Things I Wish My Doctor Prepared Me For, Part 1

I want to begin this post by saying that my doctor is truly phenomenal.  If I had to begin this process of weight loss via surgical intervention all over again (thank goodness I don’t!), I’d choose him again in a heartbeat.  Dr. Nicholson is affable, highly knowledgeable, warm, and has a good sense of humor.  He puts you at ease and answers all your questions in a no-nonsense manner, using data to support what he has to say–this is especially important to me as a scientist.  To be blunt, I appreciate that he doesn’t talk out of his ass.  When you decide that you’re going to have surgery to help you lose weight, you don’t want someone who is going to sugarcoat things for you.  Dr. Nick definitely does not do that–he is very honest about why bariatric surgery is a better alternative than remaining obese, what the risks and benefits of having surgery are, and what the risks of remaining obese are.  He also makes sure that you understand that he is not the only health professional you need to make this process work for you–he teaches you that behavior modification is necessary, that therapy is important, and that nutrition education is critical and provides recommendations for hand-picked professionals for you to choose to address each of these aspects of your care.

His bedside manner is also great–the day of surgery, I was totally nervous and jittery and he put me completely at ease by explaining everything that he was going to do and why he was going to do it.  As a biology teacher, I appreciate that he and I can converse about the science behind all the things he did and why he did them.  He did everything he knew to do to ensure my safety before surgery, during surgery and post-operatively.  Dr. Nicholson is a very thorough doctor who truly cares about his patients’ health and well-being.

He does not allow you to enter into any stage of the process with eyes wide shut, that’s for sure.  I appreciate that about him and the way he practices medicine.

Unfortunately I did not get to see him after surgery, as he is a very busy guy–he had 9 patients on my floor alone the day I had surgery!  So I did not have the chance to thank him for providing me with this fabulous tool that I plan to put to good use, especially now that I’m about to embark on the mushy food stage of my post-op diet.  I would say that overall, he did a really good job of preparing me for surgery and for some of what comes after.

But there were some things about this process that he did not fully prepare me for.

As I continue moving further away from my surgery date and more into this process of weight loss, I’m finding that there are things I wish I’d been more prepared for.  Like:

  • The intense pain accompanying the removal of the JP drain.  I have never felt pain like that before in my entire life, and hope to never feel it again.
  • The huge swelling that accompanied my left side incision and how it would make me look disfigured.  I know that my “little blue book” given to me at my final consult explains that yes, you will have an indentation on your left side, but it did NOT explain how hideous this would look!  This actually upset me so much that I cried about it for a couple of days.
  • The taste bud fatigue that comes from drinking nothing but artificially sweetened protein drinks pretty much ALL DAY LONG for THREE WEEKS STRAIGHT after surgery.  I have never wanted to bite into something to eat so badly in my entire life.
  • The subsequent furry tongue that comes along with drinking those damned drinks.  No matter how much I brush my tongue and teeth, it keeps coming back.  And it’s not a fungal infection, it is this weird residue that builds up because of the filminess the proteins leave in my mouth.  Yuck.
  • The odd feeling that accompanies not being hungry.  I don’t know how you can prepare someone adequately for this, but it truly is a bizarre feeling not being hungry.  Even when food is around!  Now he did tell me “you won’t feel hungry” but I wasn’t ready for what it would actually feel like.
  • The ashy skin I currently have because my fat intake and vitamin consumption are decreased significantly–I might be getting 10 grams of fat a day, tops.  It just depends on what my protein drinks are made with.  I have also not been allowed to take vitamin supplements just yet beyond my B12 since it is sublingual.  I am hopeful this ashyness will be resolved once I start multivitamins up again next week.  Also I hope that being able to add actual food to my diet will help reduce the dryness that I’m seeing in my skin because lotion isn’t cutting it.
  • The hormone swings that will send me into a crying jag about the stupidest things.  Like my ugly belly.  Or a sweet letter sent to me by a former student.  Or even this.
  • The fact that no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get warm.  Even under three layers of bedding, I go to bed cold each night.
  • The changes in my sense of smell–it’s even more acute now than it was before.  If there is something that smells truly odorous, I’m a lot more sensitive to it now.  The sad thing is that my current perfume of choice now smells cloyingly sweet.  This saddens me.
  • The fact that the sacroilitis I have would be reawakened due to laying flat on the operating table, the hospital bed and subsequently, my own bed here at home because I could not lay on my left side for 2 weeks.  I was NOT expecting that pain to return, but it has.  The crappy thing?  I can’t take my go-to medicine for it–Mobic.  I was given a prescription for Celebrex at my follow up and am to use that for joint aches and pains as well as menstrual cramps.  We’ll see how that goes.
  • The gas that wakes me up well before my alarm even has a chance to go off.  I’ve learned the hard way never trust a fart, because sometimes it brings a friend.  And I’ll leave it at that.

As a post-script, I’d like to add that I realize that every person’s experience with weight loss surgery is a different one, because different bodies respond individually to the surgery, the subsequent post-op eating plan, and exercise.  My experience includes the things above, and yours may not.   I also understand that there is no way my doctor could have prepared me for every single thing that was going to happen to me, no matter where it happened–at the hospital, at home, wherever.  While Dr. Nicholson is a highly intelligent man, he is not omniscient and can’t possibly know everything that will happen to each one of his patients.  I just wanted to share these little things so that if someone considering surgery or who might be pre-op will know a little more about what to expect.  The more you know, right?

If you are post-op, what are some things you wish your doctor had prepared you for?

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4 responses to “Things I Wish My Doctor Prepared Me For, Part 1

  1. Fortunately I had nearly forgotten having the drain taken out. My doctor says this will feel a little funny. DUDE!!! Have you EVER had one of these taken out??? This is beyond feeling funny. In fact the whole drain thing was what I was totally unprepared for. It was, for me, far and away the biggest inconvenience of my surgery, and that wasn’t really even discussed in any of the prep classes and orientations and such. The good news is once it got taken out, here several months later that had nearly disappeared from my memory. Until now.

  2. There is absolutely nothing funny about that f’n drain…

    Sorry to rekindle the memory for ya!

  3. I love that you talked about the indent. I didn’t know other people had that, I just thought it was the way I was stitched up. It didn’t bother me but it looks weird for sure!

    • I think what disturbed me the most was how it looked immediately after surgery–there was so much swelling, and it was so gross looking that I was really upset by it. Thankfully now it has flattened out and my belly is looking back like it did before, just smaller. 🙂

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