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Lap-Band isn't working for me



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Way back in the early 00's, I was diagnosed with esophageal scarring from years of undiagnosed/untreated GERD. I was getting food stuck several times each meal. The common name for this is "Steakhouse Syndrome". Food would lodge going down, and although I'd be able to breathe, it felt like a mini heart attack. Painful, scary (even if you know what it is, your body goes into "I'm choking" mode - creating loads of saliva). Larger, drier foods were the worst - meats (hence the word steak) - especially pork. But really anything could get stuck. To make it pass, I'd need to wash it down with Fluid - usually something like Water or milk. As the problem got worse, I could no longer wash the food down - the water would back up on top of the food, blocking breathing, and I'd feel like I was drowning. I'd need to run to the sink and put my head upside-down to let gravity bring up the water.

When it got to this point, I went to see a gastroenterologist. He put me under in "twilight", and dialated my esophagus. It worked. No more choking for several years. At the time, they saw a nodule in my stomach that they wanted to check back on in year or so (which was fine / didn't grow), and while they had me under, they re-dialated my esophagus a bit more the following year. I've had no issues since then - in the last 8 years or so. I get food stuck temporarily maybe 5 times a year. Nothing serious enough to be truly scary, or even to alert the people around me that I'm having an issue.

In Nov. of 2017, I got banded. Immediately following the banding - even when I was still on almost liquid foods - I started getting food stuck again. This was BEFORE I even had any fluid put into the band. I didn't feel my lap band was limiting my food intake much, so I kept asking for more fluid in it. It still didn't seem to limit my intake much, but it did make food get stuck even more. Like..... with almost every bit of ANYthing. It was BAD. My current husband had never really seen this before, and it had been years since my now teenagers had. It scared the crap out of them. I was trying to follow the lap band instructions (no drinking while eating), but I couldn't - I NEEDED to drink before and after a bite in order to get food down. Which washes the food down past the pouch, essentially negating the band's purpose.

I went back to my gastric surgeon and told him all of this. He didn't like it, but didn't seem to think that it was my old problem. So I visited my gastro again, and he did another dialation. He made it bigger than ever before. Didn't help. I went back to see him again, and he suggested it was likely the band. This was NOT was my bariatric surgeon thought. But the gastro said it would be easy to find out - let all the fluid out of the band and see if the problem improved. I was scheduled for a knee replacement the following week when I had this conversation with my gastroenterologist, so I figured I'd deal with the issue after I was up and running again.

I had my knee replacement surgery (I'd had the other knee replaced 5 years earlier, so I knew what to expect), and things started to go badly for my stomach the night of the surgery. I got nauseated and vomited - that was the first time I'd actually vomited since my Lap-Band surgery. I wound up not eating again until Breakfast the next morning. lunch didn't seem like something I had any interest in, by my hubby forced me to eat anyway - to keep my strength up. I was supposed to stay an additional day in the hospital, but I was doing really well with pain and mobility, so they gave me the option of going home early, which I took. By the time I got home it was dinner time, and not only wasn't I hungry, but I was constantly belching (I normally don't burp at ALL), and it smelled and tasted like rotten eggs. By late evening, my oral pain meds weren't working. I.was.miserable. I contacted my knee surgeon at midnight, and he told me he thought this was related to my Lap-Band. So I called my bariatric surgeon and he confirmed it was my band. That my stomach had stopped digesting food, which is why my pain meds weren't working - they weren't digesting, but rather just sitting in my stomach. He told me to drink plenty of water but not to eat until after I could see him the next day to get fluid taken out of the band. And to crush up my pain meds and flush them through that way. It worked. I was able to sleep, thank God.

Back to the hospital the next day to meet my bariatric surgeon. He put a needle into my port and let all the fluid out of my band. Things returned to normal immediately. I was able to eat, digest, and 90% of the food-getting-stuck issue stopped. That was all 3 months ago now, and I haven't been back to get re-filled. What would be the point? I'll just make all my food get stuck again, and since I need to wash it down, it negates the purpose of the Lap-Band totally. Even without any fluid in my band, I'm STILL getting food stuck 10% of the time. My husband and kids hate watching me go through this. They want the band removed because it scares them so badly to watch an episode of food getting stuck. They think it's dangerous for me. I disagree, but I can see why it would scare them so much. It would scare me for them it if was happening to them instead of me.

I have no idea where this leaves me. I don't know if they'll suggest a sleeve or a bypass, or if they'll just want to go remove the band. I'm disappointed that I spent so much time and effort jumping through all the hoops to get this surgery, only to have it not work well for me. And my insurance has changed - even going in to just remove the Lap-Band will likely cost me a few thousand dollars this time around with my new insurance. I don't know if a sleeve / bypass is going to cause the same issues with swallowing - that that'll be permanent. Of course the drinking fluids with my meals wouldn't negate the point of the surgery, though. I know I can talk to my bariatric surgeon about all of this. But considering that he wasn't willing to admit that my band could even potentially be the cause of the issue in the first place, how do I trust what he says about the problem potentially continuing if I have one of the other surgeries?

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