I was 270 pounds when I decided to have gastric bypass surgery. I had tried dieting but I just couldn’t lose the weight. There were no surgeons in my area that performed the surgery (I live in a small town) so I had to travel to see a doctor about three hours away. I didn’t mind the drive, though; I decided it was worth it to see doctor with a lot of experience with gastric bypass surgery.
During the first appointment with the surgeon, he told me what I would need to do prior to having the surgery. First, I had to attend an educational session at his office in which I would learn all about the gastric bypass surgery and the recovery process. Then I had to get a physical from my regular physician and an evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist. I guess the psych eval was to determine if I had any kind of eating disorder and if I really grasped the implications of the surgery.
And believe me, the implications of the surgery were significant. I would have to be on a liquid diet for five days prior to the surgery and for a week after the surgery. Then I would have to be on a soft diet for four to six weeks. I would probably not be able to tolerate sugary foods or greasy foods after the operation. The surgery would take place in a hospital under general anesthesia, which carries a number of risks. There was a possibility, slim as it was, that I could die from the surgery.
Anyone considering gastric bypass surgery should think about it carefully. I did. And I decided to go for it.
Five days before my scheduled surgery date, I began my liquid diet. I was feeling excited about it. The first day went just fine. The next day, I was hungry. The hunger passed in a day or two, though.
The surgeon told me that it was important to get enough protein after the gastric bypass surgery. I’m a vegetarian, and I normally ate about 35 grams of protein a day. The surgeon said I would need to eat at least 60 grams after the surgery, so I started counting my protein grams and trying to get to 60 at the same time I started my liquid diet. I drank Adkins shakes, which have 15 grams of protein per shake. The shakes come in a variety of flavors and taste pretty good.
The day of the surgery, I was nervous. Everything ran like clockwork, though. I had to be at the hospital at 6:00 am, so my partner and I drove to the city the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel. When I got to the hospital, a nurse started an IV and gave me some medication to relax me and some other medication to prevent nausea after the operation. I was worried I would get sick from the anesthesia, but that didn’t happen.
As soon as they took me into the operating room, they put something in my IV to put me to sleep. A couple of hours later, I woke up in the recovery room. They gave me some ice chips and soon they took me up to my room.
I was in the hospital for only one night. I was on a liquid diet while I was there, of course. They gave me diluted juice and popsicles. They also brought me some chicken broth, but I sent that away since I don’t eat meat.
Shortly after the operation, a nurse helped me get out of bed and walk down the hall a little ways. It’s important to get moving as soon as you can in order to prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. It also gets the blood circulating and helps you recover faster.
My stomach was sore but they gave me pain medication and the pain was bearable. The next day I went home.
I was on a liquid diet for the next week or so. I had a hard time getting enough protein. The Adkins shakes now tasted too sweet for me. They had given me a different kind of protein drink in the hospital, something called Cyto-sport. It was similar to Gatorade, but had a nasty aftertaste. I eventually bought some at GNC, and they were expensive, but I ended up throwing most of them out. They just tasted too bad, and I craved water and juice.
In about a week, I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon. I also met with a dietician at his office. She told me I could start on a soft diet, and stressed the need to get enough protein.
The protein thing was a problem for me, and it continues to be. I ate protein for nearly every meal, which was a big change for me. I bought shredded cheese and added it to everything to give it extra protein. I ate string cheese for a snack. I ate a lot of yogurt. Cheese omelets were a big hit. I counted my calories and my protein grams religiously. I ate about 400-500 calories a day. I got 40 or 50 grams of protein if I was lucky.
About a week after my surgery, my incision began to drain. I woke up in the middle of the night and my tee shirt was soaked. I was afraid the incision was infected and scheduled an appointment to see the surgeon. He told me the wound was not infected and that the drainage I was having was normal. He said it was liquefied fat cells. That sounded weird to me, but he was the doctor, so I went home and just kept dressings over the draining wound.
I had a lot of nausea after the surgery. It continues for several weeks. First the surgeon told me I had a stomach virus. Then, when it didn’t go away, he said it was because I wasn’t eating enough protein. A couple of weeks after the gastric bypass surgery, I went to the emergency room because I just couldn’t keep anything down. They gave me IV fluids, medication for nausea, and told me that my wound was infected. I had also been short of breath since shortly after the surgery, so they did a chest x-ray and told me I had pneumonia. They sent me home with antibiotics.
Now, I believe I got the pneumonia while I was in the hospital after the gastric bypass surgery. There’s really no way to know for sure, but hospitals are full of germs and pneumonia is a fairly common complication after any surgery.
A week or two passed, and the nausea continued to be a problem. I was also getting more and more short of breath. I went back to the ER, and they admitted me for pneumonia. Apparently my left lung was in bad shape. A lot of fluid had accumulated around the lung. They ended up having to do surgery to clean out the infected fluid; it was too clotted to drain out without surgery. It turned out that I was in the hospital for nearly three weeks. For several days, I was in the intensive care unit on a respirator.
What does that have to do with my gastric bypass surgery, you might ask. Well, first of all, I believe I contracted the pneumonia in the hospital where I had the surgery. Next, I visited the surgeon a couple of times while I was sick and he never caught the pneumonia. Finally, I believe it greatly increased my recovery time from the gastric bypass surgery. I was expecting to be back on my feet a couple of weeks after the surgery, and instead I was tired and weak for three months.
So would I have the gastric bypass surgery again? Yeah, I would. It’s just over three months since the surgery, and I’ve lost 63 pounds. My clothes are all loose, and I love it. The nausea has mostly passed, although it does come back at times (and I’m still only eating 40-50 grams of protein).
I’m not sure if I would recommend it to other people or not. I guess it depends on the person. I would certainly recommend they consider it carefully before committing. Yet, despite the problems I’ve had, I view it as something positive in my life.