Starting the Process

This is installment #3 in my story. Follow the links here if you missed Part 1 and 2.

Once I realized it was time to do something, my brain really never let go of the idea of bariatric surgery. I started pestering my friends with questions, doing research online, and thinking seriously about whether or not I was really ready to do something as drastic as surgically rearranging my body to lose weight.

I spent most of the Christmas holiday thinking about it.

And I woke up one morning and decided if I didn’t at least investigate things I would always wonder “What if…” (and I absolutely hate that feeling)

So, the first week of January – as soon as the kids were back in school and life had returned to “normal,” – I was on my way. I started checking out surgeons’ websites and researching their histories and records. I made plans to attend several information sessions.

The first information session I attended was absolutely packed with people. I guess a lot of people had New Year’s resolutions and were there for the same reasons as I was.  I was shocked at the number of people who showed up. I guess a part of me thought that there weren’t that many obese people like me. (why I would think that I have no idea)

I was also very surprised to see that most people were way bigger than I was.  I had several thoughts when I realized that fact.  The first was that I felt bad for them – I knew how bad I felt physically. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be even heavier than I was – how that must feel physically and the challenges they must face on a daily basis.  My second thought was something like “Do I really need to be here?” Finally, I felt a little relief to see that I was not alone. In a perverse way, it was comforting to see so many people and know that they were all here for the same reason I was – they had had enough and were ready to make a change.

I was like an eager student, waiting for the seminar to start. I had my pen and notebook ready and had jotted down several questions that I wanted to be sure I had answers to.  There were ladies handing out information packets and I quickly devoured the contents, reading all the information related to their surgery practice and the hospital.

When the session finally started, I was disappointed to see we were going to watch a video first, not hear from a live person.  While the video was very informative and interesting, I couldn’t wait to talk to the surgeon and listen to what he had to say about the surgery options available.  This particular surgeon focused mostly on gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y) and the Lap-Band-type surgeries.  There was a third option discussed (a gastric sleeve) but they made it sound like that was for the seriously obese person. (but, seriously, if you are obese, it’s serious! no matter how big or little you are. but I digress)

Finally, the surgeon came up and started to do his thing.  The very first thing I noticed about him was that he seemed like he didn’t really want to be there.  Now, granted, it was eight at night and he’d probably worked a long day, but this was his lead-generating program. I felt like he should be thrilled to be in a room with forty-something overweight people who were most likely all desperately looking for someone to help them. 

He answered people’s questions, gave them the information they were seeking… but what I started to realize was that he really seemed to be patronizing us. Acting as if we were, I don’t know, stupid or something.  It wasn’t any particular statement – just more of an overall attitude that he had.  I know that surgeons generally think they are gods, but this was the first time I had experienced it first-hand.  How and why would anyone act that way to someone? Especially these people in this room, who obviously had self-esteem issues and were desperately looking for solutions to a life-threatening problem?

It left a bad taste in my mouth.  I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed.  There are plenty of fish in the sea and surgeons in town, and I decided I would give this one a chance, but definitely see what else was out there.

In the weeks that followed, my initial reaction was proven to be true.  This was one of those surgeon’s office who made you jump through hoops to get a surgery scheduled.  Some surgeons will make you go through all sorts of “evaluations” (psychological, nutritional, etc.) before they will even meet with you for a consult.  Some require less. 

I had already done my homework and knew what my insurance required.  Which, thankfully, wasn’t very much. Just a letter from my primary-care physician stating the medical necessity of bariatric surgery and my history of weight-related issues.

The surgeon’s office tried to tell me I needed a psychological evaluation, to meet with a nutritionist, a stress-test, and all sorts of other stuff.  They told me I had to have six months of recorded, medically supervised weight loss efforts.  That alone meant that the earliest I could hope for surgery was six months out.  They told me this was all an insurance requirement, not the doctor’s.

I was furious.  I told the surgeon’s assistant that none of this was required by my insurance – that I had already spoken to them and had received the details of what was required – and none of that was.  They stubbornly stuck to their guns and I told them I would be finding another practice to work with.

<next, Finding My Surgeon>

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