Sorry this a a long post but I'd really appreciate hearing from anyone who's had similar experiences.
Has anyone had a gastric bypass that didn't work? I knew something was wrong pretty soon after my surgery as I had no restriction.
I'd known all of my surgical team since 2010 when I had a gastric band. After a year of filling and un-filling and coming to the end of my free fill period (they would have cost £100 after that), the bariatric nurse and I could never reach that sweet point between nothing going through the band and so being sick all the time and no restriction at all so I knew I had to give up on this.
Then in 2012, I lost 9 stone (125lb) by following a very low calorie diet (VLCD). I did this for 9 months, eating just four sachets of food at just under 600 calories a day. I got down to just over 10 stone (140lb) on my 40th birthday at the end of 2012. But in 2013 when I was off the VLCD, I struggled to keep the weight off. By October 2013, I had tried everything and decided to go for further surgery.
I was initially going to have a sleeve but the team's dietician had said that sometimes band to sleeve revisions weren't as successful and I'd read that the bypass is the recommended revision for those who've had bands. Add to this that it was sold to me as the 'gold service' of weight loss surgery and I'd read that it's the operation that has been done for many years and has lots of experience and evidence behind it, I went for the bypass.
I knew something was wrong pretty soon after my surgery as I had no restriction. In early December 2013, the dietician agreed that I should not physically be able to eat or drink Fluid in the volumes I could (I felt and still feel like nothing had changed) so he sent me for x-rays which were inconclusive and the measurements/calibrations weren't noted at the time. However, one of the surgeons said in an email that he thought the stoma was around 20mm in diameter. Everything I read says this is too large as food goes straight through the stoma, meaning I never really feel full.
The smaller stomach and stoma should mean that I feel feel on less food. It took months for me to push for a second set of xrays and I really felt that I was being ignored. Emails were replied to only after a few weeks when I chased them up and I have an email from the same surgeon saying they were deliberately slowing things down in the hope things would rectify themselves. But they didn't.
They did agree to a second opinion and I chose a surgeon in London who not only runs a centre which is ICE accredited (International Centre of Excellence) but has performed over 2500 bypass surgeries and specialises in those that go wrong.
He sent me to another hospital in London on that day for some more xrays and then delivered his report. He identified and the xray specialist agreed that the stoma was too large to have any effect i.e. 'no functional effect' at the site. He also discovered that I had a sort of extra bit of stomach or additional reservoir. They call this a hockey stick or a candy cane but the effect on the surgery is unknown. He recommended that my hospital carry out an endoscopy to rule out a stricture.
My hospital received the report and said they didn't feel the stoma was too big and in fact it was a good thing as "one of the theories as to how the bypass works is getting food that is eaten into the small bowel quickly as this has hormonal feedback to tell the person to stop eating".
I have never read anything like that before and that certainly wasn't how they explained the procedure to me. I've always understood a bypass to be the creation of a smaller stomach so you feel full on much less food (that's what makes you stop eating, I know nothing about hormonal feedback) plus the shortening of the bowel meant some calories weren't absorbed after bypass.
My hospital also didn't think the endoscopy was worth doing either as I'd had no sign of a stricture. Throughout, I have been asking the surgeons whether an endoscopy would help them to see what's going on inside there but they thought not.
One of the most disappointing things was how disinterested my hospital were from the beginning. I felt that they'd taken my money and I had to fight to make them believe there was a problem. Even then, they really didn't move to try and explore what had happened. I don't understand this as they are still doing this procedure on people. I thought they would have wanted to know what had gone wrong with me so that it didn't happen to anyone else.
Also very disappointing was the fact that I woke up to a LEAD surgeon I'd never met and never even heard of. Like I say, I've know this team since 2010. They hadn't mentioned there was a new member, let alone that he would be involved in my operation and certainly not that he would be my LEAD surgeon. I trusted this team and I felt this was a breach of that trust.
I also trusted them to look after me if anything went wrong. I'm in the process of taking on a lawyer plus, because of my tweets about my experience, a local journalist who's interested in the fact that many bands are being revised, how surgery is sold to patients and what happens when they fail, has contacted me.
I feel I should raise awareness that there are things that can go wrong that you don't hear about, as in my case. Would I advise anyone not to have bariatric surgery? No, all I would say is don't use a hospital just because its local to you or you know them. It doesn't mean they'll look after you if things go wrong. Find an ICE, look at patient feedback like mine and get a cast Iron guarantee that they'll take care of you if there are problems.
The hospital's final letter to me told me that they would not be refunding my money and advised that I pursue diet and counselling. I feel like they just put me on the 'it doesn't work for some people' pile when I didn't even know such a pile existed.
Aren't diet, exercise and counselling things we do over and over again before considering the massive step of surgery? In fact, my hospital's own website begins ... "If you’ve exhausted all other weight loss options, you might be considering weight loss surgery”.
I'm still paying off the loan for this and I'm left in the cold! David & Goliath.
Please share your feedback with me.
Thanks for reading.