My experience with VSG in Mexico

This is a long post so get a cup of tea or coffee and settle in.

I’m starting with the day before surgery because that’s the day it all really started. I’m also using real time for all my time tables so bear in mind I start the day in Eastern Standard Time (EST) and end in Pacific Standard Time (PST).  If I remember I will try to make it a  little nicer but keep it in mind if the times look a little crazy.

Day -1: Final Pre-op Day – Wednesday

  • Drank my last protein shake at 9am on the way to pick up my support person (here out called SP) and head to the airport.  Flight was at 11:50-ish and we got there with plenty of time.  Even had enough time standing in line for TSA to drink a full water bottle. Flight was on time and the first leg was 3 hours.
  • Arrived in Houston with only 45 minutes to get to the far side of the airport and get something to drink and load.  Made it with time to spare to use the restroom, thanks in large part to the train.  This was also my break to pump and dump (here out called P&D) which was trickier than I imagined.  For some reason I never realized this was going to happen in a bathroom stall in the airport!  But it did.  It was awkward and more than a little gross, in my opinion. Flight was on time and this leg was about 3 hours as well.
  • Arrived in San Diego at 4:00pm-ish (PST) and made the call to our driver.  There was a bit of confusion in where to meet, more because of my Ohio accent than his Mexican accent, I think, LOL.  So, we got picked up around 4:30pm and were notified we had to wait till 6pm to pick up another party.  First uh-oh since we were told we’d be taken immediately to the Clinic for blood work before 7pm.  No problem, it ends up, because our driver, Angel, took us on a hunt for something decent to eat and we found a wonderful little organic grocery store called Sprouts.  Ended up with a carry-out container of homemade chicken and dumplings.  I had the broth and my SP had the dumplings and vegetables.  It was the best.broth.ever!!
  • Made the drive back to a little park by the bay to wait for the arrival call for our other passengers.  Got some nice photos and saw a Navy ship come into dock.  All in all not a bad time.  Angel answered a lot of questions and he was just the best personality and sweetest man.
  • Got the call at 6:15pm and went to pick up the other ladies.  Really friendly and nice ladies!  I couldn’t have chosen better people to be together with on this journey!  From there we took the 20 minute drive to the border and another 15 minutes +/- to the hotel.  No wait at the border when going south. Since we were going to be right around 7pm it was decided that we go straight to the hotel tonight and just do the bloodwork in the morning.  Not a problem since I know drawing blood from me is extremely hard.  We were tired, anyway, since it was around 10pm our time back home.  Check in was smooth.  One glitch here was I didn’t realize I would need $100 for an incidentals deposit. I had a credit card but would have preferred not to use it at all.  Turned out fine fine though.  Got our room, said goodnight to the others and headed up to bed.  The room was comfortable and clean and the bed was nice. Did a P&D before sleep.

Day 0: Surgery Day – 05/12/16 – Thursday

  • We were called and told to check out, bring all our luggage and meet in the lobby at 7am.  No problem for us since we were still on EST and awake at 5am PST! I had no problems getting in my P&D before we left. When we got to the lobby, check out was odd and there was a line of all the other patients.  This is where we met the rest of the group that would make up the surgery patients for that day.  There were 4 of us, altogether, doing the VSG.  Check out was fine and we loaded all our stuff and ourselves into a Marriott van and headed to Hospital CER. Arrived at the Clinic (not technically a hospital) around 8am and had a little bit of a hurry up and wait as the staff and our coordinator got there.  By 9am we were on the 4th floor filling out paperwork and being assigned to rooms.  Shortly after, I was taken for weight and height and assigned my room, number 6.  Once there, my blood was drawn and vitals were taken. Several doctors came in and spoke with us asking questions and answering questions.  I told them I was still breastfeeding and they assured me I’d have time for another P&D before surgery.
  • I think it’s important to take a minute here and add a bullet point for the condition of the facilities all on its own.  First, it’s a new building with new equipment.  Second, they were cleaning the building CONSTANTLY!  I mean the brown uniformed workers were ALWAYS mopping or wiping or scrubbing something.  Your shoes literally squeaked on the floors they were so clean and you could see your reflection in the smooth white doors of the room.  In our room, the floors were still drying and there was no dust to be found.  Bedding was clean and smelled clean.  Bathroom was beautiful and spotless!  In all my surgeries I have never seen a cleaner room and it really, really put to rest any fears I had about hygiene.
  • After vitals they gave me time to change clothing into the surgical robe and do the P&D.  It was probably close to 11am by now.  They also got my IV going and first round of fluids and antibiotics.  The IV was amazing because I am a very difficult stick.  It usually takes many tries, collapsing veins and bruising both arms in several places before finally getting it to work in the back of my hand.  But here, they used an infrared scanner to find a spot midway up my forearm.  They stuck me there to begin with and it worked on the first try. Amazing!
  • Then we ran into a hurry up and wait that I feel could have been avoided.  We also had some miscommunication. I was told, at this point, that I was the last surgery of the day — and they didn’t start actually working on patients till the O.R. was transferred to the bariatric doctors at 2pm.  Another lady was told noon so we don’t really know when they started.  Before this time, whatever it was, the plastic surgery doctors were using the O.R. and they had to clean and sanitize it before bariatrics could use it.  Makes sense to me EXCEPT they told me not to drink ANYTHING from midnight on!  That means I was cranky and thirsty and could have had soup broth or jello or something all the way up to, at least, 9am knowing I was the last and they couldn’t even start the first till 2pm!!  Ends up I was right because I got wheeled back to surgery at 5pm. If you’re handy with math that means we were left to sit and wait for 5 hours, without knowing what was going on.  Really, a couple hours would have been a killer but 5 hours… with no food since midnight… IV in…  It was awful.  On the plus side I got a second P&D in.
  • About 5 minutes before they came for me they had me drink some liquid they said was a relaxer.  I didn’t need it as I was really more than ready to get the show on the road but I took it anyway.
  • So, surgery itself? Didn’t feel a thing. Wheeled into the OR, moved to the operating table and put an oxygen mask on and I was out cold.
  • Next thing I remember was looking at the clock that said 18:50 and I passed out again.  I had a tough time coming out of it.  My eyes just couldn’t stay opened.  I did throw up when I tried getting up for the first time.  Wasn’t really bloody and I was grateful for that. I had a lot of the shoulder and chest pain from the gas!  It did feel just like I was having a heart attack!  Each time I walked it felt just a tiny bit better.  So, mostly I slept with the occasional wake up for vitals, meds and a clumsy turn about the hallway.  I was doing 2 laps around the hallway for that first night and not much else.

Day 1 post-op: Friday

  • This day can really be summarized by walking, pain meds, anti-nausea/acid reflux meds, antibiotics and more fluids.  With an occasional P&D thrown in. Met up with friends while walking and compared stories.
  • I was up early since I was still stuck on EST so I got a lot of walking in while others were sleeping.  When I say a lot, I mean 4 laps around the short hallway instead of 2!  It wasn’t a lot and it made everything ache, except my chest!  It made the gas pain feel so much better.
  • Around 8am or so we did the first leak test with the blue dye.  This happened again later in the evening.  Also in the evening we were given some other dye that we were told was for the x ray in the morning.  Not sure the point of this but I did it anyway.
  • Also around 8am my first glass of red gatorade and ice chips showed up!  I wanted to laugh because there was no way I could drink it. I could stand less than 1/2 a teaspoon every 15-30 minutes, my stomach was THAT sensitive.  And the ice chips?  Forget it!  My stomach was an absolute No-No for anything cold for many days!
  • Dr. Garcia also came in the morning to check the incisions and drain line and to see how I was doing.  The dietician also came to give us paperwork about the post-op diet.  Lastly, the doctor on call came and checked everything.  After the doctors were done we were ordered to take showers while cleaning came in to change the bed and clean the room.  I’m telling you, clean!  When I was in a room in the States for a c-section for 4 days they never did that!  Anyway, it was nice to have clean sheets after a shower AND not worry about what’s on the floor.
  • Maybe around 2pm or so, right after the shower, they came in and cleaned the incisions and around the drain line and re-bandaged.
  • This was about the time I really started having trouble with the drain line causing a lot of pain.  The pain meds helped but I could definitely tell when they were wearing off.  The doctors wouldn’t pull the drain line till after the x-rays the following morning so there wasn’t anything to be done but grin and bear it.
  • A second minor complication came up in that the IV was swelling my arm at the insertion site.  They offered to move the line but they also told me they would be removing the line in the morning so I opted to leave it since it was still in the vein.  No idea why the swelling when it was obviously in the vein.  It wasn’t causing any pain in my arm at this point but at some time during the night it started burning when anything was added to the IV line.
  • Again this night we were periodically woken for vitals and more meds. They kept a close eye on the swelling in my arm and periodically checked to make sure it was still in the vein.
  • This was a fairly restless night between the IV and the drain line so I got a lot of walking in.  Still, every minute that passed I felt a little bit better.

Day 2 Post-op: Saturday

  • This day started out rocky and went down hill for a good portion of the day. It started with the IV causing considerable burning and I finally asked it to be removed as soon as the last antibiotics were injected.  I even refused the last pain meds and anti-nausea because it was hurting so much.  I’ll regret this later, but I couldn’t have possibly known it at the time.
  • Got the IV out around 5am and was ordered into the shower and to dress to go get the x-ray.  X-rays would be done at another facility so we needed to be packed, ready to go and in the lobby at 7am.  It was nice to take a shower without the IV pole in the way of washing and getting dressed.  We still had the drain line which was still hurting, but now it would even hurt when I laid down.  Standing, it was a little painful.  Sitting upright was ok.
  • Our daily red gatorade and ice was delivered around 7am. I still hadn’t made it thru the 12 oz. cup from the previous day but was getting there.
  • Around 7:30am we were told to go downstairs with all our bags to the main lobby to wait for the driver.
  • Before we went to the main lobby I grabbed the second cup of gatorade, which made roughly 4 oz of fluid from 5am till 7:30am.
  • 8am, still no driver and we were suppose to leave at 7am. At this point I couldn’t even sit anymore because of the drain line poking me in the insides! One of the ladies finally got mad enough to track down the driver and we found out there was a bike race downtown and our driver (and the surgeons) were stuck on the other side.  Poor, poor planning that caused a cascade of issues!  This was awful.  We were in pain!  I realize we were a special case and no one ever has to endure this, but that didn’t make our pain go away.  We met up with some other women who had the surgery the day after us and they confirmed that it only took them 20 minutes to get x-rays and be back to CER to get the drain line and staples removed. So what happened to us is not the norm BUT it did happen to us, it was miserable, and our coordinator and driver could have prevented it.
  • Finished another 4 oz of gatorade before the drain pain got the best of me and I couldn’t drink anymore. But I took a bottle of water with me to sip on thru the morning.
  • 9am we finally got picked up and driven to the x-ray imaging center.  They open at 8am and we should have been one of the first groups to arrive.  Instead, there were over 40 people in front of us and over an hour wait!  Adding insult to injury.
  • All-in-all it took nearly 2-1/2 HOURS! to get out of the place.  One member of our group got extremely sick and the rest of us were hurting badly.  I couldn’t sit due to the drain line pain so I had to stand for almost 5 hours total this morning.  It was a nightmare.
  • One thing that bothered me the most was that our driver left.  Yep, dropped us off there and left. Here is a group of women, in considerable pain, in a foreign country, in an office that spoke broken English at best, and we had no representation.  In the end it was fine because I called the coordinator and told her when we were done and the driver showed up immediately.  But it was a horrible experience nonetheless.
  • I don’t think I need to describe the drive to and from the imaging place.  If you can picture hell this drive wasn’t far off.. especially the ride back to CER.
  • This whole snowball effect of poor planning because of a bike race was like a fly in a perfect bowl of soup.  Ugly, and you can pick it out and the soup would probably taste fine, but you would remember that it was there and it affects the taste mentally anyway.  Very disappointing and VERY stressful and VERY painful.
  • Just before noon we finally got back to the Hospital CER and all 4 of us were in excruciating pain, tired and sick.  I think the coordinator finally got a clue when we all staggered in because we were then moved very quickly to the second floor to remove the staples and drain lines.
  • By this time I was no longer walking upright because the pain was too great.  I swear the drain line was stabbing my very sore and sensitive stomach every time I breathed.  I couldn’t physically take a deep breath.  It was probably some of the worst pain in my entire life, even considering 2 c-sections.
  • Best thing in the world was when he removed the drain line at about 12pm!  It didn’t hurt but just felt weird. Since I had drain lines before I knew what to expect. However, I had never had metal staples removed and I was intimidated by those but they didn’t hurt at all!
  • There were side effects from all this time not breathing well and that was that my lungs developed some fluid in them. Left overs from general anesthesia already had my asthmatic lungs sensitive and this was too much for them to handle. I spent the rest of the trip working on getting my lungs to work properly but I still ended up on prednisone after I got home.
  • But things went better from this point, thankfully.  We were released, signed paperwork, received a folder of information, given follow-up instructions and medications and delivered to the hotel.  The time was about 12:30pm!
  • I ordered beef broth and water as soon as we got our room number. The beef was too strong for my stomach (no one else had this problem when I asked the others later) so I resorted back to the water. So far I had drank 8 oz of red gatorade and almost 16 oz of water.
  • Around 6pm we ordered a taxi in the lobby to go to Walmart to get some powerade or other flavored drinks. Ended up with a sugar-free version of gatorade, lemon flavor, blue powerade, and 4 fruit juice boxes that were actual fruit with no-sugar added and even had some gritty pulp.  I tried the gatorade first but the fake sweetener and too over-the-top flavor-with-chemical-after-taste was too much for  my stomach. I ended up just sipping water for the rest of the day.
  • Woke in the middle of the night with the gasses from my stomach bringing up the flavors of the beef broth and gatorade making me nauseous. Brushing my teeth made a huge improvement…

This post is already a little too long so I’m going to break it off here and continue on the next post.

Love and God’s blessings,
Sarah

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