Panorama of San Bernardino

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Quest

My quest for weight loss has officially begun. 

Today, I took the day off and went to a bariatric surgery conference in Orange County.  I woke up at five thirty in the morning to get dressed.   I threw on my stretchy jeans, a pink striped shirt with my grey high suede boots and a big snugly cardigan.  Comfort was of paramount importance and besides, there was no one to impress.

After more than an hour of traffic on the 91 freeway (the "Corona crawl" was made bearable by NPR), I pulled up to the hospital.  The office was on the fifth floor and I walked into the waiting room and gave my name to the receptionist.  They called my name and weighed and measured me.  I weighed more than I expected.  They took a picture.  I didn't smile.

The medical assistant directed me to an office where I met with a nurse practitioner who happened to be young and male.  He put me at ease as he went over my medical history, but that ease disappeared the minute he made me lift my shirt.  He seemed to sense my discomfort and took a (thankfully) brief glance at my abdomen. 

Next stop was an insurance coordinator named Peggy.  Peggy led me through the hoops I had to jump through to get approved for weight loss surgery: nutrition classes, support group meetings, and a cardiac clearance. 

"What procedure are you here for?" she asked. 

"I'm not sure," I said. 

"You can let me know later," she replied with a kind smile.  "Now go ahead and take a seat in the meeting room," she said, motioning to the right.

I walked into the meeting room and noticed that the seats were double the size of regular chairs.  I was struck by how many large women surrounded me.  They were all ages and colors.  Fat knows no boundaries. 

Some of the women were big and sexy, dressed in the latest Lane Bryant trends with their hair and makeup done.  A few women wore sad, stretchy pants and long, faded t-shirts.  One woman wore a burka like black robe.  Her pixie face peeked out from under her veil.  Another woman in her twenties was not very overweight.  A couple of husbands were there with their wives.  One man of at least four hundred pounds was there for himself.

The meeting started off with the director talking about each surgery.  For those of you who don't know, there are three different bariatric surgeries.  There is the gastric bypass surgery, the lap band and a relatively new procedure known as the sleeve.  In the gastric bypass, the surgeon stitches the stomach into a small pouch and cuts off a piece of the intestine and the system is re routed.  In the lap band, a plastic band is placed over the stomach and then tightened to restrict food intake.  In the sleeve, part of the stomach is removed and only a small banana shaped portion is left.   Each procedure has its own risks and benefits and they all sounded scary. 

By the end of the seminar, I was dizzy with all of the information.  I signed up for my nutrition class and left the building at a quick clip.  Once outside, I gave myself a quick shake. 

What had I gotten myself into?

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