Roux-en-Y surgery is the "best gift" Debbie Westmeyer has given herself
Even as a child, I always considered myself overweight despite the fact that I was athletic and physically active. I tried every fad diet and went through all of the diet programs. I even tried prescription weight loss drugs for a period of time.
My weight had gradually gone up since college, and after my third child I weighed 235 pounds, even though I was only 5'2".
When you're that overweight, you feel like a failure. You feel embarrassed and self conscious. I felt like there was nothing I could do, and that I was just going to be overweight for the rest of my life. When I heard about gastric bypass surgery from my cousin Michelle, I knew it was for me.
We first spoke about it during Christmas (2001) at her house. We were surrounded by all of these great women in our family, but we were all obese. I saw high blood pressure, heart diseae, knee replacement and diabetes in my future. Michelle and I talked about how frustrated we were. We had tried everything so she brought up the idea of gastric bypass surgery.
She had already done all of the research -- she found Dr. [Mark] Kligman, and learned that Roux-en-Y was the gold standard of gastric bypass surgery. So I called Dr. Kligman the first week in January 2002.
After talking to Dr. Kligman I made an appointment. He's very confident, meticulous and detail oriented. He has very impressive statistics with Roux-en-Y surgery -- low infection rates, and low complication rates. He's also a trauma surgeon, which made my husband and I feel better.
Before the surgery, I was required to go to an educational seminar on bariatric surgery. This was given at a medical school in Ohio by Dr. Kligman, who is now the director of the Center for Weight Management & Wellness at the University of Maryland Medical Center. My surgery was scheduled nine months after our meeting, but I kept getting moved up on the list. It actually only took four months from the time I first called his office to when I was scheduled for surgery.
Before the surgery, Dr. Kligman gave me the most thorough physical exam I've ever had. I'm a healthcare worker (an OB-Gyn nurse), so that made a positive impression on me. He also conducted various tests prior to surgery.
On April 22, 2004 I had the laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. After the surgery, I was in the hospital for two nights, and went back into work in three weeks. The advantage of the laparoscopic [minimally invasive] approach is that I was able to go back to work and an active lifestyle very quickly.
Life After Surgery
After the surgery, I lost 90 pounds. It took 12-18 months to lose the weight, and since then I've been maintaining my weight. It's nice to be able to go into the store and buy jeans off the rack. My energy level has increased. I don't feel as self conscious.
Dieting is mind over matter and weight-loss surgery is body over mind. It doesn't change your desire but you can't tolerate as much food, so it's a control mechanism. It causes you to eat better and make healthy choices.
I can now eat just about what I want but in much smaller quantities. I'm thrilled with the surgery, I feel like I've been given a gift and it's been wonderful. It's the best gift I've ever given myself.
You get motivated by success. Once you've had the surgery, you don't ever want to go back to your old lifestyle, and deal with the old weight issues.
Before the surgery I don't remember ever feeling full. Now I know when I'm full and stop when I'm satisfied. I can read my body better and I am more in tune with what it's telling me.
I feel like I lucked out by having the surgery. I didn't have a lot of major health issues but I have a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure. If I hadn't had the surgery I would have faced problems later on. I would do it again in a second. I have no regrets. I feel a lot better now.
My cousin Michelle and I are close like sisters, and it was wonderful going through this with her. Since we both had the surgery, we were a support system for each other.
Dr. Kligman is really dedicated to his patients because he wants to see them succeed. After surgery he follows up with you with visits and monthly support groups. He offers support groups before and after surgery.
One of the biggest compliments I got recently was when I was in a fender bender. I gave the police officer my license, which was taken before I had the surgery. He looked at my license and said 'Wow, you look fantastic!' When people see the old picture on my ID badge at work, everyone makes a positive comment and tells me how good I look. It's a great feeling.