I'm writing today about my progress in pursuing bariatric surgery.
I draw you in with pie, then I tell you more about laparoscopic procedures. It's the old pie/surgery switch-a-roo, for you. Ha ha!
As I talk to more and more loved ones about the possibility of undergoing a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, I can hear the worry in their voices. Am I sure I need surgery? Do I understand surgery is risky, sometimes even fatal? Do I really know that I can't take care of my obesity through any other way?
I am so grateful people care about me. This is a very hard decision, but here is what my research tells me: the majority of people with obesity as severe as mine do not eliminate enough weight long term without surgery to reduce the many comorbidities that accompany this disease. Success rates for weight loss surgery are the highest among any treatment course. I could link to many research articles which show this, but I'll spare you the stats. Surgery is scary, and violent, and mutilating, even as it saves lives. With this in mind, I can say this:
I believe that I am currently dying of the disease, obesity, and I believe that surgery is the best shot I have at saving my own life.
Yes, I may have complications. Yes, I could die from one of them. The chances of death from laparoscopic surgery or nosocomial infection are very low, given a good surgical team and a safe hospital, and pale in comparison to the risks of not losing body mass.
As for using less invasive methods to control my weight, I must continue to make behavior changes, follow a healthy diet, and pursue consistent exercise, in order to be well. A gastric sleeve cannot cure me, it is just a tool, albeit the best tool currently available to get me where I need to be.
Now, if you really want to scare people you love, tell them that you might fly to San Diego, then cross the border to Tijuana for the surgery.
It sounds nuts, right? So nuts! I posed that question, "Am I totally nuts to consider this?" to my girlfriends this week, for roughly the hundredth time, and my friend, Carrie, hit the nail on the head when she replied, "It's one of those things that sounds nuts until you research it."
That has been exactly my experience.
Researching surgeons and facilities is difficult. Getting complication and mortality rates is challenging. Finding former patients with feedback (good and bad) involves some reaching out of your comfort zone, and exposing your own struggles. Getting the skinny (no pun intended) on what surgery in a far away place looks like without having visited there takes a good amount of sleuthing and persistence.
Here's the thing, though: this is true for surgeons and hospitals both inside and outside the United States. If I am going to have to have this surgery on a self-pay basis, I will likely have to travel. This means that, in the age of medical tourism, it is sometimes the more foreign places which do a better job at disclosing information, handling logistics, and giving you a view of their surgical procedures and hospital environment.
Case in point, here is one of the doctors/practices I am currently interviewing. You can see his CV, check his license, get his volumes, etc., all online, both on his site and through general web research. You can then talk to his coordinator via email, phone, or text with any concerns or questions. If you have a few moments, take a look.
This is just one of the surgical practices with this kind of information, although I like this one a lot because you have the opportunity to look up their whole team, including anesthesiologist, internists, and surgical nurses, as well as the facility.
Nothing is decided, yet. We had a great conversation with our insurance coordinator today, who is going to work hard to see if we can get this surgery covered here, despite it being an exclusion at first glance. We have interviews with doctors here in Chicago (too pricey, but their practice might be able to provide before and after care, and recommend less expensive options for surgery), and in Michigan, all before Thanksgiving. It is too soon to say if I will be heading out of the country to make this happen. I'm not excluding it as a possibility, though, because the more I investigate, the more I believe it is a logical and safe option…
…and while I wait, I think starting the Duolingo Spanish program wouldn't be a terrible idea.