In case you haven’t figured it out yet, SLG stands for Shari Lynn Gardner, LOL yes I can be sarcastic. Not everyone will want to read this page, but for the people who have been following me and my story when I was regularly writing on blogger (surgery complications), family and friends that already know about my medical problems that want updates, or for those of you that just want to know, this is for you.
If you asked me in 2008, where my decisions would take me, being disabled was not even a consideration. I was actually a published author, with a teen novel and several short stories and other novels already in the works. I was working full-time, and going to school to attain my MBA with a concentration in marketing. My now husband and I were living together, but not married yet, and he loved me for who I am, not what I looked like, which was a good thing, because I weighed 300lbs. He didn’t care about the weight and not once ever even suggested my having surgery. I had tried every diet imaginable, but over a ten year period, if I lost any weight, I would put it all back on and then some. I was miserable, so I thought at the time. I had a couple of friends that had already made the decision to have bariatric surgery and they looked fantastic to me. I wanted that. Not necessarily to be “model” thin, but to be healthy. Every doctor I spoke to said to expect to lose about 60-70% of the weight, but if I wanted to lose more than that, then it would be up to me to keep eating correctly and to continue to have portion control. There are people who go through the surgery, and either don’t lose any weight at all or gain it all back because they didn’t listen to their doctors. I had every intention of following the doctor’s rules and knew this would be a life decision, since the surgery requires some rules that have to be followed, such as not eating specific things because they can get stuck and can cause issues.
Unfortunately for me, I followed all of the doctor’s instructions, but for me, I am what doctors and nurses, and many of the medical professionals call a train wreck. One train car comes off the tracks and all of the others follow, as one thing happens and causes other things to occur because of the first thing. Although it is easy to place blame and I know who and what happened to cause all of this and even tried to pursue legal action to no avail, because the statutes of limitation had already passed before the problem was discovered. For almost the full year following the surgery everything seemed fine, I felt fine and had no idea there was trouble brewing. I was losing weight.
Then, I started having problems. I would eat one day and be fine, eat the same identical thing another day and be doubled over in severe abdominal pain. Then I started losing weight really fast, because somedays what I ate simply didn’t stay down. Then one night it got so bad, I ended up in the emergency room for the first time and was told my gall bladder needed to come out. This is pretty normal with bariatric surgery patients, so still I didn’t think much of it. Except, I had the surgery (2009) for my gall bladder, but it did not resolve my problems and so my nightmare began.
Although I was still having pain and trouble eating, the economy hard started its downslide and my husband got laid off from his job, my work laid me off since I had been on medical leave for so long, they had filled my position with someone cheaper and they didn’t need me. I lost my health insurance and because of cost went for two years with no pain medication, until it finally got so bad I ended up in the emergency room again. Finally, in December 2012, I found a different doctor that decided to do exploratory and even he was shocked by what he found. I had a para-esophageal hernia, which means in layman’s terms, my stomach and part of my intestines was lodged into my diaphragm. This all happened because I had a hiatal hernia (which is common–many people have them without even knowing), but mine was growing and the hole was so big it allowed my stomach and intestines to move. After spending several days in the hospital, I came home thinking all was fine. Yes, there was damage to my stomach and to the intestines in the form of nerve damage, but the outlook was bright.
But, within a month all the pain started again and it was as if everything was happening all over again. At this point, the doctors start looking at you as if you have become addicted to the pain killers and that’s all you’re trying to get, so they referred me to a pain specialist. This, even though I thought it was horrible because this new doctor was treating me as if it was all in my head, but the specialist was understanding, listened to me, went over all of my files and tried to come up with a solution, best of all he believed me.
Flash forward to summer 2013, my family and I were camping, and I started to not feel well, unlike what had been going on this entire time (I still had the chronic pain, problems eating, was basically on a liquid diet). This was different, it was cramping, every muscle throughout my entire body, ended up in an ambulance and back in an emergency room. The little hospital upnorth where we were couldn’t handle my situation, so they transferred me to a different hospital closer to home. My potassium had dropped to zero, causing the muscle cramps, but also indicated I had another intestinal blockage (hernia). So, after they raised my potassium levels back to normal (can cause a heart attack if raised too quickly), I got to go home, but then the tests started and I was referred to a surgeon at the University of Michigan. Dec 28, 2013, the surgeon fixed a messenteric hernia, in which my intestines were lodged between the different layers of the messenteric, which is the different layers that protect your organs and the skin on the outside is the last layer. It was after this surgery that it was explained that I had most likely had this hernia the entire time, since my original bariatric surgery. The surgeon that fixed it, said I was very lucky to be alive, since every time I was getting the double-me-over abdominal pain, it was because the intestine was twisting and cutting off blood flow.
So, now that is fixed, but the damage is done. Chronic pain, lymphedema, my intestines no longer function properly meaning vitamin deficiencies, they don’t absorb the vitamins and a lot of the time, not the calories either . I am severely underweight, at the worst I was down to 103lbs. , all of my hair fell out and even now is still falling out just as fast as it grows so if I go out I wear a wig. I have developed numbness in my hands, fingers, sometimes arms and legs, even my face; I have sleep apnea now too , and started sleep walking, and getting hurt when I fall when I wake up. I have double vision, that I had surgery for Nov. 2014, but it didn’t work and unless the doctors at U of M can figure out why, I am looking at being blind in approximately five years. If my weight goes below 110, they are going to insist I have a tube put in, so I struggle to get in enough calories each day.
This train wreck hasn’t stopped yet, not sure it will. I would never recommend anyone having surgery to lose weight and I would hope that my story can help even just one person, which is why I keep everyone informed. If you have questions, ask.