The Man In The (not so big) Gray Flannel Suit

I threw out my entire wardrobe last week. Everything except my socks and shoes. It was so strange to let all my fat stuff go. I hadn’t worn most of it in months, and never wanted to again. But I had a lot of money invested in those clothes, and tossing it all in the donate pile felt like such a waste.

For kicks, I tried on an almost new, size 54 suit coat. To say I was swimming inside it is an understatement. It was a really nice, made-to-measure, gray flannel number, with unstylish double vents in the back and two pairs of matching pants. Perfect for a fat guy, and it wasn’t cheap. In fact, it was the only suit I owned that wasn’t off-the-rack from Rochester Big and Tall. I was blown away by the outsize fit. Part of me can’t believe I actually once filled it up.

I hope it’ll make someone who needs it very happy.

I don’t have much hanging in my closet right now. I bought four shirts from J. Crew and a few from a cheap discount place. Most are extra large, but two are just large. I’ve got two pairs of Levis, size 38, and a pair of khaki pants, no pleats. The sport coat I bought in September is gone, along with some chinos I was using earlier this fall.

I also picked up some exercise clothes, which I’ve been living in, and not just for exercising. There’s something about my new Under Armour thermal running shirt that says ‘fitness’ to me, and it makes me feel good to wear it.

Next up, after the new year, will probably be a new suit, gray flannel too, but designer stylish this time.

Surgery and Levis

I’m down more than 90lbs and just bought size 38 Levis. I
feel no compulsion to scratch out the size on the leather hip patch
like I used to do on my old 54s. Bouncing back fast from last
week’s surgery.

Of hospitals and marathons

I had another surgery the other day, to fix the damage made during my last procedure. It wasn’t unexpected. I’ve actually been building toward this for a while, and it wasn’t as bad as I had built it up to be. But I’m still stuck in the hospital, almost a week later. Crap.

The trouble now is they can’t get the pain under control. Either I get too little relief from the pain meds, or way too much. Agony or ecstasy. Take your pick. I just miss my family and want to go home.

Still, I’m in a much better place than before. The new hospital is good and the docs and nurses terrific. I was thinner and healthier going into the surgery, so I’m feeling stronger now. I’m letting the anger go from all the prior problems. Hopefully, I’ll get this all behind me soon, and start writing about the marathon I want to train for. Yeah, a marathon. Or maybe just a run around the neighborhood with Erica. I’d consider either one a huge accomplishment.

Storm clouds are brewing…

I’m doing better. I’m exercising most days, feeling stronger, eating right and still losing weight – although not as fast as before. Mostly, I’m feeling good. I’m down more than 80 pounds.

Sounds great, I know, and I’d be a happy guy if it weren’t for the abdominal pain and a surgical wound that’s still open and draining. (Gross. Sorry.) Storm clouds are brewing; I might need another operation. Ugh.

It turns out I probably have a significant surgical complication that my original surgeon, and a bunch of radiologists, completely missed. It’s a surgical error, a small tear in my abdomen called a fistula that has kept me from fully healing for months. It’s obvious on the scans, even to a non-doctor like myself. Fluid is leaking where it’s not supposed to.

The fistula is the latest in a string of complications going back to my original surgery on May 10. I’m ready to get past all this crap and move on with my new, thinner life. But I’m in limbo. I can’t look for a job, because I’m not really able to work. I’m still taking pain pills, which I hate.

It’s not clear yet how serious the fistula really is. It may actually have healed a bit on its own, or it may still be leaking. I’ll need further testing for that.

Honestly, I’m not angry about the error itself. Mistakes and complications happen, and there’s really no one to blame. That’s the risk in surgery. It’s frustrating that the error was missed, for months, not only by the surgeon, but by multiple radiologists reviewing dozens CAT scans, MRIs and other tests. They’ve cost me more time.

Frankly, the doctors were as disturbed as me by complication after complication. But instead of harnessing all of their strength and powers to cure me, they stepped away. They moved on to other, less complicated patients, whose problems they could fix quickly, and with less effort. They were tired of dealing with me

I’ve moved on too. I’ve got a new surgeon at a new hospital, and I’ve asked my amazing primary care physician to take a more active role in coordinating my care. I’m hopeful that the worst is behind me.

Honestly, it’s hard to complain. I’m not dead, and I very well could have been. I fought my way back from complication after complication. I’ve lost a lot of weight. Now I just want to get on with my life.

I’m back…

I’ve been away for a while. Sorry I haven’t kept in touch. It’s been a tough summer. I almost died. Twice.

After my gastric bypass surgery, I spent a total of eight weeks in the hospital. I was discharged and re-admitted seven times. I had two other major surgeries – one to take out my gall bladder, and another a day later to staunch severe bleeding. I didn’t even wake up between those two surgeries.

I’ve had more procedures than I care to count – endoscopies, MRIs, barium swallows, CAT scans, and no, they don’t use a real cat, despite what my four-year-old son Ari says. I was in the ICU for more than a week, unconscious, with a breathing tube down my throat, after a hospital-acquired infection took root in my surgical wound, travelled – oddly the docs say – to the salivary glands in my throat and almost closed off my airway. Ignored by the residents and interns caring for me that day, I would have suffocated to death but for a quick-thinking senior physician.

I lost 60 pounds in the hospital, far too quickly. For months, I’ve been poked, prodded and stuck with needles. I’ve had gallons of fluid by IV to keep me hydrated, and I’ve taken more pills (crushed) in the past few months than most people take in a lifetime. I’ve seen dozens of doctors, some fine, but many quite lousy, despite the stellar reputation of Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital.

Like I said, it’s been a rough summer.

I chose to have gastric bypass for all the right reasons. I was fat and getting fatter. Without a radical detour, I would have been dead soon. But it’s frustrating that a positive choice turned so bad.

What’s most upsetting is all the time I’ve lost. I didn’t get to pick up my kids on the last day of school. I didn’t get to take my daughter to sleep-away camp for the first time. My wife Erica, god bless her, had to do it without me. Family and friends visited me in the hospital, and I had no inkling of their presence. The clergy from my Temple – Joel, Jodi and Rachel – visited and prayed with my family, but I was oblivious. My kids cried, and I wasn’t there to console them. And Erica, my amazing Erica, went through the worst crisis of her life at my bedside, and I couldn’t hold her hand.

The good news is that I’m past the crisis. I’m down close to 80 pounds. That’s two-thirds of the way toward my goal of 200. I’m getting my strength back every day, and just last week started exercising again. Slowly, of course, but I’m exercising. I’ve got a huge pile of fat clothes to donate, and I bought some new clothes at Macy’s, instead of the big man store.

I’ve also been amazed at the outpouring of friendship and support from my community. I’ve got great friends, who were there for my family and I every step of the way. Michelle & Joe, Greg & Arlene, Bruce & Melissa, Karen & Mark, Renee & Paul and so many others – you were amazing and I love you all. My sister Andi held my hand in the ICU, where we watched Star Trek late one night. And despite our deep differences, my in-laws were there when it mattered.

I’ve still got some healing to do, but I’m well on my way to a full recovery. I haven’t needed to get rehydrated in the ER for almost three weeks. I’m feeling strong and looking for a personal trainer. I’ve got new sneakers and I’m actually starting to run in them, albeit slowly. That’s what they’re for, right? I’m celebrating my new, slimmer life, and looking forward to dropping my last 45 pounds or so over the next year.

Despite everything, life is good.

Tales of dehydration, potassium and a broken Kindle

So, the first week was tough. The second week was tougher – I was readmitted to the hospital due to dehydration. And the third week, well lets just say I was readmitted again this afternoon for dehydration, vomiting and nausea.

It’s been a frustrating time as I’ve tried to adapt to my new plumbing. I’m down almost 40 pounds, but that’s probably too much, too fast. I just can’t keep anything down. I’m having some tests tomorrow and hopefully the docs will figure this out. Tonight I’m stuck in a hospital bed with a broken Kindle (yeah, I dropped my precious bookreader onto the hard hospital linoleum, shattering it’s screen).

But the dehydration, vomiting, nausea and just feeling like @#$% haven’t even been the worst of my weight loss surgery experience. I’ve had some great nurses to help me through (shout-outs to Lauda, Susan, Cassie, Lisa and a few others I only remember through the post-op drug-induced haze). No, the worst part was during my second readmission, when a (nameless) doc at the hospital decided I was simply choosing not to drink. It was post-surgical anxiety, he said and ordered a psych consult. A psych consult, to help with nausea and vomiting.

Insulting, to say the least.

So, before asking the psych guys (yes, plural) to go away, I suggested they were lucky I hadn’t yet yaked all over them. They left rather abruptly.

I can’t help feeling angry at the (nameless) doc who ordered the consult in the first place. How does vomiting and dehydration stem from post-surgical anxiety? It doesn’t. Frankly, I don’t understand why he didn’t listen to me. I don’t understand why he didn’t take my symptoms more seriously. If we could have dealt with my symptoms last week, I might have avoided a third admission.

The last few weeks have been hard on me, but even harder on Erica and Annie (I’m not ignoring Ari; he’s just too little to understand). Erica is a doc and knows what can go wrong, so she’s always thinking about the worst case scenario. And Annie is just a kid, nine-years-old at that, who’s watched her dad struggle through three inpatient hospital stays in three weeks. Not to mention the week I spent inpatient back in March and the two nights last December, both due to my herniated neck disks. I think she just wants her dad home. I think both my girls just want our normal life back.

They’re right. It’s enough already. I’m starting to wonder if this was a big, giant mistake – an un-doable one at that. To top it all off, at this very moment, they are running all kinds of fluids into my slowly rehydrating body. One of  ‘em is potassium. You’ve heard of it – the Chiquita Banana stuff. It’s good for you, I know. But it burns like hell running through an IV. UGH!