6/9/01 - I'm 38 year old male who has been heavy his whole life. I lost all my weight once...officially..., on Weight Watchers when I was 10 years old. 22 lbs. A lot for a 10 year old, but would I love to only be overweight by 22 lbs now. That was during the time when you had to make your own ketchup and eat 5 fish meals a week, 3 beef, and (yum yum) 1 liver. I have been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers ever since, and have tried several hundred times since then to take my weight off again.
Surgeon: R. Chad Halversen, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Currently, I weigh 440 - 450 (depending on what I just ate) and at 6 ft 5 in tall. I've struggled ever since, using every diet known to mankind.
I had lost about 140 lbs on fen phen until they yanked the rug out from underneath me. I've since put that back on and, as always, and then some. I've dieted my way up to 440 lbs.
I'm married with two kids, a 12 1/2 year old, and 3 1/2 and I'm "waisting" their childhood unable to do anything.
Recently, I tried Xenical (yuck), and tried the "phen" of fen phen alone (phentermine). But, no luck, will power, success, how ever you want to describe it. I just don't know what else to do, but know I have to do something.
I first became intrigued by gastric bypass hearing of Carnie Wilson, and later seeing her on some talk show. It's been in the back of my mind, but my latest unsuccessful tries at losing weight, has brought it to the front.
We are just beginning the process. I know my insurance PEHP isn't going to help. They'll pay to watch me die, but won't help save my life. It just doesn't make sense. We are looking at some other possibilities. It looks like, maybe, that the Health Insurance through my wife's employer may cover the surgery, if medically necessary. But, we have always declined coverage as PEHP had covered everything we needed, before, and the premiums were much less money. Open enrollment for my wife isn't until November, with coverage beginning in January 2002.
6/20/01 - Well, we've decided to go ahead and do the surgery now. Although, it's possible, in 8 months, we could have insurance that probably would cover this surgery, we decided we weren't really saving much. By the time you figured a year of insurance premiums (which run around $200 per month) the deductable, the 20% of everything I'd have to pay, and then start looking at expenses such as the money we'd spend on eating out the next 8 months, junk food, pop, we can 'justify' it to ourselves, that we'd only be saving $7000 give or take. Add to that the extra wear and tear on my body over those 8 months, the possibility I could gain more weight, and the mental anguish stewing over this for that period, it was an easy decision. Frankly, I feel a sense of relief knowing that we are putting the ball in motion now.
We attended the beginning orientation class on Monday, and are working on the money end of things today. We are also arranging the consult and surgery date with Dr. Halverson. I'm hoping for sometime in July.
6/22/01 - We have a surgery consult date of July 18th, and a surgery date scheduled for Monday, July 30, 2001. There is almost a feeling of relief knowing when it's going to all happen. Even though we decided to be self pay, and do it now, I haven't thought about the money since we made that decision.
In addition to these dates, we were contacted to participate in a study of Bariatric Surgery patients. It will require an overnight stay at the U of U hospital, where they will run all kinds of tests. Then, normal monitoring for 3 years, followed by another overnight stay for the same tests. Kind of a before and after thing, I guess. They are sending more information, but I've agreed to do it. Perhaps this kind of study will show people (Insurance Companies, specifically) the benefits of this surgery and it can lead to a broader acceptance and maybe an easier time for those people in the future, just like ourselves.
7/07/01 - Tick Tock, Tick Tock...Man, I've never seen time go by so slowly as it seems to be right now. My open RNY is scheduled for July 30th. It seems like forever. I know it will be here before I know it, but the waiting is killing me. I'm having a hard time sleeping, work drags by hour by hour. I've decided to start looking on the bright side. I meet with the surgeon on July 18th. That's not nearly as far. Then I'm hoping the info he gives me at that visit will occupy my thoughts until the 30th. Good luck to all who go before....I wish I was one of them.
7/17/01 - AARGH!!! What a frustrating day. The surgeon's office called, who we haven't met with yet, to postpone our scheduled appointment for tomorrow. I was so looking forward to getting new information, or actual information may be a better term. By that I mean that I've read everything in sight, check this web site often, have heard all the variations on how each person's experience is slightly different, or on how each person's surgery experience or pre-op experience is different. Some doctor's do this some do that, etc. etc. I was looking forward to hearing how "MY" doctor was going to do things. So I'd know what I'd be doing, instead of just guessing. One more week to wait!!!
Although I won't be seeing the doctor in person, our doctor's office makes you attend a Pre-op orientation class. We are keeping that appointment for tomorrow afternoon. So, I'll get some of that information....just not directly from the doctor. I guess that's something. Maybe it will be enough info to keep my mind occupied while we wait for July 30th...the big day. Plus, we are still going to meet with the hospital to get pre-registered, etc. It's just kind of bizarre. We have a surgery date scheduled, we'll have met with the hospital and had the pre-op orientation all done, and have never met with the doctor yet. It's like we've missed a step or something, or at least mixed up the order of things. I guess in the end it will all work out. At least they didn't call to cancel or postpone the surgery date. (knock on wood).
7/18/01 - Another frustrating day and it's making me agitated. OK, our 9am doctor appointment was canceled, right? We kept the 10am hospital appointment with Dawn (who is great) at St. Marks to pre-register. Not much of a problem yet. Dawn told us that we could just wait to have the blood work and stuff done the morning of the surgery, but we did need to meet with the surgical nurse. So we did. We told our life story to the surgical nurse, who gave us some door prizes to leave with. Soap to wash with the night before and the morning of surgery, and of course, everyone's favorite....BM Coctail, with instructions to "be where you want to be". Sounds like fun. Anyway, we were then told that we couldn't wait until the morning of surgery for the lab work, but, since we weren't within 7 days before surgery, we'd have to come back to do the labs. So, since we still had to come back next week in hopes of actually meeting the person who was going to gut me like a fish, we thought we'd do those then. It then came time for the 2pm pre-op orientation class that the doctor's office does. We go up for that, and preceed to get yelled at because we "aren't in the computer". "Haven't you turned in your paper yet? We can't do anything for you until we have your paperwork" we were told. I tried to be calm, but I think I got a little pissy..."no, we haven't turned in our paper work. That's what we were going to do this morning at our doctor's appointment that YOU canceled." So, they decided to let us go to the class. We had our paperwork with us, so we turned that in and they put us in the computer while we were in the class. Then, we had to go back after and sign a bunch of stuff. I've decided it all bugged me so bad, the confusion and chaos I mean, because in my mind, I feel like since we are paying cash, the full amount out of our own pocket, we should get better treatment. A little extra something to make up for the huge financial burdon this is going to be on my family. I guess that's my own hang up and this too shall pass.
7/25/01 - We finally met with the surgeon. Dr. Halversen seems to be very nice, good sense of humor, and truly seems to care about people. After waiting until 10:15am for a 9am appointment, he did take the time to talk with both my wife and myself, and let us both ask questions. He put us at ease, but yet was honest about potential risks. He told me that since I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, not to be surprised if I woke up in ICU or on a ventilator. That wouldn't be an uncommon practice for him to do in these cases, but he thought the chances of the ventilator to be slim. So, at least, if they take me to ICU, it won't alarm my family too much as they now know it's a possibility. Paid our money today. Ouch!!!
We also paid the money to the hospital today. Double ouch!!!
Then, we tried again to do our lab work. Although they could now take the urine and some blood, I guess there is still a blood test that they have to wait until you are within 72 hours of surgery. But, she told us that they can just do this one test the morning I come in. She had a hard time getting a vein. Had to dig in both arms to finally get the blood she needed. Triple ouch!!!
7/26/01 - As mentioned earlier (I think), we were asked to participate in an overnight study of Bariatric Surgery at the University of Utah Hospital. We just got back. I feel like I've been through a torture chamber, all be it for a good cause. As we spoke to the doctor's up there, they are doing this study to get numbers and evidence that will show what kind of health improvements can be attained by people who have this surgery, and the health risks and costs of those who don't. They said, up until now, they don't have the numbers. People like insurance companies "want numbers". So, hopefully, this study will help Insurance companies "see the light" and offer WLS as a valid treatment for obesity. If that happens, it was worth it.
They did all kinds of tests. An echocardiogram, stress test EKG, 12 hour urine collection, pulmonary tests, they took my blood pressure about 50 times during two days at various times and events, wired up like a VCR for a sleep test, about 12 gallons of blood (or is that vials)which took them 3 sticks in my arms, that already had two from the day before. I feel like a pin cushion. Then, they did some space helmet test which supposedly measured the calories I burn at rest, and a bunch of questionaires.
Today, I'm tired, as I had very little sleep. The hospital bed was too short, I'm 6' 5", no room to turn over. It was one of those air mattress beds. As I move, it moved back, filling or deflating with air as needed....all night long. Plus, the pillows and mattress were plastic, so it was like sleeping on saran wrap or something. Sweated like a goat. I've got probes on my neck, across my chest, stomach, upper thighs, and left middle finger. I sleep on my stomach, and couldn't. (Guess I'm going to have to get used to that anyway.) To top that off, my chest area looks like I've been in a cat fight, and lost. When I had the stress test, the technician, who obviously has no hair on his chest, preceeds to shave me in all the strategic points that he has to apply the monitor points. He didn't use any shaving cream or anything, the razor (if that's what you call it) wasn't the greatest. I'd like to know what brand it was, because I'm never buying that kind. Then, after shaving, he puts what he describes as liquid sandpaper and rubs the spots he just shaved. Then puts on these probe points, that have a tape back ground. We do the test, and now it comes time to yank those suckers off. I'm so raw at this point, I'm literally bleeding. All night last night as I'm sweating, It's burning like salt in an open wound. Today, looking at it, I have the absolute worst razor burn I've ever seen. Feel like I've been dragged naked behind a car or something. I hope it heals before Monday, and by god, they had better use some kind of shaving cream to shave my stomach. If I wake up and my entire stomach is in the same condition as my chest th is morning, the morphine pump won't be big enough.
So now, we wait patiently for Monday. One good thing about a Monday surgery, is that we get to find out what time we go in on Friday so we'll know for 3 days rather than the night before. It will give us something to plan around.
7/27/01 - Just got a call from the hospital. I am to report to the hospital at 10:30am on Monday....clean as a whistle, inside and out. It looks like I'm 3rd on the list, behind a diabetic with a lap, then another lap since they have the equipment out. Then I'm the first of three open's.
7/30/01 - Well, here it is, the big day. I often wondered if it would get here. It did. So far, so good. Yesterday, followed the doctor's orders. Ate a light lunch, followed by clear liquids the rest of the day, and for dessert, a bottle of Magnesium Citrate at 6pm. I was getting a little worried as nothing was happening, if you know what I mean. But, things seem to be flowing now. Was up several times in the night. I just hope it stops before I take my shower this morning and then I hope I can have a few days to feel better before I have to go again.
After the razor burn incident when they did the stress test Wednesday night, we decided after much advice, to go ahead and shave myself rather than have the hospital do it. I was told by a nurse that they would dry shave me and not use say shaving cream or something because it would put a non-sterile field on my stomach. So, we did it ourselves. Smooth as a baby's butt. It's been a long time since I could say that.
After shaving last night, I showered with 1/2 bottle of Hibaclens soap they gave me, took an Ambien to help me sleep and went to bed. Wasn't too bad of a night even having to get up about 3 times. I was still able to go back to sleep.
So, here I sit, waiting. We are all packed. About 9am or so, I'll take my shower, use the other 1/2 bottle of the Hibaclens soap, get dressed, and off we go. "Get that morphine pump ready!!!!"
8/28/01 - Sorry it's been so long since I updated. I've had a rough few weeks, and frankly, couldn't even bring myself to face all of this. Even today, it's hard to write all of this down. It's been a month from hell. People I've talked to in person, even those who had really bad problems, they all say, when asked the number one question..."would you do this again?..." everyone always says "YES". I keep hoping I'll get to that point as well. But, today, after 4 weeks of problems, I'm still in the "what the hell have I done to myself" mode. Where to begin...
I ended up in the hospital for 9 days. Now, remember, I'm self pay as my insurance has an exclusion. So, the financial pressure of wanting things to work like clockwork, and the reality that wasn't going to be the case, can start to play mental games, too.
The surgery itself was, according to the anesthesiologist, and surgeon, "perfect". Everything was textbook. After a day or two, I started feeling pressure in my chest. That pressure later would build and relief would come when I'd vomit. The stuff that was coming out was the grossest thing ever. The smell...aagh. Anyway, the doctor started to get concerned. Put me on nausea medicine, pepsid, etc. It got to the day where I'd begin to sip water. The first couple of sips only added to the pressure in my chest. I made the mistake when describing the discomfort, that an elephant was sitting on my chest. Well, that causes red flags to go up. I then ended up with EKG, chest xrays, ultrasounds of the legs, looking for blood clots, or heart problems. None found, but that hospital bill, and of course the radiologist bills kept climbing. Then, the worst thing I've probably ever experienced in my life....an upper GI to see how the opening from the pouch to the small intesting was. Well, it was closed, totally. Nothing was going down. That's why I was vomiting. I'd vomit my own saliva as it built up. Well, you know that stuff they make you drink? Yuck...and if it isn't going down, well, it can only come up. And it did. That's probably the sickest I've ever felt in my life.
The doctor ordered 72 hours of nothing by mouth hoping that the swelling around the opening from the surgery would go down. It did, to some degree. So, in the hospital I lay, not able to eat or drink anything.
Then, Monday morning, August 6th, they come in my room with a wheelchair....another upper GI. Knowing how sick the first one made me, I wasn't looking forward to the second one. My surgeon had been out of town over the weekend, and had expected his partner to have me try liquids on Sunday. When he called from Atlanta on Monday morning, and found out nothing had changed, he was upset. He'd ordered the new upper GI.
Although it still tasted awful, and brought back all kinds of mental images, at least this one showed things were getting through. The opening was small, but there was an opening. So, Monday at noon, we started sips of water, an ounce an hour for the rest of the day. Still some pressure, but it did go down.
Tuesday, August 7th, I finally get a breakfast tray...if you can call it that. Jello and broth, but only 2 ounces total. I get to pick which one. The nurse told me that if breakfast and lunch stayed down, they would let me go home that afternoon. Otherwise, an Endoscope was in my future.
Since it stayed down, I got to finally go home. That hospital bed, and my body do not bend in the same places. My butt, to this day, is still numb. The good news, is I've lost 30 pounds in the hospital.
Anyway, I was sent home, with instructions to go slow. Slower than his normal patients. I was to stay on clear liquids for a couple of days, and then call him. Of course, trying to get a hold of the doctor after you leave the hospital, is pretty hard. Thursday came around, and his office has a support class for new pre-ops the 2nd Thursday of every month. We decided we'd try to go. Before the class, we stopped by, talked to his nurse, who, while we were in the class would get a hold of the doctor.
I was in hopes that this class would cheer me up. It didn't. I found out that a lot of people were having problems. Most people in there were 3 - 6 weeks out. I was only 11 days at this point. I was hoping to hear how well everyone was doing, that things were going great, everyone was so glad they did this. But instead, some people had vomit days, every other day. Most people couldn't tolerate eggs. I left a little discouraged. But, we were going to add to that.
We went back to see Roz, his nurse. He wanted to send me back down for another upper GI. Well, mentally, I was about to freak. But, she thought I wasn't keeping things down. That wasn't the case. Stuff was staying down (stuff...by that I mean Jello and broth)...I was still feeling pressure in my chest. I also made the mistake of telling her I was feeling light headed. So, she calls him back, and next thing I know, I'm down for IV therapy. (We just got the bill for that...$586 for two bags of IV juice, some potassium, and a bed for a few hours.) So, I head out of the house in the morning hoping for an uplifting class, and end up back in the hospital for a few hours going further in debt. At least, he changed his mind on the upper GI.
Slowly, we move to full liquids. Some cottage cheese, which tasted so good the first time, but now....is getting a little old. Goes down, stays down, but still some discomfort. It's hard for me at this point to know if this is normal or not.
Monday, August 13th. My two week doctor check up. Although concerned with the pressure I'm feeling, since things are staying down, he considers things to be OK, and clears me for the next step. Eggs, deli meats, refried beans, stuff like that. The good news, is I'm down 40.6 pounds, in two weeks.
So, the next week I start trying heavier things...deli meats, and I gave the old scrambled eggs a try. They tasted great...going down...but not so good coming up. So far, eggs are the only food that hasn't stayed down. At this point, the pressure, at about 20 minutes after I eat is getting worse. I'm thinking, perhaps it's just because the food is more solid...I don't know. This goes on until around Tuesday, August 22nd. Then, during the night, I feel something wet on the bed. We have three cats, and was thinking the worse. But, it wasn't them, it was me. When we turned on the lights, I had a spot about the size of a dinner plate on the bed. Knowing this can happen, but it's never happened to me, we call the doctor. It's actually easier to get him at 1:00am than during the middle of the day. He calls back, asks some questions about it, but since it wasn't bright red, didn't have an odor, etc. he chalked it up to a normal thing. He asked how I was feeling, told him I was still feeling the pressure when I ate. He said if I wasn't much better by the end of the week, I was to call him and he would scope and dialate the opening.
The next day I even had a hard time getting water down. I'd feel the pressure even after drinking a little, let alone trying to eat. So, we decided not to wait until the end of the week and called him.
Never having an Endoscope done, but, knowing they were going to shove something down your throat, well, those mental pictures were something. As it turns out, I'd take an Endoscope a day,never to have an upper GI again. So, Thursday, August 23rd, they scoped me. I have a copy of the pictures they took. The before and after. The opening was practically closed off again. The good news is that I don't feel the pressure any more. The bad news, is that they said it may take 1 or it may take 5 of these to keep the opening open. But, at least I know what to expect now.
So, since last Thursday, I've tried some different foods. Still chicken to try eggs again, but maybe soon. I had chicken breasts last night. But, they were cooked in homemade spaghetti sauce all day in a crock pot and were very very moist. I'm sure that helped. I'm hoping things will go better. We are going to try ground beef shortly. We eat a lot of ground beef so I've been afraid to try. I'm afraid if I have a problem, and can't eat it, it will really cause me to be down. I need to get back to as normal as I can be. Where we can make dinner for the family, and I can pick around the food, leaving the carbohydrates, and eat the protein. At least I'll feel some what normal. The chicken last night was a start. I had my small portion of chicken breast in spaghetti sauce, while everyone else, had it over spaghetti.
I know my story isn't the worst experience anyone ever had. But, I wasn't expecting it. I did all of this research, reading others experiences. I guess I either had blinders on, or saw what I wanted to see. I wanted so much for things to be perfect, and am so disappointed that they aren't. Add to that some normal feelings of mourning the foods and amount of foods that we all use to eat, and I've felt pretty down the last 4 weeks. But, I'm not giving up.
The good news...at 4 weeks exactly, I've lost 53.2 pounds. I started at 447 and am now below 400. I weigh, as of yesterday, 393.8.
6/20/01 - Although we've decided on a surgeon, he doesn't know that yet. We still need to get our consult set up. More later...
6/22/01 - Pre-op Surgery consult set for July 18, 2001. Surgery scheduled for Monday, July 30, 2001.
7/18/01 - Consultation canceled due to emergency surgery...not mine. It lead to a confusing day. We kept an appointment at hospital to pre-register and stayed for a pre--op orientation class. An all day event but still haven't seen the doctor.
7/25/01 - We have finally met the doctor. I was beginning to wonder if that would happen before he showed up on 7/30 in mask and gown to do his thing. Luckily he did. He seems very nice. Has an interesting sense of humor. Talked to both me and my wife and and asked us both if we had any questions. I've heard good things about him, and other than waiting until 10:15am for a 9:00am appointment, we didn't have any problems today.
Every place we go, and mention we have PEHP, they do everything but laugh. Not really, but their comments are "PEHP will not, has never, etc. paid for this surgery."
We even have a friend who knows an attorney who fights insurance companies for this procedure. He has also said that they have never won a case against PEHP.
When we went to the beginning orientation class, the group was asked if "any of us were cash patients". After nobody raised their hand, she said..."at least one of you are a cash patient and don't know it..." I wonder who that was....yep, me.
I have half a mind to keep sending PEHP a bill for all the medication they currently pay for, and in a few months, will no longer have to pay for because of an operation they wouldn't touch. It doesn't seem fair that they should get any benefit out of this. They'll pay to watch me die, but won't pay to save my life.