Life after surgery -- the journey continues

March 16, 2009|By ELLEN ROWLAND

Editor's note: Ellen Rowland, The Herald-Mail's North End columnist, has undergone 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 writes a monthly journal describing the process. This is her sixth entry.

I am happy to report that I made it through weight-loss surgery.

I went in Friday, Feb. 20, for gastric bypass surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.

This surgery comes after nearly a year of psychological and physical preparation and doctor's visits and mountains of paper work.

Doctors suggested I undergo weight-loss surgery to help ease my spinal stenosis, diabetes and high cholesterol -- health conditions worsened by my weight.

Gastric bypass, one of many forms of weight-loss surgery, is when surgeons reroute the digestive organs so that a person consumes less food, and, as a result, loses weight.


But just because the surgery is over, doesn't mean my journey has ended. If I want to keep the weight off after surgery, I'll have to make some major lifestyle changes.

I will keep you updated as my recovery continues.

The day of the surgery

I checked in at Johns Hopkins by 9 a.m. and did all the usual paperwork. I did not have to wait too long before I was led into the prep-room area.

I put on support stockings, which help prevent blood clots in my legs, and a "lovely" gown, then got in the bed and received an IV. Then it was hurry up and wait.

My surgeon came in for a few minutes to talk about what he was going to do. My surgery was not scheduled until 11 a.m. He said would be in the operating room for three to four hours, if all went well.

My husband stayed with me until the operating room personnel came. It was a few minutes after 11 when I went into the OR.

I was not nervous. I just wanted to get in and get it over with.

I do not remember much what happened next.

Problems during surgery

I was later told that the surgeon ran into some problems during the surgery.

Once the operation began, he found a hernia -- one I had had repaired five times before this surgery. The hernia was twisted around and stuck to mesh that had been placed there during a prior surgery. The surgeon also found a second hernia. He had to repair both of them during the operation.

The gastric bypass did not take as long as the hernia repairs.

From what I have been told, I did not get to the recovery room until about 7 p.m.

I have a phobia of medical tubes. So imagine how I felt when I woke up after surgery and had a tube in my nose, two tubes in my left side, a feeding tube in my right side and a catheter.

Nurses checked my vitals. I was doing well. That evening, I sat up in a chair. Later, I walked halfway down the hallway and was very glad to get back in my room.

After the surgery

I was supposed to be discharged Monday, Feb. 23, but my oxygen levels were not stable enough, so they wanted me to stay an extra day.

I went down to X-ray that Saturday for a leak test. I have no words to describe the medicine I had to take for it, but thankfully I only had to take it once. As I swallowed, they took an X-ray to see if there was any leakage. There was none.

On Sunday, I started my liquid diet. I had lemon-flavored Crystal Light, beef broth and Jell-O. I am so thankful for Jell-O: It helped get me through. I also had a powder-protein packet that I could dissolve in the Crystal Light or broth.

This is what I ate until I was discharged.

Life since the surgery

Since surgery, I have moved from a liquid diet to puréed foods, and now I'm eating "soft" foods.

It is not so bad. I do have lots to choose from. But I have to watch portion size.

I still drink my protein powder two times a day and take my vitamins. And I am giving myself a vitamin B-12 shot once a month to avoid another pill. I will have to take vitamins for the rest of my life.

Eventually, I will be able to eat solid foods again -- by May, hopefully.

All in all, I am doing well. I have lost nearly 20 pounds so far. I can't say I have good and bad days -- I have good and bad hours. When I am not feeling well, it only lasts for a couple hours and then I feel better.

I want to thank everyone for their well wishes, prayers, phone calls, cards and flowers.

It made this journey so more bearable.

My journey to weight loss: A timeline

Oct. 23, 2008 -- The journey begins

Ellen Rowland, 58, of Hagerstown, introduces herself to Herald-Mail readers.

When this ran, she was considered morbidly obese. Doctors told Rowland that she needed to drastically lose weight or she could risk loosing her ability to walk.

Her target surgery date was set for early 2009 at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. But before she could have the surgery, she had to meet several conditions laid out by her insurance company.

Nov. 11, 2008 -- Rallying support

Rowland vents frustrations with what seems like mounds of paper work and communication issues with her insurance company.

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