Carol's story

Carol before surgery

I have been overweight most of my life and like many had lost and gain it over the years, yo-yo dieting became the norm. It was when I got to 40 that I developed severe type 2 diabetes and my health started to deteriorate affecting my daily and work life. I manage a dementia wing in a nursing home and in my spare time I volunteer as an Emergency First Responder, going to 999 emergencies so I needed to be as fit as possible.  I also had three wonderful children as well as four beautiful grandchildren so had a lot to live a long life for.

As time went on other health issues reared their ugly head, including sleep apnoea, joint pains and high blood pressure. I searched the internet and magazines after reading a story about a lady who had cured her diabetes by undergoing a gastric bypass. By then I was on high doses of insulin four times a day yet my sugar levels were still high in the 20s, I felt awful most of the time but struggled through my work, coming home most days exhausted. I am lucky in as much as I have a wonderfully supportive husband who suggested I chat to my GP, he too was a great help and referred me to a weight loss surgeon. I was naturally nervous on the day of my appointment, mostly as I was scared I wouldn't be accepted - sounds illogical I know but I had watched a TV programme where several people were turned down due to funding issues.

Everyone at the appointment put me at ease, I had done plenty of research so knew I met the criteria, I met the co-ordinator, the dietician and then the surgeon who suggested that the bypass rather than the band would be the best option for me as this had been proven to vastly improve or even cure diabetes.  I also began to attend a BOSPA support group where I was able to meet and chat to many others who had either had the surgery or were, like me waiting for it. Attending the group is very important I feel and helped me so much.   A few weeks later I got the exciting news that my funding had been approved.  Weighing 22 stone I knew it was a decision not to be taken lightly, but I also knew that my life-span would be reduced if I continued on as I was. I was asked to try and lose two stone before the surgery - it was hard but I was motivated and lost the first stone and then got the letter telling me my surgery would be on Friday February 8th 2008, I was the first on the list so no chance to fret too much on the actual day. Prior to the actual surgery I was asked to go on a special diet to shrink my liver so that the surgery could be done via keyhole.  It was a hard diet, but again, as I knew why it was asked of me, I was well motivated. I actually lost I stone in that week - I think it’s a lot of fluid you lose.

I was taken in the night before and naturally didn't sleep too well and was glad when morning came.  My husband and daughter came early and waited with me until the theatre staff came to walk me down at about 9.15am. I was nervous until I got to the door and thought, “this is the first day of the rest of my life” and a feeling of calm came over me. Everyone made me feel safe and at ease. I woke up in the HDU and only had some minor discomfort in my tummy.  The surgery was done by keyhole and to be honest, from the physical aspects, it wasn't like I'd had an operation at all. I was up and walking the same day to reduce the risk of developing a blood clot.

I will be honest with you as I feel it only fair that those of us who have encountered some difficulties let you know so if, (and I hope you don't) but they do happen to you then forewarned is forearmed, so to speak.  As soon as I started to take sips of water or try small amounts of liquidised food, it did feel uncomfortable and I kept getting this pain and discomfort from front to back and on my left upper tummy, scans only showed what the Drs thought was blood or fluid behind my new stomach, everyone hoped it would ease as time went by. It did make me feel quite miserable for a while but I had no choice but to plod on so I decided to remain positive, after all weight was coming off and the great thing was that the day after surgery my sugar levels returned to normal.

Six weeks after the bypass I'd been up most of the night dry heaving and on the morning of the Thursday before Easter I collapsed at home with tremendous pain in my upper left stomach.  My husband had left for work and I was alone so had no choice but to ring for an ambulance.  The crew were brilliant and could see it was quite a serious situation so rushed me to A&E where I was given fluids for dehydration. I honestly felt like I was dying. I was put onto a ward and given pain relief which helped a little.  Later in the evening I began vomiting up faeces which was the most unpleasant experience and the family and I were scared and distressed because my dear dad had died three years previously having been rushed to hospital with the same symptoms.

Five days after admission, on Easter Monday I was given a scan.  They had been worried about giving me another due to those I'd previously had but at that time I desperately wanted to know what was wrong as I knew the pain wasn't going and I wasn't able to open my bowels. Within a short space of time it was like all hell had broke loose, there were people rushing to my bed saying I needed another operation and I needed it now, I was very scared and felt quite alone but by the time I'd got into theatre I was begging them to knock me out to take the pain away.

Carol after surgery

Again I woke up in HDU but this time things were rather different, I could barely move for pain and had tubes up my nose and drips in my hands and feet as well as a large cut down through my tummy. I had a morphine pump but felt so poorly that I needed constant prompting to use it. After a week there I was moved to another ward then a week later home. Then I developed a wound infection and it wouldn't close so I had antibiotics and had to attend the GPs surgery and the local hospital every other day to have the wound cleaned and packed.  It took quite a few weeks but the Dr and nurses were great. I was lucky too in that someone from BOSPA was on hand as well as work colleagues to help me in the hospital as well as my dear husband and family were great. Without all their love and support I don't think I would have got through it. I was told by the Bariatric team afterwards that what happened was a hernia/bowel obstruction caused by the bypass.  It only happens in about 1% of cases so I was unfortunate.  I don't want my story to scare you, just to allow you to be aware and to get any serious after pain checked out. 

Things are much better now. I haven't needed insulin or tablets for my diabetes since the day before my bypass operation.  My sleep apnoea is gone and my blood pressure is down.  I do have some Vitamin D deficiency and my hair is falling out a bit and my thyroid is playing up, but these are solvable problems. I have more energy and it is wonderful to be able to get smaller, and of course, cheaper clothes. 

I have lost 7 stone in the 5 months since my bypass. I can now eat a much more varied diet, although there are a few things I am still a bit nervous about trying and I do get full extremely fast. It is a learning process for us all. Although I had problems I would do it all again in a heartbeat. It is important though to get advice, support and attend groups both before surgery and after.

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