It's been six months since I decided to look into the current Bariatric weight loss program. What a difference between the way it was done thirty years ago and today.
In 1981 the potential patient needed to meet two criteria to be accepted for surgery. The first, they had to be a minimum of 100 pounds overweight. The second, their insurance had to agree they were morbidly obese and would therefore die if they didn't lose those 100 or more pounds.
After both of the two criteria were met, the surgeon would schedule surgery. This took about eight weeks from the day you walked into the surgeon's office. Weighing 410 pounds, my approval came back within two weeks and I was scheduled for surgery the following week.
That was it. There wasn't prior mental health or nutritional counseling. No group discussions or mentor connections. You wanted it... you got it. Six very long days passed and I was on my way into surgery. The operation took about two hours and I left surgery with an eight inch incision from sternum to navel. Oh, and a blessing from my surgeon, "Go forth my child and be skinny!"
Since the procedure was still relatively new, I spent the first 24 hours in the Intensive Care Unit. When they were sure there weren't going to be any complications, I was sent to the surgical floor where I spent the next five days learning to exist on hot spearmint tea.
Within a month I'd lost 40 pounds and consumed enough mint tea to look green around the edges and attract all the bees in northern Nevada. The one thing that I remember most about the hospitalization is the number of food related commercials on television.
I was into day five with nothing to eat but water. Right then a morsel of anything would've been great. No, I wasn't hungry, I just wanted to eat something. So I figured I'd watch television to get my mind off of food. At four in the morning most of the stations had either signed off (remember this was 1981) or were running crazy infomercials so I thought I'd be safe.
The first commercial had a man running across the screen singing about Dr. Pepper. "I'm a Pepper! You're a Pepper! Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?" Personally feeling that God invented Dr. Pepper just so I wouldn't have to drink water, I knew this wasn't the station to be watching.
The next channel had an old black and white movie playing, so I settled in until Sara Lee decided I needed to know all about her new frozen cheesecake. "So light and fluffy you'll think you're in heaven," the angels sang. I never did find out how the movie ended.
How much trouble could I get into watching the US Farm and Agricultural Report? Being that it was August, the corn commodities were the number one topic of discussion. Yes, technically corn is a food item but they didn't talk about cooking or eating it. "At last, I'm safe," I sighed. Well until the commercial. "Are you kidding me," I yelled. "A Twinkies commercial with the US Farm and Agricultural Report?" "Is nothing sacred?" I screamed. The doctor felt it was time for me to go home.
I needed to see my surgeon once a month for the first three months and then it was a six and 12 month check up and you're out the door. Within three months I'd lost seventy pounds and had graduated to newborn baby food eaten in one ounce containers five times a day. I was now cleared to try Cream of Wheat cereal and if my new stomach could tolerate eating something the consistency of wallpaper paste, I could move up to one smashed soft boiled egg.
My six month visit showed a one hundred pound weight loss. One year after surgery, I tipped the scales at 260 pounds and two years brought me down to 165 pounds. I was one of my surgeon's greatest success stories. He gave me a big hug and pat on the back. "Call me if you have any problems," he said.
I'd lost the equivalent of two full grown adults in 24 months. No one recognized me... including myself. I'd see my reflection in a store window and think I was looking at another person. I didn't know where to buy clothing because for 33 of my 34 years I'd been wearing clothes that were made for someone much older than my size. I couldn't go out to eat because there wasn't a restaurant that served either the food I could eat or would allow me to order a child's size portion.
My life became isolated and unfamiliar. My stomach had 150 small surgical staples in it making it impossible for me to turn to food as my drug of choice. I was different on the inside and outside, but the rest of the world was the same and I didn't know how to cope. Back then the medical community thought that if you took away a fat person's ability to overeat, they'd be just fine. That would work if hunger was only a biological response. They stapled my stomach and forgot all about my brain.
- Wednesday, 22 February 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Ginger Costen's From This Corner