Kath's story

Since I was a little girl I have always struggled with my weight. In 1996 I joined Slimming World, weighing in at 25 stone 12lb. Over the next 4 yrs with Slimming World’s help I lost over 11 stones with my lightest weight being 14st  5lb. Then my mother died and I regained some of the weight but managed to lose it again.  I had also smoked since the age of 11 and decided if I could lose weight I could also quit smoking. In January 2003 I was by now a non-smoker but the weight had come back on and I ended up at 24 stone again. I tried dieting again, losing a couple of pounds here and there, but I was so fed up that the weight wouldn’t budge that I became very depressed.

I had always watched TV  programmes about weight loss surgery and seeing the results of gastric bypasses, decided that this was what I needed to be able to combat my weight problem once and for all. I discussed it with my family and got my daughter to look it up on the internet and she printed the information off.   I took this to my GP and told him if I didn’t lose weight then I would start back on the fags - so he looked into it for me.  That’s when my life started to change.

I received an appointment to see a medical obesity specialist and went along with my husband and told him my story. He said he would refer me to our local bariatric surgeon.  I saw the surgeon and he said he would put my name forward for funding. I also had an appointment with a dietitian.  At that time I started attending the BOSPA meetings to make me more aware of the consequences of the operation. The more I found out, the more determined I was that it was the right thing for me.   I made sure that all my family were aware of the risks and they were a big support for me and said if that’s what I wanted then they would stick by me.  My daughter and twin sister was not as supportive as the others, but knew once my mind was made up there was no changing it!

It took two years for the NHS to confirm the funding for my operation so then it was just waiting for my operation date. I was so chuffed when a letter finally arrived saying I was booked for surgery on 17th July 2006.  Counting down the months, weeks and days was hard.  The week before the operation I had to follow a liver-reducing diet which was hard to start with, but then my daughter decided she would do it with me for extra support.   The only thing we found was that we were getting hungry by the evening so we switched the meals around and found that helped. We were not sure whether we were doing it right as we were not sure how much we could eat of each food listed.   I’ll never know if I lost any weight that week as I wasn’t weighed on the day of my operation but my daughter lost ½ a stone!

Monday 17th arrived and excitement was running through my body with my eye watching the clock. Finally at 11 o’clock they came to take me down to theatre - walking down to the theatre wasn’t as bad as I thought. That’s where the memory ends.  Next thing I remember was waking up in the High Dependency Unit. I remember experiencing unbearable pain and that’s when the nightmare started.  All day Tuesday I was in pain. Friends and family came to visit and said I didn’t look too good. When I woke on Wednesday morning pain was shooting through my body. My key-hole scars were all leaking and looking at the faces of the nurses and doctors I knew it was serious.  Every time the doctors touched me I had a new pain spot. They gave me some blue dye to drink but it came out faster then it went in!

Next thing I knew, my husband is being called to my side and being told that I needed a second operation right now or it was possible that I wouldn’t make it through the day. I would be DEAD.  Waking up from the second operation I saw my husband staring down at me. I don’t remember much from the op. When my daughter finally plucked up the courage to come and see me I was attached to machine and had tubes coming out of everywhere. I could tell she was holding back the tears and she described me as a beached whale as I had doubled in size and was covered in huge bruises, in her words “black and blue”.

The only way I could breathe properly was with oxygen. My skin had stretched so much that fluid was leaking through my hands. My expected one night stay in HDU turned into a week. Finally, I was much better and fit enough to go onto the ward. The care was great and they were very patient with me!!

I continued to get better and everyone was very pleased with me but then I had another set back - it turned out that I had an infection on my wound. They decided my best bet would be to go on the vac pump to help the wound heal but that would mean having to stay in hospital until it was healed properly, which could take 4 weeks!  The day of the vac wound pump was fitted my daughter came up to visit, so was there when they arrived to do it.  That was the proudest day of my life as she didn’t flinch or anything and even helped the nurse do it all. My wound measured in at 14cm long, 6cm wide and 4cm deep. All that ran through my brain was that I would never get out of this place and I cried with my daughter.

To make things worse, four other people had been in for the same op and went home the same week which made me feel more frustrated – why had I been the unlucky one. Even when my friend Sonia (who I had met at the BOSPA meeting) came to see me, we would joke that I would still be in when she came was admitted for her op - and of course it turned out to be true - I was still there!

Finally a couple of weeks later they let me go home for a weekend visit. That weekend was really hard for me. I was in so much pain and was scared to do anything just in case I damaged my wound and would have to go back on the vac.  When I was weighed I was amazed and shocked to see I was 18st 10lb - in 4 weeks I had lost 4 stone.  The news I had been waiting for arrived when I was told I could be discharged and on August 30th (6 weeks after my operation) I came home to everyone’s delight. 

The nurse visited daily but a week later I had to go back into hospital as a lump had formed on my wound – fortunately I only had an overnight stay, returning home the next day.

It is now the end of September and every day is a challenge for me at the moment.  There are many occasions when I wish I had never had this operation done but then I think of the weight I have already lost.  The worst thing at the moment is that I’m house-bound and so don’t get out much.  But my family are sticking by me every minute and without them I don’t know what I’d do!!!

The risks of encountering problems with surgery are explained to you, but you hope that you are not going to be an unlucky one who has problems.  I know with time my body will heal and my weight loss will continue so I look forward to bringing you news of my progress.

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