Sleeve Talk Saturday: 5 Things You Should Know Before Choosing A Surgeon

Welcome to the first ever Sleeve Talk Saturday.  While I was planning out posts for the blog, I realized that I wanted to break out my experiences step by step and provide tips and resources to get you through the process.  Whether you’re just considering surgery (or know someone who is) or you’re further along in the process.

STORIES

So you’ve decided to have bariatric surgery?  Whether it be gastric band, gastric sleeve, or gastric bypass, kudos to you for being brave.  Seriously.  The decision to have surgery is not an easy one, but it’s the crucial first step in your new journey.

When I made the decision to have gastric sleeve surgery, I really didn’t have any resources to go to for information and I ended up kinda winging the whole process.  I didn’t know about all of the extras that needed to happen and that I needed to consider before I could even get close to a surgery date.

I’m here to shed light on a few things I wish I’d known after making my decision, but before I thought about who my surgeon would be.

Insurance or not?

For me, this was the number one decider on whether or not I would say yes to having surgery.  I wasn’t sure if my insurance plan would cover it or not and that’s something you’ll definitely need to look into with your own insurance provider.  Some have very strict approval guidelines before they’ll even consider covering your procedure, so you need to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  I looked on my insurance provider’s website, looked at what my plan covered, and even called customer service to confirm.  Just be aware that even after going through all of that, your claim may still be denied.

Cost

Along with insurance, cost was neck and neck for the number one spot.  Even if the majority of your procedure is covered by insurance, there are other costs that come into play that I never realized.  Depending on which doctor you choose, there will be a battery of tests that you’ll need to go through, both on the doctor’s checklist and the insurance company’s checklist if you are going through insurance.  This includes any co-pays, lab fees, gas to and from each visit, and any additional fees not covered by insurance.  See the list below for the majority of tests I had to go through during the approval process.

  • 3 month doctor supervised diet program – this included three mandatory webinars and a couple of in person visits with the nutritionist.
  • Psychological Evaluation – as I found through this process, most psych evaluations aren’t covered by insurance and those fees will have to come out of pocket.  I called around to several different psychiatrists (those that took my insurance and those that didn’t) and the price points were between $200 and $600 dollars depending on how extensive the evaluation needed to be.
  • Abdominal Ultrasound
  • Blood Work/Stool Sample/Urinalysis – it’s a lot of blood work.  A lot.  And it has to be done a couple of times.  The first time I went, I believe she took about 15 vials of blood.  Then I had to go again a week before surgery for follow up blood work.  The urinalysis is self explanatory.  And the stool sample…well, it is what it is.
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Sleep Study – if you suffer from sleep apnea and already have a cpap machine, you may be able to skip this per your doctor’s instructions, but you’ll more than likely need to bring your cpap with you on your surgery day.  I have mild sleep apnea, so I was able to rent a machine from the sleep care center for a few months to get me acclimated before surgery and to hold me over after surgery before I needed to make a more permanent decision.
  • EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy)

Time

Now that you have the list of procedures that need to be done, you’ll need to find time to do them.  I had a three month deadline to get all of my tests done per my insurance requirement, so I had to hustle to get everything done.  That meant time off from work, either from taking the day off to get a handful of tests done at one time, taking a long lunch break, or coming in late/leaving early so I could make my appointments.  If you work in an office or industry where that’s feasible, I highly recommend talking about it to your manager.  I lucked out having one of the best bosses in the world and explained my situation to her upfront.  I didn’t tell her what I was having surgery for, but I did let her know my appointment schedule right off the bat and kept her updated as things changed.  That was a major help in keeping my sanity!

Support System

I’m going to be perfectly honest and say that I didn’t really have a support system during the beginning stages of the process.  Mainly because I only told probably three people.  For me, this was something that I personally needed to go through on my own.  I also didn’t want to jinx anything by telling too many of my friends and family.  If you’re not like me and you need to tell it to the world, make sure they’re people that will be honest with you, but still have your back in the long run.  There’s nothing wrong with your friends playing devil’s advocate so you look at the process from all angles, but it’s not okay for them to not be supportive of a choice that could save your life.  If you don’t have anyone you can go to, but need someone to talk to, I’m here for you as well!  I’ll try to answer questions as best as I can!

Downtime

This is mainly for after your surgery, but I wanted to include it in here as well because it is something important to consider.  For me, I took about two weeks off from work and had the luxury of being able to work remotely a few days from home, but if that’s not an option, you’ll need to figure out what’s best for your situation so that you can get the rest you need.  You’ll be spending at least a night in the hospital, if not two, and then you’ll want to let not just your body, but your mind recover and get used to your new stomach and your new way of life.  This also gives you a chance to start a routine that will help you succeed as you get back into the real world.

Now that you know what lies ahead, I believe that you’ll be able to move forward, confident in your choices. This journey is one of the toughest you’ll ever go through, but remain focused.  You can do it.  Stay brave!!

 

(featured photo credit: Daniel Frank Photography)