In the previous post, I talked a bit about how difficult and time consuming it is to get approved for the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy surgery here in the states. Now I am going to talk about the process I went through to get the surgery in Mexico.
One of my friends took her daughter to get the surgery in Mexico. My friend had done a lot of research trying to find an affordable option for her daughter. This young lady was very beautiful, but she was also very overweight. Like many of us, she had tried different methods to lose weight on her own with no real success. The girl was to be married in the fall and she was distressed over finding a wedding dress and having photos taken. Finally, my friend and her daughter made the decision to go to Mexico.
Weight Loss Agents (WLA) is a company that helps people connect with surgeons in Mexico, Europe, and the USA, providing specialty procedures such as cosmetic surgery or bariatric surgery.
I asked my friend many, many questions about the process they went through. Being a Registered Nurse makes me very skeptical about health care in other countries. But after I heard their story, I was convinced that this was an option for me too.
I already know about the risks associated with the procedure. I take care of people who have this surgery. I read about the doctors, the hospital, and the nurses who work for the program. I looked the doctors up on the internet. I read testimonials on the WLA website.
I made an inquiry on Weight Loss Agents website. I had to specify which procedure I wanted, and fill out a history and physical form online. My application was reviewed and once my paperwork was approved, the next question they asked was when did I want to have my surgery? Is that amazing or what?
The price of the surgery is all inclusive. I paid one fee for the whole package. WLA helped me find a loan for the total fee at a very low-interest rate. Consent for the procedure and the anesthesia were also signed online.
I requested a week off work. I told only one friend that I was going to have the surgery. On occasion, friends do more harm than good even if they mean well. I didn’t want anyone to discourage me.
I was given a pre-operative diet plan that started two weeks prior to surgery. Also, I had a three-day liquid diet just before my surgery day. It wasn’t fun, but for me, it was worth the effort. I had stopped drinking soda in the spring. No soda is a lifetime change.
On Monday, I flew from Las Vegas to San Diego. The Weight Loss Agents representative picked us up at the airport. There were several other people having the same surgery. We drove to Tijuana Mexico about an hour away. Initially, I was taken to the hospital where my vitals signs and weight were checked. I had my blood drawn and an EKG performed (the EKG was done by a Cardiologist). I met with the financial counselor to make sure all my documents and payment were in order
I was scheduled for the first surgery the next morning. There were quite a few people waiting in the lobby that were also having surgery the next day.
Next, I was taken to the small hotel where I would be staying for about five days. I had a roommate (another pre-operative gastric sleeve patient) the first night. I could have paid for a private room. The hotel was nice. All of the staff at the hotel are aware of the bariatric program and they take really good care of everyone. There can actually be 12-15 patients in the hotel at any one time. The program has 24-7 post-surgical nursing care at the hotel.
I was picked up at 0500 the next morning and driven to the hospital. One of the nurses started my IV. I had brought my own TED hose. I was gowned and ready to go by 0530. Dr. Almanza and Dr. Hernandez came in to talk with all of us who were having surgery. He was very positive and encouraging. Dr. Almanza has had the Gastric Sleeve surgery himself. He told us how it had changed his life. He assured us that we were making the right decision and would never regret it.
I walked into the OR suite. I met the anesthesia doctor. Everyone was ready to go. I woke up in recovery and was taken to my room. I spent the rest of that day and part of the next day in the hospital. I was given IV fluid, nausea and pain medications on a regular schedule. I can tell you that I didn’t feel terrific. I had a drain in place and five incision sites on my abdomen. The surgery is done laparoscopically( small incisions where the instruments are inserted). If I needed more pain meds the nurses gave it in my IV. The nurses were absolutely wonderful. Everyone speaks enough English to communicate.
The evening of the first day, I was allowed to have ice chips. The nurses have a schedule for everything. When I was ready they assisted me to get up to the bathroom and to walk around in the hall. I just took my IV pole and IV fluid with me. It was actually funny to see all of us walking around in circles in the halls. The doctors came in to visit with all of the patients the morning after surgery.
The next day I was taken back to the hotel. The nursing staff gave me a little bag of apple juice, water, and sugar-free jello. I really had no appetite. It was a challenge to get all of the fluids and my pills down those first few days. I mostly ate ice chips. The pills had to be crushed. I took liquid Tylenol with me just in case.
Thursday night the drain was removed from my abdomen. The drain removal was my least favorite part of the whole process. The IV was kept in place until Friday morning. The nurses gave me IV fluids and medication while I stayed at the hotel. We had to have a Xray with contrast prior to leaving. The Xray was to check for any leaks from the stomach. A discharge exam was done by one of the doctors before I left Tijuana.
Friday about noon, I was taken back to San Diego Airport. I flew home Friday afternoon and was back at work on Saturday. I felt incredibly weak for about 3 weeks after the surgery. It is not uncommon to have fatigue and weakness due to not having consumed many calories. The stomach has to heal so clear liquids advancing to full liquids is the diet postoperatively. I was sent home with antibiotics and some other medication. I was given a big notebook with post-operative instructions and diet recommendations.
The hospital was clean. The staff was professional. The hotel was nice. They don’t have all of the technology we have here in the states. However, I felt safe throughout the whole process. I was confident in my ability to judge the safety of the program. Obviously, not everyone has the same experience. If people have multiple chronic health problems they should check with their primary care physician before having this or any other surgery. The opportunity to have the VSG in Mexico is wonderful. But, each person has to make their own decision. The outcome was terrific for me.
I want to leave you with this thought: I can gain all the weight back over time if I don’t follow the VSG guidelines. Stop drinking soda. Stop drinking fluid 15 minutes before meals and don’t drink any fluids with the meal. Don’t drink any fluid until 30 minutes after a meal. Protein is the most important part of the meal. Exercise is still important. Don’t over eat or you will vomit, have chest pain, and regret every bite. Try to eat many small meals throughout the day. Drink your water. Please feel free to contact me with questions. Cheers, AJ