Erin chose to have weight loss, or bariatric surgery. From her perspective,
Erin answers some questions to help others better understand the process,
the surgery, the recovery, the lifestyle changes, and to basically tell
her story to help others in their decision making process.
Why did you decide to have weight loss, or bariatric, surgery?
I had toyed with the idea of weight loss surgery for a few years. I had
even gone so far as to make a consultation appointment twice before and
I had chickened out both times. In October 2016, my second niece was born,
and I was over visiting and playing on the floor with my other niece who
was almost 1 year at the time and my daughter who was 10 years old at
the time. When I was done playing, I was getting up from the floor and
actually had a hard time in doing so. I vividly remember taking a moment,
looking around at my two very young nieces and my daughter, and thinking
to myself that if I continue the way I’m going, I will never see
them grow up. I was 32 years old and couldn’t get up from the ground
without a struggle. I knew that something had to change. Three days later
we were at a family wedding and one of the woman at our table had just
had the sleeve gastrectomy a few months prior. She looked healthy and
happy and all I kept thinking was “I want that too”. The Monday
after, I scheduled my consultation appointment for the third time and
never looked back.
How did you feel about the surgery prior to going through the process and
Honestly, I was skeptical. On one hand, it almost seemed too good to be
true. On the other hand, I work in the hospital and have heard and seen
my fair share of horror stories. I also think a part of me was afraid
to admit that I needed surgical intervention to help me regain my life
back. I had very mixed feelings.
Did you have preconceived notions about weight loss surgery?
Definitely. I think a big part of me resisted because I felt like it was
the “easy way out”. It’s anything but! I really had
to work and sacrifice my old way of life and old habits that were so instilled
in my mind for years.
What was most important to you when going through the process for weight
loss surgery? What was the most concerning or frightening aspects?
The most important thing to me was the unwavering support and reassurance
all around - from my surgeons to my family, to my friends. The most concerning
thoughts I had was the thought of having to give up food. I am a big foodie
and so many of my activities and lifestyles revolved around food - where
I was going to go out to eat on any given day, what snacks I had in the
house, what my next meal was going to be, etc. The thought of changing
literally the biggest part of who I was, was terrifying to me. I have
to say in the end though, everything worked out. I still enjoy food but
on a much smaller scale and I make smart choices when it comes to food.
I’ve found a love of cooking and trying new things at home because
it’s just easier to eat home and make what I can eat rather than
to go out and have to make substitutions (my wallet is also very happy
How long did it take to make the decision to have weight loss surgery?
In total, it took about 2 years. As I had said before, I called and made
two separate consultation appointments at two different times over the
course of 2 years but chickened out for both of those. The third consultation
appointment was the charm J
Did you receive nutritional counseling prior to and after weight loss surgery?
Yes, I had a few appointments with the nutritionist in Dr. Jawed and Abkin’s
office, Anna. She is wonderful. In addition to the appointment I had face
to face with her, she provided me with a very detailed packet guideline
on what to eat and what I could have at each stage. Additionally, she
helps lead the online Facebook support group once a month so I have gotten
advice and guidance from her there as well.
Did you receive a behavioral health screen prior to weight loss surgery?
What was that like?
Yes, I received a behavioral health screen. It was very helpful and we
talked about my past history, and anything that may be an issue for me
going through a major lifestyle change. She had brought up a few different
scenarios with me that I hadn’t previously thought of and it was
good to talk it out. It better prepared me for what was to come and she
helped ease any anxiety I had and made me feel more ready to proceed with
surgery and life after weight loss surgery.
Did you attend a seminar or support groups for weight loss surgery and
if yes, how did that help?
I didn’t attend any seminars but I did join the office’s Facebook
group which was so helpful to talk to others who either have been through
this already or other who are going through it at the same time. They
also hold an online support group once a month which was very helpful,
especially post-surgery. I feel like even when you have a very supportive
“village” behind you, they still don’t fully “get
it”. It was incredibly helpful for me to have people to turn to
that were going through the same things I was and we encouraged each other
and cheered each other on through the good days but even more importantly,
through the rough days.
Did you have diabetes, high blood pressure or joint pain before weight
Yes, I suffered from all three prior to weight loss surgery. This was part
of my motivation to move forward with surgery. Within 2 months’
post-surgery, I was able to come off of the medications for diabetes and
high blood pressure! I also no longer have any joint or back pain and
move around so much better.
Who and/or what was the most encouraging, comforting and supporting as
you went through the weight loss surgery process, and ultimately affected
your decision to move forward with the surgery?
My family and friends have been overly supportive of me from day one and
that has motivated me and helped me beyond words. It kind of gave me the
push I needed and I didn’t feel like I was doing everything alone.
My (now) husband went to my doctor appointments with me, the three-hour
pre-op class with me, and did his own studies on the surgery and how our
lives would change afterwards. He never once made me feel like I was doing
this alone. The same goes for my family and my closest friends. I constantly
had people cheering me on every day. My parents would always make sure
they had something that I could have when we went over for our usual Sunday
family dinners. All of those little things really helped me so much along the way.
What was it like for you the day of surgery? What emotions were you experiencing?
The morning of my surgery I woke up feeling really nervous, excited, and
ready to start my new life. I experienced a whole range of emotions. When
I got to same day surgery, I was honest with the nurse and anesthesiologist
and the entire staff was so comforting and encouraging. The anesthesiologist
assured me that I was in good hands and when I talked to Dr.’s Abkin
and Jawed in the holding area, I received more encouragement and words
of comfort. By the time they wheeled me into the O.R., I was ready and
confident that I was making the right choice.
What were your first thoughts after surgery?
When I woke up in the recovery room, my first thoughts were “it’s
over already”? I really felt like I had just gone to sleep! I felt
like such a life changing surgery would have taken longer but it was done
in less than an hour.
How did you feel, physically, after surgery?
Honestly, I wasn’t in as much pain as I imagined I would have been.
I was sore and extremely tired, but it was manageable. As a matter of
fact, I got engaged in my hospital room hours after surgery! Later on
that night, my then fiancé and I took my IV pole and went for a walk down
the hall and back. To this day we still joke about our romantic midnight
stroll on the night of our engagement! The most important thing was to
get up and keep walking to get the gas moving around and I really believe
that helped in my recovery process.
What was the recovery like the first few days after surgery? Was there
a process involved in the recovery? How long before you felt totally like
a new you?
For the first few days after surgery, I was sore but was able to move around
better than I had thought I would. For the first few days I was on a liquid
diet before moving to a pureed diet which consisted mostly of creamy soups.
I handled that part of the recovery much better than I had anticipated
but I think that it was mostly due to the fact that I simply wasn’t
hungry at all. Which, if you told pre-surgery me that, I would have said
that was impossible! But it’s the truth. I got full quickly and
I wasn’t hungry in between meals (or even at meal times). I did
have to set alarms on my phone throughout the day as reminders to sip
water and eat. The number one thing I stress to everyone is no matter
what, make sure you force yourself to take sips of water all day long
so that you don’t get dehydrated. I struggled with that and ended
up in the ER three times over the course of 3 months for IV fluids. By
month 3, I had a good hold on my new lifestyle and what I could/couldn’t have.
How did you feel, mentally, after surgery?
I felt good! I had my surgery in June, at the start of summer and BBQ’s
and vacations. The first BBQ I attended was 2 ½ weeks post-op and
in my head I thought it would be hard but honestly, I wanted a better,
healthier life for myself so badly that I packed my water and protein
shakes and went to the BBQ! And I was fine. The new lifestyle takes some
getting used to, and there were some hard days. It wasn’t all rainbows
and butterflies and easy. However, on those harder days, I kept reminding
myself why I did this and how badly I wanted this for myself and that
helped me to get through. One day at a time!
What was your experience like at Saint Clare’s Dover Hospital?
My experience was wonderful, from start to finish. I loved having my own
private room! The nurses and staff went above and beyond to make sure
I was comfortable and relaxed. From same day surgery to the OR staff;
from the recovery room staff to the floor staff - everyone really went
above and beyond to make sure that I was taken care of. The room was big
enough that my husband was able to stay overnight with me and the nurses
made sure he was comfortable too which was nice. Everyone we encountered
were welcoming and caring and so supportive. Before I was discharged,
the dietician and nurse came in to make sure I understood what I could
and couldn’t do, reminders about sipping water and eating, and reviewed
everything to make sure that I understood before I was sent home.
Tell us about your physicians and your experience with the physicians?
Dr. Jawed was my primary surgeon but I did see Dr. Abkin for one pre-op
appointment and two post-op appointments, as well as Carmen, the APN in
their office. Dr. Abkin stopped by to see how I was doing right before
I was discharged from the hospital which made me feel good. Both physicians
and Carmen really took the time to explain everything, answer my never
ending questions, and make sure that I was confident in proceeding with
the surgery. They were all patient with me and encouraging and supportive.
Everything I look for in a doctor!
What is the post-surgery nutrition plan like compared to the pre-surgery
nutrition plan? What are the key elements when choosing food now?
Post-surgery you should be getting in at least 64 ounces of water as well
as 64 grams of protein. The key is to fill up on water and protein first.
Also, I cannot drink and eat at the same time which took some getting
used to. I am a little over 2 years out now and I still mainly eat protein
first, then vegetables if I have any room. I still fill up pretty quickly.
I also take note of when I feel full and then stop instead of trying to
force more food in like I used to.
What is your average rate of weight loss since the surgery?
I averaged around 3-4 pounds per week. Some weeks were 2-3 pounds but I
did lose a lot pretty quickly. I fell into a pattern of losing weight
weekly and then I would plateau for a few weeks. All of a sudden the weight
loss would restart. The plateaus/stalls are completely normal and I learned
to not become discouraged by them. I am currently maintaining and not losing.
How much weight did you lose initially with surgery? How much have you
lost since surgery?
I lost 137 pounds total since my surgery. The majority of it was lost within
the first ten months.
Is the weight loss self-monitored and monitored by your physician?
The weight loss was monitored by my physician. I also weighed myself daily.
Once I lost the majority of my weight, I switched to weighing myself once
a week for accountability and to keep myself in check.
How long before you were back to work?
I had my surgery on a Tuesday morning and I was back to work the following
Monday. I have a desk job so I sit all day and don’t have to move
a lot or lift/push anything heavy.
How long before you could become physically active again?
I started walking immediately, within hours of my surgery. I was cleared
for exercise one-month post-op.
Have your health issues been resolved, or are they better managed, after
All of my health issues were resolved within the first few months after
my surgery. My blood pressure and cholesterol returned to normal. My diabetes
went away. My joint pain is non-existent. I came off all of my medications
within a month after surgery. My bloodwork has never been better!
Do you still attend support groups?
I still attend the monthly online support group that Dr.’s Jawed
and Abkin’s office holds and I’m still a part of their Facebook
group and follow along there for support as needed.
Do you still see a nutritionist?
I do not see a nutritionist any more but she does attend the online monthly
support group so if I have questions I will ask her there. Also I can
call and make an appointment with her at any time if I need further help.
What has been your biggest challenge since surgery?
I think that my biggest challenge was reintroducing foods and learning
what I could and couldn’t have. Even some foods on the “approved
list” didn’t agree with me anymore. Through research and talking
to others who have walked this path before and after me, I have found
out that the guidelines are a great baseline to go by but to keep in mind
that everyone is different. Everyone’s recovery looks different
and what works for one person may not work for you. Don’t give up,
even on the days that you really want to. Keep putting one foot in front
of the other and focus on one day at a time and you’ll find what
works for you.
What has been your greatest success since surgery?
My greatest success was how much energy I gained back. I am able to walk
with ease, get on the ground and play with my nieces, jump on the trampoline
with my daughter, swim, vacation, etc. Just the amount of energy I’ve
gained back has made the entire process worth it. I find great joy in
living life now and that’s something I will never take for granted again.
What has been the reaction of your friends and family?
As I have said before, my family and friends have truly been my rock throughout
all of this. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such supportive,
kind, loving people in my life, but I wouldn’t have made it this
far without them.