Approved for bariatric surgery

February 09, 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 fifth entry.

The phone call came on a Tuesday, Jan. 20: My surgery was approved.

Up until then I was in a holding pattern, and I wasn't sure it was going to happen.

Because of my EKG results, I had to undergo a stress test to see if my heart could withstand surgery - the only obstacle between me and bariatric surgery.

But my worries about heart disease were put to rest Jan. 14, when the cardiologist reviewed the outcome of the stress test and cleared me for surgery. On Inauguration Day, I got the call from the insurance company telling me I was approved.


I am scheduled for surgery Friday, Feb. 20.

I started this journey in May 2008 in an effort to regain my health. Now that February is here and the date is drawing near, I am going to buy all of the required vitamins and have everything else ready for when I am discharged.

I have an appointment with my family doctor to go over my pre-op history, physical and blood work. I also have to meet with the anesthesiologist Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore on, of all days, Friday, Feb. 13.

As I look back to all I have done to get ready for this, I realize that time has gone by faster than what it seemed.

Stress of a stress test

I had two appointments at Robinwood Heart Center - the first was Jan. 12.

A stress test was performed, then pictures were taken of my heart. I could not have anything to drink five hours before the test, but that was no big deal for me.

Part of the test involved a treadmill, which wasn't too bad, though I could not keep up with the pace they initially were going to set for me. I was OK at a slower speed, which was more like taking a brisk walk.

Then, I was injected with radioactive isotope for the pictures.

I went into this room that has a large machine and was asked to lie down on what looked like a table. I had to put my arms up by my head and could not move until I was told to.

This "camera" like object then scanned slowly over my heart and stopped every few seconds, and then continued. This lasted about 10 minutes, though it seemed longer.

When the picture taking was finished I went into this other room where patients were drinking coffee, water and eating healthy snacks. I was encouraged to drink lots of fluids to help flush out the radioactive isotope.

Most times, the testing happens in one day. But because of my weight and other health issues, the testing has to be done in two stages, with a day in between.

So my next appointment was Jan. 14.

Basically I went through the same thing - minus the treadmill. I felt like an "old pro" at this by the time the second round of pictures were to be taken. I knew what to do once I was on the table.

Results are in

After pictures, I waited for them to be developed (put into the computer). I went into the examination room and Dr. Tarek El-Sherif, the cardiologist, was there to discuss the results.

I did not feel at ease at that point as I thought, "Oh no, he looks like he's about to give some bad news."

But that was just my mind playing tricks and thinking the worst possible news was about to descend upon me - I was not prepared for that at this point.

However, the news was wonderful.

I was so relieved and happy at the same time. Dr. El-Sherif gave me a cardiac clearance for surgery. What a happy day that was for me, and prayers have been answered.

I was able to see the pictures of my heart actually beating - what an awesome sight. I also saw my arteries. He told me that they looked good.

By Friday, Jan. 16, the clearance was sent to my insurance company for approval. But I got a phone call explaining that the doctor who was in charge of my approval was not there that day and would not be able to see my paper work until Tuesday, Jan. 20.

I decided right then and there, that it was only a couple more days and I was not going to be upset because I had to wait.

The weekend went fast and my phone call came early that Tuesday that surgery was approved. They gave me several dates to choose from.

I wanted to give my employer a fair amount of time so that a schedule could be made for my absence. I decided on Friday, Feb. 20.

Countdown begins

I am a very superstitious person, so I am anxious to see how this plays out on surgery day. I will not know the time of my surgery as the patient is not called about the time until the day before.

I did not say it was easy, trust me, it was not. I am very appreciative of the staff at Robinwood Heart Center.

Everyone was very caring and considerate and I do thank them. I have started my countdown to Feb. 20.

I am ready, I continue to pray daily and I ask that you keep me in your thoughts. Even after surgery, I will continue to write as I get well.

I know I will be in the hospital for a couple days and will look forward to getting home.

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