Gastric Bypass Surgery – What Happens When You’re Gastrically Altered?

Yep, that’s me.  It’s July 2006, just one week before my  Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery.  Yeah, I tipped the scales at over 300 pounds.  I was a big fat ass.  Can you believe I thought I looked good in this photo?  Can you imagine what photos of me that I didn’t like looked like?

But making the decision to alter your body so drastically is only the beginning of the decisions you’re going to have to make.  Let’s hope you’ve done your research, you’ve checked out the doctor and the hospital you are going to work with, and you feel confident – if a little nervous – about your decision to have your surgery.  But what comes next?

I’ll be posting a series of blogs to help you get through some of the post op stuff – the stuff you may not have had a chance to talk about with your surgeon.  We’ll talk protein (blech!), we’ll talk losing your drawers when you sneeze because they’re too big, we’ll talk about adding exercise and how important it is, and we’ll talk about plastic surgery – because, honestly, it’s where a lot of us end up.

So stay tuned.  Once a week, we’ll tour that unknown world of what to do once you’re gastrically altered!

 

2011 – What I Learned This Year

I could sum up my year in one word.  School.  I feel like the entire year was consumed by my educational aspirations.  But aside from all the -ologies I studied in 2011, I’ve learned quite a few other things.  With a year that saw me recovering from last fall’s bout with MRSA and then a stay in ICU battling kidney failure, I had lots of time to reflect on things – the good, the bad, and what was more important.

So here goes:

I learned that it’s perfectly okay to be sad about the things I’ve lost.  My sister, who died way too young; my dad, who fought for the last ten years of his life to make sure he snatched every bit of joy and happiness he could in the time he had left; the five babies I never got to hold or cuddle or sniff the tops of their tiny heads.  I know now that it’s okay to still find myself in a puddle of my own tears over not having those things.  But it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate the things that I haven’t lost.  I have three amazing daughters, who can melt my heart with their beautiful smiles and warm me on my coldest days with their giggles.  I have a husband who loves me – cherishes me – and through all of his own battles, always manages to make me feel like his number one priority.  I am blessed with an awesome sister, terrific parents and step-parents, and extended family and friends that I adore.

I learned that it really does take the worst to make you truly understand and appreciate the best.  The worst snowstorms help you appreciate the warmest days.  A bad grade on a test makes you truly grateful when you get an A.  A bad eye day for Jim makes a good eye day such a gift.  Laying in bed in intensive care helps you to remember to find gratitude when “it’s only a cold” or “it’s a small cut”.  I’m going to bitch way less about how sore my nose is when I get a head cold and be happy instead that they discovered Puffs with Lotion!

I have finally figured out what a “good” doctor is.  I’ve had the same primary care doctor for almost 30 years.  While I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me, I never really appreciated what a good doctor he is.  He’s funny.  I don’t mind going to see him, because I feel I will surely be entertained, but this year, when we needed balls to the wall, he stepped up to the plate.  And you already know that I truly believe I found God’s gift to medicine when I found Dr. Veitia.  So if you’re in the area, and need a primary care doctor, it’s Dr. Gary Heck.  Looking for a phenomenal surgeon?  Dr. Nestor Veitia.  And you’ll love them as much as I do when you meet some of the other doctors that are out there.

I”d like to say that in 2011, I figured out the meaning of life.  Well, at least my life.  I haven’t.  But I have made huge strides in figuring out what was important.  Family, friends, health, education, and Mickey Mouse.  If you discover the joy in all of that, you don’t really need to know the meaning of life – you just need to enjoy it.

My Own Post-Op Recovery Guide

I’ve learned a lot about recovering from surgery in the past few years – as I am now a veteran of three c-sections; gallbladder removal; gastric bypass; bowel obstruction; tummy tuck; and brachioplasty.  There are some comfortable surgeons riding around in luxury cars thanks in small part to my health insurance.

I have yet to walk into one of these surgical offices, though, and have them give me a real life guide to what you need to know in recovery.  I’ve compiled a short list myself of the things you need to know.  Consider these specific to my recent surgery, where the use of my arms and back has been restricted, but feel free to apply these lessons to any surgical recovery:

Drying your hair –

You’ve just spent thousands of dollars on plastic surgery so that you’ll look your best.  Good luck with that, honey, because for the next few weeks, the back of your head is gonna look like a nest of rats lives there.  You won’t be able to reach to dry your hair, properly brush your hair, or even scrunch your hair so it looks like you intentionally want your hair to look like a rat’s nest.  Invest in a wig.

Smacking your husband –

You know you’re gonna have to do it – because husbands have just a certain way about them that irritates the crap out of you at a time when you least need your crap to be irritated.  He’ll make fun of the hair you can’t properly fix, or he’ll laugh at you as you are trying to squeeze your swollen, uncomfortable self into something cute and slightly sexy, so you at least feel somewhat human.  The temptation will be there, and I understand.  You want to haul off and smack him, as hard as you can, preferably into an unconsciousness that will last until you are totally healed.

Stop right there, girlfriend.  Hauling off and smacking your husband is going to be more pain than it’s worth – seriously.  You risk opening up your incisions, and that could get ugly.  Don’t do it.  Instead, spike his drink with a bit of your pain meds, and hopefully, that will knock him out long enough for you to get some peace and quiet.

And Speaking Of –

Let me take this opportunity to recommend a conversion to an all liquid, no waste diet.  Attending to the, ummmm, necessary routines of hygiene have just become outrageously difficult, and the aforementioned ass of a husband will either flat out refuse to assist you in your post lavatory needs or make fun of you mercilessly.  As we’ve already determined, smacking him is not an option.  I opted to, ummm, hold it in until I could attend to things myself.  Perhaps investing in a bidet??

It doesn’t matter how good your insurance is –

Visiting nurses will not come to your house and help you to apply your eye makeup.  And – go figure – the emergency room doesn’t consider this OBVIOUS emergency to be an OBVIOUS emergency – even if you tell them it’s the new LashStash mascara from Sephora.  And believe me, if you’re like me, it takes a while to cake all that makeup on your eyes to hide the wrinkles and dark circles, and your arms get tired while they’re bandaged.  Skip Sephora and head for Sunglass Hut.  What you can’t see in the mirror won’t bother you nearly as much.

Cherish Your Children –

I have to thank my girls for being so helpful these past few weeks.  Eilis made dinner last night by herself, and Granuaile is always throwing on her apron to help out with things in the kitchen.  Of course, you know they aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts – they’re hoping there’s a puppy in this as a reward…

 

 

Bat Wings, Back Fat, and Other Body Anomalies that Make You Want Barbecue

The sausage you see hanging in the photo above is not found at the Italian market in South Philly.  It is found hanging from my shoulder.  I have one on each side.  Not that I have something against sausage, but I want them gone.

Last summer, I started what I had hoped would be a series of plastic surgery procedures designed to help me get rid of the remnants of my formerly morbidly obese self.  I had a big, huge hanging belly; droopy, saggy boobs; sausage arms; and enough rolls on my back to hide Osama Bin Laden and the entire al Quaeda team.  My breast lift healed in record time, and I have very few physical indication that I had anything done – the scars are minimal, the boobs are in the right place, and it’s all good.

My tummy tuck recovery is epic.  Seriously, I could write a War and Peace sized novel on what a crappy healer I was – and I blame that on the selective hearing loss I suffer from when it comes to medical instructions.  I’m fine when the pediatrician tells me to fill a kid with fluids and give them Tylenol.  That, I have no problem hearing.  But when a doctor tells me that I have to not lift, not bend, not travel far; well, I don’t exactly catch ALL of the words – I just know he said something about lifting, bending, and traveling.

So, because I took so darn long to heal from my tummy tuck (six months, including four on a wound VAC), I think my surgeon was a bit leery about doing any additional procedures.  He wanted to make sure my wound was completely healed, free of infection, totally closed, blessed by the Pope, consecrated by the Dalai Lama, and prayed over by a Voodoo High Priest.

Done!

Next Thursday, I’m going under the knife again.  One day after my 20th wedding anniversary, I hope to begin the final chapter on the road to the new me that I found myself on almost five years ago.

Wish me luck.  Wish Dr. Veitia luck, because, after all, he has to deal with me.  And let the fun begin!