Not all weight loss
surgeries go well. Although the mortality rate is less than 1
percent and most complications are no more serious than hernias,
incision problems and bad gall bladders; sometimes things go
horribly wrong. This is
not to frighten anyone, but more so to educate. It is not fair to
show only the perfect side of weight loss surgery
Patti had weight
loss surgery and nothing went right for a long time, including 11
endoscopies, repeat surgery and being in a coma for 6 weeks. She is
emphatic that she "would do it all over again" as she has
gone from nearly 538 pounds to less than 200 pounds now.
I want to offer a special thanks to Patti Staley. Here is her
There is one thing
that I want everyone to remember as they read my story about my
journey through weight loss surgery. That is, THAT I WOULD DO THIS
ALL OVER AGAIN!! It was well worth everything that I went through.
You see, on the day of surgery, I weighed 538 pounds. I truly
believe, that without this surgery, I was eventually going to die.
It was only a matter of time.
It took me almost two years from the date of my first consult to
the day of my actual surgery. My insurance at the time was Maxi-Care
of Indiana. While weight loss surgery was excluded, they did leave a
small window if you met their conditions, which I
did. My insurance company had extra requirements, such as an
extensive psychological evaluation, in excess of what the surgeon
required. This was to determine if I could really handle all of the
implications associated with the surgery.
On May 28th, 1999 at the age of 33, I had the Vertical Banded
Gastroplasty procedure. From the beginning, I had problems with it.
The silastic ring which they placed in my stomach began shrinking,
making it very difficult to eat anything. I spent a lot of time in
the hospital throwing up before I even came home. Two weeks later, I
had the first of 11 endoscopies and none of them were pleasant. They
stretched the ring out during these so that I would be able to eat
again, however, this would only last for a few weeks. So, they would
do another endoscopy.
After 3 of these, the surgeon and I decided that a revision to
the Roux-en Y gastric bypass surgery would be necessary. More than
two months later, on August 4th, 1999, I had this done. This time, I
thought all would go well. How little did I know?
From the beginning of the second procedure, I had problems also. My
surgeon inserts a g-tube during this surgery, which is normally removed at
the 2-week checkup. Mine was not removed for 2 1/2 years. It was my
lifeline for a long time. Another endoscopy showed a stricture that
needed to be stretched out. I battled with malnutrition and
dehydration and was hospitalized on many occasions. I was on a first
name basis with everyone at the hospital.
Eventually, I got to the point at which I could not eat at all. The
only thing that I could keep down was broth and a few liquids.
Occasionally, some beans from Taco Bell would work, but not enough
to sustain my body.
Finally, I was put on a home I-V to receive fluids and had visiting
nurses come to my house. My veins were so weak that they could not
handle the fluid, so my doctors decided to put in a pic line. A pic line
goes in the arm and straight into the arteries. Through
this, they gave me TPN feedings which is just bags of nutrition.
These worked for a while, but I was never able to eat.
My surgeon sent me to every specialist you could think of. My
blood pressure was dangerously low. I was dizzy all the time and had
begun passing out. No one could seem to find the problem.
I was told that I was now anorexic and bulimic and that I needed
help. My surgeon tried to commit me, but to no avail. I did see a
number of therapists until I found one that I was comfortable with
and also did a day treatment program for a while. But no one
understood that I COULD NOT EAT.
My friends and family were calling my doctors telling them that
something was wrong, but no one would listen. They said they
had done all the tests they could and that nothing was wrong. So, I
basically gave up and felt that this was to be my life. I was doing
nothing for myself now. My friends were doing my shopping and
driving and taking me to all of my doctors' appointments. My church
was bringing in meals when they could for my daughter who was only 5
when I had my surgery.
By now, I was on nightly g-tube feedings, in constant pain from
falling so much, and not eating at all. Was this a life? I barely
left the house except to go to the doctor. My family, who lived 3
hours away, came when they could and when friends called them out of
Is there an end to all of this madness? Yes, finally. In January
of 2001, I underwent my 11th endoscopy. I hated these things because
I was never fully asleep during them. But, this time, an answer
came. The gastroenterologist discovered that my diaphragm had
flipped on top of my stomach, virtually making it impossible for me
to eat anything. I also had a severe hiatal hernia. After undergoing
some tests, he scheduled an experimental endoscopy to fix the
problem on Feb. 26, 2001. His exact words to me when he discovered
the problem were "no wonder you can't eat!" He did the
endoscopy and I came home and actually began to eat. My parents were
there and stayed for a few extra days. The only problem was that
they had discovered the problem too late. My body was in shut down
mode. Two days later, on Feb. 28th, 2001, I collapsed in the middle
of the night. If my parents had not been there, my daughter would
have found me dead in the morning.
By the time the ambulance got me to the hospital, I was in
complete liver and kidney failure. I had a blood infection so bad,
they didn't know if I could ever overcome it. I was put on a
respirator and taken to the critical care unit where I would spend
the next 6 weeks, basically in a coma. My daughter was brought in to
say good bye to me.
The doctor told my family that he had done all he could do and if
I was to make it, I had to do it on my own. No one thought that I
would live. I did wake up one day for a little while. During that
time, I had no idea where I was or what had happened. All I know is
that my Dad was standing beside my bed with papers for me to sign
regarding my daughter and living will papers; things that I and
everyone else should do before ever having this or any other
surgery. While awake, I pulled the life support tubes out of my
mouth. Talk about the nurses getting in a frenzy!! I still did not
understand all of this. I was medicated so that I would feel no
pain. I could not breathe on my own, so they needed to put me back
on the respirator. Except this time, from pulling the tubes out, I
had caught double pneumonia. They had to put a trach in my throat to
hook me back up. It just didn't seem that I could make it through
another setback. I had numerous blood transfusions to help the blood
Finally, I began to come out of the coma. I wanted to go home so
badly and just didn't understand why I couldn't. I was so determined
to come home. In April, I was transferred to a rehab hospital closer
to my parents so they would not have to travel so far. I continued
to improve each day and by the end of May was able to come home on
oxygen. I will tell you that the hardest thing that I have ever had
to do was learn how to breathe on my own again. Boy, the things we
take for granted.
We stayed for a while with my parents until I was able to find a
new house. While I was in the hospital, my family packed my
apartment up and moved us back home- something that I had considered
doing anyway. I would like to say that I received excellent care at
both the Community Hospital East in Indianapolis, IN and Select
Specialty Hospital in Ft. Wayne, IN. I would not be here without the
people at those two hospitals.
In my recovery I am improving each day. I am still not back to
work yet and do not know when I will be able to. I am a teacher,
which is physically demanding. I do not have the energy or stamina
to do that at this time. Never in my life did I think I would be 35
years old and on disability. But, this will not be forever. I am off
the oxygen and had the g-tube removed eventually.
Have I lot the weight????? YOU BET YA!!!!!! I started at 538
pounds and now weigh around 200 pounds. I do have a hernia and will
have that repaired in the next few weeks. Am I frightened? Oh my
gosh, yes- more than I ever was for the weight loss surgery. I do
not want to go back into the hospital again. But the hernia is huge
and it must be done. Also, my insurance company just approved a
tummy tuck, so that will be done after the hernia. They will not do
both at the same time since I am too high a risk. This time, all my
"affairs" will be in order.
Why am I alive today? Simply one word, GOD!! He has been my
strength through this whole ordeal. I don't know if you believe in
God or a higher being, but I do and without Him I truly would be
Was this surgery the right decision for me? Yes. You see, without
it, I was going to die anyway. If the surgeon came to me tomorrow
and said that the surgery had undone itself, I would be the first
one in line to have it redone. We all go through things in life for
a reason. We may not know what that is now, but we just have to
trust and believe!!
I do not tell this story to scare anyone away from weight loss
surgery. I tell it to let people know that problems can happen with
anything you do in life- especially surgeries. Weight loss surgery
is not an easy decision. I struggled with my weight my whole life
and had tried every diet you could think of. This was my only
answer. I love my surgeon and my hospital. I feel my surgeon is my
What does the future hold? I can't answer that.
No one can. All I know is that I am here today for my daughter. That
is all that matters. Anyone who is struggling with this decision, I
implore you to pray about it and to do your research on the surgery,
the hospital and the surgeon. Be informed. Good luck to each and
every one of you and God bless. Thank you for letting me share with
You achieved your
goal, be proud and tell the world.
you have a story to share, are at least 1 year post-op and
have before and after pictures, please send them to me at
Barbara@wlscenter.com so that I can include
them in a future