BariatricMan
See how gastric sleeve surgery in 2014 helped me lose lots of weight rapidly and made my life great once again. 
If you are severely overweight or morbidly obese and are considering surgery, then hopefully this site might help.

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ABOUT ME & MY SURGERY
Why I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery?    I had to think long and hard as its a life changer

A little bit about me and my weight issues.
If you are overweight (possibly obese, but you don't want to admit it), to the point your health is at risk and you have tried dieting (like me) and failed, and are now considering gastric surgery as a way of losing a large amount of weight quickly then let me show you how I achieved this through surgery.  

I am not a health professional or "body coach" with a vested interest I am just a regular guy, a husband, a father, a grandfther who knows how you may be feeling as in March 2014 at the age of 52 I weighed 154Kg or 340lbs (24st 5lbs) and had a BMI of 53.3 which classified me as Morbidly Obese.  I was told by doctors that I was at a huge risk of stroke as I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and was at risk from diabetes and even cancer because of my obesity.  I was prescribed pills to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol by my doctor.  The pills made me feel rotten, with headaches and lethargy, so I stopped taking them after a few weeks.   But before I simply wade into telling you why I chose to have gastric surgery let me tell you a little bit about myself and my lifestyle as some of what I say may resonate with you.
 
Was I always fat or overweight?
The simple answer is no, as a child I was actually severely underweight and was prescribed appetite inducers to make me eat more....and boy did they work as I started to eat more.   But back in those pre-teen days I was an active kid, walking or cycling to school and so my weight was kept in check.   Even into my 20's at university I was physically active playing squash a couple of times a week.  I guess it was post university when I got into the 9-5 routine of work, well 7-7 with commuting by car and sitting at a desk all day that the real weight gain started.    As I began to focus on my job and my career in IT my lifestyle became more sedentary and post marriage finding the time for physical activity alongside work and home life seemed impossible.   It would be wrong of me to blame anyone else for my weight gain other than myself, it was all self inflicted.
 
Making "weighty"excuses
By my 30's I was well on the way to obesity as I fell into the routine of coming home late after a long day working and commuting only to slump in front of the TV with a glass of wine and then eating late at night before going straight to bed for an early start the next day.   I spent weekends with my family as I often didn't see my kids during the week when I got home late from work.  If we went out as a family it would usually be in the car and  although I took out gym memberships I seldom went as I was "too tired" and ended up cancelling after a few months.  I then bought gym equipment for the home and once again what started out as good intention ended up in failure as the machines took up lots of space and were used once in a blue moon.

Like many obese people when anyone commented about my increasing weight, I would laugh it off with comments like, "It's all that good living", or "I'm comfortable in my own skin, so you'll have to take me as I am!".   When I started to outgrow my shirts or trousers I would simply go out and buy new  bigger ones.  This continued through my 30's and 40's to the point where I ended up having to buy clothes at specialist shops with great names like; "Big Man", "Tall & Wide" or shopping online at stores stocking clothing up to 6XL in size.


I was always on some diet or another for over 20 years
I recently read a blog from a lady who wants to ban all gastric surgery as she says it is unatural and she herself lost 13St "naturally" through dieting and hitting the gym 3-4 hours a day.   Firstly I have to applaud and congratulate her on her achievement and if anyone can lose weight through dieting and exercise alone then they have my absolute respect.  So when people I speak to now ask me; "Before you had this drastic surgery didn't you think of going on a diet with portion control or hitting the gym?", it makes me mad as the answer is of course I did all of those things.   It is fair to say that between 30 and 50 I tried pretty much every diet going, including; WeightWatchers, Lighter Life, Atkins Diet, Alizonne, Herbal Detox,  Paleo, Cabbage Soup...and others.   Yes I lost weight on all of them when I did them in conjunction with exercise and often the weight loss was significant, up to 4 Stone during a 9-12 month period.   But during this period I was miserable and unhappy as I was constantly in  starvation mode.    Putting  small amounts of food into a large stomach no matter how filling and healthy would seldom leave me satiated or satisfied.    As soon as I stopped the diet in order to regain some degree of happiness in my life and not feel like some kind of prisoner of war, the weight would come back and with a vengence, so the 4 Stone lost would come back as 5 Stone plus!     So my words to the lady who wants to ban gastric surgery is that we live in a world where one size doesn't fit all and we are all individuals, and I for one maybe don't have your will power or resolve and so I may be inferior to you.  She also cited the fact that gastric surgery can go wrong and some people became ill afterwards.   Clearly she has never met anyone who failed on a diet and went on to become ill because they did nothing whatsoever outside of the diet and exercise option, and lacked her will power to succeed.
 
Why I felt gastric surgery was my last resort?
At the age of 52 I was left reeling when told by doctors there was a good chance I might become seriously ill or die even before I reached my 60's if my weight continued to rise as it had done over the last 20 years, I  then suffered a double whammy when a childhood friend the same age as me died from a heart related illness and although he was not obese, looking into the coffin at someone of my own age who I had grown up with had a profound affect on me.  Watching his children and grandchildren in tears made me realise that this could be me in a few years time, and the distraught children and grandchildren could be mine. 

As someone in his early 50's I guess I was looking for a way of losing a significant amount of weight, 8-10 Stone very rapidly before I became seriously ill and without having to starve myself or spend 3 hours per day in the gym.  I started to research the topic of gastric surgery on the internet and then made contact with a private healthcare provider as I was told I was not eligible for the surgery on the NHS in the UK, as I was not seriously ill enough or too heavy!   With that said by now I had discussed the matter with my wife and we both agreed that gastric surgery would help me and was the best way forward.

Which gastric surgery procedure was right for me?
I quickly learned there are a number of gastric procedures and they all have pros and cons and some are more invasive than others in terms of surgery, and some are reversible and some are irreversible, and they vary in terms of the cost and speed of results in respect of weightloss.    I quickly discounted the idea of a gastric balloon  even though it was the least invasive procedure it seemed to be the least effective and whilst reversible it also came with a lot of side effects.   I also quickly decided against a gastric bypass not least because it was the most invasive of the surgery options but also I felt it was the most risky in terms of post surgery complications from leakage of re-routed stomach by pass.   So the two options I gave the most consideration to were the gastric band and the gastric sleeve.   As with the others both have plus and minus points and whilst the gastric band requires less invasive surgery and also can be reversed unlike the gastric sleeve which requires the physical removal of a large portion of the stomach, I felt the latter was the right option for me.   The simple fact is I was looking for a permanent solution and not something I could change and go back to my old "feed your face" ways.   I also didn't like the idea of band slippage or band replacement every couple of years, so I chose the gastric sleeve (gastrectomy) option.    Yes gastric sleeve surgery does require an invasive surgical procedure albeit keyhole surgery and like all surgery comes with risks, the biggest one being surgical mortality.   But then I reconciled myself to the fact if I chose to do nothing then my chances of dying sooner rather than later were greatly increased anyway.
 

My Surgery explained from start to finish


The gastric surgery process 
 
Like most of us these days the internet was my first port of call in researching gastric sleeve surgery and finding a provider as I had no choice but to go private. It is no understatement that I spent several days if not weeks surfing the internet for gastric surgery providers.   Having chosen the gastric sleeve option I was amazed at the range of cost which went from £5,000 to £10,000.  In the main the cheaper surgery options were typically overseas options at hospitals in Poland, Romania, Portugal and India.  All of these options looked good on what were very professional websites but then I know all too well from holidays and hotels that websites can make even a building site look nice.  But more than this my single biggest concern was having surgery in a country where my first language of English wouldn't be the first language of the hospital and its staff.   Add to this the very real fact that this would be a medical procedure where  my life would be on the line and being in a foreign country should all not go to plan would make things harder for me and my family.   So decision made to stay in the UK for the surgery I looked at a couple of private healthcare providers.   I identified Gateway a healthcare provider that offered the surgery at a local private hospital in Cambridgeshire however on meeting with them I learned that they had now relocated their surgery to a private hospital in Sheffield some 100 miles away, but their aftercare would be provided locally.    I was impressed by their range of services and more so by the fact that they worked with Mr Roger Ackroyd who is one of the country's leading bariatric surgeons.   I scheduled an initial consultation with Roger in Sheffield and was impressed in the way he explained obesity and why it happens from a medical perspective in easy to understand laymans language.   As I asked he then outlined the difference between the various gastric surgery options and what he said confirmed for me that gastric sleeve was the best option for me.    Roger didn't make light of the fact that this was a major surgical procedure with risks and then post surgery changes to lifestyle that would take some getting used to.    He also outlined the pre-surgery diet I would have to go on and the post-surgery diet and what I might expect in terms of weight loss - possibly a stone per month for six to eight months.  In view of the fact that I needed to lose  eight to ten stone this sounded good.    I feel that as the man who would literally have my life in his hands he gave me all the facts and then asked me to go away and take my time and think about it as opposed to pressuring me.   I should add at this point that my wife Jas was unable to attend the initial consultation with me as she cares for my elderly mother and we agreed to keep my surgery between the two of us only and didn't want my mother or our children to know I was considering surgery.   Clearly if you can take your spouse or partner to your initial consultation then this can only help as you need the support of at least one person close to you before, during and after surgery.

 
What next after the inital consultation?

Following the initial consultation Jas and I sat down and went over all the facts not least the financing of the surgery which would be coming in at £10,000, so the new car would have to wait.   More importantly we had to agree a timetable to schedule my surgery and my post surgery recovery as Jas cares for my elderly mother full time too.  With my mother planning to spend 3 weeks in India during September and October we went ahead and booked the surgery for 30th September so that Jas could come with me and stay at a hotel near the hospital for 2-3 nights following my surgery.    Having had the surgery slot booked at the Claremont Hospital in Sheffield the full payment of £10,000 which was non refundable was made to Gateway Healthcare and working backwards a pre-surgery meeting with Roger was booked along with appointments for me to undertake blood tests mainly for MRSA screening.  I was also put in touch by phone and email with a dietician and aftercare coordinator who explained the processes and timescales.


What is the liver shrinking diet and why it is important before surgery?

During my inital consultation Roger had explained to me that if I went ahead with gastric surgery then 2 weeks prior to the surgery I would have to go on what is termed the "Liver Shrinking Diet".    He went on to explain how the liver overlays the stomach and in overweight people the liver is enlarged as it is storing large amounts of fat, which is why fatty liver disease is common in obese people.   In order to minimise the risk of accidentally knicking the liver during surgery the diet is designed to greatly shrink the liver by forcing it to burn the fat it is storing.   This is achieved by ensuring that during a 2 week period the body only takes in protein and no fat whatsoever.    This means that for a 2 week period I was only allowed to drink 3 pints of skimmed milk and eat 2 sugar free no fat yoghurts per day and nothing else.   Yes you read it correctly a 2 week period of milk and yoghurt only, and whilst water was allowed it couldn't be flavoured with squash or any juices and when I asked if I could eat egg whites as they are protein only, I was told no.    Having done a number of diets over the years I can safely say that this is probably the hardest diet I have ever done.   Thankfully it is only for a 2 week period but it is a tough 2 weeks and you will be tested as I was.   My family were mindful of how torturous this diet might be and suggested they cook and eat away from me to spare my pain, but I insisted they do everything as usual as after the surgery I would have to get used to the smell of food I couldn't eat and watch others eating food I used to love to eat but now couldn't.   I stuck to my guns and during this 2 week period I lost 1½ stone (9.5Kg) and a good deal of this was from my liver which was forced to burn the fat it had been storing.  I had been told by the medical team that failing to lose this amount of weight and reducing the size of my liver would risk my life and could result in the surgery being cancelled so bear this in mind as you cannot cheat or lie your way out of this - they will know if you have followed this diet as very few diets deliver this level of weight loss without making you poorly.   Also I should make clear that this is a short term diet and anyone thinking it is a good way of losing weight long term should think again.   Not only will your body not be able to take it long term and you will make yourself ill, but you will also go nuts if you go longer than 2 weeks on this nutritional regime.


I'm ready for surgery, what could possibly go wrong?

With the date of my surgery fast approaching and my liver shrinking day by day I suffered a personal problem when my mother who was in India became seriously ill because of DVT  and a blood clot in her lungs and so I had to have her bought home by emergency flight.  She spent the next couple of weeks in hospital before being discharged and sent home but still needed constant around the clock care at home as well as oxygen to help her breathe.   This put a spanner in the works in that my wife Jas was now no longer able to come with me to the hospital and stay during surgery as she needed to look after mum and also we didn't want to tell mum I was having this surgery, not least because she would get upset I was going to go under the knife and would try and dissuade me.   So on the day of the surgery I kissed Jas goodbye and took the train to Sheffield by myself as I didn't want to burden any of my children or other family members with what I was doing. 
 
I arrived at the hospital and was shown to what was a small private ward and along with one other person a lady called Joanne who was having the same surgery from Roger that day the procedure was once again explained.  We were both told how we would be taken from this small ward to theatre where we would be put under with anaesthesia and then operated on with the actual surgery taking around an hour.   We would then be bought back to the ward to recover and would be monitored overnight by a dedicated nursing team as the post surgery phase was when any problems might manifest themselves.     Being the gentleman I am I suggested to Joanne that is should be a case of ladies first, not least because the doctors could practice on her!   We both had a laugh and then I sat and waited as Joanne was taken down for her surgery.   This gave me time to phone Jas and let her know how I was feeling, which if I am honest was quite scared, as thankfully I haven't been in hospital before for any surgery apart from the odd trip to A&E for cuts and sprains.   I reassured Jas that the hospital was clean and comfortable and gave her a number for the ward so she could call and speak to the nursing staff post operation.  As a big brave man I am seldom the first to say I love you to my wife but on this occasion I said it first as without being over dramatic there is no 100% success guaranteed when it comes to any invasive surgery.

Finally the time arrived and I was wheeled downstairs to a small room next to the operating theatre and the anaesthetist who had seen me on the ward explained how I would be  given an intravenous anaesthetic and as I started to count to a hundred I would become unconscious and then be kept under during the procedure with a mix of oxygen and anaesthetic and when I came round I would be back on the ward again.   It all sounded simple and it started well but as I began to come around post surgery back upstairs on the ward I could see a number of faces around the bed and as the blurry faces came into focus I could make out the voice of Roger my surgeon telling me that they were worried as my oxygen levels were low and  I might need to go back to surgery again.   To cut a long story short I had suffered a capillary bleed internally that had not been picked up and so I was still bleeding inside.   I have to explain that this is quite a rare occurence but is a risk of any kind of surgery, and thankfully I was in the hands of a good team who returned me to theatre and I was given a transfusion having lost blood and operated on again to find this small capillary bleed and fix it.   I regained full consciousness at around 5am on 1st October and was amazed to see Roger, Nick the anaesthetist and the nursing staff all around my bed, as none of them had wanted to leave until they were 100% sure I was OK.    I was monitored closely by the team and although very weak my oxygen levels stabilised and I was taken off the assisted breathing.    I had asked the staff not to tell my wife of this complication as I felt it important I tell her so as not to worry her, but as I was still quite weak speaking was difficult.   Whilst the hospital staff don't like lying I asked them to help me and stall when my wife called and they did, until I was able to tell her myself what had happened.   I convinced her not to worry and not to come to the hospital and as upset as she was she agreed.    As I said at the outset I wanted to be honest and upfront and it is for this reason I wanted to let you know that surgery even with the best doctors in the UK or any country for that matter is not without risk as I found out.   But for me it is how quickly they reacted and sorted the problem that matters and if I knew then what I know now would I still have had this surgery today - the answer is YES!    As I have said before and I will say again there is a risk with surgery but there is greater risk of doing nothing and becoming ill with diabetes, stroke or cancer because of obesity.   For me preventation is better than cure and that is what I was hoping to achieve with this surgery.


The road home and to recovery

Two days after surgery I was very envious of Joanne whose post surgery recovery was going to plan and she came to see me to say goodbye as she was checking out and going home.  Unfortunately for me with my surgery complications I would have to stay in hospital for four days until I was strong enough to stand up and walk and the abdominal pain for which I had been given morphine immediately after surgery and then weaker painkillers such as Tramadol had reduced sufficiently.    Whilst the medical team had wanted to keep me in for a further day I was keen to get home as not only was my wife very anxious, my children now were too, as she had told them, and my mother was beginning to get suspicious.    Having persuaded the doctors to discharge me and that I was being picked up by my daughter in the car I took my bag and headed out of the hospital with a folded towel pushed up against my stomach.   The simple fact is that the five cuts in my abdomen were now held together by staples and when I moved they hurt.   The towel pushed up against them reduced the movement a bit like a shock absorber, sadly it didn't work that well when I coughed, and that really did hurt.   As I didn't want my daughter to drive up to Sheffield as she is not used to motorway driving, I called a taxi once I was outside the hospital and asked the driver to take me to the train station  so I could get the train home.   In hindsight this probably wasn't one of my better ideas but I did it as I said I didn't want to put anyone else out.   I will always be grateful to the young Pakistani taxi driver who could see the pain I was in and went out of his way persuade a policeman to let him drive up a blocked off road to the train station entrance so I wouldn't have to walk several hundred yards from the rear of the station in agony.    The train journey home which included changing trains wasn't pleasant and even an elderly lady asked me if I was alright as I didn't look at all well, I decided not to tell her I was nursing five "bullet hole" size wounds!    I was pleased when I got to the end of the line and Jas and one of my daughters were able to pick me up in the car and take me home.   Once home I was helped into bed by Jas before she bought my mother in to see me, and at this point we told her that I hadn't been on a business conference but I had had gastric surgery.  Clearly she was upset as I looked so weak and poorly, but also because she wondered why I had done something so drastic.   Glad to be home all my family came to visit me and it is safe to say none of them could understand why I had done what I had done and yes they all agreed they would have tried to stop me had they known, so I was pleased I hadn't told them.


How long does recovery take and what about time off work?

In the main post surgery recovery is quite quick taking between 3-4 weeks, mine however took around 6-7 weeks as I had two surgeries and also developed a bit of a chest infection.  The latter meant that my tastebuds were effectively shot and whilst I was struggling after surgery to eat or drink anything substantial I simply couldn't taste anything I did manage to eat.  The upside of not eating was that I didn't need to go to the toilet as getting in and out of bed was an ordeal and I did end up using a commode in my bedroom for urnination, even then I had to be helped in and out of bed by my wife.    To help me keep my strength up I took small sips of Lucozade (energy drink) but the bottle was left open to let out the fizz as this surgery will not allow you to drink fizzy drinks in any quantity be they soft drinks or alcoholic drinks like beer, they will simply make you feel bloated and sick.   Even though I was only taking in small sips of energy drinks and water and no solid food, I simply was not getting hungry and I was not unhappy.   Yes the abdominal surgery cuts that had been stapled hurt like hell when I moved but I was healing and continued on painkillers for some weeks.
 
In arranging my surgery I had booked 3 weeks off work as holiday to cover the operation and post surgery recovery but due to the fact my recovery was going to take longer than I had anticipated I contacted Roger my surgeon and he organised a letter to my employers that enabled me to get further time off.   I was able to return to work some 5 weeks after surgery but I was still very sore after having had the staples out (the removal of staples was far less painful than I had anticipated, especially since the staple remover given to me by the hospital to give to my own doctor looked like a device of torture).


My weight loss progress post surgery
 
As the weeks went by I started to feel the weight coming off and unlike all the diets where it was one or two pounds in a week, the weight literally started falling off to the point where I was losing around 1Stone (6Kg or 14lbs) per month.   So unlike diets the weight loss was highly visible and noticed not just by me but by family, friends and work colleagues.   I can confirm that this level of weight loss with zero exercise continued for the next 6-7 months and what is more unlike all the diets I had done before I wasn't constantly hungry or starving and definitely not miserable.


Diet, fibre and vitamins
 
I have to say that even though I had great post surgery aftercare from Gateway Healthcare and Louise King who I was seeing locally every month to monitor my progress, I did become a little depressed about 4 weeks after surgery when the very little food I was eating had no taste.   I did think this was because of the surgery and at one point I thought that if this what the rest of my life was going to be like then I had possibly "sold my soul to the devil".   Louise assured me that my chest infection was the cause of this and with antibiotics the problem would be sorted - thankfully she was right.     With chest infection gone my tastebuds returned as did my appetite and I started to enjoy the thin watery soups and quickly after a couple of weeks I moved onto thicker soups albeit any chunks in them such as vegetables had to be mashed up.   At this time a typical meal comprised 8-10 small spoons of food at which point I was full and could feel the fullness before it became uncomfortable.  I know this as on one occassion I ate slightly more and felt bloated, and whilst I didn't throw up I felt naseous and had to walk around the house until the feeling subsided.  It is worth mentioning at this point that post operation with a stomach that is greatly reduced in size and capacity you can feel the food making its slow transit down the oesophagus and into the stomach, and this is what causes the bloating.   I found a simple cure to overcome this feeling was to stand up after eating or better still walk around the house especially up and down the stairs.   
 
Even though I was able to move onto more tastier foods such as mashed potato with gravy and a small amount of mince or a curry and rice or dhal (lentils), the bloated feeling of fullness didn't go away and I found I had to walk further for it to subside.  This meant that after dinner I would don a jacket or coat and walk from my house to the park nearby and back, a walk of around 2Km, and by the time I was home the feeling of fullness would have gone.   By about 6 months after surgery I was eating slightly more around 12-15 small spoons but I was now walking greater distances around 5Km and enjoying it.   Remember outside of my evening post dinner walks I was doing no exercise be it at home or at a gym, and I was still losing weight - and brilliantly happy.
 
A couple of things I should mention at this time are fibre and vitamins.  Firstly as I was eating so little by way of soft and mushy foods I was never going to be eating enough fibre and so I did get constipated and this along with not drinking lots of water per day resulted in piles (haemerrhoids) which are not very pleasant.   I was advised by Louise that I needed to add fibre to my diet and she suggested a soluble fibre powder called Benefiber.   This white powder mixes easily into hot and cold drinks and food and pretty soon you are getting enough fibre to stave off the deficiency and constipation.  Benfiber is available at local pharmacies and also online on Amazon or online pharmacy websites.  
 
In addition to fibre I also needed to supplement my diet using vitamins and the soft chewy tablets designed to be taken by the young and elderly each day are perfect in topping up any vitamin deficiency.   As  Vitamin B12 which is derived from food cannot be taken orally this is something I have to take every 3 months by injection at the doctors surgery.   It is not a painful injection even for anyone who doesn't like injections.
 
 Also I was told I wouldn't be able to eat and drink at the same time as liquids would just wash the food down without my body being able to properly digest it.  This change has been pretty easy to get used to and I now find it second nature to either do one or the other and regulate my eating and drinking habits. 
 

Where the hell did all this energy come from?

As the weight started to fall off in addition to becoming noticeably slimmer I also became far more energetic, which is not something I had been told to expect, so it came as a surprise, albeit a nice surprise.    As I said to my work colleagues it was if someone had put two new batteries in and I was now unable to stop whether it was walking, cycling and just doing physical pursuits I hadn't done in years.   I will talk more about this aspect of my life in the My Life Today section of this website.