A READER'S STORY
Weight Loss Surgery
Hi there. I am in my 40's and have been overweight most of my life but the past 10 years have been the worst. I have always been afraid of weight loss surgery and said it was never something I would do. I had heard horror stories on the internet about it and thought it was admitting failure to myself that I couldn't lose weight on my own. I would say "I got this way on my own and I'll lose it on my own".
But now I find myself at 430lbs and having a hard time doing normal things like walking, doing my groceries, getting off of the couch, etc. I can't do stairs at all anymore. Everything is just so difficult. And no matter how hard I try I cannot lose weight, I just keep getting heavier.
I have dreams. I want to travel to Rome and visit the Colosseum, Pantheon and other great sights, I want to visit Egypt and see the pyramids, and Australia and Japan and Machu Pichu in Peru. I cannot do this at my current weight and mobility. So, after alot of deliberation, discussions with an obesity doctor, with people who've had the surgery, my family and friends I have decided to have the surgery.
The first few months will be more of a waiting game than anything while I get insurance approval and everything set in motion. I will track here though every step of the process.
Questions - If you have any questions please feel free to email the magazine and I'll try to answer them in the next issue.
September 30, 2007 - Still having issues losing the weight. Spoke to Dr. Brackman and he said if I can get to 420 he'll do the surgery. Also he wants me to get a vena caval filter before the surgery. So now I'm waiting to hear when I can get an appointment with a surgeon to get that done. Seems like there is always something!! I got a handicapped parking permit this month because I am finding that even though I'm not gaining weight my mobility is becoming less and less.
August 30, 2007 - Still nothing to update on. Weight loss is barely happening. Still hating the cpap machine.
July 25, 2007 - Not much to update on. Still trying to get used to the cpap machine. I hate it but I have to use it if I want the surgery. And weight loss is not going well. I tried the Atkins diet cause I know I'm a carb-a-holic so thought this diet may help. I went from 445 to 437 and then gained it all back again. At this point I am frustrated and depressed and see the hopes of the surgery dwindling away. The surgeon's office put me in touch with their nutritiontist but she's not been much help.
June 21, 2007 - Got my new machine. Tried it out that night. Is definately going to take a while to get used to. Emailed the surgeon hoping that now I can be scheduled for surgery next month. Got a reply back that there are new hospital guidelines and that I must get down to 395 before they can schedule me!!! WTF. If I could lose 60 lbs on my own I wouldn't be going for the surgery. Very bummed out now. They are going to have their nutritionist email me. One thing I should mention is that I really don't eat much. There is no junk food in my home (no cookies, no chips, no candies, etc). Everyone who knows me is surprised I weigh what I do when I eat less than them.
June 16/17, 2007 - Had my second sleep study. Wasn't quite as bad as the first one as I knew more what to expect. Same bed and room though, which sucked. This time they had me wear the cpap machine. Took me a while to get used to it and for the first few minutes I had problems breathing. In the morning they did say though that my sleep was better. According to the results from the first sleep study I stop breathing on average about 18 times per hour and wake up about 19 times per hour. That was a bit of a shock to me. I came home with a prescription for a cpap machine.
May 30, 2007 - Got a call from hospital to book second half of sleep study. This one apparently is something to do with the cpap. I do not want to do another sleep study but guess I have no choice. It's scheduled for June 16th. Oh joy.
May 16/17, 2007 - Had my sleep study at the hospital. I hope to never go through that again. I had told them I was large and needed a bigger bed and they said ok. When I get there they put me in a room with a regular ward bed and a bunch of junk (looked like a storage room). I asked about the bigger bed and she said we have one but it has a weight limit on it. Well sheesh!! Anyway, bed was too small and I couldn't turn over in it, plus having all those wires attached to me, well I didn't sleep. And the bed aggravated my back which caused me great pain.
May 15, 2007 - Got the approval from OHIP (provincial health insurance) for my surgery!! Woohoo. In an email from the surgeon's office they said I had to lose 50 lbs before the surgery ("IN ORDER FOR THE SURGERY TO BE DONE LAPAROSCOPICALLY YOU WILL HAVE TO BE BELOW 400LBS"). I wrote back and said when I saw the surgeon he said only 10-15 lbs so she wrote back and said she spoke with him and he said 435lbs so that is good. I was thinking if I knew how to lose 50lbs I could probably lose the rest too but I don't know how which is why I'm doing the surgery.
April 27, 2007 - Had a question from a reader asking why if I live in Ontario am I going to the US for the surgery. The answer is quite simple, although Canada prides itself on it's medical system there is one basic flaw and that is wait times. For weight loss surgery I have been told that the wait time is upto 5 years. However, the provincial health insurance will pay for me to go to the US and get it done much sooner.
April 20, 2007 - Have an appointment for a sleep test for May 25. So envisioning the surgery now won't be until August/September.
April 17, 2007 - Upper GI test. This is where you drink the barium and stand infront of xray machine. The doctor had a very hard time seeing anything because of my weight and had to redo the xrays but was able to do it.
April 14 - 2007 - Drove down to Canton, NY to see the surgeon. His assistant, Sandy, was very nice and gave us alot of good information. Dr. Brackman was very nice too. He went over the surgery a bit and said that in the 10 years he's been doing gastric bypass surgery he's not had one death, so that is good news. He is very thorough and ensures all tests are done and good. One such test that I hadn't been aware of is a sleep disorder test to see if I have sleep apnea. He said that it's more than likely someone of my size does and if so I MUST use the cpap machine for a month before the surgery. No exceptions. If I don't, then he doesn't do the surgery. Oh and I need to lose about 15 lbs before the surgery because even with a 15lb loss the liver will be much smaller and won't get in the way as much. The surgery is done on a Wednesday but you meet with them the day before. You are discharged on the Friday but have to stay in town at the hotel until you are totally discharged the Wednesday after. So you plan to be there at least 9 days.
April 5 - 2007 - Blood tests. Took about 6 vials of blood. Also had a H. Pylori breath test (basically you breath into a tube for a baseline test, then drink some lemony liquid, wait 30 minutes and breath into another tube). Had EKG.
April 2 - 2007 - Had my chest xray - went well.
March 23 - 2007 - Doctors office called. Apparently OHIP (provincial insurance) had called the clinic to find out some information. Of course the clinic hadn't heard of me yet. So I called them and got some information. But best of all I have an appointment April 14th with the doctor to go over my medical history, questions, etc. They also sent me a list of tests I need to take before the operation. Found out that the pre and post op appointments are all held just over the border (about 1 1/2 hour drive from here) BUT the actual operation is done in Long Island NY (about 9 hour drive). So will take some figuring on how I'm gonna get there and back. My boss actually offered to fly here, rent a car and drive me down. I'm happy, the ball has started rolling. Here are the tests needed : Chest Xray, EKG, Upper Endoscopy with testing for H.Pylori (may substitute H.Pylori breath test PLUS upper GI series xray if endoscopy not available or delayed), LABS: TSH, T4, UA, CBC, chemistry panel, LFT's, serum triglycerides, cholesterol, iron, ferritin, TIBC, B12, folate, INR, PTT, HgbA1c, nicotine, serum H.Pylori Ab.
March 15 - 2007 - Application was mailed Feb 14th. Still waiting for approval. Frustrating to sit and wait.
February 12, 2007 - Met with family doctor. She will complete insurance application and mail next day.
February 9, 2007 - Family doctor received letter - finally!
January 4, 2007 - Met with obesity doctor and told him of my decision. He dictated a letter to my family doctor indicating my decision and giving precise instructions on how to fill out the application for insurance approval. He said my doctor should receive the letter within 4 weeks. (Note: I live in Ontario Canada and will have to go to the US for the surgery so need prior approval from the Provincial health care system for funding).