Did somebody step on a duck? Maybe it was one of those barking spiders …
Go ahead, laugh it up. Everybody’s a comedian. But one of the things they don’t tell you about in Bariatric Class – the dirty, little secret, so to speak – is the gas.
The struggle is real.
There are two kinds of gas you deal with as a bariatric patient. The first is exactly what you think it is. After all, it ain’t called GAStric surgery for nuthin’, amirite?
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But let’s start with the second, and much more disconcerting, sort, which relates directly to the surgical event itself.
When you have bariatric surgery, one of the first things the surgical team does, after inserting the trocars, is blow you up like a birthday balloon, inflating your abdominal cavity with a burst of CO2 so the surgeon can more easily see his or her way around your innards. At the end of the procedure, the surgeon deflates your abdomen, removing most of the CO2. Some, however, remains.
This can result in what’s called intraperitoneal gas pain, which often presents as chest pain that extends into your left shoulder.
In other words, it feels like you’re having a goddam heart attack.
But you’re not. You’re hooked up to blood pressure monitors, pulse/ox monitors, and all sorts of other monitors. If it was a heart attack, the health care professionals surrounding you would be springing into action to forestall your imminent demise — at least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about intraperitoneal gas. Pain meds don’t work on this stuff. It’s just got to run its course. The best thing to do is move around. Walk. After a few days, the body will absorb and expel the gas.
From personal experience, I can say with confidence that intraperitoneal gas pain can be brutal. Walking was the only thing that brought any relief at all. Two days later, though, it was gone.
As the intraperitoneal gas subsides, the intestinal gas emerges. From both ends.
In the hours after my surgery, the belching was constant. Huge, staccato bursts of gas rose up from my surgically altered stomach with astonishing regularity and virtually no warning, more so if I took a sip of water. Now, more than a week out, though, it’s pretty much resolved itself. There’s still the occasional bbbrrraapp if I drink too much too fast, but I’m getting the hang of managing it.
The flatulence, though. Good lord. That’s a different story.
Following my surgery, a nurse would stop by every two hours, take my vitals, and ask if I’d passed gas. Evidently, that’s an important sign that the healing has begun.
For 24 hours, the answer was no.
Then, on Thursday, July 6, as my elderly, hospital roommate lay enthralled by that morning’s episode of Fox & Friends, I cut loose with a ripper of such vigor and duration that my hospital bed shuddered from the force of the blast.
The sweet relief in my gut was immediate – a breath of fresh air, so to speak, for someone who’d been troubled by constant bloating and pressure since waking up in the recovery room. I can’t remember exactly what the clueless cast of Fox & Friends were nattering on about that morning, but I’m quite certain the fearsome output that so suddenly emerged from between my buttocks was more infinitely more cogent than whatever it was they were saying. It was definitely more impactful.
Now, about a week and a half past the surgery, the intestinal gas continues to assert itself, although with not quite so much audacity, probably in so small part because of the Stage One, post-op diet, which relies in large part on pureed beans (black, refried, etc.), yogurt and cottage cheese.
That ends Wednesday, when I can slowly begin to reintroduce other sources of protein that, I hope, will not prove so combustible.
So, I just uploaded a bunch of new pix, taken one week after my recent bariatric surgery. Small changes are already visible, at least to me, but the biggest change, by far, is in how I feel: more energetic, more positive and really just better all the way around.
And it’s only been a week.
Over the past few days, I’ve been working from home to the degree that I can. My estimate of how much I’d be able to get done in these days after bariatric surgery was way too aggressive. I tire easily, but that’s to be expected the doctors say, what with the recent major surgery and the restricted post-op diet; the Stage One diet, which comprises mostly pureed, high-protein foods and liquids – protein shakes, cottage cheese, beans, yogurt, etc. – provides around 500 calories per day. I’ve got another week of that.
I’ll be back in the office on Monday, and I’m looking forward to it. Things are going well.
Since that time, my recovery has been remarkable. Without question, the first couple of days were difficult. The resulting physical pain was far more intense than I had imagined it would be, and there were most definitely times when I wondered what the hell I had done to myself. Four days later, though, that pain is receding. I’m up. I’m walking around. I’m getting plenty of fluids, and I’m eating solid food, such as it is in Stage One of my Bariatric Plan.
And, counting the pre-operative diet I began on June 21, I’ve lost 23 pounds.
More importantly, I feel different; I feel better, not just physically, but more hopeful than I have in years. Yesterday I found myself thinking: why didn’t I do this years ago?
Here’s why: bariatric surgery is not a decision arrived at lightly. To work – and it is far from a guaranteed success – it can’t be. For me, it is very much a weapon of last resort in my ongoing, lifelong battle with my weight.
When it comes to losing weight, I’ve pretty much tried ’em all, from the name-brand, corporate products to the sketchy, fad diets. I’ve counted calories. I’ve eaten less and moved more. I’ve gone low cal, low carb, and low fat. I’ve fasted. Each time, I had a degree of success but eventually the weight came back, and then some.
Truth be told, this isn’t even my first run at the bariatric program. Two years ago I was considering it, and began working with the Weight & Wellness Center team in preparation for bariatric surgery. When you enroll, one of the things you learn right up front is that to qualify for bariatric surgery you have to lose some weight on your own.
Which I did. I lost a lot of weight – about 75 pounds to be exact – and ultimately, I decided that losing weight was something I could do on my own, after all.
Two years later, I was right back where I started, weighing in at 340 pounds and wondering where the hell I went wrong, an abject failure. Again.
So I made another run at the bariatric program, vowing to actually go through with the surgery if I qualified.
Which I did. And here we are.
One of the things I discovered as I worked through early stages of the bariatric program is that there are a ton of blogs about bariatric surgery out there targeted at women. But there are very few targeted at men. Precious few.
So I’m starting one. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll use this space to talk honestly about my experience as a male bariatric patient – a Bariatric Boy, if you will – as much to keep myself accountable as anything else.
So check back often, because I’ll be posting new material frequently. Maybe one day, it’ll be a protein-shake taste test, and the next it’ll be a detailed look at whether a man’s penis actually gets bigger when he loses weight. Or maybe it’ll be a quick and easy recipe for a tasty and nutritious dinner. Or a discourse on some of the more surprising and, umm, earthy effects of the bariatric program.
My goal is to always keep it both honest and interesting.
Thanks for reading.