A LITTLE MORE ABOUT MY DOCTOR
I can’t emphasize enough how important a role choosing the right surgery group played in my success. I specifically chose a WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY CLINIC, a group of surgeons who continue to make their living helping obese people become healthy. This is literally 100% of their business; it’s all they do. They aren’t rushing off to perform an appendectomy or repairing gunshot wounds. The doctors and staff at SALSA deal with fat people ALL DAY LONG. They know what to expect and in turn, their patients have a better chance of long-term success.
Risk-wise, I was given an extremely lengthy and thorough list of every possible problem that could result from the surgery, medically speaking, which Dr. Suh, the assistant surgeon, read OUT LOUD to me to make sure I understood. He also pulled up a chair next to me and spent an hour going over the procedure, using the rolled up paper on the exam table to draw me a very specific illustration of exactly what he was going to do to my guts, which was awesome. I kept it as a souvenir.
Of course there’s all kinds of stuff no one can prepare you for, like when your husband innocently eats cookies in front of you for the first time and all you've eaten in three weeks is pureed dog crap and you want to kill him. But seriously, I went to a top-notch surgery group. They knew what they were doing and made sure that even if something went wrong, there would be no surprises.
Technically, I had dual insurance at the time of my surgery. The strange thing is that I was initially rejected by Dave’s insurance plan and decided to pursue having the surgery covered by my temporary insurance from UC Davis, where I’d been working in the temp pool while I tried to start my own financial planning business. The temp pool insurance plan had a $3,000 deductible and would only cover major medical. Fortunately, the surgery was covered and we agreed that $3,000 was a lot less than we’d have to pay for fertility treatments.
Even though my insurance pre-approved me, I also had to pay the surgeon over $5,000 up front before they would schedule my surgery. Apparently they had never dealt with my insurance plan before and they were unwilling to bear the risk that my insurance wouldn’t come through. I was promised a refund as soon as they were paid by my insurance. We used the money we had been saving from our wedding for a house down payment with the agreement that even if we never saw it again, it would probably be money well spent.
It wasn’t until after my surgery, when I went to have the cafeteria plan from Dave’s firm send me a check for our plan balance, that I discovered his insurance technically covered the surgery after all. Apparently, when I had initially called them for pre-approval, they misunderstood which surgery I was having and thought it was elective. Gastric bypass surgery is considered medically necessary in most cases, so all I had to do was prove it, which was easy given the mountain of documentation I’d already obtained. They ended up paying everything that the UCD policy didn’t, including the $3,000 deductible.
In the end because of our dual insurance, my surgery was covered 100% and we paid literally zero dollars out of pocket for any of it. Of course it took me over a year to work out all the coverage and get all my money back from the insurance companies, but I was eternally grateful.
THE WEEKS LEADING UP TO THE SURGERY
After literally months of preparation, I was scheduled to go under the knife on August 8, 2002. I decided to keep working right up until the day before my surgery and since my job was temporary, that ended being my last day of work at UC Davis.
Sadly, three days before my scheduled surgery, Dave’s father unexpectedly died. He was 82 and seemed to be getting around just fine, so it was a bit of a surprise. My first thought was that I was going to need to reschedule my surgery. And even though I was sure I would be able to get back on the calendar in a few weeks and I reassured him it was totally okay with me, Dave insisted that I follow through with it. His father did not want a funeral and there was almost nothing for Dave to do except grieve. Focusing on taking care of me turned out to be a nice distraction.
Being the big fat blabber mouth you all know I am, I decided not to keep my surgery a secret from anyone. I got a variety of responses from bewilderment to excitement. My family was very much against it. I won’t drag up the past by going into it because I know they were reacting out of fear, but my side of the family was not supportive. The fact of the matter is that once I make up my mind to do something, nobody’s going to change it. I kept a positive attitude and Dave was right there by my side the entire time. He was scared, but he was solid. More than anything else, I was excited. I felt like this was the beginning of a new and much better life for me.
Carol (Dave’s mom) came up to stay with us the day before the surgery and she stayed for a few days afterwards to help out. My parents ended up visiting me at the hospital the day after my surgery, which was a nice and very welcome surprise.
MY PRE-OP DIET
Since my surgery clinic didn’t require pre-operative weight loss, I ate what I wanted right up until the week before my surgery. I can still remember what I ate those last few days! A lot of fast food. Tons of sweets. Virtually buckets of ice cream. Full sugar soda. Like everyone who ever had surgery before me, I thought I would NEVER be able to eat anything I loved ever again. I had many a last meal, but on the night before I had to start my liquid diet, we went to Cattleman’s. I ate an entire potato skins appetizer, a strawberry daiquiri, two plates of salad with ranch dressing, and an entire filet mignon dinner with a baked potato. Then I had mud pie for dessert.
I don’t why, but I just assumed I’d never be able to enjoy food the same way ever again. In my mind the only way to lose weight was to suffer – to eat things I really didn’t enjoy and to not eat the things I did enjoy. I also guess I focused a lot on what I would be able to eat immediately after my surgery and didn’t realize that the post-op dietary restrictions wouldn’t last that long. After a few months, you can eat pretty much eat whatever you want. But of course I still had that, “my diet starts tomorrow” mental fart going on, so I probably gained five pounds that final night.
THE LIQUID DIET
Five days before my surgery, I had to stop eating solids. For two days, I could drink anything I wanted to and then for the three days before the surgery, it had to be clear liquids. Again, there was no restriction on what that meant, so I mostly drank soda to keep from feeling hungry. It was a short period of time and we were so distracted with the death of Dave’s father that this was really easy for me. It went by in a blink.
WHAT GOES IN MUST COME OUT (TMI!)
That said, a certain percentage of people don’t handle liquid diets that well. For me, if liquid goes in, liquid comes out. And I’m not talking about a little innocent pee pee here. Once I started that liquid diet, I didn’t get off the toilet until five minutes before they wheeled me in for surgery. I had constant diarrhea. I called the advice nurse two days before the surgery in tears because I was sure they would have to cancel my surgery. I literally couldn’t walk five feet away from a bathroom, so I figured there was no way I’d survive being unconscious for an hour so they could perform the operation. The nurse reassured me that this was totally normal and she prescribed me butt wipes and diaper rash cream, which I found hilarious and unnecessary.
[Tomorrow: The surgery itself and the immediate aftermath]