Sunday, August 31, 2008

Small victories...

It hasn't taken long. In just the first couple of weeks post-surgery I've begun to see small changes that are ultimately going to add up to a huge victory. It's exciting, yes. But like a no-hitter in the bottom of the fifth, I'm almost afraid to mention them for fear of causing a texas-leaguer to drop in right over the shortstop's outstretched hand.
Had my first outing last Thursday night. Went to watch my beloved Yellow Jackets play Jacksonville State. Obviously the new coach's new offense putting 41 points on the board made the fatigue and heat worthwhile. But, again, I noticed small things pointing towards very exciting things. I walked better than I have in years (my bride has confirmed this.) If it hadn't been for the heat and humidity I think my energy level would've stayed quite high. It's hard to stay hydrated when you can only take small sips of water (it becomes especially pleasant when your bottle of water is hot by the 2nd quarter.) But overall it went well and I could definitely tell things are on the upswing.
Clothes. Oh man, they're starting to hang off of me. Especially the shorts I live in this time of year. I'm at a loss what to do about it. I'm not going to buy new stuff that in a very short while will be big as well. I do have some stuff I haven't gotten into in a while. Problem is, they're mostly suits. As mentioned in prior entries, I'm not really a suit guy. I guess I could become Cary Grant and be very dapper everywhere I go. Nah......dapper's never been my style. Now that I think about it, I also have a few pairs of jeans I'd grown out of. That'll be more my style, but not 'til cool weather gets here. Until then the world might just have to get a few glimpses of "Uncle Tim's hiney" (my niece's exclamation when I started to swim out of my bathing suit when we took her up to the pool a few weeks ago.)
Comfort. I actually curled up in a ball in my recliner the other night. I drew my knees up close to my chest and sat like a normal person. Now you're thinking "yeah,,that's real exciting." You have to remember I'm someone who's had zero mobility and suffered from swollen legs and feet and constantly aching knees. Not trying to whine - them's just the facts! All I could stand to do was lie here in the recliner like a beached whale with my legs flailing all over the living room. There was a time when my legs retained so much fluid they burst open with water blisters and I couldn't stand for one leg to touch the other. So it's a wonderful thing to be able to sit however I choose to.
Along those same lines, sleeping is much easier. Just this amount of weight lost has made lying in the bed such an easier task. I can actually turn over without grabbing the headboard and yanking my enormous self over onto the other side. The other night (drum roll) I woke up lying on my back! And I wasn't suffocating! Now I have asthma which is always going to be around regardless of my weight. I can't lie absolutely flat without gasping. BUT I was lying on my back with my head propped up by pillows. Amazing.
Yesterday I drove my bride's Tahoe for the first time in a while. Previously, when I drove her Tahoe, I had to tilt the steering wheel all the way to the top so as to accommodate my sizable gut. Yesterday, out of habit, I put it up there and immediately thought "I can't reach the I need to move the seat up?" It then occurred to me that the problem wasn't with the seat but with the wheel being too high. My stomach wasn't there anymore. I dropped the steering wheel down to the same level where she keeps it. Dear God - I'm become less freakish by the day! As soon as these scars heal my career in underwear modeling is ready to take off! (I'll be the guy in the Sears catalogue going to get the morning paper in his BVD's.)
Please don't be frightened...I'm not seriously considering a career in underwear modeling. I had gastric bypass..not a face lift.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The new curse of my life - protein!

First the good news - the surgery worked. My appetite is next to nothing. I think of things I want to eat and then, when it's in front of me, I have to force myself to eat it. The surgeon told me that there's some hormone (the name of which escapes me - I'll look into it) that is "base lined" by this surgery. Meaning hunger pangs become non-existent. I won't lie - there are things I crave - like tacos ( I want to punch that little tapper head eating the new revolutionary square-bottomed taco shell on the commercial.) But I'd bet bottom dollar that if I got one bite of a taco I'd be ready to chunk the rest of it in the trash.
Now the bad news - with the aforementioned decrease in appetite it becomes quite a chore to get in the 97 grams of protein I'm supposed to have daily. The same supernatural phenomenon that first fell out of the sky during the liquid diet now repeats itself. I'm having to force myself to EAT MORE. You have to understand, this is the universe upside down. This is lions and lambs lying together. This is Israelis and Palestinians in a group hug. This is George Bush making a complete sentence. Me? Not able to eat enough?? This is the same "me" that - along with 4 other high school buddies - was once asked to switch from chicken to catfish at an all-you can eat joint because we'd eaten all of their chicken. This is the same "me" who once thought of a bucket of chicken wings and a pitcher of suds as a light lunch. The same "me" who decided that cold/leftover pizza was a complete breakfast because it represented each of the four basic food groups. You get the idea...
My diet now includes basically protein and beans (much to my bride's chagrin) No cooked green veggies until we're 6 weeks out from surgery. It's hard to pack in enough meat and beans to make 97 grams of protein when you're really not all that hungry. But, like I've said, it's a small price to pay when looking at the big picture.
Now along comes football season. Let's see - next to no food and no adult beverages drastically alter my concept of a good tailgate. Again, a small price to pay. It's probably best I'll have a clear head to learn this new offense Paul Johnson's brought to town. If you have any questions ask me...and bring a taco to sec. 206 dammit........

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Food, glorious food......."

Today I had a scrambled egg for breakfast and 6 bites of imitation crab meat (whitefish) for lunch. It might've been the best tasting food I've had in a while. When you've been on liquids for three weeks it doesn't take much to excite you. I quickly learned the limitations of my new stomach. The few bites of the fish satisfied me and left me feeling like I'd had a complete meal.
Here's something else I learned today. Somewhere in the deepest, darkest recesses of hell, there exists laboratories. The devil's got his best scientists in there working on one thing - chewable vitamins. The devil's quality control team samples them to make sure they closely resemble sand flavored with dehydrated goat feces hidden just well enough by some artificial fruit flavoring so that the goat crap doesn't hit you until you're actually a few bites into it. The chewable iron doesn't taste bad at all. The chewable calcium isn't good, but it's not bad. So why in the name of all that's holy do the chewable vitamins have to be so nauseating??? (I guess I should've mentioned first - I'm required to take a long list of vitamins daily. They have to be chewable b/c my new stomach pouch can't digest huge pills swallowed whole.)
Had the 1 week post-op appointment today. Got my bandages removed and Dr. Richard (who is surely destined for sainthood) said everything looked good. My grand total weight loss (since February of this year) is 88 pounds. I've lost 19 pounds since my surgery last Tuesday. At the end of the appointment I thanked Dr. Richard for everything. He said "don't think did all the hard work. The tendency for bariatric patients is to credit all success to their surgeon. Don't ever do should be proud of everything you've accomplished." I'll say it again, Dr. Richard is a huge credit to his profession.
So now it's down to the nuts and bolts. Eating very small amounts of the right things. I promise it'll be infinitely easier than the weeks prior to and immediately after surgery.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I survived...

Tuesday morning (August 12th) came and went and I'm still alive on planet earth to irritate y'all 'til the cows come home. Hopefully, from here on out, there will be less and less resemblance between me and those proverbial cows.
The day started very early. We had to be at the hospital at 6:00. So we were up at 3:30. I had to shower with dial anti-bacterial soap and have just enough water to take my blood pressure medication (more on the water situation later.) We made the drive to Gainesville, arrived at the hospital a little before 6:00 and I was in one of those lovely gowns by 6:15. My pre-op nurse was one of several hospital employees I would meet that day who were gastric bypass patients themselves. What a relief it was to have someone walking you through the process who knew how nervous you were and gave you answers to all your questions before you asked them. The family came back to the pre-op room, the preacher came by and said a prayer, my sister gave me a kiss and then my in-laws stuck their head in the door. I was surprised to see them at such an early hour - they're doing the retirement thing and doing it well. My mother-in-law told me she was proud of me and my father-in-law shook my hand. I said "thanks much for getting up so early." He said "where else would I be but here with my son?" It took every ounce of control not to cry in the man's face. My own father died many years ago and my mother has been living under the fog of Alzheimer's for several years. It was nice to be some body's son again. The last face I saw before leaving was the sweetest face I know. My bride gave me a grin and said " I love you and I've never been prouder of anyone in my life." I knew, at that moment, I was going to beat this thing like a rented mule.
The nurse that took me back was from Prattville, Alabama. I knew this because she worked hard at making conversation about anything. She was yet another former bariatric patient who had lost nearly 200 pounds as a result of this surgery. She kept my mind occupied and held my hand until I was asleep. Like most surgeries, my transition from sleep to waking up in recovery was almost instantaneous. The first thing I did was reach down to my abdomen to see if the surgery had been done laproscopically or open. I felt no staples running from sternum to waistline so I was instantly relieved.
Remember my mention of water? Well, I'd not had any since about 10:30 Monday night. Anyone who's had surgery knows how it dries you out. But add in the phospho-soda laxative I'd done for about 4 hours on Monday and I was parched. Literally there were little to no fluids left in my body. It was Tuesday night before they'd start letting me have 4 ounces of ice chips once an hour. Then, finally, Wednesday I was allowed fluids. I had to go down to radiology early that morning and - shudder- drink some contrast fluid for an upper g.i. I wasn't sure the contrast fluid would stay down, but it did. When I got back to my room there was a tray with chicken stock, decaf coffee and crystal light lemonade. I took about two large swallows of the lemonade and two large swallows of the coffee. I was instantly bloated. I felt like the end of the day on Thanksgiving, as if I'd been gorging all day. In short, I learned QUICKLY the limitations of my new stomach pouch.
So here we are, almost a week out now and ready to have my first bite of solid food in nearly three weeks. I'm to eat a scrambled egg today and I'm getting nervous all over again. Today is the acid test to see if my reconfigured digestive system works. I must say - I've never looked so forward to an egg in my life. If I never have another sip of soup in my life I'll be satisfied.

Friday, August 8, 2008

4 more days

After today we're a mere 4 days from surgery. I'm feeling somewhat better. My nutritionist - seeing what a bad time I was having choking down enough broth, jello and grits to make 80 calories - suggested I try "good" soup and just take out the solids. Like Progresso. Thank you God - something that finally tastes good! (Hell, finally something that tastes at all.) Granted, it'd be better if I left the meat and potatoes in pot roast soup, but the flavor is worlds better.
Had all the pre-op stuff on Wednesday and it went well. Dr. Richard is, without question, the nicest doctor I've ever encountered. Upon hearing of my total weight loss (72 pounds so far!) he high-fived and hugged me. He said that the hard work I'd put in on weight loss so far indicated that I was a good candidate for surgery. I was relieved. I was sure that there would be some last minute pitfall. I told Rhonda that I really wouldn't believe this was happening until I woke up in the recovery room. I saw the cardiologist on Tuesday and had a EKG and he gave his ok. Then I had another EKG at the hospital Wednesday. Needless to say I have no chest hair left. That's ok - it'll make me more aerodynamic when I start doing triathlons.
Receiving profoundly caring messages from loved ones and friends as we get closer. It's overwhelming to realize how many people are in my corner. I mean can it get any better? Football season is almost upon us and surgery is almost behind us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Who would've thunk it????

So I'm 7 days into a "modified" liquid diet. "Modified" meaning things like pudding, jello, grits and oatmeal are allowed. I sensed this might be the toughest hurdle to clear. I was right - but NOT for the reasons I anticipated. I anticipated being on the brink of starvation. I'm allowed between 800-1200 calories a day on this diet and I anticipated being done with 1,200 calories by noon and starving the rest of the day. Quite the contrary. I'm having an AWFUL time making it to 800 calories, much less 1,200. I've been totally caught off guard by the whole thing. This past saturday we had an event that took us out into the sun on a blistering hot day. We were walking around when I suddenly told Rhonda "I feel like I'm about to faint" (not that I've ever fainted or have any idea what it feels like..but the ground was moving and I was lightheaded and I'd had no tequila so I figured I was about to faint.) She said "You need to sit down. How many calories have you had today?" I said "about 270." Nurse mode was activated. She read me the riot act and wanted to know if I'd been eating as much as I should. I said "well, I was doing ok until thursday, then the thought of eating anything else on the 'acceptable' list turned my stomach." Needless to say, I was carted home and fed protein drink, applesauce and oatmeal in short order. In a million years I NEVER imagined I'd hear these words from my bride - "YOU NEED TO EAT MORE!!!" Come to think of it, I don't think anyone has ever said those words to me in 44 years of life (unless I was in some watering hole and downing beverages on an empty stomach - leading to some poor renditions of old David Allen Coe songs. That might have happened!)
Did anyone ever think this southern boy would get tired of grits? I have. They're a lot better with a runny fried egg broken over the top and a half-bottle of hot sauce (sadly, I tried to evoke some memory of that delicacy by just using hot sauce on a recent bowl. I can't recommend it.) Do you know how really quickly one can get tired of pudding? Jello has always worried me. Food that moves just isn't good or natural. Cream of chicken soup strained (so as to remove the bits of chicken) tastes like hospital food from hell. I guess that's the crux of the problem - when the stuff you're limited to doesn't even taste good you don't want it. I'm not hungry, though. Aside from a cold Boodles martini I'm seriously not craving anything. Have I already begun morphing into another person? Has food become an afterthought for someone previously addicted to it? Holy cow, in a couple of years I might have an infomercial that will promise all the insomniacs viewing it that they, too, can be released from the lethal grip of food if only they'll send me three easy payments of $19.95! Move over ginsu knives..there's a new sheriff in town.
One week exactly until surgery. Pre-op visits abound over the next day and a half. I'm getting more nervous by the minute.
(on a totally unrelated note - rest in peace Skip. I told someone this week that the true sign of getting old is the fading away of people and places that you thought would never fade. Listening to baseball on the radio won't be the same.)