Research Your Bariatric Surgeon First!

by Julie
(Aurora, CO)

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First, this post is NOT against lap band surgery in general. Even though my banded experience was quite traumatic, I still don’t regret it. Just wish I had made a different decision about my surgeon.

About 20 years ago I desperately wanted gastric bypass surgery, but my insurance company would not cover it. I then got married, had a daughter and gained even more weight. I knew something had to be done. I had been hearing about lap bands for quite some time and a light came on for me, “Hey, that’s the right thing for me!”

The reason for this is I had been hearing a lot of negatives about bypass (malnutrition, complications, etc), not to mention I knew quite a few people who had had a bypass and gained all of their weight back.

Even though all the literature, and your surgeon, will tell you lap band is a much slower losing process, I told myself that would be fine.

So…. I found a local surgeon. He had a decent cash price for lap band (under 10K), his office staff looked into my insurance and were told I would be fully covered.

Then the “fun” began……

Turns out whoever they talked to at the insurance company was incompetent (or plain just didn’t understand or care). I was told I needed a 6 month diet (not uncommon). I also had a hernia he was going to repair at the same time, so I requested they waive the 6 months, since they were paying for surgery anyway. Logical, right??? Not for an insurance company. They came back with the need for a 2 year diet history (hey….. nobody told me we were playing Let’s Make A Deal!!).

My husband wanted me to wait the 6 months, and I told him I was NOT going to have 2 surgeries (the hernia was quite painful), not to mention I could jump through all their hoops to still be denied. So, we decided that we would let the insurance pay for the hernia, and we would pay for the banding part. I made a deal for a slight discount at the surgical center I was going to.

The night before my surgery the surgeon called me to tell me he had accepted a job out of state and would be leaving soon. He wanted to give me the option of canceling and going with someone else. Right. I had been anxiously waiting for this surgery. There was no way in heck I was gonna cancel the night before.

Turns out that was a BAADDDDD decision.

The surgery went fine, though I was in a lot more pain than a typical lap band due to the hernia repair (I had been warned about this).

About 2 weeks post op I developed a seroma (this is a fluid-filled pocket under the skin). I had had one with a previous hernia repair, so I was not surprised. I went to the surgeon and he told me I would be “just fine.” I asked if he was going to drain it. He said that he did not believe in draining them, too much chance of infection.

I called him the next week telling him I thought it was infected, since I had a brown drainage. He told me, “Oh, you’ll be fine, I’ll see you on Monday.” Called him the NEXT day. My temperature is 101 F (38.3 C). Same answer, “You’ll be OK, see you on Monday.” This was on Friday.

On Saturday when my temp went up to 102.9 F (39.4 C) my husband took me to the local hospital. I had a massive infection and needed surgery. I had emergency surgery the next day and they took out 750 cc’s (almost a 2 liter bottle’s worth) of infection. They told me I was very near being septic. I was in the hospital for 6 days, on 5 different antibiotics. I also had 2 large open wounds.

I ended up going home with a wound vac. The larger wound did not heal up for 4 months!!!

When I next saw the surgeon, he had the GALL to say to me, “I wish you had come to my hospital so I could take care of you.”

He transferred me to the care of another local doctor when he left town. I continued to see that doctor until he left the practice he was at. I then switched between doctors, the original office I was referred to, as well as the new office my doctor had started depending on who could get me in first for a fill when I needed one.

About a year or so after the surgery I had a friend who had been to the same original surgeon (and loved him) call me and tell me she had been doing some research on him, and found out he had been censured by the medical board for alcoholism.

After this I always had to wonder, “Is this why he put me off while I was so sick… was he drunk or high?”

Though my loss was fairly slow, I did lose 100 pounds with the band. Then calamity hit. I had lap band erosion. I had to have my band surgically removed.

It also caused something called gastoparesis, which is a slow emptying of the stomach. I am miserable ALL of the time. I have 3 different kinds of pain, as well as severe belching and gas (all that food just sitting there fermenting in my stomach.)

The only possible “cure” for this is…… a gastric bypass. I am now waiting for my insurance company to, hopefully, put me at the top of their 10 month wait list due to medical reasons.

I was quite bitter about this, believing that this was all the surgeon’s fault. I could, at least, console myself with the thought that, “Hey, this can happen. They tell you this, it was just your bad luck.”

Until I talked to another one of his patients…. and found out SHE also had lost her band to an erosion. I don’t believe there is coincidence there. Luckily for her, other than fighting her appetite and potential weight gain she has no other major issues.

So…. the reason for this long post is just a reminder to all the people considering surgery to CHECK OUT THEIR BARIATRIC SURGEON before allowing them to operate on you. If I had been a bit more diligent I would have gone with someone else. I might be eagerly awaiting an appointment for plastic surgery, not an appointment for a bypass.

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