Sue's Story: Adjustable gastic band surgery from a patient's viewpoint

After a lot of careful consideration in May 2010 I took the plunge and underwent gastric band surgery. Although personally, I don’t feel this should be entered into lightly as it’s a big step to make for anyone, and it certainly needs considerable thought. Equally it may not suit everyone, but it was the right decision for me.

I have struggled with my weight for many years and in the past several years particularly the weight has piled on. This was mainly through eating to much, not doing enough to burn off the calories and in my case medication too. I then reached the point where I simply couldn’t stand it any longer as the weight was getting out of control and something drastic had to be done. I found it very depressing and rather disheartening to watch the weight creep on and the scales steadily increasing. Although luckily for me my weight wasn’t yet impacting too much on my overall health, but I did get bad pains sometimes in my legs and hips when walking. Diabetes also runs in my family so this was another factor to take into account.

I’ve tried numerous diets and weight loss medications over the years with varying degrees of success. However, I’d lose say three stone and then end up putting it back on again plus more. Albeit by the time of gastric banding I had around ten stone to lose and this amount in my opinion would have been unobtainable for me without surgery.

I thought long and hard about having a gastric band and looked into it thoroughly. Then once I had made my mind up there was no changing it! I researched the procedure itself, suitable surgeons and looked at a number of weight loss websites. I also had discussions about it with my GP.

I’ve never felt I eat a lot, but unfortunately do have a sweet tooth and like my comfort food. I also lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle. Sadly it seems like all the nice food has a lot of calories and I don’t have the best willpower either. That tomorrow never comes ... but I guess at the end of the day the equation is simple, if you consume more calories than you burn you’ll gain weight. Sadly for me I only have to think of food and I’ve gained half a stone!

I had the gastric band procedure carried out because I knew if I simply had a physical restriction that literally made me eat less I would succeed in my weight loss as I would not be able to over eat. I knew it was the right option and the way forward. My feeling was if I can’t over eat I’ve surely got to lose weight. Also the gastric band is not permanent such as the gastric bypass. Nothing internally or anatomically is permanently altered and the band can easily be removed if necessary which was another plus for me. It’s also adjustable so the tighter the band the greater the restriction. The band is quickly and easily adjusted by a Doctor who uses a syringe of saline. Also getting the restriction right is important as this affects the amount of food you can eat.

When I had my surgery I was naturally nervous, but at the same time looking forward to what was to come. There wasn’t much in the way of downtime for me after surgery as it’s keyhole, and everything for me personally healed quickly with no problems. This also meant only an over night stay in hospital. Although it has to be said that the gastric band is not a miracle cure, but a weight loss tool. As even with the gastric band you still need to be conscious of what you eat, exercise and so on. It still requires commitment and you need to put the effort in for the gastric band to be successful, but  it’s fantastic to watch the scales go down.

With the gastric band you need to learn to eat differently. For instance, you need to eat smaller meals, take small mouthfuls, eat very slowly and there may even be foods that may not be tolerated. In a nutshell, you eat like a child. Most food and drink should be fine, but you simply consume less of it. There is an initial period of adjusting to the band but this doesn’t take long. Then with a sufficient degree of adjustment and restriction from the band it should be impossible to over eat.

The decision to have gastric band surgery is a very personal choice and is dependent on individual circumstances. However, for me it was not a tough decision and I would do it all again. The gastric band does undoubtedly work, but you need patience as the weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a quick fix and takes time as the weight loss is steady progress. Additionally, after surgery I started back at the gym and also ventured into a swimming pool.

I was also very conscious of trying to make sure I picked the right surgeon to carry out the procedure as you do tend to hear of horror stories. I wanted to make sure I got it right the first time round! Needless to say, thankfully I did ...

Personally I never even considered having the surgery done overseas despite it being cheaper. Equally I didn’t want to pick somewhere in the UK just because it offered a cheap deal. The main criteria was surgical competence, success rates, complications and any pre or post surgery support. Naturally cost was a factor but not my primary concern.

Outcome: When I had the gastric band fitted I was twenty stone. I’m five foot eight and this put me in the morbidly obese category. Once I reach the twenty stone mark I knew I didn’t want to be twenty stone something and knew if I didn’t do anything to address the situation I would be. Today I’m about half the size and am now a healthy weight in the normal weight range. I have only dreamt of being ten and a half stone. For me personally the results have been amazing and faced with the choice again I would have surgery without hesitating. I have had no real problems either. I would tell anyone who is considering surgery to go for it. It’s a big decision but worth it. I am very happy with the results and can only thank Mr Boyle and his team who have done a fantastic job of helping and supporting me to achieve a weight I have so long wished for.

Sue - October 2011

Nicholas Boyle

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