1 Year and 2 Months After Surgery

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. As it so often happens, life gets busy and time really flies fast!

It is now just past a year since my surgery on May 12th, 2016 and I have lost a total of 181 pounds! At first the pounds really shed away like hair off of a cat in summer. It has slowed now to about 5 pounds a month. Which is fine with me as long as I am still losing weight. I also don’t exercise every day (maybe only once a week at the most) so I would lose weight faster if I did it more often. I also still have my occasional junk food like mac and cheese, chips and fries. Don’t get me wrong, I also eat salad regularly as well as fruit, dairy, meat and occasional vegetables (admittedly, vegetables are my least favorite food group). I just eat a lot less of the bad foods. Like when I eat mac and cheese, just one of those little microwave cups of mac and cheese is perfect for a meal. Right now I am eating a bagel with some cream cheese (which I only do about twice a week). I usually just eat half of the bagel, but sometimes I can eat the whole bagel if space it out over an hour. My apologies to all the vegetarians and vegans out there, but I have been craving meat daily since the surgery. I crave it every day. I feel like such a carnivore! I usually eat chicken and sometimes my favorite – beef. I bake chicken wings (not fried) in the oven and they are delicious! For beef I usually do meatballs or beef fajita strips heated up with various seasonings. Protein is very important in my diet and something that all of my doctors insisted that I make sure that I get enough of after the surgery. No problem there!

Now here is the key to eating after a gastric bypass – eat slowly. ALWAYS eat slowly. It takes 7 minutes for food to reach your stomach. With a smaller stomach, it doesn’t take long before it is full so if you eat quickly, your stomach will be full before all of the food has reached it. I am sure you can imagine what happens when your stomach is full and more food tries to enter it. Not a pretty picture. You also have to be careful with drinking liquids when eating. Liquid will fill up your stomach very quickly. Doctors suggest drinking before you eat, then again after you are done eating and no longer full. What I usually do is drink before eating and take little sips of water during my meal. I do mean a sip. Just enough to help wash down the food and wet my mouth.

Healthwise, my blood pressure has been around 140/90 for months now. I feel fine. I am still not taking any blood pressure medicine (I had to take it for 20 years before I had the surgery) and so far none of my doctors are concerned – just as long as it doesn’t go any higher. My cholesterol did go back up to what it was before the surgery, but lately it has been going back down. It is common when losing a lot of weight fast for your vitals to go crazy. Up, down and sideways lol. Up until recently, I had still been taking the full amount of cholesterol medicine that I have been taking for years. However, a few months ago, my primary care physician decided that my cholesterol was doing well enough to try cutting my cholesterol medicine in half. So for five months now, I have been taking half the dosage of my cholesterol medicine. Next month when I see my doctor again, I will find out how my cholesterol is doing on the half dosage.

Before surgery, I weighed 419 pounds and my kidneys were having problems. They were operating at 55% and my blood was highly acidic. I started to see a Nephrologist. She put me on Sodium Bicarbonate pills and I have been seeing her since my surgery. I was also instructed to drink more water and eat more vegetables. Slowly as time went by, my kidneys got better. Each time I went back, they were better and better and the acidity levels in my blood were getting lower. I recently visited my Nephrologist earlier this month and my kidneys are now at 95% capacity. Unfortunately, my blood acid levels are up again. So she put me on a higher strength Sodium Bicarbonate and told me once again that I need to eat more vegetables. Sigh…my downfall – veggies. So I am trying to find a way to incorporate more vegetables into my diet since I am not a fan. I do like corn and cauliflower, so I am adding those to my diet. It’s a start. I have been eating a salad with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers about 3 times a week – but I need to eat vegetables every day.

Other than that, I have been doing great! I have more energy and can get so much more done in the day. Lol the only downside to having more energy is trying to sleep. I have asked my primary care physician to prescribe me a light sleeping pill to help me sleep at night. Without it, I wouldn’t fall asleep until the sun came up. But now I can fall asleep soon after taking the pill. Only problem is that most nights I only get 6 to 7 hours of sleep before I am wide awake again. I am such a light sleeper – always have been. So I wake up every time one of my dogs bark or I have to turn over. Hoping this will change someday. Oh I forgot to mention that I no longer use the CPAP machine as I no longer have sleep apnea! I may not be able to sleep past 7 hours most nights, but the quality of sleep is very good. It is so nice to no longer have to sleep with the CPAP machine! One of the things that the sleep study experts do is measure your neck. They said that the thicker the neck, the more likelihood of having sleep apnea. After measuring my neck, the nurse said mine was now a normal size and that I could try sleeping without the CPAP machine to see how I did. I have been CPAP free for 6 months now and feel refreshed in the morning (depending on how many hours of sleep I get – 7 hours of sleep and I feel really good).

Here is a “before and after” photo of me. Before surgery and 1 year after surgery. Yes I did edit out a person just for privacy reasons. 🙂
In the second photo, I am relaxed – no I am not sucking in my tummy as so many people do in their “after” photos. I wanted an accurate photo for my weight loss journey.

So just past 1 year out and doing great other than a few hiccups. I am sure those wrinkles will also be ironed out in time. Though I am starting to get the skin folds that so many people get after losing a great amount of weight. The fat goes away but the skin (when stretched out as far as it does when weighing 419 pounds) does not shrink back very far. I suspect that one day I may have to do another surgery to get rid of the extra skin, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it. I figure I won’t worry about that until after I reach my goal weight of 150 pounds. I currently weigh 238 pounds – so only 88 more pounds to go! I might even go past my goal weight….we shall see. Gosh…only 88 more pounds. That is such a great feeling!

Two weeks after surgery

I started this post two weeks after my surgery, but never finished it. Finally got around to finishing this post! 😀

I had an appointment with my bariatric doctor two weeks after the surgery – my first time driving since the surgery. I actually did fine. I would have prefered if it was cooler as it was since it was late May in Texas. But at least it was overcast – so the sun was hidden and that helped. My bariatric doctor looked at my incisions. I told him that the scab fell off on two of them so I used band-aids to keep them clean.
He told me that the band-aids were keeping them too moist and to take the band-aids off so that I could form new scabs. He was right – one day after taking the band-aids off, scabs were forming. Now one month after my surgery, my incisions are still healing, but the three smallest ones are completely healed. I still have three more to heal.

dizzy emote
I also told them I had been dizzy since the surgery. They took my blood pressure and it was 88/54 – that is why I was so dizzy all the time. Blood pressure is supposed to be 120/80. I was told to stop taking my blood pressure medication. My blood pressure was too low and I didn’t need the medication for now – just keep checking my blood pressure daily to make sure it doesn’t get too high or low. After not taking my blood pressure for three weeks now, it is at 126/64. That is a good reading.

I had to go to my main doctor for a bladder infection recently. She took my blood pressure and it was 130/84. It was 144/90 when I first walked in. I was hot from being in my car and outside. That drives up my blood pressure. Just waiting 15 minutes in the air conditioning and it went down to that 130/84 reading. I told my doctor that I usually had been getting around 120/70 at home (124/64 was my last reading). She confirmed what my bariatric doctor had told me. Stay off the blood pressure medication and monitor my blood pressure daily. She said I just might be done with having to take blood pressure medication. HappyChild_view from abovesm
My next appointment is in August, so we will do blood work then and see if I still need my cholesterol medication. My cholesterol levels were really good last blood work (which was before my surgery) so my doctor said that I probably won’t need any medication for my cholesterol at that point.

Splashing water from glass
First three days my diet consisted of nothing but clear liquids. Talk about giving you diarrhea! Sorry if this is TMI. So I have had water, clear broth (beef and chicken), Jello (it melts in your mouth to liquid) and a few other items that were listed in my diet book from the nutritionist. I was so glad to get past that stage! Only so many times you can drink the same clear liquids over and over. So for the next two weeks, I moved to all liquids (adding opaque liquids). That includes soup with no chunks in it – such as tomato soup, split pea soup and yogurt (smooth with no fruit). Once I visited my bariatric doctor at the two week mark, he looked over my tests and said I was good to move onto the third stage in the bariatric post-surgery diet – soft foods. I could finally have food with some substance to it!

Surgery Day – May 12th

Sorry it has been awhile since my last post. It took some time before I felt up to writing again.

I once heard from someone that had this same surgery that they had to go 24 hours without drinking or eating anything before their surgery. But for me, they just told me not to eat or drink anything after midnight. Easy enough to do.

I had to be at the hospital at 7:30am. So 5:45am I started my shower with the special antiseptic soap that the hospital gave me during my pre-op visit. I followed the directions included with the soap. It took ages to wipe my whole body down, wipe it all down again, wait two minutes, then rinse myself off. I was now sterile lol.

I went to the hospital for my 7:30am appointment and after waiting in the lobby for about 5 minutes, I was led to a hospital room. My boyfriend came with me for support and he is the one who drove me to the hospital. Once I got to a room, the first thing they had me do was undress down to what I was born with and put on a large and roomy (thank goodness) hospital gown. I also got the free pair of non-skid socks in my least favorite color – yellow. Then I had to wait and wait. There was a TV in the room, so I watched an episode of a sitcom and half of another show.

Finally they had room on the pre-op floor. Here is where the real fun began. Remember my horrible veins that didn’t do well with having an IV put in them? Well….this was still true. I am glad I had the support of my boyfriend to hold me while they tried repeatedly to put an IV in. I told them I was a “hard stick” with needles, so the lady used a sonic machine that showed where all my veins were. It was like one of those overhead projectors that teachers used to use in school. It shone a green light straight down onto my arm and you could see dark ribbons in the green and those were the veins. So she found a fairly good vein and tried it. The vein burst. She told me I have brittle veins. I was told not to worry about the burst vein – my veins are so small and collapse so easily that they close quickly and all I would have there is a bruise. She tried it again in my hand. The machine showed another fairly good vein and the lady tried putting an IV in with the same results – the vein broke. This lady felt bad for me and told me that they would try another machine that showed veins deeper than just the surface. By the way, this is a stock image – my veins are nowhere near that large. My veins are like tiny threads.
Green vein finder

In about 10 minutes, another woman came in with an ultrasound vein finder. She tried the same arm but another location with the vein breaking once more. So she switched arms. After two more times of veins either collapsing or breaking she finally got a good (well good enough) vein that will work for an IV. Whew! After what felt like an hour of poking and sticking even with the aid of two different machines – I finally had an IV in me. I pray I never need to have surgery again!
ultrasound vein finder2

So after the tears had dried and another hour had passed, they said they were ready for me in the operating room. I was wheeled down the hall, to an elevator and down some more halls. I do have to say that it is so fun being wheeled around on a hospital gurney! I had this same thought when I had my upper endoscopy several months back. It reminds me of sledding as a kid lol.

When I got to the surgery room, my first thought was, “Wow it’s cold in here” and my second thought was, “Oh my goodness it’s just like in the movies!” lol. Obviously I have never had surgery and never been in a surgery room before. They brought the gurney I was on right alongside the operating table and had me scoot over onto the table. They had a bunch of towels wadded up down along my spine and I heard one nurse tell the doctor that she put the towels to raise my belly up. It was dreadfully uncomfortable. But I didn’t have to worry about it long. They kept telling me to breathe – I don’t know if I was shallow breathing or what – but they kept telling me “Breathe”. What was funny to me was it wasn’t a quiet and relaxed voice saying “Breathe” like how you would imagine someone would say if you were going to be hypnotized or relaxing at a spa. No they were shouting it at me. “BREATHE!” I couldn’t say anything as I had a mask over my nose and mouth. But I was thinking “I am dammit!!! Geez!” I think I was awake for only a few minutes and 4 times of hearing them shout “BREATHE” at me before I fell asleep. It’s actually funny to me now that I think back on it. I was the last surgery of the day so they might have been anxious for me to fall asleep lol.
Operating Room

I slowly and groggily woke up in a dimly lit room. It must have been the post-op room because there were beds along each wall. The nurse was talking to me but I had no idea what she was saying. My wonderful boyfriend was at my side sitting in a chair. 🙂 It was very nice waking up with him there. I then fell back asleep. When I woke up again, I was in my own private room. I was less groggy now. I had previously told my boyfriend that he could go as soon as I got my own room on surgery day. So I was alone now. But that was ok. I was in my own room that had a window and TV. A nurse came in to make sure I was alright and checked my vitals. They checked my vitals once every few hours. I had an IV drip and I found about every 4 hours I needed another dose of pain medication. All I had to do was buzz the nurse and they came in to give me more pain meds. I knew it was about every 4 hours because there was a large dry erase board on the wall opposite my bed that had my vitals written on it and when my pain medicine was last administered. I noticed in the crook of my arm was a little green camo teddy bear with a t-shirt that had the logo of my bariatric doctor (“Live by Losing” was the name). Isn’t he cute?
LBL Bear
I watched some TV and relaxed as best as I could. I was very thirsty but wasn’t allowed to drink anything until they did an X-Ray with some nasty tasting liquid to make sure I didn’t have any leaks. I had a catheter in now, so I didn’t have to go to the bathroom – that was nice. I didn’t even feel the catheter so I didn’t know I had one until they took it out.

My medication made me sleepy so I spent most of my time sleeping then waking up to a nurse checking vitals. I brought my CPAP machine so I pretty much kept my CPAP mask on the whole first day. I did have a lot of bloating and pain from the air that they had to blow into my tummy area to get it to billow up so they could see what they were doing during the surgery. They only made 5 little incisions for the surgery and used tools that were in straws that can be inserted into the small incisions. There was no clock in the room so I had no idea what time it was. But that was ok – I slept a lot and could at least tell if it was day or night from the window. As it was getting to be dusk, they decided it was time to take out my catheter and take me to be X-rayed to check for leaks. Once again, I was wheeled on the gurney to another floor. They put me in a room where there were other gurneys along a wall, all separated by curtains. After waiting about 5 mins, they had me stand up and walk over to the X-ray machine which was in a room about 100 feet in front of me. I slowly walked over and they told me where to stand. After getting into place, they gave me the foul tasting liquid. I didn’t mind the taste so much – it was the first thing I had to drink since before midnight the night before surgery. They told me everything looked fine – no leaks! I laid back on the gurney and waited for my ride back to my room. Back in my room, they gave me a tiny cup of water to sip on. Oh it was wonderful! Now by cup, I mean one of the tiny cups they usually give people pills in.
hospital cup
Maybe another hour or two went by and they brought in three more little cups. One had water, one had chicken broth and one had some cherry jello. It was just a swallow of each, but after surgery, I was to only sip everything and that is all I wanted to do. Take it easy and sip.

Sometime shortly after dark, when the nurse came in to check vitals, I asked if they could help me up so I could try the bathroom. I had not used a bathroom since the previous day because of the catheter. I made it over to the bathroom and was able to go a little bit. After I finished up, the nurse helped me back to my bed. She asked if I was able to urinate and I said I did go some. She said that was very good as it lets them know that everything is working right. Later that night, I was visited by another nurse – a male nurse this time. He told me that I needed to get up and walk around. I really didn’t want to – but then he told me that the more I walked around, the more the pressure from the air in my abdomen will go away. I was all for getting rid of pain and pressure. So he helped me out of bed and I hung onto him with one arm and my IV stand with the other. We walked halfway down the hallway and he asked how I was doing. If I felt well enough we could walk all the way down the hall, or we could just go down the side hallway where we were at and make a circle. I opted for making the circle around back towards my room. I walked the loop and got back to my bed. The nurse said I did really good. The next morning he had me walk again. This was after several times of getting up to go to the bathroom throughout the night. He mentioned that I was walking faster and I was only holding onto the IV stand. It was easier to walk this time and I felt better.

After another “meal” of the little cups of water, broth and jello and several hours of watching TV and many more vitals checked, it was now about mid-day the next day. They told me I could go home and said I could call my ride to come pick me up. I told them I didn’t bring my phone for security reasons. My boyfriend’s phone was listed as an emergency contact so they had his phone number and gave him a call to come pick me up. I wasn’t even finished getting dressed yet and my boyfriend was already there. The staff brought a wheelchair when I was ready and I sat down in it. I was wheeled out to the car and carefully got in. An uneventful drive home and I was greeted by my two dogs who missed me terribly the last 2 days. I had to fend them off as they were jumping up on me. I walked to my bed and made a nice little nest with pillows and watched TV. My boyfriend brought me a sugar-free popsicle and water. Ah it was nice! My two dogs laid down on the bed beside me and we all relaxed while I watched TV. I was sent home with a “pain ball” for the pain. It was a small black cloth bag with a shoulder strap. In the bag was a plastic bag with a liquid in it. There was a small tube leading from the bag to an incision in my upper abdomen. I was told that in a couple of days the liquid would run out and I could take the tube out. Sure enough, two days later, the brown liquid stopped flowing in the tube and the tube was clear with only drops of the liquid remaining. I opened the black bag and saw the plastic bag was mostly empty. Time to remove the tube from my abdomen. I am very squeamish…..so I had to build myself up to pulling a tube out of my body. After staring at it for a bit, I started pulling….and pulling and pulling. I pulled about a foot or two of tubing out. Oh I nearly fainted. I was so grossed out! I quickly took everything and threw it away. I suppose I could have kept the black cloth bag, but I was so grossed out that I just threw it all in the trash. I put a band-aid over the hole. I also got a prescription of a composite pain medicine that needed to be compounded at a special pharmacy. My boyfriend picked it up when it was ready. I took it about every 6 hours the first few days, and after a week, I only needed it to sleep. The prescription only lasted two weeks, but by then I didn’t need it anymore. They also gave me a prescription of a vitamin supplement that included Cyanocobalamin, Folic Acid, B-12, B-6, and vitamin D which I am still taking along with all my other vitamins.