With a body mass index of 43, I wasn’t considered under Irish or British regulations big enough for weight loss surgery. I was frustrated with the long waiting lists and conscious of the high costs of having it privately here in Ireland and the UK. My own battle with my weight led me to have an interest in weight management generally and I decided to help people with the overseas surgery option.
Why Dr Dillemans?: I’ve known Doctor Dillemans for several years and together we decided that we should present an alternative and better option to the British, Irish and other international patients who desperately need lifesaving weight loss surgery without being added to a waiting list that runs into several years or incurring expenses in excess of €16,000+. I founded International Surgery Group, working with Dr Bruno Dillemans, a specialist who is highly respected amongst his peers, in the field of obesity surgery. I wanted to help people who were/are in the same situation as me. I had been behind the scenes and stood in theatre and watched surgery being performed. I found everything to be fascinating, interesting and amazing. I never saw anybody to work with such precision and skill in my life. Practiced in weight loss surgery, using advanced keyhole and laparoscopic surgical techniques, Dr Dillemans has literately written the book on weight loss surgery. Of the 18 operating theatres, Dr Dillemans works out of three brand new state of the art theatres, all with laminar flow technology unlike several Irish and UK hospitals. The theatres run side by side and once he finishes with one patient in one theatre, he moves next door and starts on the next. It is little wonder that he and his excellent team are able to work at a great pace and help so many people every day.
After helping several hundred people, I felt it was only right that I should get on with my own weight loss surgery. I wanted it for myself, my family and I felt it would add credence to my organisation to be able to have the benefit of personal experience along with a healthier lifestyle.
As I had a BMI of 43, I was required to follow a high protein liquid diet for 2 weeks before my surgery which was basically the Slimfast shake diet. I know some people do find this difficult but to be honest it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. I went to Bruges the night before my consultation and surgery date. I’ve travelled many times to and from Bruges so I knew the journey very well. I flew from Dublin Airport to Brussels airport with Aer Lingus and got the train from Brussels Airport to Bruges via Ghent. I had one train change at Brussels Midi/Zuid. The journey, as usual, is very straight forward. It was the journey home I was anxious about as I was travelling by myself.
The Hotel: I always stay at the same hotel when I visit Bruges. Check in was straight forward and I was greeted by mother and daughter, hotel owners, Annie and Jannie. Jannie has been for weight loss surgery herself and has a
great understanding of life post op, which is partly why I’d highly recommend their hotel. They are most helpful and accommodating.
Day of Surgery: I was up early and at the hospital at 8am for my consultations and surgery. Like everyone else, I filled out all the hospital forms for administration and I went up to the 5th floor where I first met Hannelore, the dietician, for my nutritional consultation. She again explained everything to me before she checked my BMI by weighing me and measuring me. I met Dr Dillemans and after a good catch up, we got down to the official consultation. Again, I already understood everything but it is policy for Dr Dillemans to go over everything and make sure I was entirely sure. Soon after, I checked into my room. I had a semi-private room (2 beds) with en-suite facilities. I did not have to wait long as Dr Dillemans likes to make sure that patients from abroad are looked after first to allow a longer recovery time.
It was strange; very unusual to be looking up from the bed at Doctors rather than looking down at patients. I suppose I was in my room about 15 minutes or so when the porter came to wheel me off to theater so I really didn’t even have time to get nervous, I remember the porter ask me are you nervous and I replied honestly, “No, I am not”. He found this strange but I guess for someone who had been battling with weight for as long as I could remember I could not get to theater fast enough! I just wanted my new life to begin. In addition, I have to say that had I not known the surgeon as well as I did, I almost certainly would have been somewhat nervous. When I arrived in the anesthesia room Dr Dillemans came over once more to give me some last minute reassurance that my life was about to change for the better forever and he told me that he will see me “on the other side.”
After Surgery: When I woke up from surgery I was in the recovery room where I was kept for about 4 hours. This is normal practice. I was brought back to my room at about 2pm and after the full affects of the anesthetic had worn off I was really surprised at how good I felt. From listening to various different stories on Youtube and the forums I had expected to be in a bit of pain but the pain never arrived. I was given a water spray for my mouth and unlike various different surgeries that I had had throughout the years for various things, this was the first time that I woke from a general anesthetic that I didn’t feel hungry. I did feel at one point as though I wanted to be sick, however I pressed the call bell next to my bed and the nurse arrived with 30 seconds. I told her of my problem and she immediately gave me an injection with some anti-sickness medication which worked straight away.
1st day after surgery: I had my drain taken out at about midday and I have to say that once the drain was removed my mobility dramatically increased. I was discharged to my hotel at 3pm and I took it easy for the rest of the day, although I did stroll to the Lion Supermarket close to the hotel (about 100 meters), for some Activia 0% Fat Yoghurt which is all I could eat at the time.
2nd day after surgery: Dr Dillemans private nurse came to visit me at the hotel at 8:00AM. She changed my dressings and made sure that I knew how to self-inject the anti-thrombosis medication which must be taken for 10 days post-op. She told me that my wounds were healing really well and that they all looked perfect. At 11AM I headed for the train station in a Taxi for my return journey to Ireland. I have to say that the journey home had worried me as I was not sure if I could manage it, however, yet again I was surprised at how easy I managed the trip. The train was the first leg of my journey that I had to deal with which included a change of trains in Brussels Midi. I made sure that I left Brugge early enough so that I would not be rushing and I took my time all the way. It went seamlessly. I arrived at the airport and I already had my boarding pass for the return journey. I was conscious that I was carrying self-injectable injections so I went through security straight away in case there was any issue but I told the security guard that I was carrying them as I had surgery a few days ago and he didn’t even look at them. Dr Dillemans does issue a letter stating that patients have undergone surgery and the injections are required for 10 day in case there is an issue at the airport. When my flight was called for boarding I informed the staff at the gate that I had been for surgery and asked if I could be pre-boarded, they were very helpful and I was boarded with the families first which gave me extra time to get comfortable on board. The crew put my bag up in the locker for me even though I could have done it myself as it was light in any case. The flight home was uneventful.
I am now a 2 and a half years post-surgery and I have already lost 10 stone (63.5kg)! Prior to surgery I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, diverticulosis etc, all of these conditions have now vanished with the exception of the diverticulosis as this condition is not curable without surgery. For the first time in 10 years I am medication free and I have probably added 15 years to my life by having surgery. It was the best decision of my life and my only regret is that I didn’t have it done years ago!
I hope that my story and my pictures shown above will go some way to helping you reach that truly life changing decision, Is surgery right for me?