Woman has vomited every day for three years since gastric bypass operation
As we sat down at our table, the waitress handed us the menus and started to tell us the Specials.
But I had more important things to worry about.
‘Excuse me,’ I interrupted the waitress. ‘But where are the toilets?’
It was the first thing I always asked. Because no matter how delicious the soup – and it was only ever the soup that I ordered – I knew the likelihood was it would be on its way back up again within a few minutes.
But I wasn’t anorexic. Or bulimic. In fact, I loved food. Or at least I used to.
It had all started back in 2005, when a hernia op had caused me to gain weight. In a few short years, although my diet hadn’t changed, I’d gradually crept up from 8 stone and a size 10 to 17 stone and a size 22.
I’d always been small so it was a huge blow to my confidence. I hated looking at myself in the mirror and it was impossible to find nice clothes. But worse than the weight gain was the fact that, I suffered terrible heartburn to the point I was sick every evening. The usual medications didn’t even touch it so I asked my doctor to refer me to a consultant.
Investigations showed I had acid reflux – a medical condition in which the stomach acids rise up in the esophagus and the esophageal lining becomes damaged due to the high acidity – and the acid was resting in my lungs. It was excruciatingly painful and sleep became almost impossible.
‘I’m at my wits end,’ I told my consultant. ‘I really am.’
He explained that studies had shown patients who lose more than 25
pounds of weight will minimize or stop acid reflux and advised a gastric bypass to help things calm down.
I was in so much pain I was happy to agree. To me, the weight loss was a welcome side effect but primarily I wanted to stop the pain. My stomach and throat felt like it was on fire
So that June I was rolled down to theatre. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up but my consultant told me the operation had been a success.
For the first two weeks I followed a liquid-only diet and lost an incredible four stone. I was over the moon.
But when I gradually moved on to solid food I was concerned that I couldn’t keep anything down. I tried a few spoonfuls of scrambled egg, mashed up banana, pureed vegetables; but nothing stayed down.
‘Give it time,’ my doctor said. ‘Your body’s been through a lot.’
After six weeks I’d lost another two stone – my lightest weight on years. But instead of feeling great, I looked terrible. The weight was coming off so quickly my face was sunken and gaunt and a lack of sleep meant I had huge grey circles under my eyes.
I looked so ill an old friend came up to me in the supermarket and asked whether I had Cancer.
I desperately tried to find anything I could eat that would stay down but everything had me rushing to the toilet. It was horrendous. The weight continued to fall off. Now, I looked for clothes that would hide my weight loss.
Eight weeks after the bypass surgeons operated on me again. This time to stretch my esophagus. They wondered if perhaps that reason I couldn’t keep anything down was that it was too tight.
I prayed it would work but the problem remained and my scales continued to plummet southwards.
I was vomiting all the time. Even the tiniest sliver of chicken would come straight back up again. The only thing I could keep down was watery Cup-A-Soups
Still I desperately tried to live as normal a life as possible, which is why I was here tonight, joining my two grown up sons Gary, 46, and his wife Fiona, and Paul, 43, for a family meal out.
But even ordering a clear soup still had me rushing to the toilet to be sick into the collection of plastic food bags I kept stashed in my handbag.
I bought the in bulk in the supermarket. They must have thought I made a lot of packed lunches. If only…
‘You Ok, Mum?’ the boys would ask as I returned, ashen-faced from yet another visit to the Ladies.
I felt disgusting. I just wanted to be a normal mum and yet they had to see me like that. I’d seen my boys in tears they were so worried about me. I hated doing that to them.
‘There must be something you can do?’ I begged my consultant.
Because I was vomiting so much there was the possibility that I had gall stones. So more surgery followed, this time to remove my gall bladder, as well as a second attempt to further stretch my esophagus.
But a year on my weight had dropped to a tiny frail six stone – a total loss of 11 stone. I felt like I was starving to death and there was nothing I could do about it.
My sons were so worried about me. I looked washed out and was tired all the time. My hair fell out in handfuls too. After I washed it, I would scoop it up out of the plug hole and weep.
That wasn’t the half out it either. Sometimes I was so weak I would black out, and I would suffer memory loss, forgetting the simplest of things. Then there was the chronic diarrhoea. It seemed if it wasn’t coming out of me one end, it was the other.
‘I wish I’d never had that damned operation,’ I wept to my consultant. ‘I thought it was the answer to my problems but it’s brought me nothing but misery.’
I never thought I’d say it, but I was happier when I was 17 stone.
‘Let’s open you up, have another look,’ he said wearily.
But although they found some adhesions and operated to resite the new stomach pouch they’d created, it still brought me no relief.
My consultant didn’t have any answers. He said he could see no reason why I’m vomiting all the time as all the tests come back clear. I’ve even started taking pictures of my sick to prove it.
It seemed extreme but I didn’t know what else to do.
Through trial and error I discovered sucking and nibbling chocolate helped my weight stabilise at eight stone. I could stomach clear soup and a few spoonfuls of yogurt, too. It wasn’t ideal. I worried my diet was too high in salt and sugar but what other options did I have?
Even so, I still end up vomiting most days. My quality of life is awful. I used to enjoy socialising and going out for nice meals, but now it just seems a waste of money. My social life is non-existent and I can’t go on holiday as I can’t get travel insurance.
The other day I was flicking through the newspaper when I saw the story of Angela Jones, from Portsmouth who died in March last year aged just 46, three years after gastric bypass surgery. She starved to death after being unable to keep food down, losing more than 20st by the time she died. Now I’m worried the same thing will happen to me.
I should be enjoying myself at my time of life but this operation has ruined everything and I fear it will be the end of me. I’m on a daily cocktail of vitamins and painkillers and I need to have a hip operation but as I’m suffering from malnutrition doctors are worried my body’s too weak to cope with it.
I want to warn women considering gastric surgery for vanity reasons not to do it. I’ve even written to my MP calling for a better process for counselling before and after people are given the operation. People need to look at the full picture, rather than just looking at it as an easy diet…because it’s not. Losing weight like I have is horrible and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
Looking back, I wished I’d never got on that operating table.