The process to actually be able to get surgery is incredibly long. I have been working with the weight loss center for almost an entire year before I was able to meet the surgeon and start to fill out the paperwork for the surgery. At the beginning I had meeting with the nurse practitioner as well as the nutritionist to go over the major changes that would be happening to me. I had to discuss why I wanted to get the surgery and what methods I have used in the past to help with weight loss.
My nutritionist guided me through creating a food repertoire that contained high protein low fat options. I was introduced to protein shakes, kale, and a host of other foods. While meeting with the nutritionist we really went over the fact that this is a lifestyle change. Not just a one time, diet or fad that you may try. I had to make sure that I would be committed to this for the REST OF MY LIFE. Not only did I have to change the way that I eat, but also the frequency as well as adding supplementary vitamins to my diet.
I went from doctor to doctor to get my vitals and insides checked out. They wanted to make sure that my liver was okay and that I would not have an issue with the anesthesia. I had a sleep study done to make sure that my sleep issues would not be a further complication to the surgery. My psych evaluation was done in order to make sure I was doing the surgery for the right reasons. They wanted to make sure that I knew the gravity of the surgery and that once again it was a lifelong change. The surgery was not something that I took lightly and it was not something that I just rushed into. I know that it would have a great impact on the rest of my life.
My surgery was originally scheduled for the beginning of August, but they had an opening in their schedule and I was able to get in at the end of June. The day of the surgery I was nervous but excited. I had read everything that I could get my hands on about the surgery and hoped that I had prepared adequately. Some patients talk about a pre operation diet that they have to follow before they go into surgery. Because my surgery was with such short notice (literally 3 days) I did not go through the same “detox” process that a lot of other sleeve patients do.
I would not be able to drive after the surgery so my fiancé and I took an uber to the hospital. I was scheduled to be at the hospital at 8am. For those who know me personally, you know that I am never on time to anything. The uber driver decided to take his sweet, sweet time and the morning traffic did not help us at all. I did not make it to the hospital at my 8am check in, but lucky for me, doctors are always running behind so it did not matter much.
I was in the waiting room with my fiancé for a solid hour before I was called back in the pre operation holding area. Here, I had to change into the lovely hospital gown with compression socks and hairnet. I was supposed to take out every (all 13!) earring that I had as well as any jewelry or other valuable items. Luckily my fiancé, Jessica, was able to sit in the pre operation area with me up until the time of surgery. I had to get a lot of shots and an IV put in (it was the first time that the medical student who put my IV in had done an IV on a real person—Jess was not impressed) so they could more easily administer pain medicine and other fluids. I was introduced to the nurse who would be in surgery with me as well as the anesthesiologist. My main surgeon stopped by as well to say hi before I was wheeled out.
There was quite a back up in the operating room so my surgery was pushed back about an hour and a half. When it was finally time to go back into the OR it was like a scene in a movie. Jess walked with the nurses as they wheeled my bed to the operating room. She held my hand until we reached the doors that said “Authorized Personnel Only.” She gave my hand a squeeze and a kiss before saying goodbye. I was wheeled into the restricted area while Jess stood behind waving at me. (I know, it was literally just like a movie. I wonder if it was someone’s job one day to just sit and watch people go into the OR to get a sense of how loved ones reacted to the situation). Jess then went back to the waiting room to wait for my surgery to conclude. She is definitely a trooper and having a strong and dedicated support structure is CRUCIAL to being successful post surgery.
Once I was in the operation room I once again spoke with the friendly nurse that I had met in the pre operations area that talked me through what was going to happen. It was also her job to make sure that I was fully prepped for the surgery. They gave me some medicine for anxiety and that is the last thing that I remember. Next thing you know, I am opening my eyes and I am lying in the bed in waiting to be moved to a room. I was in the post operation area for hours (literally like three hours) before I was finally assigned to a room. I was wheeled over and got to see Jessica for the first time since surgery. I was still pretty groggy and I could begin to feel the pain in my lower abdomen. At that time all I wanted to do was sleep.
Behind the Scenes
During the gastric sleeve, 80% of your stomach is removed in order to restrict the amount of food and drink that your body can accommodate. The stomach goes from being the size of a fist (which can expand up to 40 times in size) to a small banana. When your stomach is removed, the hormone ghrelin is removed as well. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone.” It is what tells your body that you are hungry and that it is time to eat. With the removal of this hormone you diminish the cravings for food and your body does not get hungry like it used to.
The surgeon makes six incisions across your abdomen in order to access the stomach. After your stomach is cut to size, it is stapled back together. The doctors double and triple check to make sure that there are no leaks in the stomach, as that would cause many further complications down the line. The stomach is pumped full of CO2 to make sure that it is airtight and it is filled with liquid to make sure there is no drainage. Once that is complete, the surgeons sew you back together and off to recovery you go.
The typical stay in the hospital is one night after surgery to make sure that there are no leaks and that you are able to tolerate liquids. With your stomach (or pouch as many people so affectionately call it) being so small, it is easy to not intake the required ounces of water that is necessary for full recovery. The stomach is so small that you can only have about 1-2 ounces of food or drink at a time. It is highly discouraged to eat and drink at the same time because the liquids push the food through the pouch too quickly. Your body does not have enough time to absorb the nutrients from the food.
Every surgery comes with risks, but the sleeve is liked by surgeons and patients because of the relatively low risks and the quick recovery period. I was surprised at how quickly the pain in general went away after the surgery and how independent I was able to be in the hospital as I was trying to recover enough to go home.
Check in next week to hear about my time in the hospital, the infamous Nurse Jackie, and things that I was totally unprepared for after the surgery.