August 5th 2013, I will forever remember this day as this was the beginning of my new adventure. I had planned for three months and prepped my body for two weeks anticipating this day. I was going to have my weight loss surgery and dang it I was a ball of nerves.
Prep work for surgery varies based on your insurances requirements and your doctor’s recommendations. For me these involved an ultrasound on my liver and gallbladder, a sleep study, counseling appointment, nutritionist appointment, a ton of blood work and ultimately follow-up appointments with my surgeon. I was given a binder full of information about prepping for surgery as well as how to take care of myself after surgery.
The reason behind these appointments is to show your insurance company that you are working with multiple medical doctors who all agree that surgery is a good option for the patient. My friends and coworkers who have had weight loss surgery have had other requirements but regardless of what you have to do to prep for surgery you will be required to see many people.
Weight Loss Surgery: Ultrasound
My first appointment with Dr. Nguyen was scheduled in May; I was then given orders to see the imaging department for my ultrasound as I had mentioned I would occasionally get sick after eating food and I would frequently have acid reflux at night. Let me just say, the ultrasound reconfirmed for me that I was doing the right thing. The technician rolled her ultrasound stick up and down the right side of my rib cage with extreme pressure trying to get a good image. I am not joking when I say I was in tears from the pain. She seemed surprised that I hurt so much but the reason for all the pressure and pain was to see through my extra weight in order to view my liver and gall bladder. After about 40 minutes of this I was told my results would be sent to my surgeon and I would be notified if there were any problems.
Weight Loss Surgery: Sleep Study
While I waited for those results I was sent to meet Dr. Singh, my sleep doctor. I found out I have a very narrow nasal passage and was asked to participate in a sleep study. A few weeks later I found myself covered in goop, wires and sensors and expected to sleep restfully in a hotel style room while someone watched my every move. I was also instructed to sleep on my back which is not a position I normally use for sleeping, I tend to be a side sleeper which ironically can be caused by sleep apnea. The technician advised me that if I rolled onto my side or my stomach I would hear her page my room and ask me to go back onto my back. I was so paranoid of someone paging my room that I focused really hard on sleeping flat which contributed to me feeling so exhausted the next day.
As I waited for my results from my sleep study I received a notification regarding my ultrasound. They noted I have an enlarged and fatty liver and views of gall bladder appear normal but they were unable to confirm as my excess fatty tissue obstructed the views. Talk about a reality check. I read that comment and seriously thought about how this extra fatty tissue really could cause problems in my future if not resolved soon.
My follow-up with my surgeon shed some insight on my sleep study, I found out that I have restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea as I quit breathing an average of 20 times per hour. YIKES! This also meant I had to go back to Dr. Singh’s office and spend the night again but this time hooked up to a breathing machine. My follow-up with the respiratory specialist resulted with me getting a lap top sized bag with my new sleep partner and I was required to wear it at least 4 hours each night. I seriously felt like Bane on the new Batman movie! My CPAP machine has since become a standard feature in my nightly routine and I do feel better when I use it, it does add a complication with any sporadic romantic plans but all in all it hasn’t been a huge problem.
Weight Loss Surgery: Meeting the Nutritionish
Next on the requirement list was the two appointments I dreaded the most…meeting with a nutritionist and a counselor. Now I had seen a nutritionist in the past and each appointment was spent telling me how I wasn’t eating the right type of bread or I really need to lose weight because if I don’t I’m basically putting lipstick on a pig. I hated the idea of having to see someone but regardless it was required. When I met with Carol I felt a weight and fear lifted from me immediately, she works strictly with bariatric patients who are preparing for surgery and she is going to help me prepare for my two-week surgical diet as well as coach me on how to eat after surgery. It wasn’t focused on what I was doing wrong but instead focused on how I am going to start eating. I left feeling inspired, determined and ready to take on the world.
Weight Loss Surgery: Counseling
A few days later I had the last big pre-surgery meeting with a counselor, I don’t know how they do it but somehow they have the ability to see right through someone and tug on the strings that hurt the most. He asked me lots of questions about my relationship with food, the reason for the surgery and lastly if anything big had happened in my life over the last year that contributed to my desire to have surgery. This resulted in tears on my end as I explained my ectopic pregnancy and how I am trying to take care of myself to be healthy enough to try to have a baby. I expected a response saying I should wait to make this decision but surprisingly he said surgery sounded like a great option and I was cleared with no requirements to come and see him again.
Weight Loss Surgery: Blood Work & Pre-surgery Diet
I felt like the world was in sync and the planets were aligned because for the first time in a long time things were working out for me. After that appointment I headed straight for the Lab and had 10 vials of blood pulled from my body with a promise that results would come soon.
My last appointment with my surgeon before surgery took place in July. I signed my paperwork and was instructed to start my pre-surgery diet on July 22nd which consisted of three protein drinks with less than 5 grams of sugar and under 200 calories, a cup of steamed or fresh vegetables and for dinner a lean cuisine of my choice. I had a mini panic attack as this was the part I feared the most. How could I be expected to maintain this tiny diet and what was I supposed to do if I was hungry during the day.
Stay tuned for more updates on my story!
Read more of Laura’s journey with gastric sleeve surgery and an update!