So I’m coming up on the third anniversary of having a lap band put in. I wasn’t going to talk about it anymore, I was just going to slink back into the shadows and quietly struggle with my weight. I don’t like getting too personal with health and weight crap. But I can’t in good conscience keep this to myself when I could share my experience, and, hey, maybe save people time, money, and crappy health issues that can result from this particular gastric surgery.
First, a little about me. I had the surgery done for mostly one reason–to see if it helped get rid of my type 2 diabetes. It’s prominent in my family. Every doctor I’ve seen has questioned the type 2 diagnosis, thinking I must be type 1. I don’t fit the profile. No one in my family does. They’d do tests, but ultimately realize that it is indeed technically type 2. Whatever reason my family members get it, it isn’t necessarily due to obesity. It doesn’t matter how small I get, how much weight I lose, I still have it. So does my 145lb dad. So, yay, genetics! But still I thought the surgery might do SOMETHING. The media hype, Kool Aid and all. I even gained weight deliberately to make sure I was eligible for the surgery. *Slams head on desk*
In the first year after surgery I’d lost around 50lbs or so (it did not, as I should’ve known, eliminate the diabetes). I didn’t have the band all that tight, just maybe toward medium full. You see, you can adjust how tight it is. When they perform the surgery to put the band in, they also put in what is called a port. Which is this disk type thing that’s sewn/stapled/however they want to attach it to your muscles along your abdominal wall. That’s how they inject or remove saline to make the band looser or tighter. Yes, they stick a giant ass needle, through your stomach and into the port. And you’d better hope the nurse doing it finds it right away. Because they often don’t, and they dig around with the needle, and let me tell you it feels AWESOME. If you missed the sarcasm, it hurts like hell. And the port itself hurts. They say you forget about it after awhile. Don’t feel it. I always feel it. At least once a day. It’ll just hurt randomly. I’ll twist my body a certain way and it hurts. My kid elbows me in that area and it’s burning pain. Because it’s literally sewn/stapled/whatever to your muscle. I know exactly where that bastard port is.
Anyway, I think I lost most of the weight because I knew the band wouldn’t let me eat as much. So I DIDN’T eat as much. I stopped myself. But as time wore on, and I occasionally ate more than I should’ve, and I realized… hey you know, what? It didn’t matter. I wasn’t full. I wasn’t satisfied. I could eat just as much as I had before the surgery and maybe only feel a little bit of the difference. This being whether I had more or less fluid in my band. But I like I said, I didn’t have it as tight as it could be, because…getting stuck.
Yes. Here’s the next fun issue of having a lap band. Your food can get stuck above the band. Which is uncomfortable at best, but can be quite painful for some. Sometimes if you eat too fast, sometimes on dry chicken, sometimes–often with me–on an effing carrot. What happens when you get stuck? Well, you throw up. All these blogs I read ahead of time make it sound like no big deal. That it just comes right back up. Nope. Not in my experience. I have to force myself to get sick (and let me tell you, I’d suck as a bulimic). Sometimes it would take up to an hour before I’d get it all out. This would occur at least once a week for me, which actually, isn’t bad. I had banded friends who would be sick several times a DAY. But once a week was even too much for me. It happened while on luncheons with friends. While on my first date with my now boyfriend. It happened in front of my 10 year old daughter much too often. Which, honestly, is why I said I’m done. It’s not healthy for a tween girl to see her mom running to the bathroom to force herself to get sick all the time. Pretty much sounds like the breeding ground for a kid to get an eating disorder.
Jeez, there is just so much that was wrong with having the band. It gave me, literally CREATED acid reflux in me, when I’d never had a problem with it until I got banded (and in the info meeting, they told me if you had reflux it would cure it). I had a gastroenterologist tell me (because I had to go see one) that the banded patients she had would almost always have reflux issues that were created by the band.
Overall, my quality of life went down. I was already gaining weight back (though I blame that on bad food choices and getting comfy in a new relationship). So earlier this year I went in and asked that all the fluid be taken out of my band. Have it completely empty, so it’s basically as close as not having a band as you can be. Because, yes, although they proudly tout that this surgery is reversible if you have issues, what they don’t tell you is it costs around $7,000. Yes, it’s really that much money. But if I had $7,000 floating around, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I want this piece of crap out of me. But I’m a single mom who bought a house a year ago. So the band stays there, just waiting to maybe erode into my esophagus some day (yes, that can happen too, Google it). And while my band is empty, I still get stuck on food now and then. This blog post was actually inspired after spending an hour trying to get up a carrot the other day. I hit my ‘f*ck this band that’s about as useful as tying a string around your finger’ level of fury. And I still have chronic reflux that comes and goes. And my port that’ll just hurt randomly and remind me ‘I’m still here, suckah!’
The more people I talk to, the more I research on the internet, I realize I’m not alone. Some people don’t lose much weight. Some lose and gain back. Some people have major complications that can be life threatening. It’s not worth it. Do your research. Getting the lap band was probably my biggest regret in life–and I paid cash, because insurance wouldn’t cover me. I don’t have the funds to undo this now. And, dead serious here, if there’s ever a lawsuit for this lap band (again, on the blogosphere/forums. people are talking about it) count me in, please!
So while I save up the money to pay to undo this surgery, I’ll live with it. I’ll focus on healthier food choices, being active and getting fit the normal way. I’ve done it before, when I lost over 40lbs without the band. And I had healthier habits at that time than I did with the band. Regaining weight is going to be a problem whether you have gastric surgery or don’t (though I really can’t speak for other gastric surgeries, only what I see on friends who’ve had it).
Hope I gave you something to consider. I won’t say the nurses/surgeons I worked with were awful, they were all super nice. And there are probably some banded folks who will shout their happiness with the lap band from the rooftops. Maybe they don’t get stuck or have port pain. Chronic reflux. Maybe they just put up with it because they’re in smaller jeans. But I’m currently hearing about many people who are converting from lap bands to the the sleeve. Jumping from my gastric surgery to another. Is it really a solution? So here’s my humble opinion: Run. Run fast and hard and don’t EFFING DO IT. You can lose the weight on your own. Because here’s the deal. If you can’t make the changes in eating and exercise before the band, you’ll struggle to do it after and deal with all the crappy side effects on top.
And you know what? If you made it this far in my blog? You’re awesome. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share with anyone who’s considering a lap band. (HASHTAG DON’T DO IT)
*Bonus ultimate horror story I forgot* If you get some kind of stomach flu/food poisoning, you’re supposed to go in and get an unfill (remember, that means giant needle in the belly). Because they know you may have trouble getting the contents of your stomach back up through the band (remember, getting stuck the food is ABOVE the band). The band constricts your esophagus and throwing up stomach contents is not easy. So when I had the Norovirus, I was supposed to drive myself to the clinic, while throwing up every ten minutes, and sit still, assume the position, while they stick a needle in me. Of course, it didn’t happen. So I went twelve hours getting sick so violently, I was throwing up blood. My body hurt for days.