Around four months ago I wrote the tenth installment of Big in Beijing, in which I explained that I was going to have weight loss surgery. My stomach would be reduced by 70 percent. I had the surgery in March, but it has taken me some time to write this last Big in Beijing, as I was recovering from major surgery and adjusting to a new lifestyle.
Having this procedure was not an easy decision, but it has paid off. On the day of my surgery, I weighed a whopping 116 kilos and had a BMI of 42. I was morbidly obese. The day of the surgery was quite exciting; I was not allowed to eat from the day before, and was getting very grumpy. My husband and daughter brought me to the hospital and settled me in, then I asked them to leave me alone for the rest of the day. I did not want my daughter to get bored in the hospital, so they went off to a fun indoor playground.
A week before the surgery I donated blood for myself, as I have the very rare “panda blood” (rhesus negative), and I wanted to make sure that no emergency supplies would be used for me. I also had many pre-surgery examinations, to check my stomach would be OK to cut into.
Waiting for the surgery was boring, but luckily I had a family friend to keep me company and document the day for me. The surgeons came to visit and talked me through the surgery and how the next few days would be. Of course, pictures were taken; this is quite unheard of in western countries, but I was adamant I would have the day documented. I had my drip already in my arm for glucose water, as I was not allowed to drink or eat before the surgery. At four o’clock in the afternoon, I walked myself to the surgery room, of course wearing the amazing hospital dress with open back. I was strapped on a surgery bed, and my arms and legs were strapped down; I was not too fond of this, but while the surgery is going on they’d rather not have arms and legs flopping around. I was injected with special sleepy stuff, and I was down in a few seconds.
The procedure is quite fast, and the surgeons blow up your belly area to get close to the stomach more easily. I had four very small incisions. While the surgeon was working he found a hernia in my belly button, so he took care of this while he was at it. After the surgery, I was woken up and monitored. I was not doing well as my breathing was very hard. I asked them to get my CPAP machine and they hooked me up to some oxygen. I actually feel very emotional while writing this; waking up from such invasive surgery was hard for me. I was completely out of breath and felt like something was very wrong. Never in my life that I felt more regret: why had I wanted this? Why had I pushed so hard to be in so much pain?
They kept me in the surgery room longer than normal as I was struggling, they then lifted me to a hospital bed. Needing four adults to do this was horribly embarrassing. My friend was waiting for me and it had turned dark outside. The joking times I usually love were nowhere to be found. I was in pieces, my body was in so much pain. After I was back in my room I called my mother and was wailing like a child: “Mama, what did I do now?” I had never heard myself wail like that; I sounded like a wounded animal. Soon after another family friend came to spend time with me and make sure I was fine. I felt anything but fine.
The stay in the hospital was nothing like I expected. I thought I would be reading, and watching movies, and maybe even doing some work on the computer. I was very wrong. Most of the time was spent trying to pass gas as some of the gas they pump in you for surgery is stuck in your body. This is the most painful part; I learned a newfound compassion for colicky babies. After four days in the hospital, I was released to go home on my birthday. I only had drunk very small sips of water and clear broth. I was hungry and in pain.
When I got home I was thrown into reality: my family had to eat and I could not. The first two weeks after surgery you are only allowed to sip on liquids. Watching my family eat was very hard; many times I would cry alone in the bedroom. From stuffing my face with any kind of food possible to not being to able to eat anything. Little did I know that the journey to a healthy body and new relationship had only just started. Find out next week if it was worth it.
Photos: Pauline van Hasselt, Oasis International Hospital