So you’ve heard about going to Mexico for gastric bypass surgery. It’s cheaper, there are a lot of people doing it, so it’s probably safe, right? Short answer: Yes, but…
Almost a year ago, I got the opportunity to get gastric bypass surgery if I went out of the United States to do it. Gastric bypass surgery has always been something I have wanted to do, but I never thought it would happen for me. I have no health insurance, and no way to get it, but I heard that if I went to Mexico it would be much cheaper. Having said that, of course I was terrified. Here are some things I did that made I really think helped prepare me.
What I didn’t realize before I started was that providing gastric bypass surgery in Mexico for people is a big business. There have probably been at least five medical coordinators hanging a shingle on their door as I write this. Doing internet searches blindly and asking for more information from all the websites that come up really won’t get you very far. A WORD OF WARNING: Do not put your phone number or e-mail on any websites unless you want to be called, e-mailed, and bombarded by courier pigeons. Well, maybe not that last one, but still.
1. Find a forum to talk to real people that have gone this route.
Before overwhelming yourself with internet searches, look around on some forums. There are several out there, but I recommend ObesityHelp.com. This is probably the most inclusive site. It’s filled with all kinds of information, mostly for people that have insurance or are having the surgery in the US, but there are a few that have gone to Mexico. Read forums, blogs, send people messages. There are several surgeons that are mentioned frequently there. If you’re thinking about a surgeon that has no history or record online, best to move on.
Others on the website will have tons of information, insight, and personal experiences and are generally good about answering questions. A WORD OF WARNING: You will encounter some people that are very pessimistic about surgery in Mexico, they will try to scare you out of doing it. There are plenty of others who have had great experiences.
2. Where do you want to go?
When trying to decide on a surgeon I found this question the most helpful. There are several surgeons in Tijuana and other boarder cities, but there are also a few in Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. Once you’ve decided on the city that will narrow down your surgeon choices. Some questions to ask yourself when deciding on a city are: Do I want to fly into Mexico? If the answer is yes, then Puerto Vallarta might be a good option. If you don’t want to fly into the country but would rather cross the boarder by car, then a boarder city like Mexicali or Tijuana would be okay. Safety is an issue in a lot of these cities, so be sure to watch the news and factor this in. Personally, I wanted to go somewhere vacation-like, so I chose Puerto Vallarta.
TIP: If you don’t have your passport, this is probably the first step that needs to be done. I recommend actually getting the passport book. It is more expensive, but you can be sure it is accepted.
3. Do you want to use a medical coordinator?
There are a lot of people that say medical coordinators are a waste of money. This may be true, but I felt better using one. Keep in mind that a lot of medical coordinators are trying to make money so they will try to convince you that the only safe way to go is by using them and the doctor they provide. Having said that, it can be helpful to use them especially if you are going alone or if you do not speak Spanish. They will also have options set up for financing if you need it and may have deals based on when you want to go. You will be shocked at how quickly they can schedule you. I decided to have this surgery in September and was scheduled for November.
4. Do Internet Research
After reading online forums, doing searches, and hearing things about various surgeons, medical coordinators, and hospitals, you might have an idea about who you’re looking for. Once you have a handful of surgeons picked, start doing even more extensive research on them. Obesityhelp is a great resource for this because they have surgeon reviews and list which members actually used them. Don’t be afraid to contact members that claim to have used the surgeons you are thinking about and ask how they are doing. Be leery of surgeons that have no feedback from anyone anywhere. Pay attention to any negative stories you hear and decide if those stories are bad enough to decide against a surgeon. For example, when I chose Puerto Vallarta, that really narrowed down my surgeon options. The most popular Puerto Vallarta surgeon was Dr. Joya and there were a lot of people that had a lot of good things to say about him. However, there were a few negative stories about him, so I decided to go with Dr. Alejandro Lopez. He didn’t have near the reviews others had, but I was able to find blogs and talk to people that had used him. I literally spent at least four hours out of every day for almost a month trying to find anything I could about my surgeon.
5. Find a local after care doctor.
Check with your general physician to see if they will be willing to do your after care – basically lab work to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients. One thing that sucks about going to Mexico is that your doctor won’t be close by if you need them. Because of that, there are several things you will have to do yourself.
6. Prepare Yourself Mentally
I used to hear about this surgery and laugh when I heard that there was a mental health evaluation, but now I understand why. First of all, you need to be mentally ready to lose weight. This surgery is not a cure-all. Yes, it makes eating difficult and you can’t take in near as much food as you used to, but there is still work involved. You have to be mentally prepared for that as well as prepared for what not having food is going to do to you. If you’re an emotional over-eater this will be difficult for you. If you have used food as a crutch, this will be difficult. There are a lot of mental and emotional changes that go with this surgery and extreme weight loss. If you think you might need it, seeing a counselor might not be a bad idea.
7. Brush up on your Spanish.
Even though you may have an interpreter and there may be several people you encounter whom speak English, you will most likely at some point need to communicate with someone and they only speak Spanish. This will be especially important at the hospital when you are going to be in need of medical care.
A FINAL NOTE:
Please understand that having surgery is a very serious undertaking. The most important thing is your safety, so please make sure that the surgeon and hospital you choose are reputable
My Profile on ObesityHelp.
My YouTube Channel Documenting Personal Experiences