My story's a little bit different as far as the gastric sleeve goes, because my initial research on it was not for weight loss. I was diagnosed with diabetes, type 2 diabetes, 5 years ago. During that process, I got extremely sick. I was not responding to the Metformin. I was not responding to insulin that well. They put me in the hospital. I got there with about a 700 blood sugar level, and I was there for 11 days. While I was there, they did a study on my stomach. That study was to see if my food was emptying the way it was supposed to empty. They laced some oatmeal with nuclear medication, and they took an x-ray of my stomach once every hour for 4 hours. My food was supposed to have taken 4 hours to properly digest and go into the small intestine. But mine was stopping at about an hour and 15 minutes.
Basically the food was sitting there in my stomach, rotting, and I would throw up and be very sick, and my blood sugar was all over the place.
That's why I wasn't responding that well to the insulin and the medication that they were giving me. They sent me home with a medication that comes out of Canada. That was the only place that we could get it. Maybe I’m pronouncing it wrong, but it was like Domperidone was the name of it. I did okay with that for about 2 years.
After about 2 years, I don't know if my body just became immune to it, but I started having all the symptoms again. During the 2 years I was on it, the weight crept back on. When I got sick again, the weight came back off. It was like I was on a roller coaster ride with my weight. I took it upon myself to start doing some research. This was probably about 4 years ago. 3 of the things, of course, one was the medication. There's no cure for gastroparesis. That's that thing.
One was the medication that I was on, and it wasn't helping that much anymore. 2 was a pacemaker in my stomach. It basically did the same exact thing that it does for heart patients. It's a muscle condition. The vagus nerve is damaged. It is caused from diabetes. There is people that have it that do not have diabetes. The most common cause is from being a diabetic.
I didn't want a foreign object in my stomach, so I was just going to try changing my medication. I kept researching, kept researching, and that's when I stumbled across an article about gastric sleeve surgery, saying that there have been a few cases that has actually put the gastroparesis into remission with the gastric sleeve surgery.
I was very interested in that, and took it to my insurance provider. We filed all the proper papers to try to get my insurance to cover it. I was denied because they still considered it a bariatric surgery. Being up against a brick wall again, I checked into self-paid. Here in South Carolina, the surgery was $25,000 to $32,000. That wasn't in my financial department. I could not do that. That's when I started checking into other ways.
I stumbled across Dr. Alvarez, and I literally researched him for 2 and a half years. I couldn't find anything bad, nothing.
I submitted the health forms to Susan. I was accepted for it, and booked it about 11 months before I had it. I had it June 13, 2016, this year. I was 256 pounds in January of this year. Even though I was only supposed to do a little bit of pre-op, my husband had had a stroke on Christmas day of last year. That scared me because he was overweight, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, exactly like I was. That made me just want to do a jump start on the diet. I started doing low carb, low sugar, high protein, in January.
From January until my surgery day, I lost about 46 pounds on my own. I still qualified for, because I was 210 the day I had surgery. I'm about 162 now. It's been amazing. It has been, I mean just totally amazing. I have come off all of my diabetes medications. I am not taking any high blood pressure medication. I've had another gastric emptying test done since then, and all of my gastroparesis has basically went away. I have not had any issues from that since my surgery.
To me, the weight loss was just a plus, but having all the medications gone and just feeling better. I felt like I have a new lease on life. When you have gastroparesis, your life revolves around that. No matter where you go, what you do, that's in the back of your mind. Am I going to get sick, what am I going to eat, how am I going to eat, am I going to be in a crowd and have a flare up? You never know when you're going to have major issues with it. I'm more social now because of that. I'm able to get out and do more things. I'm feeling so much better. Like I said, I've come off the high blood pressure medication. No more diabetic medication. But the gastroparesis, that was the biggie for me.
The morning that I had surgery, and I was sitting in Dr. Alvarez's office, and I told him, I said the one thing that I'm looking forward to is just to see where the gastroparesis is going to go with this. I asked him, I said did you know there's articles out there stating that the sleeve surgery could help gastroparesis. He had a look that come over his face, and he turned his monitor around to me, his keyboard, and everything and said look at the article that I just got this week. That's what it was about.
He and I both have been kind of excited to see where this surgery was going to take me with it. It's just been amazing.
The Endobariatric Experience…
I'm not going to lie to you. I was a little apprehensive about traveling to Mexico. I'm sure that a lot of people that have that apprehension. Once I met with Rosie, which she's amazing by the way, and talked with her. She and I just had a bond there. Talked a good bit on the way there. It was just like all of my fears disappeared. From the moment that I arrived there at the hospital that morning, I had fear. I'm not going to lie that I had fear about what it was going to do about the gastroparesis. I did have a little bit of hesitancy about that and just wanting to know was it going to work. I was taken care of from the moment my feet hit the floor inside the hospital.
They treated me like royalty. I came home and told my doctor friends and nurses friends here, I'm like you guys could learn something from how I was treated there. Not that I was mistreated here, but it was just such a warm welcoming. The night of the surgery, and Dr. Alvarez came in my room, I will never forget this. He spoke with me and checked me out, made sure I was doing okay. When he went to leave, us southerners, we're very affectionate people, and I extended my hand to shake his hand. He said, "I'm sorry, we don't do that here." I put my hand down, and he reaches over and he hugs me. He says, "This is what we do here." I was like well so do we, but I didn't know if you did. That just made me feel wonderful.
Anything that I needed there in the hospital, they were just on top of it. I had a little bit of nausea the first day. It was pretty bad. They were on top of it, and I never felt any danger there. Very safe, very clean hospital. But Dr. Alvarez and his team, they're amazing. They're absolutely amazing. I would recommend it to anyone.
-Dee Head - South Carolina, USA
(read part 2 of My Endobariatric Story next week)