Follow me via your Email

Friday, May 17, 2013

Living with Gary (my Lap Band): THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE FUGLY.

In 2004 I had the Lap Band gastric procedure. If you're not familiar, it is a laproscopic surgery to aid in weight loss.A silicon band is placed around the top of your stomach, creating a smaller egg size pouch that is your "new" stomach. You control the amount of food and how fast it passes through to the bottom part of the stomach with a saline filled port. How could anything go wrong with this brilliant plan....
It was relatively new in the early 2000's, and I found a doctor in Chattanooga who performed the procedure. I was at my highest weight ever, extremely fatigued and depressed to no end. I would have taken any risk to lose the weight. The fibromyalgia made it impossible to exercise or perform physical activities. Now that I know that I also have hPOTS, the absolute inability to tolerate even a short walk down my driveway is now understandable. So after some research, I made the decision to go ahead with the Lap Band. It seemed like a magic bullet. My sister had the procedure one year before me and had experienced some minor issues ,but was losing weight slowly.   I did really well through the surgery and recovery. As usual, folks with fibro take a little longer to spring back from surgery. Within two weeks I had lost 20 pounds and was excited about the future. I was hoping and praying that with the loss of  my goal of 80 pounds, my fatigue would improve and maybe I would have  some energy. This phase is what I will call  THE GOOD: I lost weight the first two years steadily and by 2007 I had reached my goal weight, losing 80 pounds.   Now for THE BAD:  One day after eating, I (and everyone in the room) heard a weird sound, like a cat meowing coming from my stomach. Not only did it come from my stomach, I would be on the phone talking and the meowing sound would come out of my throat , similar to a burp. Yep, meowing. So when I realized that the sound was coming from the band, I began to read online forums about the Lap Band and sure enough, strange sounds and growling is common. Naturally, I named  my meowing Lap Band Gary.
I am a big fan of Sponge Bob and the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom, Gary is his pet snail that behaves and meows like a cat....and yes I did pass my psychological testing prior to having the surgery. Not sure I would pass it now... ANYHOO.... another BAD is a nasty little Lap Band condition called "sliming". When you over eat or God help you, and it happens all the time, get a piece of food stuck in your "blow hole", the tiny opening to the lower stomach, get ready to slime. Mucous builds up in the esophagus and mingles with saliva, which obviously have only one way to go-up and out. It is the nastiest vomiting and retching you will ever experience. I was lucky. I didn't over do it often.  I do not like to throw up, and it is painful and as you will read later, very dangerous with a Lap Band. I did get obstructions in the "blow hole" and would have to jump up and run to the bathroom and projectile vomit everywhere...lovely isn't it? But I was 80 pounds lighter, so who cared about odd feline utterances, slimy mucous vomit  and losing handfuls of your hair...but alas, it did get worse for me. In 2008 and in 2010, I had to have IV iron infusions I was so anemic. I still clung to the belief that it was all worth it. My hair was thinning terribly, my nails were splitting and brittle and my general health was terrible. My biggest disappointment was that I still had absolutely no energy. I was in a size 12 (Oh forgive me Abercrombie and Fitch) and had pretty well leveled off in my weight loss. I did everything they said to do as far as eating properly. Small meals, no carbonated soda or beverages, and lots of water. Actually, two bites of solid food and I was full. One thing they did not tell me...I saw this on Oprah on an episode about Gastric By-Pass. You cannot tolerate alcohol very well post surgery. I believe the rule of thumb is one drink = three drinks in your old life. I learned this the hard way, so begins the FUGLY stage..
I went out with a group of girls way too young for me to help celebrate one of the ladies birthday. Oh things started out perfectly as so often the tale goes. We had a  Limo and headed out to Knoxville to the Bone Fish Grill. We had begun the party in Gatlinburg and I had a couple drinks at the bar there AND some wine in the Limo. Now also take into consideration, I was newly separated from my ex and was really needing to blow off some steam. By the time we got to Knoxville, I was basically out... but the Limo driver would not let me stay in the vehicle for insurance reasons, which I completely understand. So began the FUGLY scene of me hugging a trashcan and barfing in front of the restaurant..those poor customers with a window seat!!
The gals I was with propped me up on a bench outside and left me while they ate. I don't blame them.. I was puking, snotting and crying. It was beyond FUGLY. How I didn't rip the band out with all the heaving was a miracle and how I didn't end up in the drunk tank is a greater miracle. God does take care of  fools and children ... suffice it to say it took days to recoup and I now have no desire or ability to drink any type of spirits.
 As time passed, I began to have really bad acid reflux and GERD.  In 2009 , I received a letter from the doctor who performed the surgery , that he was no longer seeing bariatric patients. That alarmed me to say the least. I found a local doctor who I really did not like or trust, but didn't  know what else to do.  In 2011, I started having some pain in the port area. I continued to have  food blockages and loss of nutrients.. I had started B-12 injections once a week in an attempt to try to alleviate the fatigue. Then in November 2011, in a less than brilliant move, I decided to climb under my house and winterize the crawlspace. I ran into some problems and ending up being in the cramped area, basically crawling on my stomach for about thirty minutes. I did some moving of blocks that didn't seem that heavy. I was OK (so I thought) when I climbed out, but could barely get out of bed the next day. I soon learned from a MRI that I had ruptured a disc in my sacral region. The doctor started me on high doses of steroids. I could not get into the surgeon until late January. My band said its final hurrah during this time. I think it had something to do with the steroid treatment. My reflux/GERD was so bad I got aspiration pneumonia. My new local Lap Band doc removed all the fill from Gary  in January 2012. The weight piled on quickly, but I was so thankful to be able to eat a solid meal, fresh fruit and other fiber filled vegetables that I didn't care. I ate with reckless abandon and I loved it...soon my gigantic ass would not fit into that last pair of fat pants I had kept for emergency use only. I reluctantly went back to the doc in October to have  Gary filled again and he told me it appeared it had "failed". What?  He said the old style bands had a life of maybe ten years and most were having to be replaced long before then. He suggested a removal and a new revised band or a Gastric Sleeve, he told me to check back in six months. That would have been this past April. I have continued to have severe stomach pain and some general sickness since then and lets add another 20 pounds since October.  Totally bummed, to say the least. I decided to go to another doctor for a second opinion this week. I'm certainly glad I did. My band had not failed, it has slipped out of place appears to be prolapsed or partially blocked. I will be saying farewell to Gary in August. Now I have to decide whether I want or can tolerate any other type of bariatric procedure. I really don't think I do...I don't think the risks are worth it to me. I thought the band was the answer but it wasn't. I personally know five other women who all have had lap band failure since my surgery, including my sister. Now with this  new hPOTS diagnosis, I just don't think I can chance any type of complication. The new doctor said the Gastric Sleeve(they basically cut 2/3 of your stomach out and leave you a small banana shaped stomach) would be a good option for me, but after reading about it, I'm skeptical and so discouraged. I'm about sick of the one, two punch...I need a break Lord.