If you know me, you know that I have been overweight all of my life. I was born with a frontal encephalocele birth defect, and grew up with several reconstructive surgeries on my head. During one of my earliest surgeries, the doctor nibbed my pituitary gland, thus starting an extremely difficult battle for me and my weight.
Last year, after losing my job (not health-related), I was unable to immediately find a new job and entered into a depression. I rarely left the house except for the occasional doctor appointment. I spent a lot of time aone in the house while my Dad went to work or other activities, and I hardly moved. And my weight got even worse. Finally, in November, I decided to take a trip that would ultimately change my life for the better!
I had been wanting to travel back to Michigan for a while to visit with lifelong friends from college. I knew it would be a rough flight due to my size, but I knew I wanted and needed to see my friends. I had not seen them in over two years.
The visit started out great, and it was just like we had seen each other two days ago. They could tell I had let my health slide, but they did not judge. The, on my third day, I was wearing shorts and they noticed the back of my legs. There were several knots or nodules in the skin, and much of it looked like it may be infected. I had no idea since I could not see the back of my legs, and my dad never noticed. My friends said they were taking me to the emergency room the next day, and cancelling my return flight. They wanted to make sure I got the proper health care, and we’re worried that if I went back home they may not see me again. I said, “okay, let’s do it.”
So on New Years Eve, went to Detroit Receiving Hospital and was admitted for 48 hours. There was no infection in my legs, just severe skin changes and patches due to my weight and what would later be diagnosed as lymphedema. My blood sugars were averaging over 300, however, despite being on insulin and oral medication. The doctors changed medications around, and I began the process of getting state medical aid.
I was approved for complete Michigan Medicaid in late January, and started scheduling doctor appointments. Also during the time I vastly improved my diet, moving to a lower carb and healthier way of eating. Once was placed on the correct type of insulin and dose, my blood sugars dropped dramatically. At my first appointment with my primary care physician on February 15, I had lost about 40 pounds in six weeks, and my hemoglobin a1c had dropped from the 10s to the 9s. Things were progressing well!!
Unfortunately more complications developed. I discovered i had a wound in the crook of my left leg and my middle area, a very precarious position. I am now a frequent flyer at Oakwood Dearborn’s Wound Care. The spot is better, but the more weight I lose the harder it is to heal as skin folds keep forming. While there for the first time, the doctor looked at my legs, and they are who diagnosed the lymphedema. It took about three weeks to find a therapy location without a waiting list, and that was in Redford Township.
You have to find the humor in any situation, and I did just that at my first lymphedema therapy session. I was told beforehand that they were going to massage my legs to stimulate blood flow, and then wrap my legs. I laid flat on the table and the therapist told me to take a few deep breaths. After those, she starts pushing into the center of my belly, and then to the sides. Being very ticklish it was very tough to concentrate on not laughing hysterically, all while thinking”shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly!” (I thought we could all use a little chuckle at this point!)
After a couple sessions, the therapist took me back to their gym, and had me do ten minutes on the Nu-Step seated stepper. Another turning point in my journey. I continued with those sessions, going three times a week for almost a month. At home we were wrapping my legs in layers of ace bandages. It seemed crazy at first but the improvement was dramatic. I graduated from therapy on April 14.
Also that day was another milestone. I went to an information session for bariatric surgery at Beaumont Weight Control Center (WCC) in Royal Oak. I have learned a lot before about the different options and know a lot about what to expect, but the surgeon and nurse who presented made me feel even better about my decision to pursue this lifesaving operation. 99 percent of the surgeries are laproscopic, and the fatality rates are much higher for hip replacements than gastric bypass or sleeve procedures.
The next day i saw my PCP and my hemoglobin a1c dropped to a non-fasting 7.3!!
I had my first appointment at the WCC on April 20, and met with a nurse practitioner. Unfortunately the insurance that I have with the state has the most hurdles to get approved for surgery. Along with all of the WCC requirements, I have to go through at least six months of medically supervised weight loss program, and get clearance from a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, endocrinologist, and a pulmonologist. The center also has me see a dietician, psychologist, and exercise physiologist every month.
Around the end of April, I started going to work out at the YMCA, and fortunately they have a Nu-Step there. I started at 15 to 20 minutes, and now do at least 30 minutes at least four times a week. Using the advice of the physiologist, I also spend time on the arm cycle most visits. On Memorial Day, achieved a personal best: sixty minutes nonstop on the Nu-Step!!! I like that it works both legs and arms, but is safer to do as you are seated. The physiologist said that, before surgery, the goal of exercise is to get your body in the best shape possible, and after surgery it switches to losing weight and maintaining loss.
On my most recent visit to the WCC on May 18, I met the center’s doctor for the first time, and my official weight loss since January got to 80 pounds!!
I have seen the cardiologist, and received clearance. I did have an ECG last week, just waiting for complete approval. I have also seen the GI, and she wants to do an endoscopy just to make sure there are no issues. That will be June 13. I see the endocrinologist June 8, and the pulmonologist two days later.
I started this blog for several reasons. It is a convenient way to share my progress (and any lack thereof) with family and friends. I have also been told, and I agree, that this may prove to be very cathartic for me. I can write down my accomplishments big and small, as well as any frustrations that I am sure will occur. There are so many steps to this process and it is still early, but in a lot of ways things seem to be flying by.
This is not everything that has happened so far, but it is a lot and a good start. I will try to fill in any blanks when necessary. Feel free to ask me any questions as well. I will post on Facebook when I write new entries. I love you all for the support and encouragement i have received this far!