Friday, June 29, 2012

Post-Surgery Preamble

I’m home from surgery already.  I can’t believe how quickly time marches by, but it does. It marches on and on and then you turn and look back to see what you’ve done.  Over six months ago, I was at a New Year’s Eve party thinking over the tiniest possibility of having the gastric sleeve, and now here I am.  I just had one.

But it wasn’t all easy.

As when Leslie had her knee replacement, there are some things they just don’t tell you going into this sort of procedure.  Parts of it were really difficult.

Here are some of the highlights, as I experienced them:
  • As usual, it was difficult to find any vein to use for an I.V.  This time the anesthesiologist herself did it. I have veins like my grandmother (RIP), and after taking no liquids for over 6 hours as pre-surgery prep, they were thoroughly and effectively in hiding.
  • When I first woke up in recovery, it hurt.  It really hurt.
  • The first time I tried to swallow something, anything, even the tiniest sip, I erp’d it back up.  And because my stomach was much, much smaller, fortunately that experience has become much, much easier.
  • When I finally could swallow something, I could feel that tiny bit plop into my stomach like a small ball of flame. They call it a belly blast. Luckily, the sensation went away after a day.
  • I’m not a fan of morphine. It’s a good medicine, but it gave me really awful dreams about people I love. Gross. I couldn’t wait to get off it.
  • I’ve lost almost ten pounds being in the hospital, putting me below 300 pounds for the first time in years. Yay! This is a benchmark for me!
  • The nurses in the hospital at Mills Peninsula, with one notable exception (there’s always one), were great.  Given they are in the middle of a strike, I felt like I was in good hands the entire time I was there.
  • When I was released, I was ready to go. No sooner.
  • Last night, the third night after surgery, I was hungry. Sucking on a piece of watermelon was heaven.
  • I’m supposed to drink lots of water and a protein supplement called Isopure. It tastes like a very light juice, and at $11.00 for a six-pack, it’s good stuff. 
  • For dinner last night, Leslie made me a heavenly consomme’.  Six teaspoons was all I could handle.
  • This morning for breakfast we dined on cream of wheat, and it was divine. I had eight teaspoons this time!
  • My total weight loss is twenty seven pounds.

The irony in all this is that prior to my procedure, my stomach was the center of my life. It still is, but in a totally different way.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What a Day (More Adventures in Weight Loss Surgery)

My weight loss surgery, the gastric sleeve, is less than one week away. Today, my family and I attended pre-op appointments at the hospital from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I met with the head nurse in the Anesthesia Department, and the Lab took more of my blood. We attended a meeting about my surgery’s process and recovery, learned a lot more about what I can and can’t eat at what time in my recovery specifically, and had another hour with a nutritionist.

The surgical process is really cool. It’s laparoscopic, so my abdominal cavity will be expanded with carbon dioxide (the kind we breathe out), to provide the doctor with a clear working area that’s seen through a tiny camera. Then, all the work is done through tubes. In the end, I should have only five tiny incisions. The worst part of all this is that I have to be at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. because I’m first on the table. Gross. I’m no morning person. There’s a video describing the procedure at the bottom of this post.  It's from a different hospital, but it’s instructional without being graphic.

I was very happy to hear that people come from all over the world to get this procedure from my doctor. He’s an expert in his field, which made me feel good. It’s ironic. I picked him because he was closest to our house, and because I know one of his patients.  He's one of the best in the world.

The day was long and when it was over, it brought my commitment closer to home. I found myself needing time alone to “chew” over it all, so I took the dogs to the dog park to get some time to myself. Leslie was home with her foot elevated. She really pushed it too far (read more here). Elizabeth got very concerned about everything and was upset in an indirect manner, which is typical for kids. So to unwind, we spent the evening cloistered in the living room with our dogs. Leslie made a super dinner, and we watched and capped on ridiculous reality teevee shows. Later on, when Elizabeth got the clicker, she and Leslie watched “The Family Guy” which is always good for a laugh. Our daughter made Leslie a convert.

What a day.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

File this Under Random Occurrence

Thanks to what I would call a “completely random occurrence”, we've had a crazy couple of days.  Last Tuesday, we were at the dog park in San Mateo when Leslie felt a mild prick on her left foot. Nothing as startling as a bee sting, but it was a feeling she remembered.  By 11:00 p.m. that night, her left foot was on fire and incredibly painful.

We went to the emergency room at Mills Peninsula in Millbrae the next day because Leslie’s pain wasn’t going away, and we’ve had good experiences there.  Unfortunately, due to the nursing strike, it was more like a three ring circus.  The wait wasn’t long, but the nurses and attendants seemed disconnected. Nobody knew what was going on.  They were all convinced Leslie sprained her ankle and kept asking her what she did to it as though she were a 90 year old.  Their patronization was infuriating.  They should’ve canned the small talk completely. A stiff and un-emotional red-headed nurse announced she was going to put Leslie’s foot in a wrap, and considering Leslie couldn’t bear even a sock, that didn’t seem right. Turns out the nurse got Leslie confused with another patient.  The ER doctor had no answers for us despite having the foot x-rayed, and I think the not knowing was more concerning than anything else.  So, after two different nurses tried to give Leslie the same pills, we left the emergency room shaking our heads, with a prescription for pain medicine, and instructions to see a doctor in the next day or so.

And that we did.

Friday afternoon we went to see an orthopedic doctor, who reviewed Leslie’s x-ray prior to the appointment.  Despite having a lousy bedside manner (here we go again), he was very detailed oriented.  He diagnosed Leslie as having cellulitis, trauma to the cells, caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria that crawled into her foot after whatever bug bit her.  Leslie had been taking Augmentin for a recent round of bronchitis, and it’s a good thing she was. Who knows what that bacteria would’ve done to her foot had nothing retarded its progress. 

We left the doctor’s office with prescriptions for two separate antibiotics, instructions to go to the emergency room at Seton should Leslie’s condition worsen, and an appointment for Monday.

Apparently, a bacteria like this, referred to as an MSSA, is not resistant to certain drugs.  If it was, it would be the worst kind of infection, called an MRSA and Leslie would probably be in the hospital already hooked up to IV antibiotics and fluids.  An MSSA is bacteria found in the community. There is a long list of how and where a person can get it, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s something people with pets can get, and it gets into the body through broken skin.  I’m convinced Leslie picked it up at the dog park in San Mateo when we were there on Tuesday.

Leslie is still in a lot of pain, particularly at night. And she has to keep the foot elevated over her heart or it swells quickly, and that hurts even more.  No one in the house is sleeping well because it seems to hurt more at night.  And as you might know, taking a lot of antibiotics reeks havoc with the stomach and other sensitive parts of the human body.  I think more than anything, Leslie is tired of sitting around.  She wants to go the market and do other domestic things, the stuff you don’t appreciate until you can’t do it.   

I’m being Florence Nightingale, taking care of Leslie, cooking for everybody, doing laundry, and tidying up.  There are a million other things I wanted to do before my surgery, but they’ve taken a back burner.  I’m worried about my the timing of my surgery, too. It’s just a little over a week away, and Leslie’s healing process can take up to 10 days.

This will be a close one.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


This is the fourth in a series of blogposts about my upcoming weight loss surgery.  The first is here.

"Open a new window,
Open a new door,
Travel a new highway,
That's never been tried before;
Before you find you're a dull fellow,
Punching the same clock,
Walking the same tight rope
As everyone on the block."

These are the lyrics from “Open a New Window”, a song in the American Musical Comedy, “Mame”. It’s one of my favorites, and it's timely and personal.

The full moon, any full moon really, has personal significance, as well.  They tend to move things along for me.  For example, when I was pregnant with our daughter, Elizabeth, she was overdue; and I sat in the lounge chair in our living room for an extra two weeks waiting for her to join us.  The full moon on her birthday prompted her arrival.  So, while it was no surprise that I got feedback on my surgery the day after the last full moon, it certainly was a relief.  I waited three weeks with worst case scenarios twirling about my head, but I got a full approval. No catch, no delay, and I was thrilled!  Like pregnancy, the waiting made it all the sweeter.

Now, I have a series of pre-surgery appointments between now and my date, which is June 26.  There is registration, paperwork, a medical appointment, and probably more blood work.  I have to learn what kind of sustenance I can take in afterward.  I anticipate a liquid diet, followed by soft foods, and then an Atkins like diet of protein, veggies and fruit, absolutely no refined carbs, and very little fat in teeny weeny portions.

All technicalities aside, I feel new windows of opportunity opening before me. 

And these are followed by an understanding of how my weight has inhibited me. 

There is no doubt the last job I had did a number on my professional confidence. I’ve written enough on the subject, so I’ll forego the details.  I’ve been on two face-to-face interviews over the last year despite applying to between five and seven open positions per week.  The last was in an insurance office. I arrived to discover a full flight and a half of stairs, climbed them, and at the top bumped right into the man I was to meet just as I felt I’d choke up a lung.  Great impression.  My procedure will change that in time.

Over the last four years, I’ve considered a career in real estate, but I’d run into lots of stairs there, too.  My procedure makes Real Estate a greater possibility.

How about exercise and activities like hiking? Wouldn’t it be great to hike with my Austrian friend and actually be able to keep up with her? I’ve never attempted it previously, but soon it will be possible.

I grew up doing children’s and community theater, and I’d love to sing again.  I’d love to get back on stage in a musical comedy, and one day take on a favorite role like Mame Dennis or Mama Rose.  I love to tap dance more than almost anything.  Do I dare let all the dance routines I have committed to memory out into my feet again?  Maybe I’ll teach in that adorable little dance studio at the Pacifica Community Center.    

I have other goals, as well, and these won’t go away. I still want to write my novel, do my art, and spend precious time with my family.  Of course, there's no guarantee I will do these things, or the things I've mentioned above ... but no matter because the possibility is there.  

The last time I was thin and in shape, I was in high school.  As occupied as I was with family problems, I was too upset to appreciate it.  This time, I will be fully aware of my health and happiness.

I will be present in myself completely and totally … and I will rejoice.

A new window is opening.

Watch me tap dance through it.
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