I finally did it. I did it. This week I met with the SURGEON!
And I can’t lie, it scared me shitless.
My hand was shaking as I filled out my paperwork while sitting in a double wide seat out in the waiting room of the Bariatric Center. They had put a Hospital bracelet on my wrist and a second bracelet that was scarlet red and said "allergy". Right away I asked, "I'm just talking today, right?" Yes they assured me, I would get bracelets every time. Our Bariatric Center is located in our nearby Hospital which is one of the best in the Chicagoland area, thank God. When they finally called my name, my Husband and I followed the nurse and I was weighed on a ginormous scale right out of an episode of “The Biggest Loser.” I realize my overweight self still represents only a fraction of what some of the overweight patients weigh who come in, but even so I felt like a cow being weighed for slaughter. The scale only weighed in kilograms and my weight then had to be converted and my BMI documented.
After this I sat with the registration nurse and she asked me some basic questions and took my blood pressure which was a towering 183/something I can’t remember. It is an understatement to say that I was nervous as hell. I kept grabbing my Husband’s hand with my sweaty palm and he kept smiling his just-chill-the-fuck-out smile which instead of making me feel better kinda started to really piss me off. This was no laughing matter; this was weight-loss surgery!!
The next part of the appointment took place in an examination room but I just sat in yet another double wide chair while my Husband made himself comfortable in a double wide recliner. I gave him that if-you-take-out-your-phone-and-send-an-email-I-will-gouge-out-your-eye look and thankfully he obliged. The first person to enter was the Nurse Practitioner who oversees the whole operation. We went over my entire 13-page health summary and she gave us the basic lowdown of what we would need to accomplish after the appointment. The Nurse was able to answer basic questions about our insurance coverage and what to expect in a broad sense, I felt comfortable talking to her and I was finally starting to breath normally again.
After she left, the surgeon came in. Dr. Vallina was a thin man who was in his mid-fifties. He was very casual and personable and talked a lot about his family and interests. He told us about some of his patients and then went into his tell-all mode about the surgery options. I know that he had to be real with us, no other way to do it, but I started to feel confused and scared again. My husband in his recliner with his shit-eating-grin on his face was adding insult to injury. Even though the surgeon knew I was there for gastric banding, he still took liberties talking about the other procedures which are the Sleeve Gastrectomy and Gastric Bypass. He gave us statistics and percentages, outcomes and complications. He told us that from this initial consult to surgery was a three month process assuming I can get in to see the psychologist and pulmonary specialist in decent time, and then he left after telling me to “look into my heart on which surgery to have.” Please, I need to lose weight, not invest in a romantic partner!
When the surgeon left, I started to cry. As my eyes swelled with tears, my Husband cut the crap and started to talk me through what had just happened. He reminded me of why I was here, that of course it is going to be clinical and scary and that the doctor’s JOB is to remind me of the pros and cons. Once I got it back together, the third and final person came into the exam room.
This Nutritionist was very different than the one I did my 6-month supervised diet with. She was young and dark haired and very beautiful. She asked me what my typical day of eating looked like and then told me the good news is that since I am a “volume eater” (industry term) and not a “grazer” or “emotional eater” I could expect a good outcome with the gastric band option. She also told me that she would help me through my pre and post-op diets, and see me at every appointment there after once the band was in place for Nutritional counseling. As difficult as it is to make a drastic decision like this one, I wasn’t going to be alone, the staff was going to be with me every step of the way.
Needless to say, it was a roller-coaster of an appointment.
When I got home I posted a note on my favorite online forum about my experience feeling like getting cold feet before a wedding (which incidentally didn’t happen to me). This is a lifelong commitment to my health and wellbeing and as much of a no-brainer it seems like it should be to improve my quality of life, it’s still incredibly nerve-wracking. My “friends” on the forum all gave me support and encouragement and calmed my fears. Long story short, yes there could be complications, yes there will be a lot of maintenance, but YES it is the right choice for me.
I also started reading Jean McMillan’s book “Bandwagon.” Her no nonsense approach to gastric banding answers many of my questions and puts the ups and downs into great perspective. I wish I would have read it before my surgery consult so maybe I could have sat in there like a boss instead of like a toddler going in for pre-K shots.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I am still on the track running circles, but I am STILL RUNNING. The finish line is not in sight yet but the starting mark is now far enough behind me that I can’t quit now.