Ok—so that may sound a little dramatic, but I truly feel that this journey of weight loss has been more than just losing weight. It has changed more than just the number on the scale—I have a new outlook on life, a healthier way to live and a new group of friends for life.
I had been overweight since 1988—tried every diet out there—including the ones that you order food delivered to you. I spent enough on diets to have had the lap band done several times over! I considered bariatric surgery off and on several different times. Being a Registered Nurse, I saw both the successful and the unsuccessful surgeries done in the U.S. In 2004 my brother had RNY bypass surgery done—and was successful—he lost 100 lbs in over a year. I still wasn’t sold on that idea for myself—and started hearing about a new procedure called a “band”. I started casually researching that –but all the while, I continued to gain weight. Every time I tried to go on a diet, I would lose a little—then gain more than I lost.
But in October 2007, I was singing with my chorus at competition. I literally hurt from the multiple rehearsals and performances and all the walking I had to do. When I wasn’t in a rehearsal or on stage or somewhere I had to be, I was in my room taking a pain pill. I was truly miserable.
One of the things they do during competitions is take candid pictures during performances and then put them out to see if anyone wants to buy copies for themselves.
That was my “wake-up”. When I was looking at the pictures, I couldn’t find myself. I literally didn’t recognize myself. I knew it had to be me because of the people next to me—but I didn’t know that woman. You see, I knew what the scales said—but I was in denial about how big I really was. I thought I was carrying the weight better than that! But there was the proof—I didn’t even know who I was.
Before I even got home, while I was in my hotel room, I started doing research about the gastric band. One of the links that came up was for Dr. Arturo Rodriguez in Monterrey, Mexico. I was amazed to find out that even though the gastric band procedure was still new in the US—he had been doing bands for over 12 years (at that time). I didn’t know they had been around that long!! So I read everything I could about Dr. R—everything on his website—went to every lap band forum and web—and I learned a lot!!
One thing to note—the procedure is called a gastric banding. “Lapband”, “Realize Band”, “Allergan”, “VG”—those are all brand names from which ever company made that particular band. Each band has individual things that make them a little bit different (that old business competition thing), but they all do the same thing. It is strictly a matter of which band the Doctor feels is best for each patient. Some Doctors only use one brand—some use more than one brand. It’s like choosing which “tools” you want to use. I personally left that to the Doctor—he is the one with the experience to know which one would work best in my situation.
So, back to me! I spent about 3 weeks researching, reading, looking before I even mentioned to my husband that I was considering it. I wanted to be totally prepared for whatever question he had to ask me. It did surprise me how open he was to the idea. I had expected to really have to convince him—but once he knew that I had done the research and that this was not just a whim, he was supportive of me pursuing the procedure. I asked my pt coordinator so many questions, it’s a wonder she didn’t just mark me down as a kook! So with my husband’s support and encouragement, I scheduled my surgery.
On December 28th, 2007, I got on a plane at DFW and in less than 2 hours, I was landing in Monterrey. Although we have made several vacation trips to Mexico—this was a new experience for me. I knew what I had been told to expect—but I was still anxious about what would happen.
I came through immigration and customs, and just as promised, there was Dr. R’s driver standing there with my name on a sign. He took my bags and we proceeded to the van. It is about a 30 minute drive from the airport to the clinic (San Pedro) where I had chosen to have my surgery done. All the way, I was watching the “sights” of Monterrey-Walmart-Sam’s –Maytag-Mary Kay—looked just like Texas to me!!
I chose to travel and have surgery on the same day, so when I got to the clinic, things started happening. The nurses came in and after I had changed into the “very fashionable!” hospital gown, they started the IV and drew blood for the lab tests. Then the anesthesiologist came in—and then the internist—and the nutritionist—but then Dr. Rodriguez came into the room. From the moment I met him, I was instantly at ease and knew that I had made the right decision. He has a manner about him that makes you very comfortable and you know that you are in good hands. I would like to send many Dr.’s to him to learn!
I was taken to the operating room and I have to say that Dr. Santos, the anesthesiologist is great! I have had several surgeries before, but this was absolutely the easiest anesthesia I have ever experienced. One minute I started feeling a little sleepy—and the next I was in the recovery room. The surgery itself takes less than an hour to finish. After I was awake from anesthesia, I went back to my room and stayed in the clinic over night. Every few hours the nurses would come in and give me antibiotics and pain medications through the IV. Whenever I would wake up, I would walk around in the room—and then towards morning, I was walking in the hallways. Dr. Arturo Rodriguez came in to see me that evening and to make sure that I had gotten something to drink and that I had gotten some broth and jello. The next morning, around 9, Dr. R and everyone else was back again—and as soon as I was dressed and ready to go, the driver was there again to take me to the hotel. I was at the hotel by around 10:30 on Saturday morning—just 24 hours after I had left DFW.
When I got to the hotel, I took a shower and a nap—in that order! After I had some soup, on Saturday afternoon, we went to the mall. There are a couple reasons for that trip. Primarily to walk—because that helps in many ways—and also to stop at the grocery store(supermercado) to get a few things to have in my room at the hotel to “eat” rather than calling room service every couple hours. I got some soup and yogurt, pudding and jello, Gatorade and water, that type of thing. Then back to the hotel. I rested, I walked, I drank. On Sunday, I could have gone home—but I had messed up on my airline reservation, so I stayed till Monday. So on Sunday I did basically the same things—and also went for a walk for a few blocks around the hotel. At all times, I felt perfectly comfortable and safe in Monterrey.
On Monday morning, there was Dr. R’s driver, ready to take me back to the aiport and I was on my way home—ready for my new life to begin. And that is exactly what it has been.
So—where am I today? I have gone from wearing size 18W to size 8/10—I have lost about 65 lbs –so far- and am still losing. I would like to lose about another 30 lbs—but the difference is that now I don’t worry about it. I know it will continue to come off. I eat regular foods—not diet foods—and as long as I don’t go “crazy”, I know that unlike every diet I have been on, this time I won’t gain all the weight back again.
And the crazy thing about this is—I would have never been approved to have had the surgery in the states!! I was told I needed to GAIN about another 20 lbs to “qualify”! Or have multiple co-morbidities caused by the weight. That is NUTS! Dr. Arturo Rodriguez looks at this as a preventative measure—let’s get the weight off BEFORE the co-morbidities develop. THAT is true care!
Almost 1 year from my surgery, I approached Dr. Rodriguez about becoming a patient coordinator and working with him to help other people. I knew that with my nursing training and being a lap band patient myself, that I would be able to offer a unique perspective to potential clients. I hope that I am.
So, while I have lost weight with the band—what I have gained is much more. I have gained a new life—a new outlook and attitude—and I gained a group of friends that will be with me forever.