Sleeve Gastrectomy: Adventures in surgery assisted weight loss

Episode 1: Making a decision

My personal transformation

Fifteen months ago I was almost 150kg (330 pounds for those on the imperial system) and on the express train to an early departure from this mortal plane.

Weight has been something I had struggled with for my entire life, I had struggled with it through primary school, through high school, and regardless of the constant ridicule and teasing I got growing up, I never had that transformation moment like the movies where the ugly duckling comes good at the end, I never won the school over, I never got the girl… I just got bigger.

I tried everything, god knows I tried… diets, Atkins, keto, exercise intermittent fasting, and you know what, I had small victories, but as soon as I had made headway, I would quickly fall back on bad habits, and then regain what I had lost, and more. This became a non-stop carousel I was never getting off, impacting self confidence and self belief, which I did my best to offset by a self-deprecating humour developed as a protective mechanism since my days at boarding school (kids can be the worst!).

It was a few years post my move to Singapore that I met my wife, an incredibly intelligent, articulate and beautiful person, who saw beyond the packaging to the person inside, she made me so happy, and helped me to regain some of the confidence that I was worth more than the reality I had created for myself. Soon after our marriage, we welcomed our son Oscar, and two years later, our daughter Sarah, our family unit was complete.

Over time, it all started to creep in on me, a kilo here, a kilo there, the need to buy new clothes that fit, and I was beyond the ability to buy clothes off the rack, everything had to be custom tailored in Singapore when it came to anything semi business formal… casual clothes had to be purchased overseas, mostly on trips to the US where I could find my size, but beyond that, the unseen, elevated blood pressure and other challenges, which I just took in my stride, and where necessary, take medication.

It was during a trip to the doctor, that he challenged me to really think about the weight, he suggested I meet with a Bariatric surgeon to talk about options. Getting advice from a specialist is always a good option, especially when its your doctor recommending it, so I managed to convince my wife to join me to meet with said surgeon. As any caring partner does, the first thing that happens is that prior to the discussion, much research was conducted via Google about the various options. My wife who agreed weight loss was something that would be a positive life change, also wanted to ensure that anything we did was not dramatic or to intrusive on the body. With that in mind she had already decided that the best option for me was to have a silicon ring around my stomach, lots of people had done that and had success.

“I don’t actually do the silicon ring anymore, it has a low success rate, and is very intrusive.” the surgeon said as we sat there in the office for the first consultation. Both my wife and I were confused… had the internet lied to us? Was Google… ahem… wrong? (ok I know Google is the search engine, I use this for levity.).

“In fact I have the silicon ring here somewhere, I can show you what it is.” said the surgeon as he rose to peruse his bookshelf of medical devices and paraphernalia. Upon his return he indeed brought over a silicon ring, with a long plastic tube, and a plastic apparatus connected to the end… Both my wife looked at each other bemused, “Does all of this go inside you?” my wife asked. “Indeed,” said the surgeon, “we need to be able to inject silicon in to the ring to increase its size and decrease if necessary, but the reality is as much as you restrict the flow, a lot of people tend to eat their way through it anyway. So like I said, you might change for a while, but its not a change for life.”

Image Source: https://www.lifebridgehealth.org/WeightLoss/laparoscopicadjustablegastricband.aspx

“So what is the recommendation doctor?” I asked…

“The most optimal and less invasive approach is going to be a sleeve gastrectomy. What we will do here is remove 85% of you stomach, stitch it back up, and physically make it impossible for you to over-eat anymore. This has an optimal success rate in all patients, and in my time, I have only had one patient who has ever had any subsequent problems.”

Source: Wikipedia.org (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeve_gastrectomy)

Thinking back I should have asked how many patients he has treated over his career, because if its only one, I would be concerned on his success rate… well he seemed pretty confident.

After seeing the ring, and the hearing about the success rate of each option, we decided then that the sleeve gastrectomy was the way to go. Of course we were anxious about the procedure, but the body is an incredible thing and can heal amazingly well.

“Are there any side effects?” we asked…

The surgeon pondered the question and responded…“Well I have had people who have said their food tastes had changed. One patient who used to love his mother-in-laws home made laksa, found that he no long craved it like he used to, but apart from that, nothing really. The other interesting thing that happens to people is that a part of the area we remove, is responsible for creating chemicals in your stomach that make you hungry, so you wont feel that too much anymore either, you will still get hungry, just not so bad.”

With that we decided that for a drastic change to happen, we needed to take drastic action, and all the help that we could get should be something we try and do, so we thanked the surgeon for his advice, and asked…

“How do we get started?”

The next in the series can now be found here https://realhardman.medium.com/adventures-in-surgery-assisted-weight-loss-the-benefits-and-negatives-7efbfaa98170

Join me for the next article where I will take you on the journey of preparing for a sleeve gastrectomy, and the operation itself. Please give a clap or become a fan if you like where we are headed, I know weight loss is a hard thing to do, and I wanted to share with people you are not alone, my case is an extreme one, and the journey is not yet complete, but if I can share something that helps others, I am happy to do so…

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Matthew Hardman

Matthew Hardman

The thoughts of a technical professional who works across APAC, having the opportunity to see and do a wide range of roles from strategy to people leader.