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Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Devil is in the details

Originally published Jan. 29, 2005, in the Tracy Press

A little over a month ago, I began writing this column with the idea that I would have gastric- bypass surgery sometime between March and August of this year.

It’s amazing to me how so much can change in what feels like the blink of an eye. It turns out that in just four short weeks from now, I will go under the knife to have my digestive system rerouted to facilitate rapid weight loss — to the tune of about 100 pounds in the first year — in the hopes of overcoming obesity-related infertility.

It’s almost surreal as I think back to how this occurred.

A few weeks ago, I was crying in my soup about how the holidays were a little too festive for me. I talked about how I needed to get back on track because I was meeting with the hospital bariatric team’s medical director, and I wanted to make a good impression by not gaining weight. I succeeded in that. Turns out my scale at home was closer to the hospital scale than I realized, and I weighed in four pounds lighter than in early December. Not too shabby for having a one-week detour around Christmas.

The medical director and I hit it off instantly. We discussed my weight history and the eating habits I learned as a child. She explained her take on my experiences. We talked a bit about my medical history.

And then she said it: “So, Tonya, when would you like to have surgery?”

Stunned, I said, “March?,” thinking she wanted to give me some sort of timeline.

Instead, she said, “You got it.”

I almost couldn’t speak. I managed to stutter, “really?”

Her answer knocked my socks off.

“Well, you’ve lost weight, you’re making life changes, and you don’t have any medical conditions barring you from surgery. You’re a good candidate. Why should we postpone it?”

It’s one thing to believe you’ve earned something, but it’s an entirely different feeling to have the person in control of your reward validate it.

It turns out that March didn’t exactly work out, and I now have a Feb. 24 surgery date. I wasn’t sure whether to jump for joy or burst into tears.

My poor husband wasn’t sure how to take it either. I was so frazzled by the news that I couldn’t even fill out my pre-op forms. He had to do it for me.

Walking out of the office, into the elevator, down four floors and out of the building seemed like a dream.

I don’t think the magnitude of what just happened hit me until the drive home. And then it just exhausted me. I couldn’t stop thinking of everything that needed to be done before surgery.
Some things were little, but everything seemed like a huge boulder of effort.

As soon as we got home, I went straight to the bedroom to lie down. I slept for four hours. The only time I can ever remember sleeping like that was in college the night before I had five difficult finals in the same day. It’s that heavy, drugged sleep your body goes into when your brain is so full of information that you have to be nearly comatose for it to be assimilated.

When I awoke, I was groggy, and everything was still jumbled in my brain. I decided to make myself a late dinner and watch a dumb movie with my husband. I can’t even remember what we watched.

Then, we went to bed. He fell asleep, and I took out my information binder that I was given at my pre-operative orientation in October. I read the entire three-inch binder word for word. Then
I went back to sleep. The next day, I freaked out a little more, repeatedly rattling off everything that had to be done before surgery — balance the checkbook, request time off from work, inform my staff of my upcoming month-long absence and about 50 billion other things I can’t mention here. I must have sounded like Dustin Hoffman in “Rainman,” as I muttered under my breath.
Finally, I took a friend’s advice and made myself a list of everything that needed to be done. Many people have offered to help me, but I’ve yet to take anyone up on it.

After this week, I’ll have three more columns to publish before the day of surgery, and I’ll have to prewrite at least two for part of the time I’m recovering. That gives me five chances to tell readers about my preparations. It doesn’t feel like nearly enough but I’ll give it my best shot.

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