FED UP: Rachel, 19 Days after Gastric-Bypass Surgery

I'd try to puree a cake.
I'd try to puree a cake.

An update from Rachel, with a teensy bit of editing.

Hi, Leslie:

So, 19 days after surgery, I’ve lost 25 pounds.  I’m within seven pounds of being back at the 53-pound weight loss mark I reached as a result of going to Choices Weight Management in Raleigh back in 2007-2008. (When I started at Choices, I weighed 238 pounds.  I got down to 185 pounds before the weight climb resumed.)


It’s been an interesting few days since I last wrote you.

Fancying myself Superwoman, I rode up to Raleigh with my son-in-law’s father on my daughter’s moving day to help her hang pictures. Since she is full-term pregnant, and I’m in full recovery mode, I thought I would be able to be helpful without stepping outside my 10-pound lifting limit.  Alas, when I feel well, I tend to think I am fully healed. …

I set about unpacking her kitchen.  That went well enough, but I felt so great that I overdid it.  Still exhausted and unable to sleep unless I was sitting upright on their couch with my legs propped, I soon started needing my pain meds every five and a half hours.  At one point, several days into my visit, I did not manage my pain medication well, and by the time I took a dosage, I was so sore and so stiff that my hands were shaking as I took the medication.

The day before I went back to Charlotte via train, my daughter and I carried extremely lightweight garbage bags filled with crumpled newspaper to the dumpster.  Feeling great once again, I lifted my right arm to toss a couple of those bags into the dumpster and immediately felt wetness at my main incision site.  That sealed it.  I went home the next day to seek rest in my own home …

… But not before testing the waters of pill ingestion. Thinking I really was feeling better than I could have been, I decided to take an iron pill and a prescription medication whole by swallowing them – 10 days after surgery, mind you.  They simply stopped at the bottom of my throat and dissolved slowly there.  I was oh, so ill.

So, I got back to Charlotte, and went to the emergency room the next morning to see about what I thought was my torn incision.  Whew.  It was not remotely torn; the Dermabond had come off that incision and a seroma (a build-up of fluid) was leaking through.  The doctor simply allowed the fluid to drain, put a gauze pad on me and sent me home. Before he let me go, however, he said, “You’re pretty skinny.  Why did you have gastric bypass?”  I thanked him for his honesty because I could see the blank looks on the nurses’ faces – they looked as if they wanted ask me if they’d read correctly about the procedure I’d had – and I told him I had the surgery because I qualified for it.  Once I’d qualified for lap band, the insurance company would pay for the gastric bypass, too, as a matter of helping me away from what they term morbid obesity. …


I slept lying down for the first time since my last night in the hospital on the Sunday evening after I returned to Charlotte. …

I got the EOB from my insurance company.  The entire surgical experience cost in excess of $45,000.  Of that amount, I’ll end up paying a total of about $1,400.   Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!


Now, since I’ll be on pureed foods until July 8, my blender and I are fighting against the blandness for which pureed foods have been known.  Once or twice a week, as needed, I sauté, in chicken and mushroom broths, a chicken breast, a plethora of hearty vegetables (spinach, leek, and zucchini fresh from the farmer’s market just two miles from my home; broccoli, string beans, fresh garlic, baby carrots, peppers, and spices), and then, when all is cooked to fragrant, mouth-watering perfection, I dump the lot into my blender and hit LIQUEFY. It’s some of the jazziest baby food around, and wonderfully tasty, too.  I’m digging it four to six tablespoons at a time. …

My blender is also my tool for amazing protein smoothies.  My specialties have been protein fruit smoothies with a dollop of plain nonfat yogurt, strawberries (not a great idea because of those little berry bits I must avoid at this stage of my recovery), apricots, plums, bananas, a dollop of orange juice, and a dollop of unsweetened Almond Breeze.  (Yes, this stage of my life requires LOTS of dollops.) 


The anesthesia is still in my stomach, which is an odd feeling because of the numbness.  But my stomach is shrinking, as is the rest of me.  As for the look of my stomach, it looks as though I have five small bullet holes (one of which is in my navel), and one incision that is about an inch in length.  As I heal, these scars will not be noticeable; they are already starting to fade into my skin color.

I wrote two of my morbidly obese friends with whom I’ve commiserated about weight loss over the years, to tell them that I’d had the surgery.  One, who stands firm at 300 pounds, told me that I was a brave soul.  Despite her weight, she has a positive attitude about healthy living (and about life in general; she inspires me every time I talk with her), and I believe she will be just fine. The other, who is nearly 400 pounds, wished me good luck, deleted my message, and told a mutual friend of ours that though her doctor recommended she have the surgery, she was never going to do it because she was not going to give up “the eating.”  There are other issues there, not just “the eating” so, as always, I keep her in my prayers.  This surgery is not for everyone, but my worry about this friend, whom I’ve adored since we were college freshmen, is that she sleeps for 18 to 20 hours a day on weekends, supplements the healthy foods that are delivered to her by adding foods of her own, and as I do, she struggles with depression.  She “treats” her depression by eating.


So, dear Leslie, that’s my update for now.  I’m sorry it’s written in such a rambling manner, and I’ll try to do better next time. …

Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.  ~  English proverb

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.