What was life like before bariatric surgery?
I have hesitated to write this because I am so early in my Journey, but then again, not really. I put on my weight over 25-30 years, and it just seemed like one day, I was too big to do the things I had always done. I was an athlete in high school well rounded, lettered in 3 sports multiple times, and competed at the top levels in the state. I was successful in anything I did. This extended to my professional life. Whereas I entered the work world, I successfully led people and moved up the ladder within the corporation. I kept up my own house and property, did all of my own auto repairs, raised 2 kids 5 grandkids, hunted, fished, butchered, and canned my own meats. I was pretty much able to do anything I set my mind to. My problem was too much main course and too much fast food. When I was athletic and active, I could eat anything I wanted. When I started into management and started spending my days behind a desk, my eating habits did not change, and I began to gain weight. I wrestled at 155lbs, and by age 55, I was 255, then 260, then 265. Along the way, I had a few setbacks. Just life happens.
I broke my leg wrestling my son, and they put a plate in it, and I got an infection in the bone. I almost lost my leg, and it was a long comeback. I became much more sedentary and never lost that weight. I then tore my meniscus in the knee on the opposite leg, again becoming more sedentary. Next, in 2016 I had diverticulitis surgery, and it went bad, and I ended up with a full colostomy. I had so much scar tissue around my stomach and waist I did not want to do anything. I was able to get the colostomy closed and get back to a regular digestive system, but my scar tissue hurt so bad it was all I could do to work, much less exercise. I also ended up with blood clots in both lungs, which caused scar tissue, shortness of breath, and if I exerted myself at all, I sweated profusely. It was embarrassing. During this time, I saw my weight go from about 240-265.
If you put off the decision to come in for a long time, why was that? What kept you from booking a consultation?
I wanted to do something about my weight, but I figured I just needed to work out. It just was not happening. With all the hours at work demands on the family, where was I going to find the “me time” to work out and lose this weight. I did not and would not consider weight loss surgery. In my mind, it was elective surgery, and I would be spending money on myself that should go to the family, not just be used for me. See, I had to have a change of mindset first, which did not happen without the aid of Covid. My wife and I have a high deductible health care plan, and in 2019 I got Covid. Like other things in my life, I got complications and ended up in ICU for a couple of days, again with blood clots in my lungs. This maxed out my out-of-pocket and emptied the bank account, so we ended 2019 thankful to be alive but a little leaner. So welcome to the New Year. On January 5, 2020, I had a resting heart rate of 140-150, and I found out about AFIB for the first time in my life. (I later found AFIB is also an after effect for many that have had Covid, thank you, Covid.) I had a $4000 ambulance ride to Albuquerque, along with Hospital bills. I maxed out my out-of-pocket on the high deductible health plan.
I told my wife, “You know what I just did?” “I just demonstrated how to max out your out-of-pocket in the first five days of the year.” My wife told me I was looking at it all wrong, that now I had the entire rest of the year to do whatever I wanted with my healthcare, and it was paid for. A lightbulb went on! I made my appointment, and during my consultation with Dr. Bleu, my mindset started to change. I am the leader of this household, and by having this surgery and getting control of my health, I will have the opportunity to live longer. I can be there for them. It is not selfish to have this surgery. I could get rid of sleep apnea (I did), get off blood pressure meds (I did), and maybe get rid of some of this abdominal scar tissue that caused me so much discomfort.
What was it like to work with the team, from the start of your journey to today?
I initially contacted a doctor in Lubbock a friend had used, and they did not contact me back but sent me an email referring me to their website. I got on their website, and all it did was talk bout all the barriers and hoops I had to jump through to get the surgery approved by insurance. They made it clear that it was all on me. They did not even contact me back when I asked for guidance. I then found Panhandle, and everything fell into place. They had a team of professionals that walked me through everything, not an exaggeration. They helped me through everything. My insurance covered everything but about $500, which was for some tests not covered, and I was thrilled with that.
What is your life like now? What’s the #1 thing you love being able to do now?
I am still early on, almost eight months out of surgery, but my belly does not get in the way. I can lay on my back under a car. I can tie my shoes. My clothes fit comfortably. Kids are brutally honest. I remember when she asked me some tough questions about what my belly was and why it was much bigger than everyone else’s. She complained because there was not enough room in my lap with my belly for her to sit. My granddaughter now sits on my lap in the evenings and goes to sleep in my lap almost every night. I can walk the hills again and deer hunt. My belly does not rub the steering wheel in the car. And yes, sexual relations with my wife are much better too.
By having the surgery and getting control of my health, I will have the opportunity to live longer. I can be there for my family.Randy F.