Friday, February 19, 2010
Lap-band Surgery at Hospital Angeles in Mexico
It was perhaps a month ago that I did some research on the internet about lap band weight loss surgery. I’ve long felt that this was going to be my best hope since all my other efforts had failed in the past. I found a site that described the Hospital Angeles, a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico that could do the surgery for $6,000.00. Since I’d recently received a small inheritance that would cover that amount, I initiated the process.
My surgery was scheduled for February 12th, a date that was only about two weeks away at that point. A hospital coordinator helped me book a flight to San Diego and made all of the arrangements.
The surgeon did not require any special diet prior to surgery so I pretty much ate as usual until 9:00 PM Thursday night when I was supposed to stop eating. My boyfriend and kids and I went out to Mexican food that night for my last meal. My flight left Eugene, Oregon at 6:16 AM so I had to get up at the God-awful hour of 3:30 AM. I’d decided to take this trip on my own since my boyfriend was such a pain in the ass when I was in the hospital having our two kids. I have also traveled a great deal in Latin America and even lived in various parts of Mexico for short periods of time previously so I was pretty comfortable making the trip on my own.
I was nervous about the surgery and also excited about hopefully excising my demons once and for all. I got to San Diego about 10:30 AM and wandered around for 45 minutes or so looking for the driver who was supposed to take me across the border to the hospital. I had just decided that the whole thing must be a huge scam and I’d just given all my money to a Mexican con-artist when I finally saw a man holding a cardboard sign with my name on it. There was another woman traveling from the airport to the hospital with me to have the same surgery. She was coming from Canada since their national health plan doesn’t cover lap band weight loss surgery except in cases in which it is deemed medically necessary. I felt better knowing that I was traveling the last bit with another person. She also knew two other ladies who’d had the surgery at the same hospital and who’d had a great experience.
We arrived at the hospital and they whisked us off for pre-op tests including a chest x-ray and blood work. Then we were taking to our rooms. My room was very nice and comfortable and had lovely private bathroom, a hospital bed, a TV and DVD player as well as a bench-bed for guests and a reclining chair. Everything was very clean and new.
A beautiful Latina joined me in my room and identified herself as a psychologist. She talked to me about my plans and eating habits and apparently determined that I wasn’t too crazy for surgery. She was a little condescending, especially when she examined my regular diet and scolded me for having things like potato chips. But overall she said that I shouldn’t have to make too many changes and that I should do really well.
Throughout the rest of the day I met my anesthesiologist and surgeon. I liked both of them very much, especially the surgeon who was very reassuring. Nurses came in and out and I read and prayed and watched TV until they finally came and got me around 7:30 PM for surgery. They took me into the surgery area and the anesthesiologist came over and asked me if I wanted something to relax. I said something like, “Hell yes!” and he shot something into my IV. My next memory is of sort of waking up and being really, really uncomfortable lying on my back in the post-op area. The nurse kept telling me not to try to move, but I cannot lie on my back comfortably under normal circumstances so I kept trying to shift to my side to get more comfortable. I vaguely remember them taking me back to my room and coming into the room a few times during the night to check my IV.
I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good considering. I wasn’t aware of any pain in the incisions, but the gas that they fill you with during surgery made moving painful. I felt like I’d done about 100 sit ups – my stomach muscles were pretty sore. I got really uncomfortable if I stayed in one position so I had to make myself move from side to side periodically. I also had pain in my chest, neck and throat which I attribute to having been intubated.
Not long after I awoke, they came and took me downstairs for another x-ray. This time they had me drink something really nasty so they could make sure everything seemed in order. I felt kind of sick from the walking and standing and had to sit down while I waiting for the x-ray. A while later, they gathered all six of the lap band patients in at that time to meet with a nutritionist. It was nice to talk a bit with the other ladies. Three of us were from the US and the others were Canadians. One woman had come down for her first fill as she was six weeks post-op. She said she’d lost 22 lbs. at that point.
That first day I showered in my fancy bathroom and spent most of the rest of the time watching TV and reading. I also napped off and on. The nurses came in from time to time and gave me more pain meds. The surgeon also came in and said that everything had gone well and that my morning x-ray looked fantastic. He also said they’d found a hiatal hernia which they’d repaired so I shouldn’t have anymore issues with heartburn (that alone would make this worthwhile).
They served me two meals that Saturday – both of Jello-O, apple juice, tea and for lunch, broth. I wasn’t very hungry.
By the end of the day I was pretty tired and sore. No nurses had been around for awhile and I knew I couldn’t lie down comfortably and I also couldn’t sleep sitting up so I finally called the nurse and asked for some pain meds. She gave me some and a dissolvable sleeping pill.
I woke up the next day feeling wonderful. Much of the gas-discomfort was gone (not gas like burping or farting, but gas from what they put inside the patients during surgery). They took my IV out and I took a shower. They changed my bandages and the hospital coordinator called me to say that a driver would be there by 10:00 AM to take me to my hotel.
I’d talked to someone who’d had this surgery at Hospital Angeles prior to finalizing all my arrangements and she said she’d wished she’d stayed an extra night and not traveled on the third day so I took her advice and stayed in Tijuana. The hospital paid for the cost at a beautiful hotel down the street. I asked the driver to stop at a pharmacy so I could fill my prescriptions and spent a lazy day at the hotel.
I was finally able to use the internet in my room at the hotel so I spent some time goofing around on Facebook and reading my email. I also watched a couple of movies and took two long baths in the huge tub. At some point, I walked across the street to the grocery store and bought a bottle of ice tea and a bottle of water as well as three things of Jell-O and some trinkets for my kids. It was really very nice to relax and spend the day like that. I’m really glad I stayed the extra day. Although I was still sore, it really wasn’t bad. I could lie on my side and curl up in the blankets and as long as I didn’t move, I felt no pain at all.
I had to get up really early again the next morning for the driver to pick me up at 5:00 AM. He drove me back to the San Diego airport. Crossing the border took a bit of time, but I was at the airport by 6:00 AM. My first flight was cancelled so they put me on a flight that was boarding by the time I’d gotten to the gate. They also upgraded me to business class which was so nice since it gave me more room. One thing that I found with this trip was that the seatbelts on the older planes (I was on five planes overall between the two travel days) barely fit across me. I literally had to struggle to get the clasp closed. On the newer planes, there was room to spare seat-belt wise, but when I put the arm rest down, I was literally stuffed into the seat. I am also tall (5’8”) so my knees barely fit behind the seat in front of me. Plane traveling is not very comfortable to begin with, but I really felt like I had to check my dignity with my baggage at the terminal. I hope that the next time I travel, I am considerably smaller.
I was home by 2:30 PM and my boyfriend picked me up at the airport. We picked up my youngest daughter at my mom’s house and went home. I spent the rest of the day catching up with my kids and boyfriend and overall feeling pretty well. I was back to work the next morning at 9:00 AM. I felt so well that I even took my dog for a walk first. I usually walk him every morning for 25-30 minutes between the time I take my kids to school and when I leave for work. I was moving kind of slow, but it felt good to be back in the routine.
It is Friday today – one week after the surgery. I feel great. My incisions are healing well and really don’t hurt much although they are looking pretty bruised. I have left them uncovered since Wednesday and haven’t taken any pain meds most days. Overall I am so glad that I did this! I am really optimistic about the future and hopeful that this powerful tool will finally allow me to live my life the way I want.
If you are considering having your Lap-band surgery at Hospital Angeles, please tell them I referred you so I can receive a $50 referral credit. Here's my patient coordinator's information: