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My VSG experience with Dr Illan, Hospital BC

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I read a few of these when I was considering surgery and I promised myself that I would do the same thing once I was post-op so that maybe I could help anyone who may need to know the details (like me), or anyone sitting on the fence at the time (like me), or just looking for signs that this was the right thing to do (me again).

I discussed the sleeve surgery with my doctor over 2 years ago after countless weight losses and re-gains. That's basically been the story of my life forever. I was a chubby kid, I've never been thin. I probably starting yo-yo dieting when I was 15 and I had my 1st boyfriend. I've done all the diets. Starvation, jenny craig, weight watchers, nutri-system, herbalife, Keto, low carb, optivia, ideal Protein, bars and shakes, etc... the list could go on and on. I'd lose the weight (sometimes), I even got down to a size 6 when I was about 38. But eventually, overeating called my name and I'd be back to where I started plus 10. Relatable huh? It's not even that I eat poorly, to be honest. Yes I love bad and delicious food, fast food, Desserts, etc... but 80% of the time, I am eating a home-cooked meal with veggies and protein (and likely a starch), I just eat too much. My appetite is monstrous. I'm 4'11 and I can eat the same size plate as my husband who works out every day. I come from the 'clean plate club' and always finish my meal.

In discussing the sleeve with my doctor he agreed it was going to be the solution I was looking for. Then I told him I wanted to go to Mexico and he agreed that travel tourism can be wonderful (he sends patients to Brazil for plastics) and that he wanted to be part of the decision making process for the doctor. So I took my list of 25 candidates that Facebook told me were awesome, and I narrowed them down to 3 choices: Dr Alvarez, Dr Elias Ortiz and dr illan. I presented them each to my primary care physician in the states with their resumes and credentials, we got on a zoom call to discuss the 3 of them and he told me that Dr Illan was his 1st choice, hands down. He chose Dr Illan because he is a board certified master surgeon, his anesthesiologist is also board certified specifically for bariatric surgery, his hospital is private and has an ICU, his hospital has been given awards of excellence, and he only performs 3 surgeries per day.

So I called, paid my $500 deposit to get my date, and promptly pooped my pants from nerves.

The 10-day pre-op came quickly and was not that bad. I was too excited to be annoyed by it. I got headaches and was hungry, but all in all it wasn't terrible. Before I knew it, my flight from Florida to San Diego was the next morning - I couldn't believe it!

My bestie and I arrived in San Diego the day before my surgery (arrived Friday, surgery was Saturday) and we were met at the airport by Carlos; along with one of my surgery sisters that I had already met on Facebook. Get you a surgery sister (or brother) - find out who's having surgery the same day as you and you will become friends! We hung out a lot post-op and I've made friends for life.

The drive to the border was quick and easy, before I knew it we were at the hospital dropping off the other person b/c her surgery was bright and early the next day. Carlos whisked us off to Hotel Real Inn, only about 10-15 minutes from the hospital. Mexico treats covid more seriously than we do in the US; so feet wiping, temp taking and hand sanitizing is a requirement literally every single place you go. Carlos pointed out that to the right of our hotel was a open-air shopping plaza and to the left was a grocery store. So after we got settled in, we went to explore and had such a great afternoon in Tijuana! I bought a size small goal outfit for $7 at one of the little boutiques and little knick nacks to bring home to my family. I love that my friend and I had that time to settle in and do some safe exploring. I didn't feel unsafe even for a second, its a very populated area with lots of folks shopping and walking around.

That night I ordered my bariatric meal (best popsicle ever!) and my friend ordered authentic mexican street tacos from Uber for like $7.

The next morning, we were picked up at 9am to head over to the hospital and get ready for surgery <insert panic>. When you get there, more sanitizing and temp checking and then you head off to get your blood drawn after filling out paperwork.

Next comes, chest x-ray, EKG and just a general check up from a doctor to clear you for surgery. So I'll tell you that this part is likely the part that doesn't leave me with the best feeling. The doctor that looked at my EKG seemed to glance at it for about 2 seconds. The cardiologist is probably an awesome cardiologist, but lacked that bedside manner that we see in doctors in the states too. He cleared me for surgery and I said "so my heart looks good?" and he replied "yeah its ok" and then left the room. My bestie reminded me that that not all doctors gush all over you and that he was probably just one of those.

Suddenly, Dr Illan and the anesthesiologist were in my room and it was almost go time. Dr. Illan explained the procedure and had a lovely chat with us, I didn't feel rushed or like I was asking too many questions. He explained the OR and that the surgical team in the OR were all also bariatric surgeons (not general surgeons). He told me that I was important and my safety was his #1 priority. He was so wonderful. Them standing there suddenly made me very nervous and I started to cry because I was scared. Dr Illan came to the side of my bed and rested his hand on my leg to comfort me and promised it was going to be ok, told me not to cry. It seemed to upset him to see me upset! In the meantime the anesthesiologist called for some anti-anxiety meds in my IV and I was calm again. Before I knew it, I was in the OR being asked to scoot onto the table and the nurse was signaling to me that it was time to go to sleep. I think some of the nurses in the OR don't speak English, but I speak Spanish so I told her I was ready and before I knew it - I was awake and in recovery.

Coming out of being under is funny, as I'm sure many of you know. You're there, but you can't quite open your eyes. I was listening for alarm beeps of monitors or conversations on Spanish that something was wrong, but I was ok. I also had no gas pain. Everyone warns you about that gas pain and I had zero. I was in the recovery room for maybe an hour? My BP was a little high so they gave me something sublingually to lower it, but I don't remember much else.

Wheeled back to my room, I spent the rest of the day hearing movies played in the background by my friend and dozing in and out of sleep. I don't actually think I slept much though. I was so groggy I could hardly stand. The nurses came to check on me often, they were giving me lots of drugs in the IV (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, etc) and a chewable gas pill. Here's something no one told me - you do not get to drink anything until the day AFTER your surgery and you've had your leak test. All you can have is an ice cube to put in your mouth and you have to spit it back out. That's it. I had a sore throat from being intubated and I badly wanted a drink of Water - but I didn't get one until the next morning.

I really only got up to pee once and felt woozy. I didn't do all the walking they said you're supposed to, I definitely physically couldn't have! I was groggy to the extreme. Getting up to pee was hard enough. I didn't have any gas pain though, thank god for small miracles.

My hospital stay was uneventful medically. I had low pulse ox, so had some oxygen for awhile (over 24 hours) and my BP went up a little sometimes but was controlled by the meds they gave me. The 2nd day I had my leak test in the AM and was cleared to have some Fluid and had the best tasting water of my life! I sipped slowly and that 1st liquid to hit my new belly felt weird. Our instinct is to chug and you definitely can't do that. I did have some internal soreness and they gave me toradol for that and I felt fine afterwards. Sunday morning I was out in the loser's bench area with my surgery sisters hanging out.

That day, we had a valet named Julio. He was AMAZING. It was my bestie's birthday and he helped me order a delicious cake to be delivered from Uber and even went to find a sign for it. We gathered our new friends and Julio gathered some staff and we all surprised her by singing happy birthday and another yummy mexican meal. It was awesome! We hung out with my surgery sisters (we met a 3rd) and their companions in the hallway and all got to know each other, it was great.

Monday morning came quickly and then we met Bill and Stacy. Dr Illan came back to my room to check on me and we had another lovely chat. He told me that my stomach was big! lol I knew it was. He got a picture of it for me, which of course blew my mind. He had us take a picture together and he wished me all the luck and told me he couldn't wait to hear about my success story.

We left the hospital, hit up a pharmacy, and then Miguel drove us back to the Hotel Real Inn around 10am and then we had a whole other day in Tijuana! I felt perfect so we ventured out again, hit a few shops, and went to the grocery store to bring home Mexican goodies for my family. (I had to go and buy a duffel bag for all the fun stuff I got). I ordered my bariatric meal again and took a nice shower and went to bed, ready to travel back to Florida on Tuesday.

Julian picked us up at 7:45 for our 12:15pm flight (you never know what can delay you at the border) and we had an awesome drive with him. Some roads were blocked, so we were delayed but still had gobs of time. Julian lived in NYC for a long time, so he's pretty American - we loved him. We laughed and joked around the entire ride and he told us about life living in Mexico.

We got on a jet plane and we came home! I've been home 3 days now and I continue to feel awesome. I'm sore and my belly is bruised (where they took my huge stomach out), but I work from home - so rest is all it I need. I haven't been nauseous once or vomited. Day 5 post op and I'm down 13.6 lbs already - since pre-op.

So this sounds like a dream huh? Because it was. It was like going on vacation where I also happened to have an organ removed lol. I will tell you that I would give one piece of feedback for the ultimate experience, the only thing I thought was lacking or could've been done differently. I wish I could've met Dr Illan before I got to Mexico. It's pretty standard to have a conversation with a doctor prior to surgery and you don't get that until you're there. I wish he had emailed me personally, or had a phone call or a video chat. He could've even made me a personal 1-minute video and emailed it to me - just so I knew that he knew I existed and was going to be a patient. That would've calmed me even before I got there. I realize that a lot of people consider surgery and probably don't go through with it, so it could be a waste of time - but that's the cost of doing business. I am a business owner and have consultations with people that never hire me either. It's built into my business model and daily schedule.

Not meeting Dr Illan ahead of time obviously didn't stop me from choosing him, but it almost did. The other doctors I considered contacted me directly (one with a personal video and one with a whatsapp video call).

If you are thinking about doing this surgery, let my testimony help you decide that it is going to be ok. That chances are, it will go amazingly, There is this new life waiting for us that maybe we don't believe is real or we don't believe we deserve. But it is real and we do deserve it! Give yourself the gift of this weightloss to take your life back. I'm so glad I did and I can't wait to see this weight melt off me and stay off me.

Having my surgery with Dr Illan was the best medical experience of my life. I felt cared for, safe, attended to, and healthy the whole time I was there. The hospital is like a resort, very modern and very clean. The nurses and valets were insanely attentive.

Now go leave your stomach in Mexico!

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A great trip/surgery report, I am sure lots will find it helpful

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