September 30, 2013. Honestly, now that I had come all this way and had a surgery date, I began having second thoughts. I did an immense amount of research on YouTube, on forums, and other media outlets to try and get a much more comprehensive picture of what my life would like if I went ahead and had this surgery performed. Some of the stuff I saw and read was uplifting, and some of the things were terrifying.
Compared to the other weight loss surgical options out there, the gastric sleeve is significantly less risky than some of the procedures; but it still carries many risks — like all major surgeries. At the end of the day, when you say ‘weight loss surgery’, there is somehow an underlying implication that it is somehow safer than other major surgeries. In actuality, it isn’t. There are still many risks and complications that could occur, up to and including death. This puts a whole new perspective on the procedure, and was a major topic of conversation between me and my wife for several weeks.
My wife is also obese; but she would never dream of having this surgery because of the lifelong implications that come with the surgery and your ‘new’ stomach. Many people following surgery get depressed and ‘mourn the loss of food’. For me, I thought this would be a major issue because I am an accomplished home cook, caterer, and food writer. I love food. In fact, food is such a major part of my life, that I can’t believe that I even considered this surgery. When we used to plan vacations, the first thing we would do is organize an itinerary of restaurants that we would visit while on vacation. Not anymore.
I am also a Restaurant Manager, and am frequently asked and required to try our new dishes in order to talk to guests about them. I am also encouraged to get in the kitchen myself and try and make new and innovative foods with our existing ingredients. These were all things that I knew would probably change quite drastically for me following surgery. Conversely though, and this is what I asked my wife; I asked her, “Is that bad though?” Are humans meant to eat-out every time they go on vacation? Should the highlight of their day be, ‘what is for dinner’? This is when I came to the very resolute answer of ‘no’.
There is more to life than food. For me, there hasn’t been. I mean yes, I have a beautiful family, a good paying job, and I do play some extracurricular activities; but ultimately, food ran my life. It was then that I realized that this is where I had gone wrong for so many years. My love for food was equivalent to an alcoholics love for alcohol, or a drug-addicts longing for drugs. The comparative analysis ultimately reaching the same conclusion that excessive food, drugs, excessive alcohol are all things that can kill you, and significantly impact your ability to live a healthy, stable life.
I explained to my wife that I wanted to live happily and healthily for many years to come so that I can experience all of the things a person is meant to before departing this world. I wanted to see my daughter grow-up, meet my grandchildren, and partake in a lifelong journey with my wife. These were all things that were extremely murky for me going into the future because I knew that serious diseases and impairments were right around the corner if I kept living the way I was living.
As the date grew closer, I had to get many things in order. Nobody wants to think, ‘What will happen if I die’; but it was a distinct possibility, and it required me to plan for it. My own ignorance would not help my family if I were no longer around. I got together a Living and a Final Will, I began writing letters to family members and friends explaining my decision and ‘saying goodbye’; I had to file a Short-Term-Disability Claim with my employer; and I had to begin preparing for my life (or death) following surgery in many other ways as well.
One thing I want to go into some more detail regarding is the Short-Term Disability aspect of this surgery. I had no idea that this could even be covered under STD benefits until my Director recommended I call our Benefits Department and file a claim. At no point did I ever tell anyone at work what surgery I was having, and honestly, now that it is four days after my surgery, the only people that know that I had bariatric surgery are my doctor and my wife. That is it. Not my mom, not my dad, not any of my siblings or close friends. Bariatric surgery for me as, in a sense, an admittance of failure; and it wasn’t something I wanted to publicize to friends and family.
I filed the claim in early September, and was approved yesterday (October 3rd). I was unable to get it approved beforehand, because a requirement before approval was to make sure the surgery actually took place. After this was verified, they could move to a decision. For my first 30 days of disability, I will receive full pay, and thereafter I will receive 2/3 pay. I should be returning to work well before the 30 day mark; but it is nice that it is there should I need a little extra time to get my energy levels higher before committing to such a labor intensive work schedule (10 hour days, varying schedule).
Finally, the day before surgery arrived. I was asked to take an 8 oz dose of magnesium citrate in order to clean out my system, and I was also asked to stop eating 24 hours ahead of time, and drinking 12 hours ahead of time. I packed a bag for the hospital, spent some time with my family, set my alarm, and went to bed.
This is where this article will come to end. For an in-depth look at my surgery, and the days that have followed, please read my final article in this series, First-Hand Experience with the Gastric Sleeve, Part 5.