Fill #10 or something

by Christine on July 19th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Gastric Banding Surgery

Today I had a follow-up meeting with my surgeon (the marvelous Doctor P. who can perform miracles, I tell ya!) to see how I’m doing since my port replacement surgery.  This trip to the doctor’s office was a really weird experience. I remember the first time I went to my surgeon’s office.  I felt so orka fat going in there. I mean, I was seeing a doctor that specialized in fat asses like mine. When I got to the waiting room, I remember being so relieved that all the seats were the extra-wide ones. I could sit comfortably while waiting for the doctor, imagine that!

I remember seeing other people in the waiting room. Other fat people. People that took up every inch of those extra-wide seats. I remember sitting there distressed, realizing that I was one of them. I belonged there, waiting to see the Fat Doctor. It was a very eye-opening and humiliating experience. I was also terrified those first few visits to the doctor’s office. I was scared of what this process would all entail. I was scared that I wouldn’t qualify for the surgery. I was scared that the surgery would fail me, like all my diets and exercise failed in the past.  Scared and humiliated; that was me.

Two and a half years later, the change was astounding. I walked in the door and went to the receptionist, who looked at me like I was from another planet when I told her I had an appointment with Doctor P. “What is this for?” she asked me. “A follow-up visit after my surgery 2 weeks ago,” I told her, and she stared at me like I was insane.”Are you sure?” she asked me.

There was a woman in the waiting room. She was a much older lady–60 years old or something, much older than the usual weight-loss surgery patient. She had to use a walker to get around. Her weight was clearly hindering her ability to move, even to walk or stand at the counter. She kept looking at me and smiling at me, but was clearly puzzled. Why are you here?

There was another woman in the waiting room. Maybe 35 years old, probably a mother of 2.5 kids and a soccer mom to boot. She looked like most of the patients I have seen sit in that waiting room. She stared at me the whole time I was in the room. Glaring at me. Seriously, if looks could kill I would be dead. I wanted to tell her, “Do everything you can to make this surgery work, lady. I was you two years ago. This shit will change your life. It’s for REAL.”

I felt uncomfortable. Out of place. A stranger in a land that I used to be a member of.

The waiting room chairs seemed so big today. Like I could fit 3 of me in them. When did they get so BIG?

Then the nurse called me into the consult room. I was thinner than her. In fact, I was thinner than the ladies working at the front desk, and the woman working in the office down the hall. I was the thinnest person in the building, aside from Doctor P himself. Weird. The nurse was very nice, very complimentary, remarking on my weight loss. She smiled a lot and made me feel more welcome, and I appreciated that.  She told me that in her experience, the success weight maintenance patients are the ones that come in for regular visits (like once a year) and keep tabs on their weight and progress. I weighed in a 134 pounds on their scale (fully clothed, a bucket of water in my system) which was only 1 pound more than last time I weighed in in March. That surprised me.

Doctor P came in to see me. He took the bandage off my tummy and oh my! The incision is so small! The new incision is exactly 1.5 centimeters wide. I took out a ruler and measured it.  The freaking port is bigger than that! How do they do that?

Sorry for the gross pic, with my stretch marks and crap on there. Still, it shows how small my scar is, and how well it has healed in just 2 weeks!

While I was at the doc’s, I asked him for another fill.  He warned me about the dangers of over-filling (like he always does) and then he agreed to give me one (like he always does.) He gave me a whole 0.5 ccs in my band this time! That’s a lot! I asked him how much fluid I have in my band currently, and he said “more than 10.”  I thought I had a 11 cc band, but maybe mine is bigger. That means I’m nearly tightened to the max? It doesn’t feel that way.

I took my gulp of water, which went down just fine, and I was on my way. I made sure I gave Doctor P a hug first. A man that helps to give you your life back deserves at least that much, right?

It’ll be a soup night for me tonight, as it always is after I receive a fill!

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Replacing the Gastric Band Port

by Christine on July 7th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Gastric Banding Surgery

Yesterday I had my surgery to replace my gastric banding port.  I was replacing it because it became detached and was floating around quite obviously and was a nuisance. (However, the port’s ability to give me “fills” still worked.)  Here are some “before” pictures of why I wanted to get it fixed:

Dislocated Port

This is from about a week ago. This is a more extreme angle (looking down on it)…here is what it looked like yesterday before going into surgery:

Port

Prior to this surgery I had met with my surgeon twice to discuss my options with the port. You’d be surprised at how many options there are! My options were slightly more complicated since I’ve lost a lot of weight and have less fat on my body, which means there are fewer places to hide this bad boy.  (I discuss this in more detail, with some photos of how the port is actually attached on the abdomen, in this post.)  The options included:

1.) Putting it back where it was originally and just re-attaching the brackets into the abdomen. With this option the port would still be seen through the skin, slightly, since it is raised up an inch or so. The port could be moved to another location, such as under my breasts or on my side, but to be honest it would show even more there since there is less fat and skin there. However, it could be moved to another location.;
2.) Place the port UNDER my abdomen, which would require any future fills to penetrate through the abs and “guessing” where the port is located underneath. This would make the port unnoticeable under the skin;
3.) Cut a hole into the abs and embed the port in the abdomen. This would allow the port to lay flat and would be completely unnoticeable under the skin. However, this may comprimise my movement with my abs;
4.) Of course, because I have reached my goal weight (more or less), there is always the option to remove the port entirely. He could plug any remaining fluid in the band, cap off the end of the hose, and just take out the port. If I wanted any fills in the future he would actually have to make an incision into my skin, find the hose, and do it messily and manually, but it could be done.

I met with another bariatric surgeon at another hospital to get a 2nd opinion.  He recommended re-attaching the device exactly where it was originally on the abs, and just securing the port properly this time.  I agreed with the logic of this, and returned to my surgeon and requested that this be done.

Yesterday was the big day!

hospital

Pre-Operation

I had no pre-operation testing done, as I had to with the original gastric banding surgery. I had no psychological exam, no overall physical. I did not need to get a referral from my general physician. I did not have to do the breath test. I did not have to drink that horrible barium drink. I did not have to get X-rays (probably only because you could clearly see the detached port, without the need for the X-ray!). I did not need to get any blood tests done.  No pre-testing at all. I simply called my surgeon to say, “I’m ready for this to happen; can we please schedule it?”   I was told not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery.  I did not have to do that full line of laxatives.

Day of Surgery

I showed up at the hospital yesterday at 9 a.m. and checked in at the main desk. They took me to the surgery’s waiting room where I checked in a second time. They gave me my wrist band there.  After waiting for a few short minutes they ushered me into the prep area. They asked me to undress and put on the room (disrobing everything–no bra or underwear). They gave me booties and a saucy little cap to wear. I took out all body jewelry. They asked me 1010 questions about my overall heath and medical history, my emergency contact information. They had me sign a few forms of paperwork consenting to the surgery, the anesthesia, etc.  The nurses took my vitals (blood pressure, temperature, pulse, CO2 levels). There was nothing invasive about this, nothing painful. I was in a good mood, actually–I couldn’t wait to get this done!

My surgeon had originally requested that I only have local anesthesia, which means that I would be drugged up but essentially awake during the surgery. However, when my anesthesiologist came in, he recommended that I have a combination of local and general anesthesia, and I wholeheartedly agreed with him. I did NOT want to be awake for a single moment of it! I happily signed the consent form for the combination treatment.

My surgeon, Doctor P, came in to say hello to me and to discuss exactly what was going to be done. We agreed that we would replace the port on top of the abs, in the same location (he uncovered my robe–with a nice view of my cootch of course–to look at any other options for putting the port. We didn’t really see any, so we decided to keep it in the same spot. He explained that he would go over the old incision this time, then place the port a few inches to the right of the incision. (The port can’t be directly under the incisioin because it would probably pop through it.) He could, however, replace the port with one that is smaller in circumference and lower profile.  What do I mean by “lower profile?” Well, you can kind of see the difference in these two photos.

The picture on top clearly is higher/more raised up than the port in the 2nd photo. I believe he changed my port to a smaller/lower port.

He said that the port is attached using something comparable to a nail gun that is strapped into the abdomen.

During this process Doctor P asked if he could look at my body to assess my loose skin. He asked if I was interested in getting a tummy tuck or have loose skin taken care of. I said, “HELL YES and please feel free to take care of that today if you can!” He laughed and said he couldn’t.  He looked at my skin and it’s honestly not that bad, but the worst area is definitely my lower tummy. He asked if I would like to meet a plastic surgeon, and I said yes please. I thought me meant a referral, but no–he walked out and returned with a plastic surgeon friend of his who was in the hospital today. That plastic surgeon took a look at me and said he could help. (again, lifting my gown–another full cootch shot! I swear I was a vagina-flashing machine yesterday) and actually laughed when I asked if insurance might possibly pay for the cosmetic surgery, to which he said, “oooh definitely not. You don’t have enough loose skin.”  But he gave me his card and said that we could definitely negotiate a price–he chargest flexible rates that vary depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. When he left the room my nurse whispered, “I’ve seen his work and he’s VERY good, if you were interested in that.”  Hmmmm….interesting!

After that it was just a few minutes of waiting. They added some pain killer to my I.V. and then they wheeled me into the Operating Room around noon. I remember looking up at the lights in the O.R. and they were a little fuzzy to me, so I asked the nurse, “Was that pain killer you added to my  IV back there?” and she said yes. About .000005 seconds later I blanked out. And that was it!

The surgery itself lasted an hour and a half, which really surprised me that it took so long!  I woke up around 1:30 in the recovery room. I remember during my original surgery I took about an hour and a half or 2 hours to wake up from my anesthesia fog. This time it was about 20 minutes tops. And I felt really rested and recooped too!  My abs ached a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad. On the pain scale (0=none; 10=lots) I was about a 4. I felt pretty good!

I drank a little apple juice, changed my clothes (a little painful, since it involved the use of my abs), played a game on the Ipad with my husband, and then they wheeled me out of the hospital. That’s  it!

After Surgery

I was really surprised at how painless this surgery was, especially compared with the original surgery. I had my hubby pick up my prescription to pain meds on his way back from taking the cat to the vet.  They prescribed my Oxycodone, which surprised me! That’s heavy duty stuff!  Well, let me tell you what….about 2 hours after I got home the medicine they gave me started to wear off, and the pain level significantly increased. One oxy, and it was much better.  I went to bed at night with no problem. But when I woke up, ooooh my pain was up to a 6!! OWCH!  I took 2 Oxys and I’m feeling significantly better now.

As for food, yesterday I had soup–tomato soup and then chicken noodle soup. I realized afterwards that it went down SUPER easily.  I am not sure, but I suspect some saline came out of the band when they replaced the port.  (((insert sad face here)))  I hope that’s not the case, but I have to see my doc in a week anyway, so I can just get filled up at that time.  I wonder how the surgeon knows that the new seal around the port is working properly? Hmmm.  Today I will move to more solid foods to see how my tightness level is.

Here is a picture of my tummy today…already I can tell that there is less “pooch” to my stomach because of the flatter port, even though my tummy is significantly swollen from the surgery.

I think that pretty much covers everything. If you have any questions, just ask!

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Relaxing 4th of July! (weekend in pictures)

by Christine on July 5th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Gastric Banding Surgery

Our long 4th of July weekend was very nice. Here’s a little re-cap!

Friday

Friday I was on my own. I went up to the Saratoga Springs State Park and had some Paneras (the vegetarian black bean soup…yum!) picnic-style on the lawn and read a book for a while. The State Park is one of my favorite places to hang out. The people-watching is fantastic, and the beautiful buildings (like the Hall of Springs) are amazing!  I wandered into the Hall of Springs once, a few years ago, on accident. A wedding was going on there, and oh, how beautiful it was! The room was lit with sparkling Christmas lights and it was like walking straight into some beautiful fairy tale.

When I was done eating and the sun went down, I went over to the Harness Track and won $50! Woohoo!

SPAC

Saturday

Saturday we relaxed around the house; hubby mowed the lawn and I did some laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and paid the bills.  Then we headed out to an historic house on the Hudson River called Clermont. What a great little estate! It’s just south of Olana (which I visited on Mother’s Day, read about that here) and is the home of a surprisingly not-well-known but very important person in American History!  It was the home of Robert Livingston, who was one of the creators of the Declaration of Independence, a co-patent owner of the Steamboat, Chancellor of NYS, and was the guy that swore President Washington into office.  I was surprised I had never heard of the guy. The house was wonderful, and our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and answered all my crazy questions.

Afterwards we went down to Hudson and did some shopping. I got a great antique necklace for $10, my good bargain of the weekend! Then we stopped at a pub for some late food (I had some fish…very healthy!)  Hudson has a ton of antique stores and one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. It’s a great day trip from Albany!

Then we ran home, change, and headed out to hear some live  music. A friend of ours, Allie, plays trombone in a few bands, and she was getting together with some old friends in a ska band, the Mixers. We had a great time listening to them skank!

Sunday

Sunday was our really lazy day.  We got up and enjoyed our morning just lounging around. Then we headed up to Saratoga Springs again for the Saratoga History Museum exhibit opening. They have an exhibit about the Ghosts of Saratoga, which was based on the Ghost Hunters episode. In the tv show, the ghost hunters investigated paranormal activity at the Canfield Casino, which is where the history museum is located. They have a fantastic exhibit of clothing from the 1800s as well. The turnout was huge, and I got to meet a few board members. All in all, a wonderful outing!

We grabbed food in Saratoga (I had a greek salad at Circus Cafe. Delicious!) and then headed home. Unfortunately it was rainy on Sunday, so we couldn’t do anything fun and outdoorsy. We took a long nap and hung around home until the evening, when we went over to a friend’s house. He was having a backyard BBQ party, and we hung out and chatted with some old friends and watched our friends set off (illegalcoughcough) fireworks! John built a dirtbike track in his back yard, so it was a bunch of drunkassed fools driving around on dirtbikes and John’s expensive corvette convertible, setting fireworks off in the woods, and blowing shit up. You gotta love this group of guys. They definitely will never grow up!  The cops drove by and waved a few times, so all must have been good.

oooooh that’s a big group of troublemakers right there!

Monday

Finally, the 4th was upon us!  I went out in the morning and ran some errands. I discovered that I really don’t have any shorts that fit me, so I went out to buy a pair…and bought a few sale items in the process, really more $$ than I bargained for.  Hubby and I played frisbee and catch in the yard.  In the evening we cooked a dinner at home (grilled chicken + corn for me) and then headed out to Buffalo Wild Wings just to have a beer and play some electronic trivia. We had a friend join us and we chatted for a long time there until we left to do some grocery shopping. It was LATE when we got home!

Weight

My weight has stabilized, kind of, I think, thank GOD.  In fact, if anything I lost 3 pounds over the weekend. Still up (way too much) but at least the freakshow has halted for a few days.

Surgery

I get my port replaced tomorrow at 11:30! I’ll post information about that tomorrow. I’m hoping that it’s no-big-deal, is painless, and has a quick healing time. I’m REALLY hoping that they don’t pump that gas inside of me because that stuff HURT last time!  Wish me luck!

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