What they don’t tell you about bariatric surgery in your pre-op classes…part ONE
Seven years ago I made a decision that changed my life. After a rollover accident that left me trapped inside a vehicle that required the Jaws of Life to remove me from. The tears streamed down my face as the paramedics lifted me to the stretcher and then into the ambulance. I was 385 pounds and humiliated. Thus the decision to change my life and have bariatric surgery.
Going through all the pre-op classes and evaluations I can recall a nutritional consult. This is where I met with the Dietitian and we discussed my eating patterns and habits. It was about an hour meeting where we discussed what I had been eating… Honestly I can’t remember much of what was said, the reality of what I would be eating or “not” eating did not set in until several weeks after the surgery.
Next an appointment with a great looking 21 year old HUNK of a man who was fit enough to run marathons. Slim, trim and could stand on one of those big balance balls and walk on it. I was IMPRESSED by anyone that could walk on a balance ball, but also feeling a bit inadequate considering my size. I asked him just how long it was going to take before I could stand on balls and walk on them….? He looked at me a bit perplexed..point taken dude.. WHY ARE YOU SHOWING ME SOMETHING LIKE THAT WTHeck? I would be impressed if I could walk on level ground more than the length of a football field without getting short of breath…
Next.. a visit with the The therapist… Now keep in mind… I was raised in the South, in a coal mining town in West “”By God Virginia” (so high on the mountain we were by God ya know, where the mountain tops touch the heavens) .. Therapy was considered as taboo.. But, I was willing to tell as many lies as I had to so that I could be approved for this bariatric surgery.. “Do you have support at home?” Why yes, yes I do I have a wonderful caring husband who will take care of me after my surgery….LIE…
200 questions mostly composed of things like do you want to hurt yourself? Do you want to hurt others? Do you ever have thoughts of killing people? That was pretty easy to pass and I wondered if they were testing me for obesity or for being a sociopath.. DO YOU EVER THINK OF HURTING SMALL ANIMALS?? No, are you crazy? I stop my car in the middle of traffic and remove turtles from the road...
Photo used with permission by Marie Fouche’ at reenchantedearth.com
My thoughts are… maybe I should have been assigned a time period of nutritional counseling, psychotherapy before my surgery… and in the meantime I could would have benefited greatly to have started a walking routine to get my heart and lungs up to par for anesthesia… (I can’t go back and write that prescription.. but I did learn from it right?)
I woke up 4 hours after arriving in my hospital room after surgery with my Mom pouring water from a medicine cup into my mouth. HELLO MOM!!!! No she wasn’t intentionally trying to drown me, she was following the post-op suggestions of one medicine cup of water every 15 minutes starting at 4 hours upon arrival to room. I sure wish they would have explained to her to wake me up first LOL.
After everyone left, and I was all alone in my hospital room within hours I was “hungry” Not a physical hunger because that had left me. It was an emotional hunger. The same hunger I had felt for years and instead of “nursing” the hunger with kindness, compassion and love. I chose to medicate it with food.
I had surgery on Thursday at 1:00 Pm and was released from the hospital on Friday morning at around 8:00 am and begged to stop at McDonalds on the way home. I was sure a Big Mac with extra sauce hold the pickles was the thing that would make me feel better….
Hello GOLDEN ARCHES… My wasband (that means he WAS my husband at the time) was not very consoling of the pain I had, but he also informed me he did not have time to “mess with me” he had to get to work. My feelings at the time… I hated the world.. I wanted a Big Mac… I wanted love… and dammit Ronald McDonald LOVED me!!
The road from Charleston to Princeton is long, curvy and bumpy. My IV site was swollen and red from an infiltration, my wound was oozing a yucky drainage and was hot and inflamed and so was I!
I immediately wanted to give the surgery back…
Saturday my wasband and his friend Hank hammered and drilled for hours making something crazy like a deer feeder or something so they could feed the deer and fatten them up so they could SHOOT THEM… oy vey… I wanted to scream, but instead I cried. I was grieving the loss of my best friend… food.
I have no recollection of Sunday nor did I write anything in my written journal other than “Why did I do this?” God please let me eat! If I can’t eat please let me die!” This is very scary for me looking back I realize just how crazy vulnerable I really was.
Monday finally the kids were off to school and the wasband off to work and I crawled into my Nissan Pathfinder so I could find the path to the Golden Arches. Through the drive through yes I would like a Big Mac extra sauce hold the pickles please… I was sure those pickles might make me sick!
I picked up my medication from the drive through window and drove into a parking lot to self medicate.. I ate the Big Mac one bite at the time chew, chew, chew SPIT into the paper bag until it was gone… I was wearing my pajama’s and my house shoes in my care in the parking lot when I realized I was very soon going to throw up. and I did… I can’t stand to even Look at the Golden Arches now… I guess that was a hard lesson learned, a gift really.
So what I learned fairly quickly was that my love of food and dependence (addiction to food was still as strong as ever) they had done surgery on my stomach but not my brain. I was in pain emotionally and needed my medication only it wasn’t there.. I was learning the grieving process, with no support… Very quickly I had to put on my warrior paint and fight this battle and it would become a raging war….
Are you a pre-op? A post- op? A non -op? A support person for a bariatric patient? or a professional who treats bariatric surgery patients?
Food addictions are real.. many of us got to the place where we needed surgery by enabling our addictions to food.
Here are a few thoughts and questions to consider.
1. Whatever the underlying cause is that caused us to self medicate and numb our emotions and feelings is.. it will still be there after the anesthesia wears off and the discharge papers are signed. If we don’t address these issues and start processing them they will come back into our lives looking for revenge… and when they do there will be a tiny pouch that hold little food and NO sugar and the emotional pain will get worse. Find coping mechanisms.. start sewing, crocheting, working cross word puzzles and journaling is a wonderful tool…
2. I bet you are thinking this post is sure negative.. no it’s called reality blogging… These are the things that are sometimes left unsaid.. because if we ignore them, put them to the side we won’t have to deal with them… NOT…. the best gift you can give yourself is to treat yourself as a whole person… the surgery is the physical part, the tool that will help your body systems control portions and foods. Give yourself the gift of mind and spirit and heal those wounds that are on the inside… Love yourself inside out…
3. Don’t look at post- op life as your punishment for gaining weight to begin with.. When negativity knocks on the door, don’t answer… When you are eating your new foods, imagine with each bite you are making wise choices see yourself healthy and well. Same with vitamins each supplement you take imagine it unlocking the vault to wellness.
Some of my personal lessons here:
1. The preop nutrition, psych, and exercise visits were one time 30 minute sessions. In nutrition I would like to have had a weekly visit for 6 weeks before my surgery. Each week having instruction like food journaling, label reading, understanding recipe ingredients and how they may cause dumping, classes on vitamin deficiency and the importance of taking vitamins. Establishing habits is great…. Imagine if we started taking vitamins at the beginning of the process before the surgery, the habit would be established and we would be ahead of the game.
2. The THERAPIST… someone give this person a medal.. They are given 30 minutes with pre ops after we breeze sweat our way through a preop eval and given the burden of deciding if they are ready for surgery… Please…. (Note to Insurance companies) Instead of 6-12 months of food journals for insurance approval, how about approving therapy sessions… Stop the disconnect between mind and stomach.
3. Sometimes being in a relationship is the loneliest place to be.
4. Big Macs NOT a good plan!
Be curious with yourself… Ask yourself what are the best foods for me? What makes me happy and brings joy to my life? How can I become a better me?
What kinds of things will help you love yourself inside out?