A Narrow Path – My Weight Loss Journey (Part 3)

After an intensive pre-op process, I finally face the biggest step in my journey; surgery.

Disclaimer: this segment contains a lot of technical information about the pre-op process. The process may look different for everyone based on their insurance plan/doctor and any other circumstance.

I am about as ready as I’ll ever be. My freezer is stocked with small containers of chicken soup, my pantry and fridge contain Jell-O and Vitamin Water Zero, and we await Monday with trepidation and excitement.

The Friday before surgery is a hectic one, with a few last items to wrap up. My COVID test, which must be back by Sunday, cannot be taken any earlier than Friday, and the lab is not promising a turnaround of less than 72 hours, which induces some anxiety, though there is nothing I can do about it but pray. 

I get a phone call from a coordinator at the hospital with all the instructions for the day of surgery. I learn that I am not allowed to be accompanied by anyone prior to surgery, though someone may come to visit once I am transferred to recovery. I freak out a bit. I cannot imagine going through with surgery and the anxious period beforehand without my husband supporting me. Alas, it is too late to back out, and I will need to deal with it as it is. 

Sunday is my first (and hardest) day on a liquid diet. My stomach is not yet smaller and is demanding its sustenance, but I subsist on chicken soup and Jell-O. My COVID results come back negative, baruch Hashem, and I am all set for the next day.

I sleep well the night before surgery. And wake up with a pit in my stomach and hope in my heart. I send my two girls off to school and daycare, and I pack a bag for myself. Of course, I pose for a “before” picture, one that I hope to reference in the future with pride at my accomplishments.

Arriving at the hospital, I bid farewell to my husband, who plans to remain outside parked and FaceTime me, the closest thing I can have to having him accompany me. 

I get through all the paperwork, change into a hospital gown, speak to the doctor, and wait for hours. I daven, I say Tehillim, and I wait.

While the prospect of surgery is daunting at any time, the fact that this is an elective surgery, yet one that will hopefully have great impact on my life, weighs on me. I know it is not a quick fix, yet I know it is the right decision for me. 

Surgery was scheduled for 12 p.m. but they do not actually take me in until 3 p.m. Sometime during the wait they come to take my personal items, leaving me without my phone or my glasses. When I am still not taken in for surgery an hour later, I phone my husband from a hospital phone, just to reassure him that the surgery is not taking unexpectedly long; I simply haven’t started yet. I also relay instructions to the doctor and staff to contact my husband as soon as I am transferred into the recovery room so that he can finally come in.

Finally, I am accompanied down the hallway to the operating room. It is quite daunting, especially not having clear vision and seeing a bunch of machinery and people swarming around me as I lie down on the hard bed. The anesthesiologist introduces himself and gets to work. I try to fight the sedation, a natural instinct, I assume, but soon it overtakes me and I sink into oblivion, placing my body under the doctor’s care and my trust in Hashem.

I wake up what seems like minutes later in excruciating pain. My stomach is on fire, and while I am only semi-conscious, I moan and ask for painkillers, anything, to make it go away. “Of course it hurts, you just had surgery,” a curt voice on my side says. I clench my fists and bite my lips and pray for it to go away. I don’t know if they finally do give me something or I just drift back to sleep, but I flit in and out of consciousness for the next while. At some point I register that I am being moved, presumably to the recovery room. After what was probably a few minutes, my husband appears in my room. My head is very heavy and I cannot keep my eyes open for more than a few seconds. I give him a wan smile to acknowledge his presence, and drift back to sleep.

I learn later that my husband had been pestering security about allowing him in, asking that the department be contacted about transferring me to recovery as visiting hours end by six p.m. Considering that I was taken in for surgery so late in the afternoon, I didn’t get transferred until right before six p.m., which still allowed him to come in. Thankfully, no one throws him out at six, and he ends up staying until about 11 p.m., when a nurse finally remembers that COVID regulations do not allow anyone to stay overnight. 

In my research prior to starting the process of sleeving, a lot of people had referred to the pain as “minimal,” “easier than a c-section,” “recovery was fast.” I have never had a c-section, baruch Hashem, but I do know that the pain I am feeling is excruciating. Besides for the incisions, which are tiny yet still hurt, there is gas buildup in my chest cavity that is begging to be released and I cannot expel.

When I am lying down, I am sure it will get better when I stand up, and when I stand up, gritting my teeth through the pain of the incisions, the relief I seek is not to be found. 

I will concur that the recovery is a quick one, and the severe pain doesn’t last more than a day or two. However, I cannot whitewash the pain I am in for those two days. Much later, someone tells me that simple GasX works wonders. At the time, all I am taking is Tylenol for the pain. I ask the doctor for a stronger medication, yet they inform me that protocol dictates that they no longer give any narcotics, which frustrates me as I am just waiting for something to take the pain away.

I am discharged the next day, after proving I can take a tiny sip of water and hold it down. My diet for the rest of the week consists of tiny sips of water, a spoonful of chicken soup, and the occasional lick of lemon ices. I probably consume a total of 30 calories daily. Yet I’m not hungry! And as the gas pain subsides after two days, and the pain at the site of the incisions and my stomach are no longer as sharp, I marvel at my new and improved stomach, the one that is promising to be my friend instead of the enemy it has replaced. The one that will stop me from gorging on foods that are bad for me and letting me ruin every single plan of action I have ever made. This one will be safeguarding me from myself, guiding me into better eating habits, healthier foods, and, most importantly, a beautiful body.

Time is indeed the best teacher, and I have some lessons yet to be learned.

(To be continued…)

Leeba Wein

Leeba Wein (a pen name) is a freelance writer living in New York. For inquiries, she can be reached at leebawein@gmail.com

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