Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tales From the Dark Side, Part I
This video, courtesy of WLS blogger Melting Mama, is a must-see for anyone considering bariatric surgery. The picture she paints is grim reality that more pre-ops need to be exposed to. It’s a nine-minute video but it’s worth the time.
It’s been almost 3½ years since I had gastric-bypass – roughly about six months after Melting Mama. Our stories are similar in many ways: we were both over 300 pounds before WLS, we both were under 30, we both had roux-en-Y procedures, and we both suffer from anemia and hypoglycemia as a result of our surgical procedures.
Despite those similarities, though, we have different perspectives on our surgeries. Melting Mama would not have RNY all over again; I would.
I don’t want to steal the video’s thunder but it addresses the biggest issue I have with the popularity of surgical weight loss: LACK OF EDUCATION.
I remember my WLS orientation like it was yesterday. After six months of waiting, I was finally at Kaiser SSF to get more information on bariatric surgery. Like Melting Mama, I wanted the LapBand; it was less-invasive than gastric bypass, had no malabsorption and led to more gradual weight loss. I was also talked out of it when the surgeon at orientation informed me it was not covered by Kaiser and then gave me his laundry list of reasons why it was a bad idea anyway.
Beside that, there was one thing that struck me as odd about orientation – my fellow pre-ops didn’t seem to have a clue about bariatric surgery or what they were getting themselves into.
At this point, I had spent months poring over articles and research about WLS. I had interviewed people who had various procedures at various times. I talked to people with life-threatening complications and ones whose post-op journey was smooth sailing. I was armed and dangerous with more knowledge than my own physician when I marched into his office and asked to be considered for Kaiser’s program.
My cohorts at orientation, however, seemed to know little more than RNY made Al Roker and Carnie Wilson lose lots of weight and that they looked thin and beautiful. I remember one man who was downright outraged when he was told he’d have to limit his intake of sugar.
“But Al Roker says he can eat whatever he wants; he just eats less.”
It was hard not to roll my eyes.
I sat through three similar group classes before making a big decision: I would document my journey in writing and share it with the world.
Up to that point, I had intended to keep my surgery private. Like many of my friends, I was merely going to have “abdominal surgery” and let people think I was having my gall bladder removed or whatever. I didn’t want to make myself a spectacle. I didn’t want to open myself up to negative comments. I wasn’t even going to tell my family.
But the reactions and comments of the pre-ops I encountered in my journey showed me there was a dearth of reliable information on the subject of WLS that was easy to access. It also showed me that when it comes to losing weight, few people read the fine print. They are so intoxicated by the idea of being thin, they don’t pay any attention to the price they may have to pay. In short, they hear what they want.
So, my mission was simple: I would write a column dedicated to the subject with the goal of educating those who wanted or needed bariatric surgery and the general public. I wanted people to understand the seriousness of the decision, the dangers of the surgery and the fact that it requires a complete change in attitude and habits. I figured that since I had already done all the research, I could make it easier on others who followed in my footsteps to be as educated as I was when it came time to go under the knife.
Sadly, I overestimated my peers. Since I started this journey in 2004, I have only come across a handful of pre-ops truly willing to weigh the pros and cons of surgery. Even more sad are the number of post-ops who actually go on to make the changes necessary for success.