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Surgeon TestimonialJohn Birkmeyer, M.D., F.A.C.SDr Pleatman did my gastric sleeve and Dr Birkmeyer converted it to an RNY. Dr Pleatman is easy to get a hold of. |
Making Some Progress on March 28, 2011 5:19 pm
Well, after a LOT of research and adjustments to my diet, my life with the severe stomach complications I'm dealing with is becoming better.
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I started drinking freshly made raw carrot & apple juice (tastes a lot better than it sounds, lol) and that seems to have helped in many respects. I especially notice it in the morning. I will be dragging until I drink some raw juice and it seems to perk me up. I drink about 8 ounces three times a day right now.
I am also having better results from the digestive supplement processing foods quickly and without the bloating and pain I was having before - though I have yet to try truly "solid" foods. I have just in the last two days been able to eat bake potatos, some eggs+egg beaters, and a Gerber preschoolers meal. Which is a big deal because I was on TOTAL liquids/pureed foods for a couple of weeks with no luck eating any solids. I take the "super" digestive supplement (from GNC) before and after each time I eat. I haven't had any pain with eating the last 24 hours even though I've eaten more "semi solid" food in the last 24 hours than I have in the last three weeks.
Sooo, that is really good news. I dropped the Ensure & Boost from my diet completely. At first I was so exhausted I didn't think I could survive. But my new protein/super greens supplement is kicking in and gives me a lot of energy without the negative side effects I was getting with the other protein drinks.
If you're looking for a really healthy all natural (and yummy) protein supplement that includes super green foods (spinach, spirulina) and taste great in a smoothie I highly recommend Rainbow Light's Protein Energizer. It's only 100 calories per scoop and DOES NOT have a bunch of added vitamins which makes it a lot easier on the stomach and also means you can have it several times a day without problems. I had problems with Boost and Ensure and other vitamin enhanced supplements because of all the added vitamins and minerals. Rainbow Light's Protein Energizer is also 100% natural without all the added preservatives and chemicals that most all protein supplements have in them. I believe all those additives were giving me a lot of problems including making my stomach issues worse.
Something else I've been doing that seems is helping (especially in the eating more "semi solid foods" area) is regularly swimming. I learned about the idea that exercise can help with serious stomach problems from a person with a blog called "My Broken Stomach" who suffers from gastroparesis (paralyzed stomach) which is the diet I am following because of my stomach issues. Her experience, and that of others too, shows that exercise makes it possible to eat a larger variety of food then is tolerated without exercise. Bizarre I know, but it seems to be true. I'm going to the pool with my 2.5 year old (and dragging my mom who also needs to exercise) to the pool as much as possible. Come warm weather we'll also start biking again. The nice thing about starting with swimming is that its easy for me to do even with my lower energy levels and 28 week baby belly. It's totally stress-free for my joints and back and I feel great in the water even when I am feeling exhausted. And afterwards I have been able to eat a "loaded" baked potato! Which I could not do before.
All these little changes have made a difference because I feel better already and my spirits have improved drastically practically overnight. I expect that as long as I continue to follow this "diet program" I will continue to feel better and have more energy. Maybe after this baby arrives I won't be a total zombie after all! LOL
The moral of the story is, if you feel like crap don't just rely on doctor's pills and forum advice... go out and do research and find something that works for you. I had to try a lot of different things before I started to see ANY progress in my health, but being totally responsible for it myself (versus relying on a doctor or nutritionist) has paid off because none of what the doctor OR the nutritionist had said to do worked. Only what I have tried through research and trial and error led to finding something that makes me feel more like a live human being again. And that's a really big deal.
Maybe in a few more days I'll work up the courage to eat some actual SOLID food. We'll see...
I did love my Lap Band on March 17, 2011 3:26 pm
I realize today that my previous (22 months Post Op) post was kind of depressing (or a lot depressing). I'm not actually depressed, just very frustrated. At any rate, for those considering a Lap Band or Sleeve I LOVED having my Lap Band and I wish I never had converted to a Sleeve. The biggest advantage of the Lap Band is that it can be undone! My Sleeve is permanent and I'm stuck with the consequences. The band was totally different. You definately have to WORK with the band in order to love it, but if you use it correctly its the best weight loss tool in my book!
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22 Months Post Op on March 15, 2011 7:49 am
Well, after 22 months of pain and suffering I have to say that my situation has improved but not enough that I would ever consider doing this surgery again or that I would recommend it to anyone. I still have pain every single day, before I even eat a bite of food my stomach hurts. Most of my meals are liquid these days and the only time I have something really enjoyable like a salad or meat is when I have prescription painkillers.
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However, to make my situation much worse these last few months I am pregnant. Normally being pregnant is such a wonderful thing but it has been so hard my doctors have told me I cannot be pregnant again after this. I have to completely throw away the dream I've had all my life of a big family. All because of this stupid surgery. I don't even know how the pain medications and other medicines I've been given during the last six months of this VERY unexpected pregnancy will affect my little girl who is due June 24. While the ultrasounds are all normal and show she is developing well, there has to be effects to what I am going through that cannot be seen on the ultrasound. So, along with the horrific pain I've been in I also get to add incredible worry and frustration to the pile of emotions that are already hyper active when pregnant.
Because of the original problem of the excess in scar tissue that made it impossible for the surgeon to close the gap completely (meaning I had a HOLE left over at the corner where the esophagus and stomach meet) my stomach went into overdrive and create a lot more scar tissue than was already there to begin with. Apparently my body really likes making scar tissue. My stomach pretty much healed itself shut. So then I had to have another major surgery, nothing short of a gastric bypass (which I did NOT want!). They had to re-route my intestines from the bottom of my stomach to the top of my stomach since my stomach had healed itself shut completely and even with weekly procedures would not open back up. They did not remove extra parts of the intestines which was good because we somehow ended up pregnant only four months after this surgery (and we're not stupid, we know how to use birth control - it just didn't work).
However, the part of my stomach that was left over is almost non-existent. It hurts to even drink fluids because there is just no stomach there. Without taking daily Rx pain medicines I can't eat even semi-normal foods. I don't think this would be quite as difficult if I wasn't pregnant but because I am pregnant I have to be off the pain meds for the last 3+ months of the pregnancy and its just not going well. Nothing the doctors are doing is working. I have to sip Boost ALL DAY LONG just to keep my weight stable (which isn't even low despite all this crap I've been through).
My "lowest" weight during all of this has been a thin 155 pounds which is about a size 8/10 for me (I have gained 4-5 pounds at 26 weeks pregnant). The reason its not lower is because all I can do is "drink" calories like milk and juice and eat "soft" foods that are mostly high in carbs. The worst thing for my body. I can't even eat mushy broccoli without stomach pain.
This surgery has ruined the last 22 months of my life, strained my marriage probably irreparably, cost us more money than we have (I have always had perfect credit and very little if any debt and now I have creditors calling me at all hours of the day and over $25,000 in debt), this has ruined our chances for the big family we always wanted, and so much more. I now have chronic insomnia which I take Trazadone for and that helps, but only so much (though I have always been a terribly light sleeper). I also live in fear of something called "stomach spasms" which are more painful than labor. They can last for hours and hours and the pain is so intense there is nothing to do but roll around on the bed and cry. The doctor who did the gastric bypass surgery said that he thinks this will go away with time. I can only pray it does.
The worst part of all of this is the lack of help from 99% of doctors I go to. During this pregnancy one of the OBs I was working with even told me I have an EMOTIONAL ADDICTION to the pain medicine and tried to get me to go to rehab!!! I couldn't believe it. She convinced another doctor or two that it's all in my head and so I had to switch doctors SIX MONTHS into my pregnancy. I have been working my butt off to find an alternative to pain meds for the remainder of the pregnancy and every thing I have done has shown my desire for this (I even have spent a week in the hospital and have offered to go with a TPN feeding so that I don't have to eat by mouth). To be labeled a drug addict just added so much insult to injury.
Do I really have to put up with not only chronic stomach pain that makes me useless half the time but NOW I also have to put up with doctors claiming I'm just trying to get a rush???? WHILE PREGNANT??? I would have to be the world's worst mother to purposely put my unborn child through anything that wasn't absolutely necessary for my own survival. I think I am more mad about the accusation of being called an addict (when I have NEVER ONCE run out of my pain meds early and if I was taking them for emotional reasons I wouldn't have them for the pain!!!) than I am so much else about the last 22 months of misery. If nothing else, I have had a very good attitude about all of this and I think that was a snapping point for me. After that accusation I am now simply distraught and worry I might finally start to get really depressed. How could someone actually think that of me? I have never taken pain meds for anything other than pain. Had I never had this vile surgery in the first place my life would be fine. My work would be great, my marriage would be excellent, and I might be fatter but I'd be a heck of a lot happier and healthier. And probably would not have destroyed my dreams of a larger family.
Make sure you realize what you might be giving up if your surgery doesn't go well. It is worth risking everything in your future just so you can be thinner? You may never be able to eat a real meal again. And when you're obese that sounds like the perfect diet. But in reality, it's like torture. My husband can eat anything he wants and I get to sip on my can of Boost. Try living on nothing but Boost for six months and you'll go mad. You may be giving up the pain of obesity only to take on a whole new chronic pain that keeps you from as many daily activities as did your original weight problem. MAKE SURE you have no other alternatives and that you really cannot continue to live your life as you are before you opt for stomach surgery. I would give anything to undo what has been done, but there is nothing like that available. I can only hope and pray that with each new doctor's door I knock on maybe ONE of them will have an idea that will help get me out of this misery. :(
P.S. My new OB is wonderful and has been MORE HELPFUL than any of the G.I. doctors I have been too. Most doctors won't touch me with a ten foot pole and Dr Wagner is actually trying to find something that will work for me that is not a pain medicine. While nothing has really worked out well yet, at least he's really trying. That's more than I can say for all the other doctors I've been too.
6 Months Post Op on December 11, 2009 9:33 am
It's been a little over six months since surgery. Holy cow! I have still have a feeding tube. The hole healed up and was great for three weeks so the doctor removed it and a couple weeks later the hole opened back up and caused an abscess. It put me back in the hospital for 10 days (blah!). So, this time around we're going to wait a LONG time before taking it out again even though it seems for all purposes that it has indeed healed up. I had another CT scan this week and am waiting to hear the results. I'm really hoping it'll be all good. I was severely ill for about a week with something like the flu and I threw up over and over. My esophagus was very sore after wards and hurt quite badly so I have been worried that it may have re-opened things. But the last couple of days I've been feeling a lot better so I am thinking that maybe it didn't after all. Hopefully I'll know soon one way or another.
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I am still on soft foods and don't plan to eat "normal" foods until January. Because of the fact that the hole has opened up a couple of times after healing it means I obviously need to take a longer time period to let it heal. A few weeks wasn't long enough. So I am still limited in the food I can eat. I have always been a salad and meat girl so this soft food diet really sucks. Its hard to lose weight when mostly what I can eat is mashed potatoes and soups and slim fast (and chocolate!). Salads and meats and veggies are too rough for my stomach so the fact that I've lost as much weight as I have makes me happy. Though I know once I can get back to my normal diet I will probably find I lose faster. Though I have been able to add several things to my diet lately (like soft cheese) and that has been wonderful! I am allergic to wheat so I haven't missed breads and such since I normally can't eat it anyway.
Currently I am about 152-153 pounds and wearing a size 8/10 and medium shirts - I am able to get into a lot of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe again, finally. So I've lost about 30 pounds and was about 145-150 pre-pregnancy (I had gained 5/10 pounds after I got married). Most people would think that 30 pounds is terrible six months out from surgery but having had the lap band previously (done in June of 2000) I know my body and I know how I lose weight. Slowly! And not when I'm eating a lot of carbs. So even though it's been really slow compared to some people's weight loss I am not the least bit worried about getting to my goal weight of 135 to 140. I also have not been active since the surgery. The feeding tube hurts a lot if I am too active so I have been very sedentary the last six months. Normally during the summer I love to bike ride, do landscaping, go for walks, play with the dogs, etc, etc. I am a very active person. So the fact that I have been sitting around a lot has also stalled my weight loss. Once again, I know that when I am finally "back to normal" I will lose more weight. And actually my weight loss has sped up... I was stuck for several months and recently started losing again. :)
Not helping my weight loss any is chocolate and ice cream. LOL Though I will admit, I don't want to eat nearly as much as I used too. A little bit of sweet goes a long way now. Since ice cream is soft I can eat that, but even a baby scoop is usually more than I want now. And seeing as how I'm a major sweets fan this is super helpful and probably one of the biggest benefits of this type of surgery.
The hole did put me in the hospital a couple of times and there finally came a point where I got very depressed because I felt I would never heal. But once I got over that hurdle and things started to look good again I am happy to go forward. I am still not sure if I would do it all over again knowing how tough all this has been to go through. But, I LOVE the fact that I am feeling so good about how I look. I hated, hated, hated being fat again. I haven't been fat since 2001 and gaining so much weight when I was pregnant just made me feel miserable all the time. I didn't want to go out with friends or go shopping or anything because I wanted to stayed holed up in the house and not let people see how fat I had gotten. So I'm sure once I'm back to normal I'll probably be really glad I did this. I already feel a lot better about myself since I'm starting to fit back into my old clothes again.
The hardest part I've had so far is being able to drink enough water. I don't come close to drinking enough water each day and it's a good thing I have the feeding tube that I can put water through. If I go several days without being hooked up to the feeding pump (I just have water in it, not formula) I get very dehydrated. So before I can get rid of the feeding tube I'm going to have to figure out how to force myself to get enough liquids. In that sense having the feeding tube is helpful. Same with getting in nutrition. With only eating soft foods I get a very limited amount of nutrition, so I mix together powdered veggies into water and put it through the feeding tube. When I go too long without doing that I get very, very tired.
I have heard others say the same thing though, that drinking enough water is really hard. Its because the stomach is so small the water fills you up very quickly and you feel like a walking water bed. Its just uncomfortable to try to drink very much at a time. So I have to teach myself to always have a bottle of water in hand and sip water all day long. Its the only way I can get enough water.
So I guess I'm getting to the point where I regret the fact that I did this a lot less than I did a few months ago. LOL Which is good. I hope in the long run it proves to be a good decision that helps me lead a healthier, longer, thinner life. :)
Three Months Post-Op on September 6, 2009 8:40 am
Well, I thought I had an earlier post, but I guess not.
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I developed a leak immediately after surgery and ended up spending 10 days in ICU and another 4 days on the regular hospital floor. I think my surgeon wanted to keep me there longer but I was desperate to go home to my daughter and hubby. The hospital was two hours away so I felt terrible that people had to travel so far. My mom come every single day and when I was out of the ICU she brought my daughter with her (Ajalyn was six months old at the time). My hubby came every chance he had and would stay for hours. My family was so good to me!
My doctor was really amazing. He's a good surgeon but I was really high risk going in to the surgery because of the massive amounts of scar tissue I already had from two previous gastric banding surgeries and really bad acid reflux I'd had for awhile. The leak happened at the point where the stomach and esophagus come together. Dr Pleatman, my surgeon, said it just plain wouldn't hold a stitch or staple and he didn't want to cause the leak to get any bigger. It was decided the best route was to let it heal on its own. Not fun, let me tell you. I had to have two drains put in and a feeding tube that goes directly to the small intestine. It can take any where from 4 to 8 weeks for a leak to heal. Before I was sent home they removed one of the drains, but I had to rely on the feeding tube to eat. Nothing by mouth for weeks.
Once I was out of the hospital I was basically stuck at home around the clock. Not that I felt good enough to leave the house anyway. For some reason I was in a lot of pain so I had to take a lot of pain medication and that made me very drowsy. The pain never let up either. If I moved around much at all my entire torso would ache so badly. Dr Pleatman said that usually the pain goes away after a week or two but mine never did. I had CT scans, I had x-rays, I had endoscopy's and they couldn't find anything that would suggest the reason I was in so much pain all the time.
Turns out the other drain tube was somehow causing me pain, even though that is very unusual. During an endoscopy they pulled out the old drain and put in a new one and that awful pain went away! It was wonderful. I still had some site pain where the tubes would enter the skin, but it was very tolerable. I felt MUCH better once that was done. I also had a lot more energy because I could sleep deeper now that I wasn't in pain all the time.
The leak healed up the end of July, but when I went to eat soft solids I couldn't keep anything down. Unfortunately the stomach had developed a stricture that would allow liquids, but not solids, to go through. That caused the leak to open BACK UP again. *sigh* It was very depressing because it had already been 8 weeks post-op. The liquid supplement I was given had a ridiculous amount of carbs in it and it prevented me from losing much weight even though I was hardly eating anything. So it was very frustrating when I had to go back to liquids again.
It has been five more weeks since the leak healed and then re-opened. I believe the leak is now once again healed since absolutely nothing I eat is showing up in the drain (hurray! that's the sign we look for). So I am slowly taking in solid foods and hoping for the best. So far so good. Hopefully in another two weeks I'll finally be rid of these blasted tubes!! Then I can get back to life as normal.
Taking more than three months to heal from this surgery definitely wasn't what I had in mind. Usually I recover from surgeries very fast and don't ever even need to bother with pain medicine. This was so completely different than any other experience I've had. I'm not quite to the point that I'd say I'm willing to go through it all again, but hopefully I'll get there!
Over the last three months I've only lost 20 pounds. Quite disappointing, though I don't have a ton to lose. I know it would have been more if the formula I put through the feeding tube didn't have such an outrageously high amount of carbs. Plus, once I could start taking liquids by mouth one of the few things I could take that didn't have any bad side effects was coke slushees. Yum! But talk about high in sugar and calories. So that didn't help. But when you can hardly eat anything at all, its amazing what you'll allow yourself.
I've stop having the slushies over the last two weeks now that I'm having better luck with the food I'm taking by mouth. I've been having one or two low-carb, high-protein Slim Fast shakes a day. Then I'll also have some soft foods like yogurt, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes. Yesterday I was able to have a can of Dinty Moore beef stew. It took me, like, an hour to eat it but it was SOOO good. LOL It also kept me full for a LONG time. Today I'm going to try some very steamed veggies and see how it goes. I can't wait until I can eat salads again! I love salads, they are one of my favorite things to eat.
I will admit that 165 does feel a whole heck of a lot better than 185. I was maintaining 150 pretty well but when I got pregnant with my daughter I gained 60 pounds! I had to eat carbs non-stop to keep from getting nauseous and I am so carb sensitive, it was awful. I've had a lot of trouble getting the weight off which is one of the reasons I decided to convert from the band to the VSG. Plus, the band was giving me lots of problems.
The first band I had (July 2000) I did so well with. The first 6 months I hardly lost any weight. But once I had a good level of fill over the following 18 months I went from a size 18-20 to a size 2-4. I lived in CA for awhile and it made it easy to stay slim. In August 2006 I had to have the band replaced because my original band slipped. I didn't know at the time that replacement bands rarely worked as well as the first one. I would have switched to a VSG at that time had I known. But I definitely did not regret my first band. I wouldn't have ever lost the weight on my own and something severe, like RNY was just out of the question for me. I wasn't willing to sacrifice my health to that degree. Despite being obese, I was very healthy in every respect.
When I moved back to Michigan I gained about 20 pounds. Partly because I was more sedentary, partly because all people do here is go out to eat! Haha. Plus, I lived with my parents for a bit when I moved back and they're the worst people to live with if you're trying to eat healthy! So I got up to about 145, but I carried it well. I was a size 6-8 at 145.
After I got married I put on another 5-7 pounds over the winter (which is always been the toughest time of year for me and the biggest reason why maintaining in southern CA was so easy). But my hubby and I are decently active in the summer with bike riding and working in our yard. However, I got pregnant in March (very unexpected!) so I ended up gaining weight over the summer instead of losing it like I normally would. That just led to a terrible downward spiral. After Ajalyn was born in mid-November I weighed 185. I didn't gain any more weight, but I also didn't lose any weight.
I had the VSG done the beginning of June and was looking forward to an active summer once I healed from the surgery (usually 2 to 4 weeks and I could get back to normal). But it didn't turn out as planned at all! Thankfully I have lost 20 pounds and some of my "fat" clothes fit again. I am hoping to get back down to 135. I feel awesome at that weight. But I would settle for 145 if that's the lowest I get. I do not want to stay at 165 where I currently am at, I still feel very fat at this weight. I'm not too tall, just under 5'4" and I get really bad cellulite on my legs at this weight. At 135 - 145 I look much better. I have a medium sized frame so at 125 I look a little too thin. Though I certainly wouldn't mind going back to that! Hehe.
I am hoping by this time next year to be much thinner and then my husband and I will start trying for kiddo number two. :) Because of complications I had during my last pregnancy its advised that I gain as little weight as possible (I had a very weak spot in the uterus that came very close to tearing open during delivery and I ended up with a c-section). I believe having the VSG will make it much easier for me to maintain a more appropriate weight during pregnancy. Plus, the next time around I'm just going to be better about the food I eat.
Overall, I don't regret the surgery, though had I known before hand what I would go through I am not sure I would do it again. It was really hard at first. I am normally a very cheerful and upbeat person and it really got me down because of all the pain and difficulties I had. But the more life returns to normal the better I feel!
I will admit I am looking forward to how the VSG will help me shed the excess pounds from pregnancy. I am excited knowing that I have a real hope of getting back into my size 6 or size 8 clothes. My weight has such an impact on my self-image, just having the hope of getting back to were I feel comfortable has really made me happy.
Next time I post hopefully I'll be down another 5 or 10 pounds. :) Thanks for reading.