PART 2 IS LINKED FROM THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE
As long as I can remember, I have battled my weight.
I recall attending my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was just 8 years old, joining the group and losing 25 pounds. And like most people who have a weight problem I grew up trying many other diets, including Phen-Fen, liquid protein drinks, The Zone, Atkins, and everything else in between.
About 4 years ago I was fed up with the short-term success that diets had brought me, and I was looking for a more permanent solution. I had exercised and had been pretty active most my life despite the extra weight. I had researched both the bypass and lap-band procedures and decided to go with the lap-band.
At that time, there were virtually no mainstream health insurance companies that would fund the lap-band. Four years ago, the procedure cost roughly $25,000 if it was done here in the United States. However, I soon found out through online research that doctors in Mexico and in Europe had been doing the lap-band for about 4 years longer than anyone in our country. As a result, the Mexican and European doctors had a lot more experience, and they charged a lot less too.
I researched several doctors in Mexico and found Dr. Ortiz, who operated a center out of Tijuana, Mexico. Before I went in to have the lap-band procedure I weighed 260 pounds and was a size 24.
The medical care I received from Dr. Ortiz and his staff was better than what I’ve received here in the States. I live in Phoenix so I drove to San Diego and into Mexico for the surgery. At times when I would fly there for post-op treatments, Dr. Ortiz’s mother, a most charming and educated woman, would pick me up from the airport and take me to my appointments. I was given Dr. Ortiz’s email address as well as his other bariatric surgeon’s email for follow up. All of his staff spoke perfect English and I felt completely comfortable with everyone in his center.
At first, I had no problems with the surgery. I drove back to Phoenix and in 6 weeks I went back for my first fill of my band. From that point on, things did not go well.
For the next 2 years I was doing something called “productive burping” or “pb-ing,” which is not the same as throwing up—it is more like a burp with more food but less air. But it was very uncomfortable and embarrassing and I was doing this as often as 3 to 5 times a day. I think it became a vicious cycle, as every time I did this it irritated my esophagus more and more.
I emailed Dr. Ortiz many times to tell him what was happening to me, and he would tell me to come back to his clinic so he could check things out and make sure the band had not slipped, and do an unfill. A fill is the term for putting a saline solution in your lap-band to make you feel less hungry. Conversely they will also “deflate” or “unfill” your band if you are having problems with getting food down. In my case, this is where a problem came into play: 4 years ago, no bariatric doctor in our country would do the fills on other patients, let alone a patient being treated by a Mexican physician. As a result, I had to travel back and forth to Mexico from Phoenix for any type of adjustment to my lap-band, which meant at least $400 to $500 of travel expenses every time. Since this was hard on me financially, it meant putting the trip off for longer periods of time when I was having problems with my band and needed an adjustment.