Gastric Bypass, and the surgeons who perform it, have left me near death, with a feeding tube, living off disability and uninsurable. That's why I need to share my story to explain some of the common, yet avoidable, complications of Bariatric Surgery. This surgery is becoming too commercialized and routine, and many times it's being performed without the patient being educated of the life-long changes they need to make in order to be successful and healthy long-term.
I had Bariatric Surgery, or Open Gastric Bypass, in December 2002. I was 33 years old and had been overweight and/or obese the majority of those years. I did at least 2 years of research before surgery plus continued my research post-op and was extremely excited for what was to come. Within the first two weeks I lost 18 pounds. Wow! Then it stopped. I was eating tiny, well-balanced 2 ounce meals but the weight would not budge. I did not touch sugar, fat or anything with high calories. I only drank water. I followed the doctors orders to the letter. But I was not exercising.
I started exercising and the weight started coming off. I exercised for 90 minutes, 6 days a week. If I stopped exercising for a week, it would take me a month to lose another pound. I fought for every pound I lost. It took two years, but at 5 feet, 3 inches tall, I went from 275 pounds to 160 pounds and was on top of the world, still exercising and eating right.
In March of 2008 I had some dental work done. I was put on 1600mg of ibuprofen a day for 2 months. Roughly 2 months after I discontinued the use of ibuprofen I started vomiting. It quickly became a daily occurrence. One day after eating my small breakfast and lunch, around 2:00 PM I had to vomit again, but this time I realized it included dinner from the previous night.
Scared, I ended up at a gastroenterologist who ran a camera scope down my throat and said that the opening from my stomach to my intestines had closed down to the size of a pinhole due to scar tissue. I was told that scar tissue is considered a common complication for Gastric Bypass patients. After reviewing my medical history he asked if I use ibuprofen, and I was then told that Gastric Bypass patients should not take ibuprofen or any NSAIDS, as it causes scar tissue. For 6 years I had been taking a few NSAIDS for aches and pains here and there. None of my doctors had said anything.
I wish my story ended there. To make this short, my gastroenterologist did a scope with balloon dilation to open up the scar tissue, a procedure that works on all but 2% of bypass patients. I am part of that 2%. After having 2 scopes with balloon dilation, I was told I needed Gastric Revision surgery.
On January 29, 2009 my new bariatric surgeon performed an Open Gastric Revision surgery, which split me from the tip of my chest-bone down to my belly button. He was well-known, recommended and even had a commercial on television about gastric bypass. However, right after surgery I was still vomiting. Not even two weeks after surgery they performed another scope down my throat and my gastroenterologist wrote in my record that the bariatric surgeon had sewn my stomach shut. Now, instead of a stricture from my stomach to my intestines, I had a stricture from my esophagus to my stomach. The surgeon denied it, saying that I had rebuilt scar tissue within those two weeks. After 5 months, 7 additional scopes with balloon dilation and 59 days in the hospital, I was forced to get a feeding tube, fired from my job, left with no insurance, and had to go on disability. I am now down to 121 pounds. I've lost all muscle mass, fat, menstruation, and nearly all of my teeth due to malnutrition. My nutrients are fed to me 12-16 hours a day through a tube in my chest that sits right on my bra line.
There is more to my story, but I tried to condense it as best as I could. I am trying to get my story to other patients, or those considering gastric bypass, through talk shows, magazines, online, etc., in hopes that by hearing my story I can help people realize that gastric bypass is not a quick fix. It's a tool, which if used correctly, takes effort, changes in diet, changes in medication and supplements, amount of food eaten and exercise. Things that can also be done without the surgery and some of the common complications that come with it. I'm hoping that patients and their doctors research and educate all facets of this procedure, short and long-term. I would not be where I am today if I had known NSAIDS caused scar tissue, and I have researched this surgery extensively. I'm also hoping that by getting my story publicized, I might find a doctor who specializes in this field as I'm told I need additional surgery to make a new stomach out of my remaining intestines. Until then, I will survive on my feeding tube and disability.
I appreciate you reading my story. I hope this is not the end of my story, but just a positive beginning. Thank you so much for your time.