Gastric bypass surgery: from Seattle to Chicago in a single blink
“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.” — Wayne Dyer
Day of surgery. I come bopping in at about 5:30 a.m., all happy and healthy and nervous as heck, thus cracking stupid jokes right and left. They get me into a hospital gown, let me go pee, check me up one side and down the other, comment on my healthy blood pressure. They also stand staring in consternation at the unwieldy new computer system with which they’ve been saddled. I proceed to tell them how it needs to be redesigned — in technical detail.
The three great loves of my life are here — husband, daughter and granddaughter, in age order. There is no categorizing them into “more” or “less” beloved.
My granddaughter is trembling. She has a great drive to happiness, and fights off fear and grief and sadness, but she’s scared. I am Nana. I am foundation. I am on her side, crazy about her, I have helped build her world. I hold her tight and tell her I am doing this for her so I can stay for a long time, but I am incredibly strong and I will be Just. Fine. My daughter bends, my strong, loving, lionhearted daughter who holds her emotions as tightly as she is able. She calls me “Mommy,” and I tell her that she is my baby and that I am doing this so I can stay for her, too.
My husband is stoic, but he grasps my hands when I reach for him. He’s scared, he has mixed feelings, but it’s too public to express it, so he retreats and reads — but he’s there.
They get the IV going, settle me on the gurney and off we go, leaving my worried loves to hold onto each other.
Now is my favorite part, and it’s weird. I am fascinated by the instantaneous transition between one reality and another. One moment I am chatting with the anesthesiologist. The next minute I am somewhere else. Most of the time when this happens, it has to do with a mental illness event. Or getting whacked over the head with something. Not so, this. It is a temporal transition with no remembered awareness between one reality and another that is completely transformative. It’s as if I took a step in Seattle and landed with the next in Chicago.
This Chicago is not chatty and nervous. This Chicago is all about pain and blurriness. I am introduced to my soon-to-be beloved morphine button. Three hits at 10-minute intervals and I am out for a blessed five hours. We don’t get anything by mouth for the first 24 hours. I thought I’d mind. I don’t. They want no leaks in the teeny pouch my stomach has become.
The doctor — seriously one of the most awesome physicians ever — wafts into the room. I think I make sense. He says I passed my pouch leak test with flying colors.
They tell me I got up and walked the evening of the surgery. I did? I am definitely up and walking the next day. Coughing is impossible. I use their little device to prevent pneumonia — this turns out to not be entirely successful, but it’s cured quickly. They take out my catheter, but I have an IV. I am up and down to the bathroom frequently, holding my stomach as if I fear spillage, but each time is a little easier.
My daughter brings me a musical bear with nature sounds. It’s a baby toy. It’s perfect. My husband brings me furry purple slippers. Also perfect.
Day of liberation. Hubby and I arrive at my daughter’s house. I send three of my four chihuahuas home with him and keep Yoda near — my little living comfort and adoration society. My daughter spends the next six days helping me from the stage of “can’t-get-off-the-toilet” to a good quarter-mile walkies. She is loving and tender and gracious and can’t stand the invasion. I really do understand. Her fierce love has overcome her wish to keep her home for her daughter and herself. I could not have gone home. My two flights of stairs have an 11 inch rise and I am 5 feet 2 inches tall, which makes each one a fifth of my height, more or less. They’re more like ladders than stairs and I could not have climbed them in those first days.
My parents send me a glory of flowers and my precious, nearly 91-year-old father and beloved stepmama breathe a little easier with every new pound reported lost.
Fast forward to now. I am home and hubby hugs have abounded. Right this very minute, I have lost 12.2 lbs in 11 days since the surgery. From the most I ever weighed, I have lost 141.8 lbs. From the start of this specific journey, I have lost 35.8 lbs. And from the May 28, 2013 day of surgery, 11 days ago now, I have lost 12.2 lbs. It’s as if I started walking in late September from Olympia, Washington to Seattle, taken that single step to Chicago, but still must actually travel to Maine on my own two feet. I have amazing and loving support, the most tenderhearted kindness, an amazing cheering section both immediately and in the virtual world, but they’re still my feet.
They tell me this is a tool, and that it is. It is not a free pass. It isn’t easy. It requires work, dedication and discipline. It requires that I not spend my days figuring out how to circumvent this operation but make it the transformative process that it is. This I will do.
I am not rejecting my fat self. My fat self was and is amazing. Fat me accomplished more than I ever dreamed possible. But thin me will have at least improved her diabetes. Thin me will feel ready to finish her black belt. Thin me wants knee-high boots. Thin me wants to ride her bicycle again. But most of all — paramount, really — I want to hold my husband’s hand through our elder years. I want to walk with my daughter as she follows me into maturity. And oh, my loves, I want to see my granddaughter turn 40 — which will require that I live until I am 88. So — let’s get to it. I’ll keep you posted.