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Personal Stories

Eulema - Victorville, CA

Eumlema before bariatric surgeryI've been chubby, fluffy, pudgy, soft, flabby, and even FAT most all of my life. In my younger years in order for me to stay at a “normal” body weight, I took “diet” pills, went on unhealthy “fad” diets and did everything I could to not gain weight. But, when I quit all that, I started gaining; when I had 4 pregnancies, I gained more; when I started aging, I gained even more; then one day I was 251 pounds and 55 years old. I'm only 5'4” tall so I was quite the plus size lady. I had also developed co-morbidities that would shorten my lifespan and limit my quality of life.

I had a heart murmur. My cardiologist told me that I needed to lose 100 lbs and that would take care of the heart murmur. I had sleep apnea and slept using a CPAP machine, which is awful. The mask can be painful; it's cumbersome, and uncomfortable. But, the upside to it is that the forced air delivers oxygen to the brain and heart; and, the body gets a complete night's sleep. I hadn't slept well in 40 years before I was diagnosed and treated. Oh, yes, the Doctor of sleep disorders told me that if I lost 100 pounds, my sleep apnea would disappear.

Eulema before gastric bypass photoA third co-morbidity was my knees. The weight on my knees was beginning to wear and tear on the cartilage - I had knee surgery a few years ago and my orthopedic surgeon told me if I didn't lose 100 pounds, I would need a complete knee transplant within 5 years. I've researched those plastic knees, and if at all possible, I didn't want one. The fourth and newest co-morbidity I had was the dreaded hypertension. I was taking pills to control it and bring it down. And can you guess what my family doctor told me about this? Yep, if I would lose 100 pounds my high blood pressure would magically go away. I was beginning to see the picture. The odd thing about all this is that none of these doctors offered a solution to losing the 100 pounds – they just assumed I was lazy and liked to eat a lot. One of the Docs had the nerve to tell me just to “push away from the table”. Of course, he didn't weigh 100 pounds soaking wet and he had never had a fat problem, and apparently he wasn't well informed about morbid obesity. Pushing away from the table is not an option. It doesn't work for the long haul.

Morbid Obesity is a disease and it also has a lot to do with heredity. Dr. Ellner can tell you more about this, but just suffice it to know that you are capable of losing the weight and keeping it off with the right information and the right tools.

Research for the Surgery

I had read about the gastric bypass surgery and started researching this avenue to a permanently healthy body. I spent three years researching. I have reams of information that I printed off the Internet, and I attended several consultations in three States. I made my decision to have the surgery in November 2003, and went to one last consultation, which was where I met Julie Ellner, the most fantastic surgeon in all of my research. Dr. Ellner explained her surgery exactly like I had envisioned as the one I wanted. I had already read about the many different procedures for a gastric bypass, and because I have a BS in Nursing and have some knowledge of digestion and absorption of vitamins/minerals, I knew what I didn't want done to my body.

When I told my co-workers what I was planning, they were all against the surgery. Everyone always knows someone who knew someone who died from it. Nothing I could say would convince them that the surgery I wanted was not the same surgery those people had. However, I did convince them to attend a consultation with me. They met Dr. Ellner and she patiently answered all their questions that afternoon. When we left, my two friends/coworkers had a much better understanding and were very excited about the surgery and gave their full approval and support. I called my insurance company and they told me exactly what I had to do to get the surgery approved and I followed all their directions. I changed to a POS that afforded me to have any surgeon I wanted at any hospital I wanted.

With the assistance of Dr. Ellner's insurance clerk, everything was quick and easy and my surgery was scheduled for August 26, 2004 at the Alvarado Hospital in San Diego. I have never been treated so well – the nurses and hospital staff were attentive, patient and very understanding of my needs. Actually they anticipated my needs before I did. I felt respected, and I felt that these nurses understood and cared about me.

Once the surgery was scheduled, I battled for a while with my spiritual self - thinking that I was changing something that God had made perfect. Who am I to make that decision? I prayed about it and asked the Lord to put roadblocks in my way if this was not the right thing for me to do. Instead, I was amazed at how He actually opened doors for me so quickly – I got a “same day” appointment with my cardiologist for a stress test; I got a “same day” appointment for an overnight sleep study – both of these are unheard of, usually it takes months to get an appointment with either of these clinics. All the other doctors' appointments were timely within a two-week period of my request. My insurance approved the surgery within a week of Dr. Ellner's office sending the Letter of Medical Necessity. My boss didn't even question my taking 7 weeks off work – she immediately signed my leave request and wished me well. I am confident and totally convinced that it was right for me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Results of the Surgery

Eulema after bariatric surgery photoWell, I suppose the magic number was 100 pounds for me. Did I show those doctors or what? I've lost 117 pounds to date (14 months post surgery) and I have 9 more pounds to go to reach my target weight of 125. It hasn't been easy, but without the surgery, I could never have succeeded in this weight loss. The gastric bypass was my tool for a healthier, happier, thinner life. I have gone from a size 22 to a size 6. I haven't taken a blood pressure pill since the morning of my surgery; my B/P is 120/80. I haven't used the CPAP machine since the night before the surgery; I no longer snore and I sleep all night without the CPAP. My cardiologist performed a stress test on me, announced that my heart murmur was completely gone and he never wanted to see me again! And my knees are great – no pain and no plastic knee in my future! And all this happened almost immediately after the surgery – it didn't take 100 pounds to get all these wonderful results! I am a very healthy woman now. At age 57 I can walk 3 miles without slowing down, I can run up my stairs at home without breathing heavy and I can fly on an airplane without asking for an extension to the seatbelt! The first time I was able to hold my bottle of water on the car seat between my legs while driving, I almost wept for joy! It's the little things that will make you weep.

It Hasn't Been Easy, but it Has Been Worth it

I had three long years to ponder this surgery and get my psyche in tune with what my body would be going through after surgery so I have sailed through the first 14 months with little trouble. This is a major surgery and it shouldn't be taken lightly. Your mindset must be as ready as your body is for the surgery. Oh, I don't mean I didn't have problems after the surgery – I did, but it was totally my fault. I was told not to eat too much too quickly – I did and I vomited. I haven't done it again. I was told to drink a minimum of 64 oz of water per day – I didn't and I got constipated. I mean really constipated. Protein hits the intestines like clay and it packs. Without the water, it hardens, and this hurts really badly. I won't go into detail of how I dislodged that, but it has never happened to me again and it won't because I drink my water. This was a very meaningful learning experience. I was told to chew, chew, chew and I wasn't paying that much attention when an old habit kicked in and I swallowed a chunk of chicken too quickly. The result of that - I stopped up the passage from my new stomach to the intestine. It was painful, it was frightening, and it took that night and all the next day before I finally worked it through and felt better. I thought I was going to have to go to the ER to have it removed, but thankfully I didn't. And I haven't plugged the “hole” again. All of this happened within the first four weeks after my surgery. So, I have done things that shouldn't be done, but I quickly learned from my mistakes, and I now fully understand why we are given instructions and I can attest to the fact that the Doctor definitely knows what she's talking about! I do exactly what Dr. Ellner tells me to do and I don't have any problems. At all of my appointments I have been honest with Dr. Ellner even if it hurt to tell her that I didn't do what she said. She fussed at me about it, and extracted promises from me. She fusses very sweetly – she makes you want to please her and do what she says. She is my saving grace.

I'm also one of those very fortunate people whose body cannot tolerate sugar after the surgery. And this is a good thing for me. I was a “sugarholic” and now I cannot eat anything with more than 3 sugars in it. If I do, I go through the dreaded “dumping syndrome” where my pancreas senses tremendous amounts of sugar in my small stomach and dumps insulin in my system in large quantities to take care of the sugar, which makes me very sick. Sometimes the sick feeling lasts for up to two hours. I don't do this very often, but more times than I care to. And not everyone reacts to sugar this violently, just a choice few of us do! My family, friends, and co-workers are all reading labels now to see if I can eat whatever they're buying! They check the sugar and the fat…somehow fat has the same effect on me as sugar does. So, nothing fried for me ever again!

My weight loss was quick for the first 7 to 9 months, and then it slowed down. I'm eating more now and a larger variety of foods and my body likes the weight I am now. It's not easy to quit eating all those wonderful foods I used to love to eat, but I've written a poem I say every day. And I live by it.

"No pasta, No rice, No bread or milk;
No sugar, No spices, Coffee/tea – that's zilch;
Eat plenty of chicken and lots of fish,
A few fruits & green veggies fill up my dish.
Don't drink anything within 30 minutes of meals;
Take the vitamins regularly – that's my Dr.'s deal.
Drink lots of water throughout the day,
Crystal light & herbal teas are both okay.
Whatever you do, whatever you say
No snacks between meals, and only 3 meals per day.
Exercise, Exercise - daily, I say
Walking & toning keep the flabby skin away!"

Dr. Ellner has been there with me through all of my problems, frustrations, bad habits, and all of my successes, smiles, joys, and glory days. She is totally absorbed in her patients and she cares about them, not just during the surgery and recuperation period, but also for months and years after the surgery. And, she gives hugs! People have asked me if I would go through this again and my answer is, “In a heartbeat, but only if Dr. Julie Ellner will perform the surgery.” The surgery she performs is definitely the “gold” standard and Dr. Ellner is the “gold” standard of surgeons.

Another question is will I have reconstructive surgery. You bet I will! Not before next year though. I want to lose the last 9 pounds and keep the weight off a while before my tummy tuck and breast lift.

Contact Me

If you want to contact me, you may reach me at my personal email address at Eulema@yahoo.com, or my home phone number at 760-843-0718. My friend and co-worker, Mrs. Karen Kelley, who was a skeptic about this surgery, changed her mind after attending the consultation, said that she would be happy to talk to you if you want to hear what she has to say about it. She can be reached at her home phone number 760-244-3527 or email her at work at kkelley@ci.victorville.ca.us. I have such a wonderful support group in my staff and co-workers. My entire workplace has supported me since the day I came back from my surgery with special food when we have “eat” days at work, with words of wisdom when I want to eat something I shouldn't, and by just telling me how good I look every single day. The HR Department where I work took pictures of me after every major weight loss – every 25 pounds!

Call or email me anytime. I'll always encourage you and will answer honestly.

Cadeucus