The Gift Wrap

love a bit of cakeSo, I was thinking this week that although I have spoken about the various journey’s I have been on to get to this point, first losing weight and then losing skin that I haven’t spoken as much about the surgery that helped me in the first place.  I have had several emails asking me to expound on the specifics.  So, I am doing bit of throw back to remind myself of how far I have come as well as to share with those of you that are struggling what ultimately worked for me.

In 2012 after reaching what I consider my “rock Bottom” I started looking into weight loss surgery.  Up to this point I had done every possible diet, plan, pill, shot, soup, shake both medically recommended and discouraged.  I always say if you want to know anything about dieting ask a fat person.  They will have been there and have the t-shirt in a wide variety of sizes!  I was getting older and the fat suit I had been wearing all my life was taking Its toll on my body, both physically and emotionally.  Most upsetting was that I wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted to be.  I was already an older mum and the weight was just making me older before my time.  I wanted to be active with my twins and also to be a good example to them.  Sadly, I was neither!

2012-01-26_0915I began to research the various surgical options.  Although the Gastric Bypass seemed to be the gold standard I did have concerns about side effects.   This procedure involves the stomach being divided into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower pouch and then the small intestine is rearranged to connect to both. I had so many friends that were bypassers and many struggled with malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients.  There is also the dreaded “dumping” syndrome which is basically a group of symptoms such as sweating, severe intestinal distress, heart palpitation, vomiting and diarrhoea.  These issues can occur after eating certain foods and due to your plumbing being re-routed.  The Gastric Sleeve was also an option on the NHS.  Gastric sleeve surgery works by removing a large portion of the stomach, leaving a banana-shaped “sleeve” that connects the oesophagus to the small intestines.

Unlike the gastric bypass there is no re-plumbing going in therefore the complication rate is lower.  I was open to either procedure, but it was a huge decision and I wanted to make sure I went with something I felt 100% comfortable with.  This is where I think many people who complain about surgery being the “easy way” have completely the wrong idea.  This is serious business and everyone choosing surgery is desperate and the fact is there is nothing easy about it.

Melissa's Graduation PhotoMy next step was to see my GP.  He agreed I needed surgery, but because my BMI was 49.7 and not 50 I was not eligible.  What was his recommendation you may ask?  Go home and eat chocolate!!  Seriously, that was the professional opinion I got.  Well, I was desperate and did try to gain weight.  But, it was as if my body was just going to refuse to cooperate just to spite ,because no matter what I did I couldn’t purposely gain weight.  But, all was not lost as this time gave me an opportunity to do a bit more research.  What I discovered was that there was another procedure.  It was not available on the NHS, in fact not even available in the United Kingdom.  It was called a Gastric Plication also known as a “Wrap”.

Gastric Plication is a purely restrictive operation similar to Vertical Sleeve Gastric Resection, just without the need for division and removal of major stomach part.

It is a bariatric procedure that brings the benefits of food restriction while reducing the potential complications associated with a permanent implant (gastric band) and with staple line (leak and bleeding in Sleeve gastric resection).

The significant reduction of stomach capacity immediately after the operation allows intake of fluids only in small amounts, which is caused by surgical narrowing of lumen together with postoperative swelling of inverted gastric wall. The weight loss is usually quick within the first months. As the inner ridge of plicated stomach wall lose the swelling and further diminishes by involution the capacity of the stomach slightly increases. Currently studies show very promising 3-years results in significant and lasting weight loss similar to Sleeve gastric resection, and significantly greater than the Gastric Band. Also the loss of feelings of hunger is similar to the Sleeve.”

Obviously, as a mum to young children I was worried about the complications involved in any surgery as well as the down time.  As I researched more about it the Wrap seemed like the perfect solution.  The stumbling block was that it would need to be paid for privately.  The cost at the time was £4500 with travel. (The prices since 2012 have decreased significantly)  I had been huge my whole life and my mum had a front row seat though all of my years of depression and humiliation.  She told me later how helpless she felt that she wasn’t able to help me when I was younger.  So, my lovely mum agreed to pay for my surgery.  Although this was the greatest news I could have had, the process was still daunting.  I would have to fly to the Czech Republic on my own to have surgery.  I worried about language barriers and what an Eastern European hospital would be like.  But, I was more desperate than ever.

march 12

Landing in Czech

Mel and Dr Cierney

Me and Dr C

I researched the surgeon who would be performing the operation.  Dr Cierny was a world renowned expert in bariatrics and had performed over a 1000 of these procedures.  The plan was put in place!  I said goodbye to my babies and was off to the airport for my flight.  I couldn’t have been more nervous!  I arrived in Czech and it seemed a world away from England.  I arrived in the hospital and was introduced to the most amazing surgeon in Dr Cierny. One of the first lessons I had in Czech health care was the differences in the way doctors worked within their teams.  To be honest when I saw Dr Cierny I thought he must have been a porter because he was filling the paper towel dispenser in the clinic room and was wearing a white uniform.  The medics is Czech have a completely different air about themselves than the ones I was used to.  It is very much a team where everyone is equal.    He spoke English and was truly sympathetic to my situation.  He explained the operation to me in detail.  But, said before we could proceed I would need an extensive pre-op in order to make sure I was healthy enough to proceed.  What happened next was the most extensive medical examination I have ever had.  Once it was over Dr Cierny came to my hospital room and gave me a big hug with the great news that I would be having my life changing surgery the following morning.  The medical team was amazing!  The hospital was by far the cleanest I had ever been in.  The morning of my surgery the jolliest anaesthetist came to see me and run through what was about to happen.  I suppose I should have been scared, but all I could think about was that my new life was about to start.  There was never a moment that I was lonely or worried.  As part of the package there is someone with you that travels from England for the duration of your stay.  They are there to make sure you have everything you need and can translate should any communication issues arrive.  Currently the sweetest person, Katerina accompanies patients to Czech.  She is originally from the Czech Republic so is the perfect person to follow you through this journey.

As I was put under the last image I was saw was Dr Cierny reassuring me that everything was going to be okay.  Although I had only met him 24 hours before I believed and trusted him completely.  When I woke up Dr Cierny’s smiling face was the first thing I saw. He leaned in and said “you have a tiny tummy now”.  Those words were the magical and exciting thing I had ever heard.

Immediately after surgery some patients may experience vomiting as a result of the stimulation of the vegus nerve during surgery.  It is a common issue that resolves itself in the first couple of days.  However, I did not have a single episode and other then minor pain from the incisions I was walking around the ward within a few hours of the procedure high on a combination of pain relief and pure excitement!

From beginning to end my stay in hospital was four days.  When possible Body Clinique will send patients over in groups. So, I had a handful of amazing surgery buddies to laugh with each night whilst we watched old episodes of Benidorm and chatted about how we ended up here.  Following surgery I was on a liquid diet initially as my body healed.  It takes around 4-6 weeks to start having regular solid foods.  The first meal I had following surgery was a cup of beef stock, I can still remember how full I felt after literally half a glass.  In fact, I think following the procedure this was the first time I felt truly full. The feeling of hunger was a similar sensation.  My whole life I stuffed myself to the point of bursting and as a result I can’t say that I was ever truly hungry the way I was after surgery.  Hunger actually felt good, it felt like control and promise!  On day four it was time for me and “tiny tum” to say goodbye to Breclav Hospital and hello to out new life.  In the months that followed the weight dropped off.  I worked incredibly and for the first time in my life I was enjoying exercise and relishing my new regime.  Over 18 months following surgery I lost 12 stone and everything about my life changed. I felt confident and light.  I know it seems a funny thing to say, but literally the feeling of being light on my feet was indescribable.  But, it isn’t easy, Dr Cierny had told me before surgery he could only fix my stomach.  My head was up to me and it is a battle. But, the weight loss is such a gift and ultimately is a big responsibility.  I still have food demons and I assume always will.  I very much feel like an alcoholic.  I will always be a food junkie on some level.  But, surgery will continue to help me keep it under “wrap”.

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For more information about having weight loss surgery with Dr Cierny contact http://www.bodyclinique.co.uk/

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