|On 25 April 2006, we received the following story from L.L. of Luther, OK:
"I am 40 years old. I underwent gastric bypass surgery in Edmond, OK.
I went against the wishes of my Primary Care Physician (PCP). He did not want me to have the surgery. The bariatric surgeon I chose had done many open procedures. Apparently, I was one of his first laparascopic patients.
My four hour sugery went as well as could be expected. We conducted a "leak test" the day after surgery and, at that time, there appeared to be no leaks. During my hospital stay, I began experiencing pain in my left shoulder, back, and stomach. Each time, I was told by the nurses and my surgeon that it was just part of my recovery.
I was released from the hospital with a low-grade fever and rapid heart rate. On my follow-up visit to my surgeon, I told his nurse I was vomiting every day and could barely get out of bed. I was given a prescription for nausea.
On March 17, 2004, I collapsed at my home in front of my two children during spring break. I was taken to the emergency room with septic shock. An MRI showed an abscess the size of a football in my abdomen. My bariatric surgeon was out of town and the on-call surgeon at the hospital responded to the page.
At that time, I had no idea how special the on-call surgeon would become. He told my family it was very possible that I would not survive the night. I underwent an emergency surgery to remove the abscess. A stomach vac-pac was placed in my abdomen to keep it open for IV antibiotics and treatment. Later, it was determined that my small intestine had been perforated during the first surgery. Immediately following the newest surgery, I was placed on a ventilator in ICU. By the grace of God, I survived.
Within a few days, my bariatric surgeon returned to town. I had another surgery to close my stomach and ensure all of the infection had been removed. My recovery was slow and I struggled every day just to get out of bed. I was so weak and sick that when I returned to work part-time two and a half months later, I was in a wheelchair.
On my follow-up visits with my original surgeon, I told him I was still getting sick every day and was so tired and weak. He said it was all part of the healing process. On my last visit with him, about two months out from my sugrery. I was still complaining of feeling terrible, I was still getting sick every time I tried to eat. He said I was far enough out of surgery that my complaints could not be related to the bypass surgery. He told me that I needed to go back and see my PCP to work on getting my blood pressure issues resolved. Once my PCP found out what was wrong with me, I could come back and see him.
Basically, he was through with me. I never saw him again. For months, I struggled with nausea, vomiting, my sanity and yes, the weight loss. My PCP was so kind and compassionate, even after I went against his wishes and had the surgery. He and the surgeon who did the emergency surgery when I was septic have been with me now every step of the way these past two years. I can't even begin to express my gratitude to them.
In September 2004, I was admitted to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, with stomach pains and severe vomiting. By this time, my "special" surgeon had moved to the same hospital where my PCP was. His office was across the hall. I requested that he do any necessary surgery. I underwent another surgery to have my gallbladder removed. My appendix was removed. My native stomach was drained. The bypass was revised. Another abscess was drained from my abdomen. It was during this surgery that it was discovered my vagus nerve had been severed. This nerve controls the digestive process. It cannot be repaired.
My days are filled with nausea and vomiting. For two years, I have undergone numerous tests and procedures. My $20,000 surgery had become hundreds of thousands of dollars in care. In January 2006, I had two endoscopic capsule studies done. It was determined that, because my vagus nerve had been severed, I have no motility from my throat to my "pouch." Basically, this means I am unable to digest food. I either have to "push" it down with fluid or more food. That either passes or comes back up.
Experts say that my future will be a liquid diet only. I have lost so much weight that I am nearly cachectic--a physical wasting of body mass and fat. My surgeon has said that if I continue to lose weight, I will have to be placed on a feeding tube. Ironic, don't you think, that I had weight loss surgery to improve my quality of life and now I am faced with the possibility of dying because now I can't eat?
They are talking about removing my stomach completely. Because of the way my digestive system works, the pouch is acting like a holding area. With me unable to digest food, I am running the risk of the food simple rotting and infection setting in. My future is unsure. My family has watched me become a person whose spirit is broken. My desire for life has been replaced with worry about the kind of life I will have.
I take full responsiblity for the decision to have the surgery. More than anything, I guess, I am hurt over the dismissal by the bariatric surgeron. When I went to him, I put my trust in him. When I see all of these shows that say how wonderful gastric bypass surgery is, it makes me sad that these success stories don't share both sides.
Thank God for all of the people that this surgery has helped. But, please, it is an injustice to those considering this life-altering surgery without knowing the facts and the possibilities. My special surgeon continues this journey with me. He has learned that severe complications from surgery are not being brought to the surface. Doctors are seeing more and more patients with long term, severe complications.
Websites that offer support for bypass patients don't like to hear from people like me. If we talk about our problems, we are labelled as "bitter" or "trying to scare people." I'm here to tell you, I'm not bitter. I'm not trying to scare anyone. This is reality. I live this hell every single day.
It's okay to promote the surgery. It's saved many lives. But, remember--there are some of us that have another story to tell. Just nobody wants to listen..."
Thank you L.L. for sharing your story.