So here I am, sitting at my desk in my office, okay, I know it’s really a spare room but, only the dog sleeps in there so, I’ll call it the office because that makes me sound very important because I have an office at my house like a proper yuppie sort 😉 Anyway, I was sitting at my desk reading the reply from the Bariatric Services team and as I did so, I began to feel that there may be a light at the end of that fat tunnel.
I had been sent a referral form to give to my GP to sign off his approval for the procedure. Things were finally moving. I remember thinking, in my complete naivety, this is brilliant, I’ll be having surgery in a few weeks and then I’ll start slimming, hooray!
I was wrong.
It doesn’t work like that.
This Surgery is a long process, and I’ll tell you for why. You have to be ready for it. It’s not like breaking a leg and getting it repaired or having your appendix out, or you bad tooth pulled. This is NOT a snap decision to be made by the specialists. When they see you, they don’t say “Gastric Surgery. Stat” This has to be a very considered and planned process. The patient has to be ready. They have to understand that life as they know it is going to change. Massively.
No more huge bowls of carb laden food sitting in front of the TV. No more pints of beer one after the other. No more bars of chocolate. No more tubs of Ice Cream
Life as you know it is over.
This is the best news you can possibly hear.
Because life as it is at the moment is pretty crappy in all honesty and these people are going to help change it and make it better. But in order to this, it requires a long learning process of re-education. Both mentally and physically.
The changes will be enormous and when things are this big, you HAVE to be ready.
So back to my referral form, I printed it out, hobbled to the car and went straight to the Doctors surgery. It was as if Neville Chamberlain were back from the dead “I have in my hand a piece of paper” was how I felt went I walked into the surgery. Stop all you are doing, this is the most important piece of paper you will ever see. It is the rest of my life and it starts NOW!
Well, that was how I felt, although nobody else in the room appeared to share my huge enthusiasm for a sheet of A4.
To them I was just some over excited fat bloke waving a tatty piece of paper, spluttering incoherently trying to ask for a the doctor. Eventually the communication barrier lifted and the lady at reception understood what I was doing, calmed me down and brought me back to reality. The Doctor would sign my piece of paper at some point through the day so if I could just leave it with them…..
Aha, I thought, I see where this is going, these people must not understand the requirement for haste. The don’y understand the speed at which this process needed to go. I decided to make it known, I would insist on the Doctor coming out of his consultation that minute and signing my paper. He would surely understand the gravity of my request far outstripped the need for him to be dealing with any other patient. So I drew in my breath, stood tall and prepared to insist. However, all that came out was
“Okay, that would be lovely, thank you very much”
Yeah, that told them.
So with the wind knocked out of my sails; and probably for the best, I returned home and wrote an email back to the Bariatric Team, informing them that they would not get the signed referral until the following day only to be told “That’s fine, it’s just the first of many steps along the way, we usually expect the process to take about 12 months before surgery”
12 months! 12 Months! But I wanted my operation tomorrow, no, in fact I wanted my operation that afternoon!
That’s what would happen if I went abroad and paid privately. Well, that’s what might of happened if I had the ten grand it costs have the surgery done abroad. But I didn’t, so the point was moot and my requirement for patience assured.
I was told that there would be a series of meetings with the team members, there would be blood tests and psychological evaluations, but first there would be an initial meeting with the lovely Lisa, the Bariatric Advanced Nurse Practitioner, where the whole process would be laid out, the options available would be discussed and explanations of what to expect before during and after surgery would be thoroughly discussed.
So the day of the meeting happened quite quickly, within a week or so of my initial enquiry. This time though, I didn’t get my hopes up too high, although I was still secretly expecting to be kept in after the meeting and told “Cameron, we have a cancellation, we can fit you in for your procedure this evening, is that convenient for you?” No such stupidity happened, these people were all far to sensible and professional for that kind of ridiculousness!
I attended said meeting and started to learn. I learnt that there were three styles of gastric intervention available. These were Band, Sleeve and By-Pass. We went through each on very carefully, discussing the procedure itself, the pre operation requirements and then the post operation care.
We discussed what we would and mostly wouldn’t be able to eat or drink after the surgery. No more large volumes of fluids at one go, no more big plates of food, no solid food for the first 8-12 weeks if the surgery has been invasive (sleeve or by-pass). It all sounded perfectly reasonable to me until I realised that I would no longer be able to indulge in my favourite tipple of icy cold sparkling water, small sips possible once the bubbles had calmed down but anything like a slug full of bubbles would end up in some very uncomfortable moments for my tummy. We also discussed the fact that there was a requirement of a regimen of vitamins each day for the rest of ones life and the Vitamin B shot every three months to stay on top of it.
This was turning out to be A LOT more involved than I had anticipated and I liked it.
It was becoming apparent that this really was a long process and for good reason. The patients would be required to lose ten percent of their body weight PRIOR to being put on the 18 week surgery guarantee list (as in they guarantee to have your procedure done within 18 weeks of that date) and then once on this list, you can the at anytime be put on a three-week diet of 800 calories a day leading up to the main event itself. This kind of diet, not for the faint of heart, is required to reduce the amount of fat in the liver along with the weight of the liver. This is because your insides are quite man handled during the operation and thus subject to possible damage. In the case of the liver, the lighter it is the less likely it is to be damaged.
This meant there was quite a lot of work to do and if I wanted to stay on the course, then I was going to have to do it, without exception. The sleeve looked like the way I wanted to go but I would obviously go with the Surgeons recommendation. It was obvious that brave new times were going to be coming my way, I would learn to change my life, I would learn about the world of Gastric Surgery and I would get better in the process.
I was hooked.