Tag Archive | surgery

Pre-Surgery Prep

***NOTE*** ~ this blog post deals with a recent surgery that I had at a Syracuse, NY, hospital.  I want everyone to know that I do not “blame” or “disrespect” that hospital, or any of the staff there.  I’m just relaying my experience(s) from my perspective.

So, yes, my day finally came on Thursday, August 2, 2018, to have the Roux en Y bariatric surgery to help me lose weight.  I had to arrive at 5:30 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. surgery start time.  My particular surgery also entailed the use of robotics, which means we only had certain time span in order to get this done before the next surgeon would be knocking on the door for his/her time slot.  I was told my time slot was 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

I was all about getting this party started asap.  Having said that, I also kept in mind that, for all of my life, I have been what is called a “hard draw” when it comes to IVs and blood draws.  So I had anticipated that the road to the other side of the surgery was going to be filled with painful needles and several “sticks” to get me prepared for going under.  This wasn’t my first time experiencing this, and probably wouldn’t be my last.  But, admittedly, this was the worst experience to date.

Of course, Al was right there with me, by my side every second.  God was there, too.  But we sat around for the first hour (5:30-6:30 a.m.) waiting for the phlebotomist to come put in the IV.  When she finally did arrive, she seemed harried and hurried.  She took a quick look at my arms and knew that I was going to be an “issue”, so she went on ahead to get IVs into the other patients who were waiting, and said she would “come back for me” when she has more time.  We could hear her in the hall discussing loudly with my nurse that, if she did me first and made the others wait, they would not have time enough to get THEIR IVs done in a timely manner.  Okay, well, I can deal with that.  Meantime, my pre-surgery nurse was telling me that, because the surgery for me was robotic, I would need TWO IVs, and I would need to have them long before surgery, as they wanted me to “ingest” at least one bag of fluids prior to the surgery.  There would need to be a bigger gage IV put in because of the robotics.

At 6:50 a.m. I was taken down to the surgery room – no IV yet.  But we met the phlebotomist on the way, so she tagged along with the intention of getting my IVs in place in the pre-op room.  She had also grabbed a sonography equipment in the hopes that it would help her locate a viable vein… or two.  Things kinda went from bad to worse at that point.

We’re in a small, pre-op room (about 7’ x 8’) with one wall completely glass.  It was all a very busy place.  Across from my room was the white-board schedule of surgeries for the day, and next to that was a large clock.  As soon as I was wheeled in, the phlebotomist began searching for a vein big enough to accommodate the gage needed for the surgery.  I’m used to this, so not really stressing at the time.  Over and over she was unsuccessful, over and over putting shots of pain killer into the arm she was working on… she had to “dig deep” and it hurt.  It’s now 7:20 a.m., 10 minutes from me supposedly having surgery, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  The phlebotomist called for assistance from someone she felt would be able to get the IV in.  All this time, Al was (at first) standing to one side of my bed for moral support, and eventually he was kinda shoved out of the room.  Meantime, my “plight” I guess you could call it, was drawing lots of attention from the other staff in the pre-op suite.  Doctors, nurses, attendants stopped to watch the progress, at one point crowding around the walled window and jockeying best for position to watch.

This was when I began to just lose it.  At 7:45 a.m. there was, finally, success ~ but it was a very fragile IV that came with no guarantees of making it through the surgery.  I was reassured that, after I was unconscious, they would make the appropriate adjustments where necessary.  I was beyond stressed out, and I couldn’t stop shaking uncontrollably.  They kept asking me if I was cold!  I thought my teeth were going to break for chattering so much!  No, I was not cold, it was an adrenalin overload.  This whole experience had been put out there for the public to watch and comment on.  I’ve never felt so vulnerable and exposed.  Later on, in Recovery and then in my own room, I would hear people refer to me as “Oh, you’re “THAT LADY’!”  Yes, the one they couldn’t get an IV into, even with a sonogram!.  Over and over.

Fortunately I’m home now, but as today has worn on, I feel some symptoms of PTSD from it all.  I haven’t been able to stop crying yet today, and I’ve developed a low grade (100 deg) fever.  Maybe the adrenalin hasn’t calmed down yet.  I can’t shake this feeling of “violation”, intrusion and being the center of a very unhealthy attention.  I’ll muddle through, but I’m going to have a discussion with my surgeon.  I would hate for anyone else to have to go through this experience.  It should’ve been handled better, methinks.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by.

~ Tamara

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The “Easy Way Out”?

I’ve been on this journey towards weight loss all of my life.  I’ve been on the journey towards bariatric surgery for six months.  I know others who has experienced it, I’ve talked to people on Facebook and even joined some bariatric weight loss surgery support groups online and locally.  I feel pretty well-educated and informed on most positives and negatives relating to bariatric surgery.

Many, many post-op patients have commented the same revelation over and over:  when they share the news of their surgery decision and experience, the person they tell (usually a good friend or family) comes back with “What?  You took the easy way out?”  And with that disrespectful and awful statement, they often crush the patient’s dreams and ambitions to lose weight and move towards being healthy.  With just that one statement they also show their own ignorance

So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the “ease” it takes to have bariatric surgery, and live the completely new life afterwards, let me give you a quick taste of what it’s like.

Before ever going under the knife, you need to find out if your insurance will pay for such a surgery, and what part they will play.  If you don’t have insurance or money in the bank, you may opt to head to Mexico to have it done – reportedly less expensive by thousands of dollars.  Then you need to find an accredited bariatric surgeon in your area – they most often come as a “group” with their own nutritionist, psychiatrist, labs, access to special testing.  It’s an all-in-one adventure if you’re lucky.  Don’t forget to find out if they accept your insurance… or back to Square One.

Got your doctor in mind?  Go to one of his/her info-sessions, and once you decide, the process begins.  Now, the process can take anywhere from three or four months to over a year, depending on what state or country you live in.  For those in countries with unified health care, it’s usually well over a year of waiting.  Typically it’s around 6-8 months from info-session to recovery room.  Again, different states/countries have different results.  You will be asked to see a nutritionist multiple times, a psychiatrist multiple times, extensive blood work, an endoscopy, a cardiologist,  and possibly be tested for sleep apnea, go to required surgery support group meetings and several visits just to the surgeon.  You need to have your primary care physician’s clearance and approval in writing that they support this choice.  Chances are good that you will also be required to lose some weight “on your own” prior to surgery – some insurance companies require it, some surgeons require it.  Once you jump through all of these hoops, the surgeon’s office will submit your paperwork to the insurance company.  Then the wait begins for the approval… usually takes 3-4 weeks.

Once approved, more tests, pre-op education and surgeon visits as well as nutritionist visits.  The insurance company may give you a “window” of 2-4 weeks to get everything wrapped up and the surgery DONE.  If you can’t accomplish all in that time span, you start over.  But usually you are good to go, and you feel elated that it’s finally going to happen.  It didn’t seem real until approval was received and the final hurdles scheduled.

Still think this is the “easy way out”?  More to come in my next post.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look.

Blessings,

Tamara

Full Steam Ahead

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog.  I’m going to try to fix that and begin posting regularly.  I’ve been on this weight loss journey since las December 2017, and it has now become “real”.  First, let me say that I’ve lost 66 pounds on the Keto diet since then, and it’s working.  That has been an exciting realization for me.  It has not been without its difficulties, believe me, but I muddle through and take the bad with the good.

The good is that with the weight loss, I’ve also lost clothing sizes.  I’m down from a 26-28-30 to a 24-26.  I also notice that I can now “do things” that I haven’t been able to in such a long time… like touch my toes!  I can stand and/or walk more than before on days that the arthritis isn’t ravaging my legs and feet with pain.  One odd, noticeable thing is that I don’t see any change in myself in the mirror.  I know I must look different, 66 lbs is a lot of weight loss, but I cannot see it.  When I look in the mirror, I see the same fat face, bulging cheeks and triple chins that I’ve always seen.  Yet, my husband says there is a noticeable difference all over.  I think that’s the only “bad part” about the journey so far.  Well, that and not being able to just eat anything I happen to pick up.  I have to be very conscious about what I buy for groceries, what I eat for each meal, and very careful about what I do/don’t eat.  It’s been hard, and I have given in here and there ~ a little ice cream before bed, a slice of rye toast with my eggs a couple times a week, the soda (diet/sugar free).  All that has to go again, starting now.  Even though I have still continued to lose weight with those no-no’s.

Tammy 8-20-17 (3) ipiccy

So, I have been going through the motions to have bariatric weight loss surgery.  Yes, I’m losing weight through diet, but not fast enough.  My knees, legs and feet are giving out rapidly.  I need to lose the weight so I can walk better without so much pain, and then maybe have knee replacement surgery later.  But it needs to happen faster.  So I went to an info session at a local hospital in February and decided to pursue WLS (weight loss surgery).

It is an intensive and expensive endeavor.  Fortunately for me, my insurance covers a good deal of the expense.  The process to even get approved is approximately six months filled with appointments and group sessions.  I’ve met twice with my surgeon, so far… a nutritionist, a psychiatrist, my cardiologist, had tons of labs, and endoscopy, gone to support group meetings, and there is more to come.

My husband, Al, is right there beside me backing me up and being supportive.  That in itself is motivation enough.  Yesterday I received the approval from my insurance company to go ahead with the surgery.  As they say, “It just got real.”  Am I ready for it?  I can say, yes, I’m ready ~ but honestly, I’m scared as hell.  This is not something to take lightly, and it effects your life – your entire life – for the rest of your life.  More to come…

Thank you for stopping by.

Blessings ~  Tamara

Catch 22

Sometimes I feel so torn, like I have no right to complain about my problems ~ that others have it so much worse than I do and I should just shut up and feel blessed.  But when my life, that I thought was on a pretty good track, goes awry, I need some time to regroup, ponder and pray.  Lord, what am I to do next?

That’s what has happened recently.  Besides being morbidly obese, I have severe arthritis in my feet and knees ~ especially my right knee, which is now bone-on-bone and beyond pain comprehension most of the time.  I now walk with a cane all the time, which I hate.  I’ve been seeing an orthopedic specialist for 2-3 months now, and, after visiting him yesterday to hash out our next strategy for pain relief, instead he said he can do nothing more for me.  Then he went into a long dissertation about how bad my knee(s) are and that I’m a candidate for knee replacement surgery IF I can lose a minimum of 60 lbs first.

He continued his long monologue about bariatric surgery, and that it appears to be my only last bastion before being immobile/unable to walk.  I sort of remember being in minor shock at that point.  Deer-in-the-headlights kind of thing.  I thought, “But no!  That can’t be!  I’ve been working hard, changing my eating lifestyle and losing weight!”  He seemed to have read my thoughts and said that at the rate that I’m losing, it would take me about two years to lose the necessary 60 lbs.  “Not fast enough,” he said.  He’s talking by the end of THIS year.  But I’ve lost 25 lbs. since the week before Christmas.  I thought it showed good promise.

I left his office in a fog.  That fog turned into despair and then depression.  The thought of bariatric surgery made me shudder.  You see, I had such surgery in 1988 when I was 29 years old.  From the moment I woke up in the hospital, gagging on the NG tube down my throat, the next 10+ years would be a nightmare of hell on earth with regard to my digestive system.  Most of the first 5-6 years were spent vomiting and/or feeling nausea like you can never imagine.  I used to have extreme nausea for hours, sometimes all night, and would curl up on the floor or the bed in the fetal position and rock myself until the feeling passed.  I used to beg God to make it stop, crying that I would never eat whatever hellish food that had made me sick that time.  It continued on into my current marriage, as of 1998, and I used to have to ask Al to pat me on the back (it helped?).  It was embarrassing the first time it happened with Al, and I had to explain it all… why I was curled up into a ball on the top of our bed groaning and begging to die.  It may seem irrational, but I’d rather spend an eternity in the firepits of hell than vomit once.  Vomiting, for me, IS the embodyment of death.  Next to gagging, it’s the closest I can come to meeting eternity without actually dying.  I don’t know why.  So, this bariatric surgery had been my near-death experience, over and over for decades.  It has lessened now to only once or twice a year… praise the Lord!

And now here I am, again, confronted with having a new torture to deal with all over again.  Even though my common sense tells me that, after 30 years, procedures have changed.  It has to be better now.  And I know I have to try this again.  I say “try” because I may not get accepted, and/or my insurance may not cover the surgery.  Last night I wallowed a bit.  But I also prayed and asked many of my wonderful friends to pray.  I figured my options are either sit and do nothing while my health continues to go downhill one part at a time, or I could take God’s hand and keep going, keep moving forward and do the best that I can to right myself.  I’m admittedly scared.  I’m no longer 29 years old.  It’s 30 years later and I don’t heal as well.  Regardless, I cannot be idle, self-pity or wait any longer.

The answer is to push forward, step-by-step and go where God leads me.  I’ve contacted a local bariatric team at our local Crouse Hospital in Syracuse.  It’s the way to start.  I’m working with them to see if I qualify and if my insurance covers the surgery.  I should know in a few days.  I have to be optimistic.  Any other option is not acceptable.

 

The Blessings of a Featherbed ~

 

For those of you who do not know what it is like to live with pain, sometimes unbearable pain, 24/7, you may not appreciate what I’m saying here.  But I am so excited that I just had to share it!

Yes, I’m “one of those people” who have the handicap of living in pain all of the time.  Yes, it is a handicap.  Never thought I’d think of it in that way, but believe me, when you’re living it, there’s no other way to think of it.  It can direct your life.  I don’t have a wheelchair, I don’t have an artificial limb, I’m not blind and I don’t wear a cast… so you can’t SEE my handicap by looking at me.

I have an L5, T5, T6 & T7 herniated discs in my back.  Since 1988-1989 I’ve been dealing with on-again/off-again pain until the late 90’s when it became full time on-again.  I’ve run the gamut of chiropractors, pain specialists, orthopedic specialists, physical therapy and medications.  I have been medicated since 1991.  The list of prescription and OTC meds I’ve tried is too long to list… every type, color, size, shape, dosage, co-pay imaginable.  Surgery is not an option on this particular location.  My latest “thing”, besides continuing medication, is an ultrasound guided epidural cortisone interlaminar block, given in quarterly injections under mild sedation.  Most of the time they help take the edge off, but never completely alleviate the pain.  So, I continue to also keep getting my medications “adjusted” trying to find the best combination for relief.

The worst for me is bed time.  Laying down and trying to go to sleep is an absolute nightmare for which, oftentimes, I end up taking a double dose of meds and crying myself to sleep.  The pain of laying down is ferocious!  Like Satan is stabbing me in the back with an 11″ dagger over and over.  If it begins to subside, it begins anew each time I shift or move to a new position… all night.  Only a very few times have I ever gotten full relief from this hell on earth, and that was whenever we’ve stayed in a hotel or a B & B that has a featherbed “topper” on their accommodations.  Recently, for Valentine’s Day, we spent the weekend at a local Inn and they had just such a featherbed topper.  It wasn’t until we actually checked out and went on about our way that I actually realized that I’d slept comfortably and gotten up without pain!  WITHOUT pain!  Husband and I finally began to put some pieces together and decided it was either a new mattress and/or a featherbed topper for us in our near future!

Well, to make a long story short, we got the featherbed topper online through Amazon, and it was delivered yesterday.  We opened it up, fluffed it on top of our mattress (covered it with a sheet as we don’t yet have a “cover” for it), and last night was pure unmedicated heaven!  I was able to lay down and, instead of the excruciating pain of my back adjusting to the bed, it was immediate relief!  I could roll onto my side – EITHER ONE – and not whimper and feel that stabbing in my back that I’d become accustomed to.  When I woke up this morning, there was no pain!  None!  I could even stretch, for the first time in years, without wincing.  I could sit up without a struggle and stand up without assistance of some sort for the first time in decades.  And, I was still unmedicated!

Now, I don’t know the “ifs” “whys” and “wherefores” of this miracle in my life, but that 5″ featherbed topper is the best blessing I’ve had … I can’t even tell you!  I don’t know how or why it works for me, but it does.  Such a simple solution for a comfortable sleep!  I do still have constant pain during the day, but it’s much more manageable (most of the time) if I’m careful and conscious about my movements.  But the REASON I’m sharing this is to share my unadulterated JOY this morning, not to focus on the unseen handicap of constant pain.  I felt so good I had to restrain myself from dancing in my livingroom this morning!  But, I digress!

How did YOU sleep last night?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post.  Hope to see you again soon.  TTFN ~ Tamara Eckstadt