Thursday, June 6, 2013

Life is Short

This has long been one of my absolute favorite adapted quotes. Our XI Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, Morris Thompson, says it as part of his Benediction and I finally took the time to find it online to post here with a photo [detail from portion of the stained glass window behind our Baptismal font at St. Paul's Episcopal.]
My friends,
Life is short, and we do not have
much time to gladden the hearts of
those who travel with us, so be quick to
love and make haste to be kind.
And may the blessing of the One who
made us, and the One who loves us, and
the One who travels with us, be with
you and those you love this day and always.
Adapted from Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

VSG Journey Update 3 Weeks Out from Surgery

My current status as of Wednesday, June 5th:  I am three weeks and a day out from surgery!
From discharge day (Thurs., May 16) I did one week clear liquids and two weeks full liquids. Clear liquids were pretty dang hard and I felt weak much of the time. I also failed miserably at getting all my water and all my protein in each day. Full liquids made me immediately feel better although I must admit that I grew SICK of protein shakes and also failed at getting my protein or all my water in each day. I did a lot better, but still had trouble. One evening after Jefferson Chorale, we all went to TGI Friday's afterwards. I sampled their dark French onion soup (without the toppings or eating any I hate onions) and their broccoli cheese soup. I had never in my life had broccoli cheese soup. The Fr. onion was ok and I was able to get in a couple of spoonfuls. Then....THEN....the BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP was from HEAVEN. Yes, it truly was. It made my stomach very grumbly, but it went and stayed down just fine. I took the rest home and had it for two more days. Later, I read somewhere that fibrous veggies like broccoli are to be avoided, but I feel like it was pretty ground up and avoided all chunks anyway :-)

Now, I am MORE THAN READY to begin soft foods. Some people call this stage "the mushies", but to me that just sounds gross. I can't do pureed foods unless it's something that is actually supposed to be pureed. Last Friday, I tried a tiny bit of lean, very thinly-sliced deli turkey and it went down and stayed down just fine. I was OVERJOYED! I had it with half a Babybel soft cheese. I've been doing that once a day since Saturday. I also tried scrambled eggs with cheese. Never in my life had I ever had eggs with cheese, but it tasted good. I ate about 1/3 of one egg and it felt like a brick in my stomach for several hours. I did not feel ill, just heavy. I decided to wait a bit before having more of that.

Tomorrow, I begin soft foods and I think I'm supposed to introduce one new food a day. If anything doesn't settle well, I am to go back to protein shakes or something mild that did work well. I'll continue the deli turkey & Babybel cheese. The first new things I will try will be soft, baked fish, refried beans & grated cheddar, chili, and maybe scrambled eggs again. I'd love grits, but am not sure yet about them. I might make some more egg custard. I actually went and bought ramekins, learned how to make egg custard and made it, sugarfree. I didn't like it so much, but it was ok. I can use the little bowls though...
I really would like to try the "meats pressure cooked to tenderize", but in my head, those are more solid so I am a bit shy of that just yet.

Even though I will not have to be on a strict vitamin regimen, I am taking Biotin, Thiamine, a multi (gummy), Omega 3 (gummy), B-12 & D + Calcium (sublingual tabs).

I'm feeling pretty back to normal most of the time although I get easily tired out. I am used to having an extremely high level of energy so that kind of stinks, but I know it will get back up there. Everyone seemed so surprised that I was back at church, back in the singing groups, going to work, etc. I was not on pain meds for more than a day and a half at the hospital and once I stopped the IV, the pain was manageable. The nausea went away after two-three days and I have not thrown up at all. Many MANY people have. I hate throwing up so I am trying to be super cautious about when to STOP eating. My little stomach is now exactly 4 (FOUR) ounces. Anything I've eaten was only one or two and then I feel full. It's still healing. I'll prob have to eat little small meals several times a day eventually. Today, I had my protein shakes and vitamins first and then took an applesauce, a pudding, a cheese stick, and some turkey with me for the rest of the day until I can have some veggie soup tonight after choir. Before you judge, we are SUPPOSED to be having snacks and those (applesauce, cheese, pudding) are on the list!

Here is a before picture and then a picture from a week and a half a go. I cannot tell too much difference yet. My 3X clothes are now loose and I've lost 35 lbs so far. This weekend, I'll post some more pictures of before and after. I'll try to make a collage of sorts. The cool thing is that I am wearing a dress I haven't been able to wear in years and now I'm at the weight that I was when I moved to NOLA eight years ago! My starting weight was 270. I don't mind sharing that. My current weight is 235. Cool! No amount of exercise or fad or legit dieting was ever able to get me this kind of change.......and I've been trying off and on for 30 years. Some part of me says "wow, I could have just stayed on a liquid diet for a long time" and the other parts of me remind myself "I already did that and it ALL came back the minute that diet session stopped." This time, it is not a diet. It's a continuation of my mostly healthy lifestyle, PLUS the surgical help of restricted portions. Oh, and surgery is N O T the "easy way out". Think what you want, but if you say that to me, you might want to know I can throw a pretty solid punch. ;-)

Night bef surgery: 257                                             In this picture: 248

My VSG Journey - Discharge Day!

After two nignts in the hospital, it was time to leave Endobariatric and Piedras Negras and head back to San Antonio.

The morning of discharge, the nighttime doctor and Dr. Rosales and Dr. Alvarez came to see me as did the nurses.

I must say, they gave me everything I needed: paperwork for my doctor here, vitamin/mineral panel recommendations, pain meds, acid reflux meds, antibiotics, instructions, a copy of Dr. A's helpful VSG book, a backpack and folder in which to keep everything, and personal contacts in case there were any issues or questions.

Here's a picture of me with Dr. A right before I got on the van. I am so happy that I chose to come to Mexico for my surgery. Down with any naysayers and all the skeptics! I received better care here than most of the US medical experiences I have had in my whole life combined. In addition, the doctors are extremely skilled, very caring, and concerned with your well-being. They took the time out to talk to me, answer questions, make me comfortable, and explain procedures. I have also been able to ask Dr. Alvarez my questions (via Twitter as well) and he gave me quick answers and asked me how I was doing!

They signed my pillow :-) (the Endobariatric signature stomach pillow, LOL). The pillow made me laugh, but I sincerely needed the support for the two-hour return trip which was BUMPY BUMPY BUMPY!

After crossing the border, we dropped off the other patient at the Holiday Inn and then got on the road. halfway through, we stopped at a convenience store for some water. I was sipping, sipping, sipping. It seemed like I sipped constantly, but the level didn't go down that much. When we got to the La Quinta airport, we went down by the pool for some sun and rest and SIPPING WATER. Then, in the room, I took a nap. It was HOT. I checked my Weather Channel app and saw that it was 106 in Piedras Negras! Yikes! Later, in the early evening, I was feeling less nauseous so we went to the mall to walk around and I did some mini-shopping and had some apple juice!

The next morning, we had a SUPER EARLY set of flights back to NOLA, but that was ok b/c we were back by 10:30 a.m. and I was back in my apartment by around 11:30. Kudos to Meg for being such a trooper on this whole journey and for taking such great care of me. Her husband picked us up at the airport and then drove me to my car. I stopped by GNC on the way home to see what a protein bullet was and to buy an Isopure drink to try it out. Sasha kitty was so glad to see me and she was LIKE GLUE, stuck by my side for the next three days!

I slept most of Friday and tried to sip water. Tthe next day, I tried the protein bullets and they were WAAAY too sweet. I tried apple juice and that was much better, though also sweet. One week clear liquids, Ugh! I failed in attempts to get my water in and to finish the protein bullets every time I tried one. Blech! Sunday, I decided I needed to go to church....not just to be there for my job, but I really needed to be there. I also needed some fellowship and normalcy. Everyone was so nice! It helped a great deal and I was able to also attend the NOVA rehearsal that evening. That was a lot harder than church and I sat down for most of it, but I wanted to see how it was to sing! That was also hard, but I figured that it would help. In between these activities and naps, those first few days involved reading various  forums and Sleevetalk forums, and watching several movies. I took myself to watch the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie, t'was great! "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" My next post will be an update as to where I am along the path now. I leave you with another picture of my dear Sasha kitty :-) 

My VSG Journey to Endobariatric

Wow, I'm a pretty terrible blogger with such giant gaps between happenings, but....oh well and Le Sigh on that. Finally, here is the 411 on my trip to Endobariatric for my VSG surgery! :-) There are lots of pictures so it may be a lengthy post, but you can handle it. Oh maybe I might split it up....who knows.

April 30 - May 13  Two-week pre-op diet -  I did pretty well, lost 14 lbs and cheated twice. One was a tiny cheat and one was huge. I basically got too hungry and couldn't stand it anymore. I made sure the last four days before surgery were fluids only, not even any puddings etc.

May 13 - My dear friend Meg and I left NOLA and flew to San Antonio. Check it out. We had more "legroom"....(LOL at United Airlines, but it is actually a word). We took a fast & free shuttle from the airport to the La Quinta hotel and waited there until our driver Rosy (Rosantina) arrived. She had just come into the area so needed a break before heading back for another two-hour ride! She was so nice and has been driving the route for about eight years, meeting tons of hopeful WLS patients.

I was greatly relieved to see that the van no longer had a picture on its side of a woman holding up a giant pair of pants.

The ride was SO EXTREMELY BUMPY, OMG. I had to take two motion sickness pills and by the time I got to Eagle Pass, I was EXHAUSTED. There, we checked into the Holiday Inn and went out a little bit later for some dinner. I had egg drop soup at the nearby Chinese restaurant and it was DELICIOUS! Funny feeling like it was a last meal even though it obviously wasn't! Then, we went down the precaiously-placed sidewalk filled with gigantic scary ants until it ran out and picked up some gatorade etc. from the gas station store. It was quite a happening place. Eagle Pass, TX appeared vast, dry and largely empty. Whole new-looking apt complexes looked deserted even tough they weren't.

Amazingly, it was getting ready to rain. I got the feelling this doesn't happen that often. It helped in cooling the place down though and that was a nice benefit. Meg and I went out to the pool area where there was a great breeze and we played Scramble and other ipad/iphone games. This really helped me be less nervous. We also met up with Fabienne, a patient who was going to have her surgery the same day. We had met via email and been in communication a bit so it was super nice to get to know each other a little. This also helped me be less anxious for the next day!


Wow, it was really time. After months of waiting and years of thinking about it, here I am about to be picked up for the long-awaited VSG. I was both excited and nervous.

We drove through the rest of Eagle Pass
(larger than I expected) and across the border.
I had forgotten that we would actually cross the
Rio Grande in the process so that was cool.
The drive to Piedras Negras and the
Endobariatric clinic did not take very long and
before I realized it, we were there! It was very
early so the parking lot was empty. The clinic
is attached to a hospital, but I guess their
parking was around the other side because
they seemed to have more action going on.

Once inside Dr. Alvarez's office, Dr. Rosales, another surgeon came out to greet us and said we would meet Dr. A in a few minutes. Then, Fabienne and I decided to take a picture. Just as we were smiling, Dr. A came up behind us and got in the picture! :-) That was great!

While they met inside his office, I saw a sign that said "Let us know if you check in using Foursquare and receive a gift" heheh so I checked in, of course! When I met with Dr. A, I told him that and he gave me a very nice, fancy water bottle! Cool :-)

I weighed, met the anesthesiologist (very happy about that), and talked a bit about the procedure, how long it would take, recovery, bougie size used, etc. I was very impressed that Dr. A suggested on his own that they use a pediatric intubation tube because
I'm a singer! I was going to suggest it and Meg was there and had mentioned that I suggest it, but I was happy I didn't need to.
So, now we were excorted to take a pre-surgery photo for records and then taken to our room. We entered the hospital and it was shiny, clean and well-built. The room was in the clinic side of the hospital. Outside our doors was an area of tile that was under construction. This was kind fo sketchy, but not bothersome. The room itself was next two a nurses's room and two patient rooms. It was VERY NICE! Huge actually. It had its own shower, window, air conditioning unit, TV, sofa (large, folded down to make a full bed), a refridgerator, and a big sturdy leather chair on the opposite side of the room. The shower had an enclosed bathroom as well. Here is a panorama shot of the room.

Certainly better than some of the hospital rooms I have stayed in.
Within 15 minutes, nurses were coming in and one took me downstairs for blood tests and a chest X-ray. Then, I came back upstairs, started my IV and chilled out until they were ready for me to go into surgery. I hate that important IVs have always gone into my hand. IT HURTS. I also hate that IVs cannot be butterfly needles as that is the size I need. It was nice to talk with two sisters from Canada who were being discharged that same day and to find they had a good experience and were feeling good. Soon, they came and told me to slide from my hospital bed onto a gurney and said something about giving me "happy juice". I actually do not remember ANYTHING after that moment. So funny that I aparently started saying "I love you guys" to everyone! When I had my wisdom teeth out, I remember seeing the lights go dim. I remember when I had a cyst out, the IV infiltrated and I was awake in the OR as they were getting ready and the surgeon said "get her to sleep, use the other arm" and that was it, LOL.

So, THAT WAS QUICK! I woke up with an Oxygen mask on and within a few minutes (it seemed) someone removed it and I remember being super groggy and somewhat nauseous after a while. No water was allowed that first day and I mostly stayed in bed.

I do vaquely remember them trying to make me walk laps down the hall and back and that after one lap, I had to sit down from being dizzy and nauseous. I thought I was going to throw up,but I didn't and they gave me a shot "where the sun don't shine" so I felt better. Here I am trying to walk.

I also recall that the night was full of nurse and doctor visits. I think the assisting surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and Dr. Alvarez came to see me that day and in the night, all the nurses, one or two doctors etc. came every hour. I just wanted to sleep.

Tthe second day was much better and I was fully alert, though still nauseous when I tried to do much walking. Today, I was allowed ice chips (YAY!) and walked a lot. I even went with Meg to the neighboring coffee shop, in my pajamas, and sat there to eat my ice chips for a while. In the room, we had just been reading and doing emails....maybe watching a little TV - the "Border channel" (view of the Rio Grande bridge border and traffic) because it had music. It felt great to be "out and about" and Meg was awesome in taking care of me. I'll end this post with a picture of the tweet I wrote about the day :-)