I don’t regret having Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery eleven days ago, because my weight goes down incrementally on a daily basis and the acid reflux attacks have stopped. I do, however, feel like temptation is once again knocking at my door like Cousin Eddie at Christmas. Yes, that’s right. “Shitter’s full.” Figuratively. Only figuratively.
A few days ago, I started smelling buffalo chicken dip. Like everywhere. Last Sunday while watching a little football, a Papa John’s commercial came on introducing their new pan pizza with cheese all the way to the sides. I could feel the crunch in my mouth. I could smell the vegetables. Today, also while watching a little football, KFC ran a commercial touting their popcorn chicken. I could smell the chicken, taste the crunch and feel the chicken juice on my tongue. It’s an almost Water Mitty-ish moment. I’m not supposed to have hunger pains, and yet I can feel it almost pushing through.
Is the answer, “Stop watching football?” That’s not going to happen. Resist? I don’t have much of a choice. I suppose I could go to KFC and get a little popcorn chicken. Keep in mind though that it’s only been 11 days. I’m still on shakes, semi-solid snacks, and liquids. Ugh. The shakes. I so, SO sick to damn death of shakes. Chocolate in particular. I am desperate for a change. I had spent $62 on Opurity multivitamins and Unjury.com protein powder. I like the vitamins. The powder is far too sweet for me. I just don’t like it. So I’m back into the EAS Whey powder (chocolate, of course) I was drinking prior to surgery. I’ve been asked by the surgeon and the Nurse Practitioner at the program to add Miralax and Colace to the mix for help…down below. But when I taste it, I want to spit it all back out.
I want the smell of chicken or fish. The texture. THE TASTE. I want to prepare a meal. I’ve been looking at some bariatric cooking blogs I’ll share with you after I start making the recipes, to let you know how they are. They sure do look good.
Nutritionist on Wednesday, where hopefully she will advance me to stage 4, ground protein foods. That will be nice for Thanksgiving. Stage 4 would last until a little before Christmas, and then I’ll be introducing regular foods back into my diet. Good regular foods, not pizza or fried chicken. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go scramble some egg whites.
I had my surgery November 2. No “before” pictures, no videos to provide a male perspective on this surgery, just a great deal of wondering, “Would I recommend this process now that I’ve had surgery?
I was continually asked, “Are you nervous?” I wasn’t until I was walking into the hospital Wednesday morning before 6AM. I was wondering what would change when (ok, and if) I walked out in a few days. It was nothing more than the fear of the unknown. The day before had been clear liquids only, and that was a little tough. I did discover chicken broth was tasty, but also discovered that even the low-sodium version is still a lot of sodium. I thought a lot about never eating pizza or fried chicken again, but soon realized that my inability to handle the responsibility such food and my body demanded was part of the reason I was drinking clear liquids.
I had a scare a week prior, when I went in for my last visit with the surgeon. It was a Friday afternoon, my sister was with me as my medical proxy (it turns out I’d divorced my other one four years prior), and I weighed in at 280. Why is that a big deal? Because I was down to 265 and at one point went on a carbohydrates bender, which caused me to gain seven pounds in 3 weeks. I still dispute the actual number on the surgeon’s scale, because I went home and my home scale, which I know to be a scant 4 pounds different from the scale at the clinic downstairs from the surgeon’s office, put me at 268. But my surgeon said she was flagging my chart, and if I gained even one more pound I would be over my goal weight and ineligible for surgery that day. That threw enough of a scare into me that I went totally low-cal, down to protein shakes and one meal a day, plus a minimum of 12,000 steps a day. It did the trick. I weighed in the morning of surgery at 266.
The intake nurse, Kellie, was nice. We went through what seemed like a million questions, an IV port inserted, and my temperature brought up to above 98.6 degrees. I spoke with the nurse anesthetist and a few other nurses, as well as the surgeon. I don’t really remember being wheeled into the operating room at all. I was told I’d be brought out of anesthesia in the recovery room, and when I was awake I’d be brought to my room on the surgical floor. I don’t know about recovery, because when I woke up I was in my room on the third floor, and I was in some serious pain. Not an uncomfortable amount of pain, but serious, PLEASE-GOD-LET-ME-DIE pain.
My daughter was there, her boyfriend showed up, my sister and brother-in-law were there (all of the I know because it’s what I’ve been told), I had a flower delivery I did not respond kindly to, and I was in tears, screaming for someone to help me. No one would. Apparently they had given me pain meds that were only supposed to be given every four hours, and they couldn’t give me another dose for some time. In the meantime, I felt like I had been ripped viciously apart and left to bleed. I wasn’t bleeding, but it felt like I was being ignored. While I was bleeding.
I have nothing good to say about the initial wave of nurses assigned to me post-surgically. Should I not say anything? I will, because it will serve to highlight the care I received later, but the first batch was led by Nurse Ratched who would not allow the LNAs to help me do anything, groused at them and me, talked back, and couldn’t have been less helpful. Someone eventually told her that if she wasn’t there to help me, she could leave and not come back, and she did just that.
A sweet LNA named Krissy came in and started setting things right, and an RN named Laura did a fantastic job helping a very aggravated patient get squared away without losing her cool. She was calm, cool, collected and nothing but professional. The overnight nurse continued the trend and was so sweet. My daytime nurse was a guy, and I had a male LNA, Chris, as well, and it was great. I like people who speak my language, and these two did. A bit of conversation, just being cool and getting things done, went a long, long way. I was fortunate enough to have Dustin, the RN, again on my final day. The night nurse on my last night there, Kelly, was fantastic. I was a little iffy on her at first because it seemed like she was not patient-focused, but I was wrong. She gave me her hospital direct dial so I could skip the nurse’s station, which was huge. I let slip at one point that I had never been ignored more anywhere I’d ever been. I’d call for pain meds, and despite the fact that the floor was not very busy at all, it would be a half hour before they’d call down again and ask how they could help because the call light had not been shut off. So I’d remind them, and it would be another 15 minutes to half hour. Again and again and again. Thank God I had a catheter. If I had to wait for them to come get me to take me to the bathroom, I’d have wet the bed and sat in it for an hour before anyone noticed. I was still on attended walks when I got tired of waiting, got up, unplugged everything, went to the bathroom (after the catheter had been removed), went for a walk, walked the entire floor by myself, marched right past the nurse’s station into a “Staff Only” kitchen, grabbed myself a popsicle and went back to my room, where I plugged myself back in and got back into bed. No one said a word. No one noticed. I took off the DVT leg wraps and shut the machine off because it was doing nothing but alarming out. Not a word again. That part really concerned me about my stay, but that’s different for every hospital, I’m sure. My grandmother raves about the same hospital, and what do I know from post-bariatric surgery protocol?
I’ve been home for two days. Friday night was difficult, but I slept upstairs, albeit sporadically. Yesterday I felt nauseous all day long. I was going to go to Target, Marshalls and Hobby Lobby with my daughter to get my walk in. I made it most of the way through Target before I had to go back to the car. I felt feverish, and nauseous at the combined smell of Starbucks and popcorn. I had just had enough. I came home, took pain meds and slept most of the day. Needless to say, I’m behind on my water intake, though I think I’m good on my protein. I’m waiting for my drain site to close so I can shower. I slept better last night. I didn’t feel like I was ripping open when I moved, I was able to move onto my right side for a few minutes to alleviate back pain, and I didn’t take any pain meds. It is still very hard to pick things up off the floor, but it’s getting easier. I’m passing more gas, which is good because my stomach is less swollen which takes pressure off the six sutures. (TMI?). I’ve felt feverish. I’ve been really cold. But would I recommend this surgery to anyone else?
Could it be that I have not posted in over a month, while both of you readers have been clamoring for more? A thousand apologies! To say it’s been busy would be an understatement. Where to begin…
I had reached a plateau weight-wise. My dietician told be to maybe add some calories, so I added more protein to the menu, and it seemed to jump start the weight loss. I’ll be honest, I’d love to be further down in numbers, but I keep self-sabotaging because I’m spending more time on the road. I know, I know..I need to plan for that and make adjustments. I do, and then I see those golden arches and I’m McScrewing myself.
The nurse practitioner seems pleased with my progress. She keeps asking me when my surgery is ballpark for, and I tell her September/October, because my insurance company seems to be fairly surly and unapproachable on this subject. I’ve registered in United Healthcare’s “center of excellence” program, and while Portsmouth Hospital is not one of their centers of excellence, it is in network, which is akin to not having Ebola, but a slight case of Zika instead. In other words, to them, I suck but I don’t suck as much as the guy who is going to Bob’s Weight Loss Clinic of Duluth or something.
I have finished my behavioral health classes, which were great, and so now have the dietician and NP visits every month or so, labs, which I got done today, and a few other tests, then a short class a few weeks prior to the surgery, and I will attend the monthly pre-op support groups because I like them. I kept saying if I lost all the weight I would;t get the surgery, but with the acid reflux, I feel like I have to. That and separating my brain from my stomach are the two biggest draws. Not to worry – I am not going to lose all the weight (see paragraph 2).
I am going to buy a bicycle, a hybrid mountain bike. Dick’s has a nice Diamondback I like for under $500. If I can find the recommended model I read about in an online magazine, I may go to a bike shop to see of they have it or will order it. A few more weeks and I’m on it. Medically, my back has been giving me all kinds of trouble. The lower back, on either side of the spine, out to the middle of either half of my back. It’s almost debilitating. I really need to see a chiropractor unless one of you has better advice (that is my plea to you to tell me what you think). I got a FitBit a week or so ago, and it has already got me hooked. We had a fire drill at work today, and my first thought was not, I wonder of this is actually a drill?” No, it was, “Awesome! I get to add some steps AND some stairs!!” That is the right kind of thinking. I unintentionally did 4 miles last weekend on my walk, and posted my best times per mile. The times kept dropping with each successive mile. I loved it. I’m using the Map My Walk app, and I listen to Nikki Glazer’s Not Safe podcast, which is a riot, and lasts for just the amount of time I am supposed to be out.
That’s it of tonight, I think. It’s late, my thoughts are scattered because I am writing a song and lyrics keep running through my head. That’s my sign that it’s time to head upstairs, put the floor AC unit in and hit the hay. Next time I will discuss the misnamed sleep study I took at the beginning of the month.
It feels like it’s been a million years. Not that I haven’t had anything to say; I just haven’t had the time to say it. I’ve read elsewhere school has been crazy for people. It’s been crazy for me too. Thing is, I’m in too deep to quit now.
Along the weight loss narrative, I’ve met with the staff psychologist, who is an ex-Air Force vet and I really like him. It was a quick one hour session to sort of point me in the right direction behaviorally. He says that in order for weight loss surgery to be effective for the patient, they MUST make changes in their behaviors surrounding food and coping. Sounds pretty simple, right? It isn’t.
I met with the dietician, which I may have written about. Hydrate, add protein shakes. 400 calories for meals, 200 calories for snacks. Something every two hours. She’s nice but I wouldn’t want to cross her.
I met with the physical therapist, who only needed me for one pre-op visit. She said because I have physical issues, all I need to do is walk, not for distance, but for time. 45 minutes, 5 times a day. That’s been really hard. I’ve been fighting migraines for a week now, and yesterday it finally won. It made me sick for the first time, gave me vertigo for the first time ever, and strangely, made me eat, probably because I was so stressed about it. I was worried it might be a vitamin deficiency. I even stayed home from work because I was still feeling the effects of it this morning. The good news is the I meet with the neurologist next week and can discuss it further with him then.
I’ve gone to a pre-op support group. That was interesting. I am really not used to saying this at all, but I felt like I was being judged for being the skinniest one in the room. It’s all relative, of course, but man did I feel out of place. It was great though. There were panels, questions from the audience, the psychologist was there, the dietician, and several former surgical patients to talk about their experiences. It’s nice to know that we will get through this.
I also went to the first of 5 behavioral classes put on by the psychologist. That too was good. It wasn’t an hour and a half where they just read the book to you. It was practical, it was useful, it was interactive, and I got lots of good information.I learned that y responsibility throughout this process is to keep on track regardless of what is going on around me. I need to control my own environment. I need to have confidence I can keep the weight off. Dr. W talked about flight sim training for pilots, and how when they go inside, the people running the sim ill throw one thing in to knock them off kilter, then another, then another. They make failure a virtual guarantee. Why? Because (and here is the take-away) smooth sailing is not your friend. We need to learn how to course correct on our own. Having everything go right is not the way to get that done. We need to face the challenges in order to overcome them. Finally, we cannot view our FALLS as FAILS. We just need to chalk it up to experience and move on, like when Tom Brady throws a rare interception (not a word from you haters out there). He knows he will get another chance to get back out on the field and turn the INT into a TD. That’s all we’re looking for throughout this surgery process: a win.
Lastly, I met with the nurse practitioner today, who is on her way to Hawaii right about now. That was sort of ho-hum, even though I like her. I got to meet her dog too, which was great. A 5 year old yellow lab who loves to be played with and pet. I talked to her about the migraines. She talked to me about staying hydrated. It was straightforward, but she did say I am in a really good place. I weighed in at 275, but I don;t need a lot of the attention most of the others need, medically speaking. She said she wishes I could get the surgery now. I told her I really needed the behavioral piece of this because there are parts I am not telling her or anyone. Like how much I ate out last week and the week before. How I cut out of there and went to McDonald’s after my visit. Why? No idea. I wasn’t even really hungry. I guess I just wanted the salty taste of the fries and the mixture of the hamburger and the cheese swirling around my tongue. It makes me so scared that I am not going to be able to modify my behavior enough to have this surgery be successful. Apparently not scared enough to stop, though.