Born 20 08 1949 – Age 63
I wasn’t a particularly fat child, though I was never slim. My weight never concerned me and I don’t remember weighing myself ever as a teenager. By the time I married the day before my eighteenth birthday, I was 5 ft tall and approximately 9 stone.
I suppose that my weight problems started with my first child, as I put on 2 stone in weight and lost only 1 stone afterwards. With 3 more children, the weight piled on up to about 12 stone. Three times I lost 3 stone and each time I regained all that I had lost and a little bit more. As a friend said to me, “All diets work, all you have to do is stick to them.”
By the time I reached the age of 58, I knew that I really had to do something radical if I wanted to continue to be fit and active. My friends would describe me as an energetic or busy lady. I walk fast, I talk fast and I have always led a very active life and enjoy riding and walking. As an alternative therapist, I worked hard and had strength and energy to spare, but I was starting to flag. Three hours walking dogs in the Spanish hills was becoming difficult, I was bouncing around on top of my horse like a rubber ball and my weight was at an all time high of 14 stone 5 lbs. Something had to give. I was obvious that what lay ahead of me was a likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and breathing problems. As I became fatter everything was more difficult and as everything became more difficult I was getting fatter. So I researched bariatric surgery online.
As with all my research, I really looked in depth at the options and came to the conclusion that the best way forward for me was a gastric bypass, but it wasn’t really as simple as that! To put it bluntly, what I read scared the pants off me! There was an A4 list of things that could go wrong, but no matter how I looked at it I couldn’t really find a better answer. I looked briefly at the gastric band but knew that I simply wouldn’t have the patience to go back and fore for checks and fills and so on. I wanted something that was just done and dusted. It was too big a step for me to take right away, however, I did all my homework. I looked for safety – and here I mean a clean hospital environment and the most knowledgeable surgeon. Then I searched for the cheapest route to get the gastric bypass operation performed by Dr Bruno Dillemans at St Jans hospital in Bruges.
Having done all of that, I decided that I would try for one more year to lose weight, before actually doing something that drastic.
A year later I hadn’t even tried to lose weight and so I went through the whole research process again and came to exactly the same conclusions. Everyone was singing the praises of Dr Dillemans and no-one was grumbling about him that I could find. He had performed 8,500 bariatric procedures by then (at the time of writing, February 2013, he has performed over 14,500 procedures) and was world renowned in his field. The cheapest route to get to him was actually via International Surgery Group.
In the first instance, I phoned and spoke to Garrett, then filled in and emailed the paperwork. Dr Dillemans okayed it – with my request to take out my gall bladder too as there is a very strong family history of problems, to the extent that most of us don’t have gall bladders any more! We set a date a couple of weeks ahead and I arranged for a friend to come with me. Unusually, I decided to go on the train. Cheaper, less travel time spent hanging around, easy to get from place to place without loads of walking a few days after my operation.
Now I am one of those people that joins the shortest supermarket queue and someone in front of me will tip tomato sauce over the conveyor belt or something, so I am pre-conditioned to expect things not to go according to plan, but surprise, surprise it was all an absolute doddle. Train to Paddington, taxi to St Pancras (to avoid a long walk to the tube station as my friend is disabled), Eurostar to Brussels, train to Bruges, taxi to hotel. Minimum walking.
Next morning, taxi to hospital, hospital reception, then book in, then reception for Dr Dillemans, 5 minutes in the waiting room and in to see the nutritionist for weighing, measuring and questions, then given nutritional / diet information and general chat before being taken to meet the famous Dr Dillemans. What a lovely man! Very informal, sitting on the corner of his desk, with a plastic cup of coffee in his hand, absolutely charming and a total confidence – giver. I had paid extra to have my gall bladder taken out, but he said he wouldn’t remove it unless he thought it needed to go and that if he didn’t take it out I would get the money back! I thought that was quite funny and very honest of him!
Then I had the procedure fully explained with the aid of diagrams and was told exactly what he would do and exactly how big my stomach would be afterwards. Despite the fact that he is an extremely busy man, there was absolutely no rush (I have since discovered that he is always the same), I had time to ask everything I wanted to ask and say everything I wanted to say. This was much more of a conversation than a clinical assessment to me, even though it actually was a surgeon meeting his patient prior to surgery. Next day I was admitted to the hospital for my gastric bypass surgery. One of Dr Dillemans nurses did temperature, mouth and nose swabs and blood pressure. The porter arrived 5 minutes early, so I didn’t have time to worry before I was whisked away.
Despite the operation only taking 40 minutes, patients routinely stay in post op being monitored for about 5 hours. I really only wanted to sleep for the rest of the day, but when I woke up I was aware that I was missing an ache just where my gall bladder had been and realised that I had been having ongoing problems with it that had not yet been diagnosed despite several doctors and hospital visits in UK. That was day 1. Day 2, I decided to play it cool despite the fact that my room-mate was up and busying about all day. She was just 23 so let her, I was 59. Had water to drink and later in the day, some yoghurt to eat. I had paid for an extra night which seemed sensible having had my gall bladder removed too. Lunch was cute, a white lump, a green lump and a brown lump, an ice cream scoop of mashed potato, another of pureed peas and one of pureed mince. I ate the lot. I can’t remember what I ate later, but I ate! Day 3, Breakfast, Drain out and discharged for midday fully armed with meds for the next 10 days.
That night we went out to a restaurant and I simply explained the situation and asked if I could have a child’s portion of something suitable that I chose from the menu, whisked up in a liquidiser and the chef did it for me happily. Day 4 now just 3 days after my operation and time to go home. Everything went smoothly. The longest walk was at Brussels, but it was fine and not too far for me. The roughest part of the journey was the 15 minute car ride from the station to home. I arrived back fit and well and already 8 lbs lighter. My only mishap was a violent sneeze pulling apart the butterfly stitches in one spot that I should have seen my practice nurse for, but didn’t until it was time to remove the stitches. It took a few days longer to heal and she told me it would leave a bigger scar, but it hasn’t.
I am now four and a half years on. My weight at its lowest is 9st 2 lbs, sometimes I go up to 9st 7 lbs. Without a doubt it has changed my life. I really believe that it is the best thing I have ever done. Before I went out to Bruges, I told very few people what I was going to do and I have to say that the response was overwhelmingly negative! I didn’t dare tell my family. Even now in the face of overwhelming evidence that it worked very, very well, there is still some disapproval.
People have lots of misconceptions about almost every aspect of the surgery, based largely I believe on incidents that have happened when people have been operated on in UK by less experienced surgeons. A lot of stuff available on the internet is obviously theoretical knowledge and not written by people who have experienced this surgery first hand.
I was agreeably surprised to discover that I can still go out for a nice meal and a glass of wine, because I had been led to believe I would be forever quite severely restricted. Food is about flavour and feeling content that you have eaten sufficient to make you feel full. Wine is about taste and feeling good. So it has been said that I am a cheap date now!! Whether you eat a huge plateful of food or just a modest portion, as long as you feel replete and have the flavours in your mouth, you feel equally satisfied and as alcohol seems to have a stronger effect on me now than it did before, one glass lasts me a lot longer and I get just as much pleasure from it as 2 or 3 glasses might have given me previously.
It is after all, only the last mouthful that you taste no matter how much you eat or drink. My aim now, is to help other people to obtain the very best result from their surgery just as I have. It is an interesting fact that the World Health Organisation state that it is no longer possible to get all the nutrition you need from food without taking vitamin supplementation. This is largely due to the depletion of natural minerals and trace elements in the soil. I personally try to eat organically. I break most of the modern taboos on food by using full fat milk, butter and cream and I confess that I can’t drink tea without sugar! I don’t drink loads of water and I love KFC! Should you have any queries about any aspect of surgery that I have experienced or wish to chat about your concerns prior to booking your surgery, International Surgery Group would be happy to put you in touch with me.