I took my health for granted, and I never realized how seriously in trouble I was. But earlier this year, I had one of the bariatric surgery procedures offered at the Bariatric Surgery Program at the UVM Medical Center: Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, a major surgical procedure where a good portion of the stomach is removed.
How did I get to this point?
About two years before, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.
What did I really know about diabetes? Next to nothing, even though both sides of my family had a history of it. My chances of developing it, along with a weight issue, were pretty high. Unfortunately, I had another issue to deal with, Ostrich-itis . You probably won’t find that in a medical journal, but I believe it to be a true condition. Ostrich-itis occurs when you stick your head in the sand, and choose to believe that if you don’t have yourself checked out and aren’t aware of any issue, then that must mean that you are okay. Well, you can see how well that worked out for me.
Diabetes is a pretty insidious disease that piggy backs on other issues and makes them worse or increases the chances of heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, kidney disease, and others. No getting around this, this diagnosis pulled my head out of the sand, and I am pretty sure I got whiplash from the quick yank back to reality.
After my diagnosis, I started on one medication, and then moved to two. I changed my diet and exercise routines, and was still having serious troubles pulling everything back into a normal zone. Then came the moment when my physician said, “we are going to have to talk able transitioning you to insulin.” My heart just plummeted.
I went home and started some serious research. I came across a study that showed that 86% of patients after bariatric surgery, following the plan, went into a “remission” where the need for medication to regulate their diabetes was no longer needed or severely reduced, and that if they continued to follow the plan, it seemed to be long-term. This was the first glimmer of hope.
I took this information and ran with it. I researched a lot on the internet, gathered what I could, made a list of questions and concerns. I went back to my Primary Care Physician and Endocrinologist and had a serious talk with them. Both of them confirmed that this was a remarkable option, and that I would make a good candidate.
The UVM Medical Center has a comprehensive Bariatric Program. Before you have your surgery, you have to overcome certain hurdles, a process that can take at least six months. You also have to be committed to the basic plan, that this is a major change to your life, not a “magic” pill. You will be the one who determines your outcome by the choices you make. After many years of trying practically anything and everything, I knew I was ready to take this step.
Today, six months after my surgery, I have lost 65 pounds — more than half-way to my goal. I am off all diabetes medications, which is an achievement in itself. The road getting here hasn’t been easy, and it is not a road completed. Every day is a challenge. But I feel that having this procedure has giving me the confidence to continue to make healthy choices. I don’t plan on taking my health for granted again.
Beth Elkins is a Credentialing and Enrollment Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.