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SpartanMaker's Long and Winding Road

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Posted (edited)

I’m not sure why since I’m a pretty private person, but for some reason I want to share my story here. Honestly even if no one reads this, I think just writing it will help me feel better?

This first thing people should know is that weight loss surgery has saved my life and I have not even had surgery yet! How? Well it’s a long and winding story. Grab a Protein Shake and settle in…

In January 2020 (you know, back in ancient history pre-covid), my insurance changed and started covering bariatric surgery. I had thought about surgery before, but my wife was set against it and especially considering the out of pocket cost, had decided it wasn’t for me. With the change, I decided to investigate it more.

In February of that year, I booked an info session at the biggest bariatric center in the state. They let me know all the things I’d need to do before I’d be approved, so I started the dietitian visits, started booking appointments with all my various doctors, and just generally trying to be as prepared as I could.

Among the approvals I’d need from my various doctors, one was with my cardiologist. I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, which can mean nothing, or can very serious. The biggest challenge is that over time, the valve can become calcified, causing an already reduced blood flow to become much worse. Since we knew it was potentially dangerous for me, my surgeon insisted we get full approval before proceeding.

At the cardiologist appointment, he decided further testing was needed. By early April 2020, I had some CT procedures to get a better idea how badly the valve was blocked. Things were not looking good, so I was scheduled to undergo a cardiac catheterization procedure to see if I was a candidate for valve replacement via cath.

Here’s where things take a turn for the worse. During the cath procedure, the doctor noted that my left anterior descending artery was 90% blocked. In the medical world this artery is known as the “widow maker” because blockage will cause a heart attack and the survival rate for widow maker heart attacks is only about 12%.

I’ll stop here for today. (Yes it’s a cliff hanger, but spoiler alert, I’m still alive!)

I think you can see how I can rightfully say bariatric surgery saved my life, even though I have not even had surgery yet. Had I not decided to have the surgery, I probably would never have had that cardiology visit, meaning I would not have known about the blocked artery.

Edited by SpartanMaker

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We ended with me lying on the table in the cath lab being told that I am in danger of imminent death.

Now before I go on, I should explain something else about me. I’m severely hearing impaired. This is important here, because you have to picture me on that table, feeling pretty good (I think they gave me a Valium), and then waking up to find everyone in the room desperately trying to get my attention.

I finally come around from my stupor enough to explain to them that I’m hearing impaired, so I don’t understand what’s going on. I’m pretty good at lip reading, but we’re in basically an operating room and everyone is gowned up and has masks on!

Finally I explain that I have partial hearing in my left ear, so if they come around there and speak slowly and close to me I will probably be able to understand. It took a few tries, but I finally gather I really am in imminent danger and they were recommending that they put a stent in me RIGHT NOW.

Doing so might seem like a no-brainer, but like lot’s of important decisions, there are always trade-offs. I didn’t feel alert enough, nor did I feel like I understood the options I had, so I told them no. Bottom line, they patched me up and took me out to recovery. (I’m sure they were all thinking I was an idiot and that they’d never see me again.)

While in recovery, I asked them if someone could explain my options better. Fortuitously one of the heart surgeons had just finished up a procedure and he came by to discuss my options with me (with my wife present as well). After some soul searching and after better understanding the tradeoffs, I actually opted for open heart surgery. The reason is that if they had done the valve replacement via catheter (something called TAVR), I likely would not have been able to have a second one that way in the future. That would have meant that in 10-12 years, I would have needed another valve replacement and they would have had no option but to do it via an open heart procedure. I figured it’s better to get the open heart procedure done while I’m younger and save TAVR for later when I’m likely less able to tolerate major surgery.

Yea, we get it dude, but what does this have to do with WLS?

It means that in less than 2 months, I went from being excited to be having weight loss surgery, to knowing I’m living on borrowed time. I’m also realizing at about that time that my dreams of weight loss surgery have been dashed, or so I thought. Instead (assuming I make it to my heart surgery date), I was facing the reality of having one of the most major surgical procedures one can have. Oh yea, and I'd get to do it during peak COVID. How fun!

We’ll stop there today, but in case you’re still in suspense, I still survived!

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