Bariatric Surgery Patient Stories

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Dudley Underwent Bariatric Surgery to Control Diabetes

DUDLEY-BEFORE
DUDLEY-AFTER

I think I probably approached bariatric surgery from a different standpoint than a lot of patients do. My reason for pursuing the surgery was to help control my diabetes. I have always been overweight. It is something that I had learned to live with and had led a fairly active life. I was married to a wonderful and supportive woman in Julie, and I considered myself pretty successful in my career.

At the age of 28, I was diagnosed with diabetes and started on a management program, slowly progressing from managing it with diet, to taking pills, to injecting insulin. Along the way, my insulin resistance increased, causing me to require more insulin to control my blood glucose (sugar) level. Over time my weight increased and my activity level decreased. My weight slowly crept up to 383 pounds before my surgery. I had been on blood pressure medication for many years, as well as cholesterol medications in addition to my insulin requirements. The combination of medical issues and weight had affected my mobility, stamina, and was starting to affect my ability to function on a daily basis. I was having issues with my knees and feet.  I felt older than I was. Travel was becoming more of a burden due to airline seats being made for smaller people.

In 2010 my wife and I welcomed our son David into this world. Wanting to be able to not only see him grow up, but to be able to participate in his life was a major factor in why I pursued bariatric surgery. I had discussed bariatric surgery with my doctors for at least eight years, but did not want to take such a radical approach if there were other ways of controlling my diabetes.

In 2009 I was diagnosed with Type C diabetes, which is a combination of Type I (low insulin production) and Type II (insulin resistance). At that point I decided to have a serious talk with my doctors about pursuing bariatric surgery. It was decided that gastric bypass was the best option, as it has the highest success rate with curing (or eliminating the effects of) Type II diabetes. I began the insurance qualification process at the beginning of 2010. Because of work travel commitments and changing insurance companies during the qualification process, the entire process took a year and a half. I qualified for the surgery in July of 2011, and my surgery was performed by Dr. Jayleen Grams on November 8, 2011, at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala.

I did have some concerns leading up to the surgery as most people would. How would this change me? How hard would it be to follow the proper steps? What if after the surgery I would not be able to get enough nutrients? Would I lose bone mass because I wasn’t getting the proper nutrition? Would I have any energy? Would this lead to malnutrition issues?  Would I go broke buying all of the vitamins I would have to take for the rest of my life? I weighed these concerns against the option of not getting the surgery, and it was an easy decision. Get the surgery and have a chance at having a more active life, or not have the surgery and know what lay ahead. During the qualification period, I did some research on my own and consulted my doctors about my concerns, and I felt pretty good going into the surgery that I would be fine afterwards.

Once I came to that decision, I was optimistic about the surgery. Surgery went well, and I had to stay in the hospital for several days until they could work out an insulin regimen for me. My insulin intake was way above average, and it took the endocrinologist staff a few days to understand my requirements. During my time in the hospital, I lost less than a pound. Not too encouraging having spent the better part of a week not eating much at all. I was still optimistic about my recovery, and was looking forward to finding out how the surgery would change my medical conditions.

Once I returned home, my recovery went well. I didn’t have any real issues with the recovery. After a few weeks, I started losing weight. I lost around 90 pounds in the first three months following surgery. I was averaging about a pound a day. After the first three months, the weight loss slowed down, and over the next three months I had lost an additional five pounds. I have been able to reduce my insulin usage by roughly 90% of my pre-surgery levels, and I have been able to stop taking all of my other medications, except one for blood pressure. I am optimistic that at some point I will be able to remove that one as well. By remembering to always eat my protein first and increasing my exercise, I feel I was able to avoid having a sagging look that can occur with rapid weight loss.

At this point I only have a few minor changes to my day to day activities. I don’t drink with meals, which took a little getting used to, but it is not as hard as I thought I would be. I tend to stay away from rice and sandwiches with too much bread, such as baguettes or large sub rolls. In the last month I have noticed a slight aversion to milk, but I can drink small amounts and I am fine. I also limit my sweets intake. I find that if I overdo it I will have some discomfort. I am still able to have a bite or two, but I do limit myself. I have started a daily walking regimen and try and do other outside activities, like bike riding, and from time to time to get my heart rate up, running short distances. Needless to say, my knees and feet have improved greatly to allow for this. 

Having gastric bypass surgery has been a blessing to me and my family. It has given me the opportunity to live a fuller life and be more involved in my son’s life. It has reduced my health issues, and I feel it has given me back at least 10 years on my life–ten active years. It has allowed me to participate in activities that I thought I would never be able to again. In short; it has given me a chance at a better quality of life for me and my family.

My advice to prospective patients is: first and foremost, know why you are having the surgery. I know the qualification process can take a long time, but I recommend using that time to really consider what changes will occur and what you will do going forward to maintain your health.

The surgery is not a magic cure and should never be looked at in that way.  It is a tool, and it will give you assistance in reaching your long term goals. If you do not follow the proper procedures, you can end up in the same condition as before your surgery. The support group meetings are really a great way to gather information and learn what to expect. They also allow you to meet and ask questions with other pre- and post-operation patients.