Don’t Have the Stomach For It

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Bariatric Surgery - Angela DanielsLost Baggage in Mexico

By Angela Daniels

5’8″ |  42 | 43 | 204

Those were my numbers only six months ago. After going through a major pelvic sling operation, receiving a donated organ and skin grafts, it looked like I had another issue to deal with. I had gained more than 70 pounds in two years. How was it possible? The answers are of course obvious as I look backwards. I left behind my post-partum depression, ate too many carbs,  smashed right into an ugly divorce, all only to find myself in the belly of a city without an exit.  With no job, and rearing two young children alone, the 70 pounds was easy to explain.

My health has always been on the edge with one issue or another. I joked earlier in life that I should have been returned to the factory for a new replacement model. So, I learned that my obesity gene had kicked in and was on full throttle. It was one reason all the pills, diets, exercise plans, delivery foods and liquid diet plans didn’t work. I scheduled meal plans, meticulously calculated foods, logged in food registers, weighed foods and went to expensive meetings with nutritionists. The doctors told me I had to lose the extra weight or else. The “else” was definitive. I was running straight at diabetes, a serious heart condition and a short life of extreme chronic pain. Surgical solutions offered to me were in the tens of thousands and NOT covered by insurance; not an option.

Hope.

Then I met Charley , a pilot.  Like me, he too began gaining weight. His pilots license was being threatened by his weight gain. He had to lose weight to keep his livelihood. He was unable to exercise – not even walk down the block.  Sounded awfully familiar. He went from 300 lbs. down to a healthy 165 lbs. Charley’s response is what led me to Mexicali to find hope at Hospital Almater.

Ask anyone. Mexican medical care does not exactly hold a distinguished reputation in the American public as a whole. It conjures paranoid visions of dirty surgical trays and clinics with shady practices in converted houses or dilapidated buildings on dusty roads. I checked into the doctors, the hospital, the options, the costs. I even called past patients of the doctor and discussed the bariatric surgery procedure and the post op requirements.

Sold.

If I had the repair surgery in the U.S., the cost would have been astounding and ALL out of pocket. The nickel and diming I recalled from the post op bills of previous surgeries gave me a splitting headache. Sure… the cost for going to Mexicali to visit Dr. Aceves at Hosptial Almater and his nutritionist, Dr. Campos, was more than other doctors in Mexico claiming to do the same procedures, but Dr. Aceves’ team was located in a wing of an actual private hospital- not a transformed business office, or worse,  a house. The back- up emergency services were there and ready for the “ifs” in any major surgery.

A flight to San Diego accompanied by my mother and a two hour chauffeured trip (provided by Dr. Aceves from the San Diego airport to Mexicali) brought us  directly into the parking lot at Hospital Almater where we were immediately greeted by Dr. Aceves’ representatives. All lab work, ECGs, physical exams and procedures were done with a white glove attitude I hadn’t witnessed since I was in Scandinavia. We were ushered personally from station to station and given thorough explanations (in perfect English) of each examination being performed. Any question was answered without hesitation and a smile on their faces. After a short 45 minute hospital visit, all labs were completed. The chauffeur helped us back into the van and escorted us to the Crowne Plaza Hotel (included in the cost of surgery) for a good night’s sleep and my ‘last meal’. Considering that border towns don’t have the most desirable reputations, we were happy to find the Crowne Plaza felt like Cancun without the beach. The food and beverages were wonderful. Maybe it was so delicious because I knew I would be facing a rigorous post op diet for the next three months but both my mother and I appreciated every bite.

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much of what happened the next morning. If all tests came back clear, the operation was on. The doctor would do what was necessary to repair the damage caused by previous surgeries and hopefully reduce the pains that had been plaguing me for years so I could get my life back.

My mother and I were greeted immediately upon arrival once again by the representatives and doctors themselves, shown the room we would be in for the next four days and provided me with my gown. My mom’s bed was a plush full length sofa. The nurses made it a point to make sure she was as comfortable as I was throughout the visit.

I awoke in my bed after a short hour and half surgery; my mother playing with my iPad. It was just like that. The nurses came in throughout the day, as did the doctors. Dr. Aceves told me he found an unexpected, hiatal hernia, which he repaired for me; and did a sleeve procedure on my stomach.  And, he made sure I wouldn’t have any issues that would complicate my healing process.

Each day was filled with care, attention and, most importantly, the retraining of how to view food, choose it, cut it, enjoy it, chew it and swallow it properly. It may seem ridiculous to anyone who hasn’t gone through a stomach operation but the healing process comes from deep inside the emotional psyche, not the physical.

Healing.

Looking back over the last six months, the first was truly the worst because of the types of foods I was asked to eat. It was also because I had to focus on the proteins rather than the carbs. Six months later, I can honestly say I followed the post op directions to a “T” and here I am at my six month check up in Mexicali smiling back at the kind faces that greeted me just a short time ago.

With my sister-in-law in tow as my support, I am now a healthier, successful woman who can withstand the life’s issues, walk down the block without pain and resume ballet and pilates pain free.

Today’s Numbers

5’8” | 42 years old | 32 BMI | 145 pounds *update* 128 lbs., energetic & healthy

 


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