back.

The second week I spent starting to eat a lot more lightly. Salads, yogurt, clear soups were pretty much staples. Even in the first week of saying good-bye I never gorged myself like I may have in the past. Why? Well, one of those things on your to-do list to have this surgery is to contact 10 patients and ask them questions. I'll never forget that at least 2 people told me their biggest regret was that they went out on a bang. Remember what I said about the trail-blazing wisdom of others? As I sit here today, that was great, great advice.

My wife and I drove up to High Point two nights prior to the surgery, and checked in to the Crestwood Suites. (Highly recommended, by the way) I did all my pre-op stuff the following day, and it was by far the most efficient group of people I've experienced - and I had six operations at four different hospitals in 2002 alone!

I later attended the clinic, and Dr. Walsh was presenting again. He really is the epitome of confidence and calm.

The morning of the surgery came and I spent most of it finishing the last two chapters of the last Harry Potter book. From the time I walked in the hospital to the time I layed down on the operating table, it seemed like only 10 minutes passed. Again, really, really efficient staff.

Here's the part you'll definitely want to read. I woke up from the surgery in a lot of discomfort. Quite a lot. It was all because of the gas that was put in my chest for Dr. Walsh to see properly, but that fact didn't make it any less painful. However, when I said something the staff immediately responded with medication that made it disappear very quickly.

When I got to my hospital room, I felt just fine. I felt really good to see my wife. The morphine that they supplied me with helped ease every bit of discomfort I had - and there really wasn't much - because of that morphine I was talking about.

I then made sure to walk. And I walked a lot. One of the nurses humorously complained I was going to wear out the floor. I walked because I was told I should walk.

All of the patient letters I received and all of the blogs I read were very helpful. But I'll never forget the one sentence patient letter I received from a guy I met at one of the support meetings. His advice to me: 'Do what they tell you to do.'

Listen friends, this hospital and staff supply you with more information than most do. They require you to do more research and explore more information than any one I know. And if there's any advice I can pass on to you if you're considering this: If you are not prepared to do what they describe in the post-op plan (take vitamins, eat slowly, make good choices, walk, exercise) - if you are not 100 per cent dedicated to that - DON'T HAVE THE SURGERY. This is not a magic pill you take - the road is long and it is not always easy and it lasts for the rest of your life. This surgery is a pretty powerful tool that can work beautifully for you, and fatefully horribly against you depending on your part of it.

They discharged me at 10:00 AM the morning after the surgery. I had some abdominal pain, but nothing above a 4 on that 1 to 10 scale, and nothing that was persistent.

I must say that I was blessed to have been served by a nurse named Barbara. She was a Godsend. She worked the third shift (11 to 7) and was just so supportive of me. All of the staff were great, but she just really stuck out as someone who works beyond the incentive of a paycheck.

The day after the surgery I stopped taking four medications for diabetes and two medicines for hypertension. SIX FORMS OF MEDICATION! And my blood sugar has been under 100 every morning since.

Two days after the surgery I went to the mall and walked around with my wife. I got my hair cut and shopped for clothing for her. I got back to the hotel and Dr. Walsh had called. I called him back, and was blown away. I've spoken with a couple of doctors on the phone - ones with which I have a good and long relationship. But they always seem clinical (no pun intended) and distant. Not Dr. Walsh. 'Hey buddy, how's it going?' That was his greeting on the phone. When I told him of my progress and my blood sugar results, he was whooping and hollering and telling me he was calling my internist to gloat. Just a warm, caring human being that has dedicated his life to helping others in ways I can't comprehend or find adequate ways to thank. Did I mention he's a superhero in my book?

In the week since the surgery, the biggest source of discomfort has been the bloating. I am trying so hard to burp and can't seem to get the job done. As a result I sometimes have some chest pain. But then the burp comes and I'm feeling great. I have lost 21 pounds as of this morning and have yet to feel even a simple pang of hunger.

Others who have had this surgery have had an easier time with it than me. A friend of mine who had it told me she'd do it every month if she had to. I'm not willing to commit to that insanity - it was not that easy for me. But I sure am glad to have had it done.

I'm really sorry for the length of this post and much of its drudgery. Some of the drudgery I won't apologize for, so don't bother asking. But from here on, I promise to update you regularly with how things are going and other bits of wisdom I've been fortunate enough to pick up on. And if you're interested you can email me anytime and I'll be glad to answer any questions you may have.

My sincere best wishes go out to all of you considering this surgery - whether you have it or if you decide to pursue weight loss another route. The bottom line is that being obese really sucks, and I'm looking forward to my new life. For you men considering it, take heart. My first clinics for bariatric surgery made me feel like I showed up at a bridal shower. They're not too many of us dudes pursuing this, but that's pride getting in the way. Email me and let's work together on getting better support for men through this process.

Steve

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