…and 7 Years Ago…

I can’t really honestly claim the “four score” part of the phrase, but as of today – officially- I can the “7 years ago” part.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002 dawned bright, beautiful, warm – a delightful Spanish morning. I awakened in the Clinica (Sanatorio San Jorge, the small private hospital that Dr. Baltasar uses for his private patients) in Alcoy, Spain – in my room, room 224. I remember the sun shining in the room from my balcony – across my feet, warming them. I remember as I was having my devotions that morning – reading my Bible and listening to some great worship music. And I remember KNOWING…

that God was near…

that I was exactly where I was supposed to be…

doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing…

that each step of the way had been ordered, directed, ordained…

..peace that is impossible to articulate, peace so sweet it was all-encompassing.

Then Dr. Baltasar entered the room with a warm smile and gentle “Good Morning” and confidence that my future was bright.

Surgery went quickly – 80 minutes, to be exact – and it included the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, a liver biopsy (fatty liver, stage 3, complete septae, with intense inflammatory activity on lobules, portal, and periportal; 70% of the hepaocites replaced with fat macrovacuoles), gallbladder removal, appendectomy. Within three hours of surgery I was on my feet walking to the toilet.

Before I left for Spain for my surgery more than one of my doctors had pulled me aside to tell me that they knew I wouldn’t live another six months, but that they were also pretty sure I likely wouldn’t live through surgery, either.

There was a reason I chose Dr. Baltasar for my surgeon!


(One week post-op – in Villajoyosa, in front of our apartment (tourquoise door).)

For a couple of years before surgery I’d had to depend on a wheelchair for my mobility. Both knees were pretty much toasted – I’d had surgery on both in the six months prior to my DS. My diabetes had been pretty much out of control – fasting blood sugars were in the high 200s and low 300’s regularly – with FIVE oral agents. My blood pressure was routinely at stroke level – with four medications. Debilitating severe sleep apnea – I couldn’t lay down at all, if I did my airway would simply close off. I’d been sleeping in a recliner – sitting up – for more than a year. I had congestive heart failure. Horrible GERD. Stress incontinence. And pain. Lots and lots of pain. Of course, there was the degenerative joint disease, and the osteoporosis diagnoses – but well, they were peripheral at that juncture. Breathing alone was the equivalent to a strenuous work out.

I knew I was dying. I could feel it.

At three days post-op my husband thought I’d died – I was laying down – flat! – sleeping, not gasping for breath, not snoring horribly loudly (as all sleep was accompanied by) – but deeply, peacefully – for the first time in YEARS. No more sleep apnea.

At four days post-op I nearly keeled over when I read the glucometer readings – NORMAL – without medications.

At five days post-op – blood pressure – NORMAL – without medications.

One week from surgery, holding onto the handles of my wheelchair, I walked 1/8th of a mile – from our rented apartment in Villajoyosa to the little ice cream shop along the waterfront. I hadn’t been able to stand more than 30 seconds at a time before surgery.

I lost 34 pounds the first month.

At six weeks post-op my wheelchair went back to the medical supply company – forever!

I was down 65 pounds the second month.

By eight weeks I was done with using canes – I didn’t need them for stability any longer.

Eighty pounds were gone by the third month.

At six months I’d lost 105 pounds.

At a year post-op, I’d lost 175 pounds.

Wouldn’t it be great if I were organized enough to give you a one line synopsis for the years that followed? Sorry! I’m not that organized!

Today – seven years later – I would choose the DS all over again without a second’s hesitation.

I’d choose Dr. Baltasar again for my surgeon all over again – without shadow of any doubt.

The only thing I’d change?

I would have done it sooner.

July 2, 2002 – 5’2″ tall, 365 lbs, BMI 66

July 2, 2009 – 5’2″ tall, 142 lbs, BMI 26

Then: diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, congestive heart failure, GERD, stress incontinence, and 23 prescription medications.

Today: None of those.

Not bad.

Not bad at all.

Oh yeah – I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Little did I realize seven years ago that two years later – on July 2, 2004 – I’d be pacing the halls of the Clinica as John underwent surgery, as well! His DS was a total no-brainer! His triglycerides were in the 600’s, his diabetes escalating out of control, his blood pressure dangerously high. (Happy 5 year DS anniversary, honey!)

I can’t NOT reflect on how blessed we have been.

I can’t NOT be blown away at the amazing ways God has intervened in our lives.

I can’t NOT start each day with a whispered “Thank you, Father!” for the gift of each day.

And, once again – thank you Dr. B for taking a chance on me. Thank you for the honor of being one of your patients. Thank you for continuing to care. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your kindness and integrity. And thank you that every time we have the great fortune to meet face to face again you always welcome me with a gentle smile, delight, a warm embrace, and a kiss on the cheek. I thank and praise God for you, and the amazing gifts He’s given you!

What a blessed woman am I!

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