Fall 2004 - Patient Newsletter

Three Sisters

One hot June day, my two sisters and I sat in my sister Nancy's living room. Once again disgusted with ourselves over our weight, Nancy told us that she had called a telephone number to receive information on Gastric Bypass Surgery through Tufts-New England Medical Center. I was curious as well and wanted the information. Nancy received her packet in the mail. It was rather funny because we were on our way to Maine for the weekend, when her son said "Ma you just received a packet from the Obesity Center." He said, "Ma what is obesity?" Nancy told him to never mind and just put the information in my room. We were dying over the question, not quite knowing how to respond.

I also called and received the information. However, I was scared to call the telephone line for an appointment. Nancy submitted her packet with no reservation or doubt. I said, "I'm going for it." Lee said that when she saw her doctor she was going to discuss it with him. Nancy received a call saying the next available appointment wouldn't start until October. Now I was thinking about the surgery more and more. Lee went to see Dr. Siegel, her thyroid doctor. He knew her weight history. She told him she was interested in the gastric bypass procedure. He thought it was great that she expressed interest. She was the first to actually have an appointment and find out about the monthly support meetings. The three of us went to our first meeting in August. I was so impressed when I got home I called the line for an appointment to start the process for myself. We then went to the meeting every month. Lee had started the process first and a date had become available in October and she was asked if she wanted it. Lee immediately took the appointment. She was scheduled for surgery in October 2003.

Nancy and I then started our appointments; first with the psychologists, then the medical doctors and then with the surgeons. Through this our dad was very, very sick. He was in and out of hospitals including Tufts Tufts-New England Medical Center, which we credit for saving his life. Our dad got sick in early December and did not get out of the hospital until April 5th. In the middle of all that Lee had her surgery. Lee endured, but had a few complications to the surgery and was at Tufts-New England Medical Center while my father was at South Shore Hospital. She wanted desperately to be with us and also with him. We also wanted to be with her. However we had to keep telling her to take care of herself. We would be there as soon as we could and there was really nothing she could do for him. We knew she felt helpless, as she was worrying about him too. In the midst of all this, Nancy and I got our dates for surgery - January 15, 2003. We decided to do it together so that we would have each other for support. I was scheduled for 7:00 a.m. and she was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. It was a Wednesday. We were thrilled, nervous, excited... you name it, and we felt it.

Our Dad was transferred to Tufts-New England Medical Center from South Shore Hospital on December 31st, and Nancy and I were literally staying at South Shore around the clock. We had fifteen days until our surgery and even told the doctors depending on how my dad was, we weren't sure if we would be able to actually have the surgery. Then we decided he was stable and we were going to be right there with him. We decided we were going to do it for us. We had to go through with it as it was meant to be. It came upon us so fast that we didn't have much time to think about it, which was a good thing. We kept saying it was something we had to do and everything was going to be okay.

In the meantime, my sister Lee had another complication to the surgery. She couldn't keep anything down and was dehydrated. Lee had to be hospitalized yet again, and she had an endoscopy done. An endoscopy ensures there is no blockage to the esophagus. She was okay for a week and had to go back in again. My sister and I thanked God that at least she and my father were both at Tufts-New England Medical Center. Lee also had an ulcer as a complication to the gastric bypass surgery and was very sick. Every time Nancy and I asked her if she would do the surgery again, Lee still said she would have the surgery again no matter what. We remained committed and determined.

During all of this I have to say how wonderful the entire staff had been to us, from Alison to Lynne to Dr. Shikora, Dr. Tarnoff, Dr. Kim, Beth, Kim, Phyllis and Dr. Saltzman. I couldn't say enough about them all to this point, and we hadn't even had the surgery.

It was our turn, January 15 th ! Lee was feeling better. We told my father to hang tight and we would be there to see him on the 16th. First me...Then Nancy. I got taken into the prep room and again met wonderful staff members. I was grateful for everyone from the woman who walked with me telling me everything would be fine to the rest of the staff. A nurse gave me something. The next thing I knew I woke up and not long after was able to stand and ask to see my sister. When I went over to her she seemed not to be doing as well as I was. She was sick from the anesthesia and in a lot of pain as she had more scar tissue from prior surgeries. She kept saying "What is she doing up and how is she walking." I just had to get up and walk around. I felt I was on my back too long and it was bothering me.

My healing went well. However, Nancy being a diabetic had a much slower healing process. I actually was concerned for her as she was in so much pain. We got discharged on January 18th. Nancy and I talked about me staying at her house. However I decided to go home. We would be in touch by telephone. Well I live alone and was doing fine until I went to lie in my bed and discovered I couldn't get up. I thought I was going to bust the staples in my stomach from trying to roll off my bed. My aunt had called and I told her what happened. She said, "You are coming to my house." My sister's friend who had the surgery the day after my sister Lee, told us to sleep in a recliner for the first week or two, that it really made a difference on your stomach. Thank goodness my aunt had a recliner and Nancy borrowed one. They were great and helped with the healing process. It made a huge difference. We tell everyone... if you don't have one... borrow one.

Lee was now losing tons of weight and Nancy and I couldn't wait to do the same. The greatest part was having each other to call to ask, "Did you feel like this? Am I doing the right thing?" Lee let us know exactly what we needed to get through the first few weeks. It was awesome and then boom - 10, 20, 30 pounds later we were all ecstatic. I went back to work four weeks after my surgery. Low and behold, I couldn't hold down my Carnation shake. I knew something was wrong. I called Lee and she said, "You have a stricture, call Allison." A stricture happens to about 5 percent of patients. Lee and I both endured this complication. We were fine after this was corrected. It's important to be calm and to expect a few bumps in the road.

The best part is that for Lee, it's been a year and she's lost 106 lbs. It's been ten months for Nancy and me. Nancy's lost 104 lbs. I have lost 95 lbs. We all feel great and have never missed a support meeting. We love them and everyone calls us "the three sisters." We have gotten to know so many nice people just from seeing them at these meetings. There hasn't been a time we haven't learned something from someone. Would we do it again in a heartbeat? We want to tell everyone that is overweight to just do it. It's been almost a year for my dad, who is home and hanging in there.

Before I end the three sister's story, again my attention turns to the staff members, who are remarkable. They know each patient and treat him or her as if they were the only one. Each one takes the time to attend these meetings. Everyone in attendance lets them know how very much we all appreciate them for being there for us all. It's because of them and people like you that we continue to be a part of this program and can't wait for the next meeting.

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