The truth about gastric surgery to lose weight
By Pete Klismet
“Ok, I’m too fat. Oh, I know… I’ll just go get a gastric bypass!”
Over the years I’ve heard quite a few people say that, as if it’s simply a matter of going into the doctor’s office because you’ve put on 20 or 30 pounds and saying, “Whattup doc. I’m too porky. Get the knife out.” The doc does get out the knife, and once he stops stabbing you, the fact you’re too fat to suit yourself doesn’t matter anymore. Trust me, the doc has heard it plenty of times and finally had it ‘up to here.’ Regrettably, you’re the camel that broke the straw’s back. You still fit nicely in the casket. And the doc pleads guilty, receiving two years’ probation and 40 hours of community service for malicious mischief (or whatever vandalism is called in your state).
Minus the dramatics of your doctor carving you up until you look like about 63 cuts of ribeye steak and rump roasts, let’s be serious (fat chance) for a moment and talk about the reality of gastric surgery. Why do I know something about this? I did it not once, but twice! Flat learning curve for me, but different procedures. And so, here’s the story of how that went:
I had a pretty sedentary job after retiring from the FBI in 1999. I was the Department Chair of the Criminal Justice program at a community college in Colorado Springs, and an Associate Professor. So, in addition to my administrative duties (we had about 500 students in my program), I taught five or six three-credit-hour (about 270 classroom hours per semester) classes. The skill involved with handling administrative duties usually involves the buttocks. Occasionally getting them chomped on by the Dean, but more frequently sitting upon such fleshy items which the Kardashian family has made famous. And getting fat(ter). Ostensibly, teaching would involve being on your feet. An aerobic activity? Well…maybe not. Thus – more fat. In fact, enough that one may simply opt to sit at a desk in front of the class, use a Power Point and teach up a storm. Indiana Jones did it. I think. Minus the Power Point of course.
For the record, my body was not designed to try out for the role of Peter Pan. (The crocodile would have skipped right over Cap’t Hook and taken about two months to eat me.) My dad was a bricklayer and a solid six-foot, two hundred pounds. My uncle Phil was about six five, three bills. I turned out to be about six-one, and my most ideal weight was about two twenty. In college, I played middle-linebacker at 235. All of that was muscle from mixing mortar and carrying brick during the summer (I’m still waiting to be drafted by an NFL team. Sigh.). While on the police department I doubt I ever got above two-ten or twenty. Same with the FBI, until the last couple of years. Up to two-forty, then fifty or sixty before I retired. Part of the reason for the upward trend was, due to a very bad back (poor selection of parents), I had to give up playing racquetball, which will indeed, keep one in shape.
I had never really been a workout Nazi, aside from racquetball 3-4 times per week. And, Don’t. Even. Think. it ‘doesn’t count’ as a workout. Try it. It counts once you get into the high A level. And so my weight continued to climb since I wasn’t working out in any way. Other than playing golf. Not aerobic. Doesn’t count. I avoided scales like rattlesnakes. Finally, my lovely bride, the estimable Miss Nancy, talked me into getting on a scale after I swore her to silence or be turned into ribeye steaks. The result – 322. OMG. I weighed more than half of the tackles in the NFL. We both agreed ‘something’ needed to change.
One night I was watching something on TV when on came an ad by a doctor in Pueblo (40 miles away). The doc extolled the virtues of a ‘lap band,’ for weight loss, and he just happened to be a surgeon who could install one. Sounded interesting, so we went to a meeting where the doc did yet more extolling. We met with him privately a week or two later.
“Pete, you need to lose twenty pounds before I can consider the surgery.”
Meanwhile, I’m all about, “Damn doc. If I could lose twenty &$)%#* pounds I wouldn’t need this %^*#^% surgery.
“Gotta do it Pete. I can’t have too much fatty tissue around your liver when I operate.”
“Liver? What the ^*&@ are we doing way down there?”
I lost the twenty pounds.
We got the surgery done.
I don’t recommend it.
Nor does any legitimate gastric surgeon right now. Pay no attention to what the internet says.
I set world and Olympic records for projectile barfing.
Never could get the damned thing adjusted correctly.
Kept barfing. I’d estimate 2,000 times in about six years.
There was no ‘fun’ involved in this.
I finally went to a ‘real’ doc to get the band around my (someplace important above my stomach) adjusted so I could stop losing everything I ate.
And re-gain what little weight I’d lost.
Here’s what the device looks like. It restricts the amount of food intake to the tummy.
Seems to make sense. (Clue: Unless your doc advertises after 10:30 P.M. on TV, works in Pueblo, and is presently working as a feathered animal on Aflac commercials. If you get my drift here.)
About two years later I heard that a hospital in Colorado Springs did gastric surgery. So, I called and talked for about two hours (not making this up) to a very nice, helpful and ‘scare the hell outta me’- type of nurse in the Gastric office. Most of the two hours was spent by her telling me all the stuff I had to do before I had gastric surgery done. After this conversation, and while driving around in the mountains, Miss Nancy reached me on my cell phone. A rarity.
“So, how’d it go?”
“Don’t bug me. I’m looking for a cliff to drive off.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Only to excess.”
We discussed the Draconian process I’d have to go through before I could have the surgery. There were hoops. In fact, about two years of hoops. My to-be surgeon was not one to take any ^*#&%) or excuses from his prospective patients. “You’ve got to exercise. End of statement.”
After several months of learning and doing more, including a mandatory support group, we decided to do a gastric sleeve, which means you effectively will lose about ¾ of your stomach. And will end up with a ‘pouch’ about the size of a banana – permanently. Can’t return to a full stomach by Super Gluing it back together. Adios stomach. “I can do this,” I told Miss Nancy.
On August 27, 2015, I had satisfied the doc sufficiently that he did the surgery. Via laparoscope, by the way. That means I wound up with five holes down there rather than one or two. No prob. Can’t see ‘em now. And then began the food process. The first couple of weeks, as I recall, was mostly devoted to liquids. You go through three ‘stages’ of nourishment, the objective being to ease into solid foods within a few months. That means powdered shakes and pureed food until starting to eat regular foods about three months after surgery. And not very much of it. If you eat more than the pouch wants you to, the pouch tells you about it. It hurts. That was what I was sure was going to be my saving grace.
I was wrong.
This is difficult to admit, but at my highest weight, I was 366 pounds. Unimaginable but true. About a year and a half after the surgery, I’d whittled myself down to 262. It wasn’t easy. And became harder. I was working out at the hospital gym 3-4 times per week. An hour (walking) on the treadmill and then two or three circuits through the machines. I really enjoyed it.
Until I started getting dizzy after workouts. Checked BP at home and it was always low. Way too low. Typically, 76-50. Somewhere in that range. Not good.
Was about to see the doc when, oh boy, out went my back and neck. Big time.
By the time I saw my cardiology doc, my BP had returned to normal. He told me to not be such an overachiever and lighten up on the workouts. No problem doc. With my back and my neck, I can’t do anything now.
At this juncture, after losing about 100 pounds, I’ve ‘found’ about 25-30. The new stomach has probably stretched, as the doc said it could. But not too much. When we go out to eat, I can only have half of a plate, or less. My back is better, but since we’ve moved 120 miles north, I don’t have access to the hospital gym. I need to find one and get back on the treadmill and lighter weights. With less consumption, I should get rid of this 30 pounds, and eventually hope to work my way down to 235. That’s what the doc recommended. Being 71, I think he’s right. Time to say, “One step at a time,” and get going. Having too much weight on when one reaches 70 doesn’t bode well for one’s health. In fact, it reputedly never is good for our well-being.
Best of luck to everyone and PLEASE be safe out there.
Award-winning author of: FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil, FBI Diary: Home Grown Terror, FBI Animal House