Realizing what's at stake

January 12, 2009|By ELLEN ROWLAND / Special to The Herald-Mail

Editor's note: Ellen Rowland, The Herald-Mail's North End columnist, plans to undergo bariatric surgery to help her lose weight and regain health. So that others might get a clearer picture of the costs and benefits of the procedure, Rowland offered to write a monthly journal describing the process. This is her fourth entry.

My parents taught me not to question God and I don't, though it is hard not to.

Some unexpected twists have put the date for my bariatric surgery in limbo.

Since spring 2008, I have been preparing for gastric bypass surgery, which would reduce the amount of food I'm able to consume. The target surgery date was set for early 2009.

Well, 2009 has arrived and I am in a holding pattern.

The results of my EKG, a prerequisite for surgery, came back "abnormal" - I was later told it was instead a "discrepancy."

I have not been told what was "abnormal" nor do I know what the "discrepancy" was. I do know that, as a result, I have to have my heart tested before the insurance company will clear me for surgery. This is necessary to see if my heart can withstand the stress of major surgery.


I'm scheduled for the test today and Wednesday at Robinwood Heart Center. I will not know the results until after the Wednesday test.

What's at stake

I really need this surgery. I'm a diabetic with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I also have spinal stenosis, which limits my mobility.

Doctors warn if I don't lose weight quickly, I could lose the ability to walk. A specialist suggested I undergo weight-loss surgery to mitigate my back problems. It would also help some of my other health conditions.

Even if my heart test comes back fine, I won't be able to get the surgery this month - my bariatric surgeon is booked for January.

How it all started

Let me go back to December, when I went to my doctor's office for an EKG.

Steven Blash, my doctor, decided after the EKG that he would conduct what would be my last weight-loss appointment, originally scheduled for later that month.

The bad news: I had gained 9 pounds. The good news: I made Dr. Blash aware that I stopped smoking and had not have a cigarette since Nov. 21. I have never seen such a relieved and happy doctor.

I suspect the weight came because I stopped smoking, but I am not going to get too concerned at this point of the journey.

I also needed blood work and urinalysis done, which meant I had to fast 10 to 12 hours before-hand. I did not mind going without food or drink for that long, as I could have the test done the next day.

Well, I got a call from my doctor's office telling me I had a urinary tract infection. The doctor called in a prescription and asked me to come back to his office in five days.

Round two: Bad news

Little did I know that the following week would be another hitch.

I got a call from the surgeon's office at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center suggesting that I needed yet another test, a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), from my local doctor.

A CMP is used as a broad screening tool to evaluate organ function and to check for other conditions.

So back to the doctor's office I went. I got the CMP done, knowing that, because of the holiday, it would take a couple days for the results to come back. More waiting.

The following week, I got a call and the papers had been faxed to the insurance company and the urine testing came back fine. Thank goodness!

But it gets worse

But then came the EKG.

My surgeon's secretary told me that my insurance company found an abnormality in my EKG results. I did not know what to think. The insurance company said I had to get a cardiac clearance - a stress test showing my heart could handle the surgery - before they could approve me.

Not what I needed to hear at this point.

Then to add more fuel to the fire, I was told that my bariatric surgeon is booked for January. Now is that not a kick in the pants? All this in one day.

I let some of my anger come through and it was not too pleasant around my house for a while. My husband, poor guy, takes the wrath when I get upset.

I was so glad I had to go to work and I could keep my mind off this.

Keeping a positive outlook

I try to find humor in most uncomfortable situations. I called my dress maker, "Omar the Tent Maker," and told him I would no longer need his services. However, if surgery does not come through, I might have to re-hire him.

Really, I am looking at this holding pattern as a bump in the road. It makes me remember what my parents taught me as a child: If God decides this is right for me, then so be it. I am also praying that this will not be too serious and can be corrected and then get my approval for surgery.

I have been 100 percent committed to this since I started back in late May 2008, and I am going to stay with it until the end - no matter what the end might be.

Keep me in your thoughts and I will keep you posted as my story continues.

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