Four years ago today,
I was heading to the hospital for my weight loss surgery. I was 21, a senior in
college, and taking half a semester off to, hopefully, change my life.
Now, I know that some people might thing: Eeek! 21 is really young to have such
major surgery. But make no mistake about it - I was FAT......and not like
"Oh, I'm the chubby friend" fat; I was the “I'm not even 5'3" and I
weigh over 340 lbs.” fat.
Between doula work and nursing clinicals, my body ached and I had had enough.
Luckily, my parents have always been the type of parents who let me be me.
Sometimes, it didn't end so well (insert the horrible lower back tattoo I got
at 15-Thanks, Mom!). But in this case, when I called them a few weeks before my
21st birthday to ask for the surgery, they helped make it happen.
My pre-op testing and diet weren't without
hiccups. However, 4 months after I decided to have the surgery, I walked into that hospital so excited for what the next year held. Soon, I was on an OR table.
After far too many hours in the OR, I woke up to what turned into a year-long
nightmare. My laparoscopic surgery had morphed into a foot long incision with
over 70 staples and multiple drains because someone had read an ultrasound
wrong along the way.
Still, about 12 days after the surgery, I was feeling better. One evening, I said out
loud, "I think I am getting back to normal!" Of course, a few hours
later, I woke up covered in blood-Think the
prom scene from the movie Carrie. Off to the ER I went, where a doctor
discovered a massive infection.
That hospital stay involved a doctor reopening my incision without my consent
or any anesthetic at the bed side. I also received a picc line, a wound vac,
another bedside surgery and some PTSD. Oh and 30 days of IV antibiotics in the
Life went on. I would get my antibiotics and picc line
dressing changed before class and mastered taking my wound vac off and packing
it for births.
In September of 2011, I had to have a 3rd surgery to re-open my original incision. This
time I was left with an open wound the size of a Nerf football (Don't worry those pictures didn't make the blog). Weeks
passed, I graduated, my picc line was removed, I passed my RN boards and my
wound vac came off just in time for the holidays-I had lost over 110lbs in about 6 months at this point.
My wound closed in March of 2012, just shy of 8 months after the original
surgery and by 13 months post-op I had lost 165 lbs. I remember going to my
doctor’s office for my one year check up, ready to address my concerns about
the last year. I left in tears after
being told that I had failed at the surgery because I was still obese, and that
I should seek psychiatric help for being upset about my "minor complications".
So what does this have to do with being a better doula???
-I get it when things don't go as you envisioned.
-I get it when a provider does something to your body without your consent.
-I get it when you are told your body has failed.
-I get it when you are told to "get over it" because you're okay now
-I get it when you feel like you've lost yourself because no one understands
what you're going through mentally and physically
-I get it when you have to put on a fake smile because after all, "it's
the end result that matters, right?"
-I get it when you feel less than human because there are so many tubes are
attached to you and it's all people want to talk about.
-I get it when you feel like your body has betrayed you
It took me years to heal from my surgery, both mentally and physically. As a
result, I try to be a listening ear for clients when their birth, breastfeeding
or parenting experiences don't go as they had intended or hoped for because I
didn’t have that support.
In 2014, after feeling somewhat healed from the ordeal, I decided I was tired
of looking at my horrible scar and extra skin. I took my own doula advice and
started doctor shopping. I interviewed 7 different plastic surgeons and didn't
stop until I found someone who listened to ME, who made ME feel like I was a
part of my care and who let ME tell them what I wanted and needed from them.
I had my first set of skin removal in December of 2014 and the 2nd set in April
of 2015. Of course, I developed post operative infections both times – Good job,
me. But this time my doctor was amazing about it.
He drove to his office in the middle of the night to see me and answered my phone calls for any questions or concerns I had, even on the weekends. He always told me how strong I was being and how sorry he was that I had to go through this again and again while acknowledging how hard it must be. It's my hope that my clients feel this way when it comes to my care with them.
Today, I’m about 180lbs lighter and I can say that my surgery has made me stronger person, a better nurse, a better doula and a better advocate for myself and others.