My friend Rachel* is having gastric bypass surgery in Charlotte on Wednesday. I’m both happy and concerned for her.
I’m happy she’ll finally be able lose all the weight she wants. I’m scared because of possible complications, even though her quality of life should increase dramatically soon after. There are a lot of stats out there, but the complication rate averages 10 percent, with nausea and vomiting being the most common. The death rate hovers around 1 percent.
But Rachel’s done her homework. Her surgery will be performed at a hospital whose bariatric center is one of 10 in North Carolina rated a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Her doc is ranked among the top bariatric surgeons in this region.
Right now, Rachel – who’s 5’4” tall – carries about 208 pounds on her small frame. It was 214, but she’s been on her liquid-and-salad pre-op diet for a week. Rachel wants to lose 80-85 pounds, and expects to have dropped it all in about six months’ time.
She’s scheduled for the Roux en-Y proximal procedure, the most popular one. Her doctor will shrink her stomach by dividing it into a small upper pouch and a larger, lower pouch, then shortening the small intestine by reattaching it at a lower point where fewer calories will be absorbed.
Her insurance is covering most of the cost, though she hasn’t gotten the total cost just yet.
Rachel chose surgery because at age 51, she’s just fed up (no pun intended). Like many of us, she’s been battling weight most of her life, and gained 30 pounds just in the past year. I can totally relate, and can totally admit I’m a tad envious. I’d love to drop 80 pounds in six months. But as I’ve always said, surgery is just not an option for me.
I don’t fear surgery, just how my body might react. The only surgeries I’ve had were two c-sections. The first one was an emergency, and my newborn son and I remained hospitalized well over a week. The second time my temperature wouldn’t stabilize, and my newborn daughter and I hung out together for about nine days. (On the plus side, I didn’t have to do anything except cuddle my babies and get well.)
No, I’m not trying to ever go under the knife again. Rachel, however, is excited, and I don’t blame her. Originally, she was going to have the less-invasive lap band procedure, which is done on an outpatient basis, and I was planning on driving down to Charlotte to harass her every step of the way. However, this gastric bypass surgery will have her hospitalized a couple of days, with a convalescence of up to six weeks, so I’m hanging back for several weeks.
If it were me, I wouldn’t want to see anyone at all for at least a month. So, I’m going to go visit her sometime in late June, if she’s up for it. Meantime, I’ve asked her a bunch of questions, and will be running her answers in this space tomorrow and Wednesday (the day of her surgery).
(* Rachel’s not her real name. I did know a Rachel, back at Ohio State. There are four to a suite, and two friends and I decided to room together, leaving room for a fourth. Enter Rachel, the only white person. We certainly didn’t care, but after about a week she came in one day and said, “Hey, nigs.” She moved down the hall a few days later.)
More die in the United States of too much food than of too little. ~ John Kenneth Galbraith
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.