Hi, this is me, Roy, in October 2004 enjoying the sun in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. As you can see, at 55 years of age I was grossly overweight – around 27 stone at that time. I also suffered from Type 2 diabetes and made the decision to have a lap band fitted to help me lose the excess weight that I have been carrying for most of my life. I realise that going down this route is more a marathon than a sprint and as with all races; it has to be worked at both mentally and physically if you are going to win.
I decided that I would keep this diary of the events and my feelings prior to the operation, immediately after, and to keep it ongoing so that others might benefit from my experiences.
First a little history.
In mid 2003, my GP referred me to the hospital Diabetic Clinic as the little ‘niggles’ that come with being diabetic needed to be sorted out. Following a number of tests they adjusted my medication and everything started to return to what was ‘normal’ for me. It was during this time that he suggested that if I could lose a substantial amount of weight, it would reduce or even stop the effects of the diabetes. During our talks I explained that I had tried all sorts of diets, including not eating for 6-8 weeks, just drinking special Modifast cocktails. I could throw off a few stone whilst on the diets but always put the weight back on, and usually more again. They then explained the lap band and the bypass operations and after answering all my questions about the different procedures and the risks, I was happy to proceed and he agreed to put me forward as a candidate for surgery. Having made this decision, I researched all I could find about the various operations and found BOSPA on the internet. The various pieces of information I gathered convinced me that I had made the right decision. You must be mentally prepared for the procedure and the regime that must be followed after the operation has taken place.
In April 2004, I received confirmation that my PCT had granted the funding for the operation. The surgeon agreed that he was able, and I was fit enough, to undertake the lap band operation. Unfortunately there then followed a period which I would like to forget. Dates for the operation were given three times and each was then cancelled, often at short notice due to lack of beds, nurses, theatre time or whatever. However, just before Christmas 2004 I was given the date of Monday 24th January 2005.
Monday 24th January 2005 - Going in for the Operation
My wife and I duly arrived at the hospital and spent the morning having the usual tests taken and answering all the relevant questions. I must admit that up until the Monday morning I had not had any nerves or apprehension about the operation. That morning I had butterflies the size of golden eagles flying around in my stomach. Both the anaesthetist and the surgeon came in to see me and did their final checks etc. and did their best to allay any fears I had. The co-ordinator also came in with the large theatre gown that she promised. At about 1.50pm the theatre sister came to collect me and we walked down to the theatre. Here we go, no turning back now. I actually went straight into the theatre and half sat, half laid myself on the operating table. And yes it was big and strong enough to hold my weight.
The theatre staff then busied themselves wiring me up to all the monitors etc. and did a marvellous job keeping me calm and explaining the various bits and pieces in the theatre. The anaesthetist came in and put the tubes into my wrist and about 2.30pm asked me to see how long I could keep my eyes open. If I made three seconds I would be lying. My next recollections were vague images of thrashing about and trying to sit up and of people saying for me to lie still. I learned afterward that I had a bit of a reaction to coming out of the anaesthetic. This I am assured is not uncommon.
My next recollection is of sitting in a bed in the High Dependency Unit with two very nice nurses fussing around me. I must have been floating in and out of consciousness as the next thing I remember is my wife talking to me, asking how I felt. This was apparently about 7.30pm in the evening. The nurses continued with their observations throughout the night but it was not until about 2am on the Tuesday morning that I was able to take more rational notice of what was happening. I must have ‘cat-napped’ for a while but by about 4am I was awake and able to ask and answer questions. It was then I realised that I had a tremendously sore throat. It turned out that the anaesthetist had problems putting the breathing tube down my throat. Apparently I have a short and narrow gullet. Anything to be awkward, that’s me! I am not very good and happy at lying in bed and so the nurses helped me into a chair and with the help of a number of pillows made me very comfortable. I had been sipping water during the night but the nurses made me a cup of tea and it went down a treat. They also gave me some paracetamol for the pain.
Tuesday 25th January 2005 - Day 1 after the Operation
The pain I was in was not great; the sore throat being the worst with a ‘numb bum’ coming a close second! About 7.30am my wife rang HDU to see how I was and I managed to talk to her for a little while. The nurses then asked me if I wanted any breakfast. To be totally honest I did not want anything to eat at all but I did agree to have a yogurt and it did go down very well.
By 9am I had started walking around the unit to ease the pressure on my bum and get my legs mobile again. I was feeling sore and bruised but not unduly so. By lunchtime I felt ready to go home and my nurse arranged for the pharmacy to supply the drugs I was to take home and then arranged for me to have some soup for lunch followed by another yogurt. Even though I drank/ate the soup, I still do not know what flavour it was!
I was overjoyed to be back home amongst my family. Needless to say all wanted to know all the details and how I was feeling. It surprised me at how quickly I tired. I had a light dinner of soup and yoghurt, At least I could taste the flavour of the soup this time! I did not want to lie down and sleep and so my wife made to comfortable in an armchair with pillows and cushions and I settled down for the night. I cannot say I had a good night thanks again thanks to a ‘numb bum’ and to pain in my leg muscles which I put down to being stuck in one position for so long. I had to get up and move around during the night but did manage a few hours sleep.
Wednesday 26th January 2005 - Day 2 after the Operation
I got up properly around 7.30am and have to admit I felt lousy. I ached all over, I was sore and bruised, I was afraid of my leg muscles going into a cramp, and I still had the grand-daddy of a sore throat. I was also coughing a lot and bringing up a clear liquid that was full of bubbles. I later learned that the aching muscles and the coughing up the spittle was the anaesthetic and the various gases they pump into you working their way out. I found that moving around a little, and taking the soluble paracetamol, eased the pain in the legs along with the sore throat. I discovered that if I drank or gulped any liquid it felt that it stayed as a hard ball in the centre of my chest. The discomfort didn’t last long but it happened each time I took a drink. If I sipped the drink it went down without any trouble. My wife made me some “Quaker ‘O So Simple” porridge in the microwave. By taking small mouthfuls I managed it all and it went down easily and boy, did I enjoy it. I then took the medication that the hospital sent home with me and got dressed.
The very act of getting dressed and starting to behave normally made me feel a lot better. I spent the morning mixing sitting comfortably with going for short walks around the garden. This helped with the aching legs. I did realise that walking around a garden in January is not the usual thing to do and there is not a lot to see but the fish in the pond were still swimming around and the weeds were still growing. The walks or strolls really, did not last long as I soon felt tired and needed to sit down again. I also found that if I held a pillow tight across my stomach when I coughed it made it easier and did not cause as much pain. The pain was mainly from the internal bruising rather that the stitches across the six small holes the surgeon made into me.
For lunch I again had soup followed by a yogurt but this time broke up a slice of whole wheat bread into the soup. The afternoon was spent much as the morning - sitting and strolling. For dinner, at around 6.30pm., I had mashed potato with cheese and onion mashed into it along with some baked beans. Again taking slowly it went down without any blocking or feeling sick or having that annoying ball fall into my chest again. By about 9pm., I had had enough for the day and decided to go to bed. I got ready for bed and actually managed to lie on my side without any pain or discomfort. I must have reached the land of nod very quickly and stayed there all night.
Thursday 27th January 2005 - Day 3 after the Operation
Woke up at about 7.30am and sat up in bed. I got some very strange feeling from my insides as gravity took over with me upright. It didn’t last long but it was a strange feeling. I then went for my first shower since I came home. I felt good and able to cope with the bending etc. I did make sure my wife was not far away before I started in case anything happened. Unfortunately nothing happened and she didn’t come near me! I was feeling good. A lot of the pain in my legs had gone and I was coughing less. I was still full of wind, much to my wife’s disgust, but we must all bear life’s little problems! Following another breakfast of porridge, flavoured this time, we drove to the shopping centre and slowly wandered around picking up a few bits and pieces including some chewable multi vitamin tablets. After about 30 minutes we got back to the car and I was pleased to do so. I still tired easily. Whilst out, I took the opportunity to go into Boots and weigh myself. I was delighted to find that I had already lost at least 12 pounds – probably due to the low fat, low carbohydrate diet I had to follow for the week before the operation. All that and not feeling hungry!
Lunch was a thicker soup this time but still basically the consistence of baby food. That afternoon I started writing this diary at that point, I felt really great!!!
I think I overate at dinner. I’m didn’t feel comfortable inside; no pain or nausea but just uncomfortable. Still feeling tired so went off to bed at 10pm.
Friday 28th January 2005 - Day 4 after the Operation
Didn’t have a very good night. I fell asleep alright but woke up at around 3.30am. I tried to get back to sleep but couldn’t manage it and so got out of bed, wrapped up warm in my dressing gown, turned on the TV and sat in an armchair and dozed. About 8am started moving about properly. I found that the bruising in my stomach had eased and that I was feeling a lot better in my stomach. Had breakfast and did all the usual early morning bits of business and thought about what to do that day. As it was a nice sunny winters day with clear skies, Beryl and I decided that we could go out in the car and find a nice spot to have a little walk. I did find that travelling around in the car was far more tiring than I had ever thought it would be. We didn’t do much walking but headed home instead. I then sat in my armchair and dozed the afternoon away.
I thought that I should describe a little of the operation itself and the wounds that are necessary. I had six wound sites, which by day 4 had become very itchy, which were covered by waterproof dressings. Here are some photos of me showing off the wounds, with and without dressings. Not a pretty sight!
With dressings still attached
Saturday 29th January 2005 - Day 5 after the Operation
Got up after a good night’s sleep. Not so sore and the bruising was also lessening. While having a shower I took the dressings off without any trouble or pain. Five of the six wounds have healed over very well but one is weeping a little so I put any ordinary plaster over it. I also used some Steri-Strips over some of the wounds just to make sure that they stay closed. Looking at the wounds I must say that my surgeon is a good neat ‘cutter’. They are small and straight and should hardly be visible when fully healed. The one wound which is weeping has quite a bit of bruising around it and I presume that this is the entry where most of the work of the operation took place. Still no real pain and I have just realised that I have not needed any pain killers for two days. I’m no martyr to pain, I just didn’t need them. Had the date for my first pot-op appointment in the post - March 15th will soon come along. I spent the rest of the day walking and sitting as I felt I needed to.
Sunday 30th January 2005 - Day 7 after the Operation
A week since the operation and I feel fine. The soreness is gradually reducing and the bruising continues to work itself out. This time last week I was having the op. It seems longer and the down side pains etc. are rapidly fading in my memory - I presume that’s a good sign. I went for a walk into the town and got my hair cut. (Like all the ladies getting your hair done, it made me feel better as well.) I succumbed to the temptation and went into Boots and weighed myself again. I could not believe what the readout was. I had lost a further 12 pounds in four days. That’s a total of one and a half stones since I went on the pre-op diet, and for any sceptics reading this I have the print out tickets as evidence!
I did overdo it a little when I started clearing up my home office. Too much bending gave me a very funny feeling in my stomach but I was not laughing. Anyway it passed off after 30 minutes or so. Had been on the pureed food diet for a week by now and found it OK. Not feeling hungry and I had not had that ‘ball’ in my chest too often. One thing I found out is that bananas do not puree very well. True they breakdown into a very smooth cream but I found the taste had totally changed and not to my liking. Lets hope everything carries on as it has!
Tuesday March 1st 2005 – one month after the operation.
Over a month had gone by since my operation and everything was going fine. I had found out the hard way not to eat too much, too fast or too dry. The good news was that I had lost almost 3 stone in weight although for the past week I stayed the same. I am now really looking forward to having the first fill of the band on the 15th March.
June 2005 – 5 months after the operation.
Since my last entry I had several band fills and now have a total of 7.5ml in the band and boy, do I feel it working. I had to really think how to eat and how much. I was learning, sometimes the hard way with my head over the sink but it was becoming rare to get that problem.
August 2005 – 7 months after the operation.
7 months since I had my band fitted and I have lost 7 stones and am thrilled. The rate at which I lose weight has slowed down now and I am having to work at it to keep it moving. I go swimming twice a week with Beryl, I walk more and I have bought my own cross trainer so that I can work out at home. I have found muscles that I never knew I had – it’s worth it however. I am sure that I am turning fat into muscle as I can now do much more and for a lot longer (I’m talking about working in the garden in case you are wondering!!) The one down side of this is that I have now got my own built-on sporran - the skin around my stomach has gone loose and hangs down and shows no sign of shrinking back. I have started a saving fund for myself so that once it is the right time I will give in to my vanity and pay to have this cut away. I am not worried or concerned about ‘bat wings’ or suchlike as that can be coped with or hopefully tightened up by exercise but the tummy tuck I believe will be inevitable.
At the start of this diary I stuck a photo of myself as I was. In three weeks time I am going back to the same site and guess what, I will have another photo taken and then you will be able to see why having the op was the best thing I have done since I got married.
I couldn’t have done this without Beryl, my wife - I know I have a diamond in her. We have been married for 36 years next weekend and have never regretted a single day of it. Without her this whole process would have been almost impossible for me. She is a guide, mentor, policewoman, social worker and an inventive cook all rolled into a single person.
October 2005 – 9 months after the operation.
I feel brilliant. I now weigh 20st 2lbs, that’s 5 stone down since my band was fitted and 7 stone since the photo at the start of this diary was taken. We had 2 weeks in the Canary Islands and totally enjoyed ourselves. We ate and drank what we wanted and I still lost 3lbs (Beryl put on 2!!) We swam and walked every day and I found it easy. I would never have been able to do this before the op. Now there I was striding out and not even thinking about where I could get a taxi back. Boy what a great feeling. One of the most ridiculous ways to feel good came just as I sat down on the plane. I grabbed the seat belt and clipped it together straight away and still had a tail of belt hanging out. No more asking for an extension belt and feeling like a freak. “I was proper chuffed.”
My blood sugar levels are now normal at around 5.5. Who says I am diabetic! I have maintained this level for a couple of months now with no medication.
January 25th, 2006 – one year after the operation
What a year of change it has been, full of ups and downs as usual, but mostly the ‘ups’ stick in the mind. “What are the main ups?” I hear you ask. Well, I have three ups I want to shout about. Here goes! “Pin back your lugholes”
No 1. The band is doing its work. I have nearly eight stone. That’s over 50% of what I want to lose or about 35% of what I should lose if I am to fit into that ideal weight to height chart. I’m down to under 20 stone and well on the way to my being able to “I’m 15 stone something” - that’s the goal I have set in my mind.
No 2. Losing the weight is not all I have lost. I have lost my diabetes. I am officially NOT diabetic. Its true, I have gone from injecting 200 units of insulin a day and taking metformin tablets as well to NO INSULIN - all right, I am still taking metformin but only because it helps with the weight loss.
No 3. Boy, do I feel good in myself. You can bet your mortgage on how well I feel. I have much more energy, more stamina, more love of life. I can enjoy playing with my grandson far more but yes, like any 8 year old, he eventually tires me out. I can move far easier, get into spaces I never thought I ever would again and do things that I could only just about remember doing. (The rest of this has been censored!) I have already reached one of my stage goals. I can buy clothes right off the rack at M&S, albeit from the XL end of the rack. I’ll soon be looking at the L sizes though. I’m not looking to go lower. One of the most simple, and some would say stupid, differences that made me feel marvellous was when we flew off on holiday in October. To be able to sit in an aircraft seat, in cattle class, and feel reasonably comfortable and then to find that I didn’t have to ask for an extension seat belt and have a tail of the belt hanging out was a brilliant feeling. And it got better, I could bring down the silly little table flat in front of me. “Great, I’m normal” I’m not going to forget that feeling for a long time.
Even on holiday, every day for a fortnight we walked and swam at least twice and I felt good. As we tend to go back to the same place at least once a year (yes it’s a type of timeshare) we meet up with others we have known for many years. It’s a good feeling to hear, ”Blimey haven’t you lost a lot of weight” or “Boy don’t you look well.” The down side of it is that everyone is genuinely interested in how you did it and so you go through the story again and again. If I had thought of it I would have printed off leaflets and saved my voice.
I now come to what the ladies would call an “up” but the guys would a “down” …..and that’s clothes. I have had to throw out (or pass to BOSPA) virtually my entire wardrobe of clothes. About the only thing about me that hasn’t shrunk is my feet. I still have the same size socks and shoes… big deal. (The rest of this has also been censored!!) Shirts, coats, trousers, jumpers, sweatshirts, just about everything has had to go. The problem is that when I buy a new pair of trousers or a shirt that fits comfortably now, I know that in say two months its too big and that I will be buying again. Ladies, you will love it - a great excuse to keep right up to date with fashion. I have adopted the principle of wearing what I have for as long as I can, and only buy one thing at a time and wear it to death. Those of you who have seen or hopefully bought some gents clothes off the stall at the BOSPA meetings or via eBAy are almost sure to have a part of me in your wardrobe.
What have I learned over the year?
Well the hardest thing I had to learn to do was to eat slowly. The amount you eat is ‘regulated’ by the band so you know when you are full and stop. But the band doesn’t control how fast you can throw it down your throat. You eat quickly, you block up, have pain and often have to bring it back to ease or get rid of it. Yes, that’s the voice of experience. The other thing I had to learn, is to wait for an hour of so after having a meal before having a drink. I grew up and enjoyed always having a cup of tea straight after a meal. Do that now and I have problems. You may get away with having a drink with or right after a meal but all you will do is to wash your meal out of the banded pouch and feel hungry soon after. If you are like me it just will not go down and you bring it back. Its worse with some meals than others but if I leave having a drink for an hour I have no problem.
I suppose I should have shouted that one of the main ‘ups’ I have had is not feeling hungry. It’s true I do not get hungry but at times I still have cravings. The band doesn’t stop those feelings. That’s when the learning process comes into play…don’t give in to the cravings. Grazing is the easiest way to beat the band. Who wants to go through the op and then completely blow away the benefits by nibbling away at those chocs and crisps. The band is a mechanical aid to losing weight but it’s your mind and how you react that throws off the pounds. I’m no angel. Over Christmas I put on 2 pounds by grazing. I have now shed them again and hope that this weight plateau I have been on for some weeks now will drop off the back porch and I start losing the pounds again at the right rate.
Well I’m running out of things to say but promise another instalment at some time in the future. Good luck to all my loyal readers and happy weight loss!
October 2006 - It’s been a while since I last updated you all on my progress so here is the latest episode.
The last nine months or so has seen a number of significant changes in my outlook on live, my weight loss and in my life style. First the outlook on life in general; I have lost what little self consciousness I had left. I feel mentally able to do what I like, when I like and how I like. I don’t mind if people see me doing silly things, acting the fool with my grandson, trying to play football, or trying to keep up with my daughter in the swimming pool. I feel I can do anything and to hell with what anyone thinks of me! This change in attitude has caused me to really stand back and look at how I was living my private life and also in my working life. I realised that my working life was not giving me the satisfaction it once did. I was being seen as what I once was but not as I am now. It took me a few months to think things over and I finally decided that as my employer and the colleagues I worked with couldn’t or wouldn’t change, I would have to. So, I resigned from my job and now I work for both myself and BOSPA as an administrator. I am really enjoying the BOSPA job and the fact that I feel I am making a difference to some others lives. I can tell you, it feels good!
Now for my weight: It’s still going down albeit at a much slower rate than I would like, but my surgeon, endocrinologist and dietician are not concerned and say I am doing fine and to stay with it. Who am I to argue with that? I have had two very frustrating periods where my weight stayed virtually exactly the same for weeks and nothing I could seem to do would change it. I had hit a plateau. I knew I was eating correctly, not grazing or falling back into old eating habits and still getting as much exercise as time would allow, yet still the pounds would not shift. After about four weeks of this perceived “failure” I spoke to my dietician. She told me this was a common problem that everyone losing weight on all sorts of diets, let alone surgery, is likely to experience. What really surprised me is that she told me that it can last for up to twelve weeks and you are doing nothing wrong or cheating on the foods you are eating or the amounts you are putting down your throat.
That’s enough about weight and back to the changes in my life style. With my new self confidence, I will now have a go at practically anything as long as it is legal and moral! I don’t have to think that my weight will stop me or I won’t fit or I’d break it if I sat on it etc. “If I want to, I will” is my new motto. I cannot tell you how much I wish that these operations were available years ago and that I had had it done. It would have given me all those extra years when I could have been enjoying life to the full and not sitting in the back looking at others enjoying themselves.
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