VBG - 22 year post op patient tells her story

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Regretably, our dearest friend, Trish Hargis, born 1957, was called home to the Lord on March 4, 2011.  She had a sudden heart attack after a "spell" which they now feel must have actually been a heart problem.  She did not die as a direct result of the Weight Loss surgery however she did have "post gastrectomy syndrome" and so the weight loss surgery was likely a factor in her early death.  She had had a bad time with the VBG from the 11th year on but had also regained all the weight she lost with the surgery plus 15 lbs due to being confined to bed when she became so ill. In 2006, she'd had a partial take-down i.e. they amputated her "pouch" and connected what was left of her stomach to her esophagus - this was done because her stoma closed completely and she could not consume anything, even water. Trish had autoimmune issues like fibromyalgia and heart issues. And undoubtedly, one of her risk factors was that she had been a heavy smoker until about a year before her death.

Trish was a talented charming lady who was a poet. She had been a news reporter before her health failed. And even confined to bed, she regularly, posted messages to the mailing list she was a member of. She was an extremely sweet and caring person. She was in a long term marriage, and also had a daughter who was 18 when Trish died.

The following poem was written during problems with bladder, severe pain and ongoing stoma blockage: 2-2005 (before her takedown of her weight loss surgery:

..........these 4 walls are swallowing me up!

........life is getting me down
I can't find any sanity to be found
I try to do and then my body hurts
if I take pain meds I'm not alert
I want to see people so bad

this whole situation just makes me mad
trapped in a fat body that can't even eat
why did I get performed this terrible feat
might as well not have had weight loss surgery, at least
then I could at least have a feast
so my body fasts but still grows
along with my other foes........

life is a foe to me now
me feeling self-pity and crying fowl
Lord heal my body so I can do
I want to be strong I want this to be through
Take away my attitude and give me a song
then I'll say nothing's wrong

Don't you guys get sick of people like me
who really have it all and cannot see
the fortunes of life I truly have
its just this time in my life I feel so sad.........


The following was Trish's last update for this page. Below there are some comments and letters she had written over the years and some illustrations and some of her poetry - she had planned to publish a book of her poetry some day:

...........My name is Patricia. I am 49 years old and I have had weight loss surgery (WLS) in place for 22 years, since 1984. I got a Vertical Banded Gastroplasty or VBG. At this time the RNY and the intestinal bypass WLS (JIB) were the most popular WLS procedures that surgeons were doing. The VBG was a reasonably new procedure which had less complications than the RNY and the JIB intestinal bypass and that's why I chose that one. With my surgery  the left side of my stomach had about 3 inches stapled off vertically, then below my esophagus, there was a band placed right under where my stomach connected to my esophagus creating the "pouch". The opening of the pouch to my regular stomach was about the size of a dime. My intestines were not cut on or rerouted. So actually, I kind of went through a natural digestive process, as the food food I ate dripped down into my regular stomach (through my pouch) and traveled to my intestines.  I could eat about 3 oz of food at a time.

At the time of surgery, I was an Asst. Manager at K-Mart. So since my job included a lot of physical labor, I was off for 6 weeks after my WLS.

..........During those weeks I drank liquids and pureed food and stuff like jello, mashed potatoes, etc.

I weighed 265 lbs. at the time and i am 5'6.  I got down to my goal after about 10 mos. weighing about 140 lbs and wore a size 10 or 12. I maintained my weight loss for 10 years. I worked a lot, usually working 2 jobs at a time. I vomited almost daily through-out those 10 years. But I accepted it as "part" of my WLS. 

After 10 years the weight started coming back but I could still only eat 3 oz at a time. For 6 years I weighed about 200 lbs. Again, I accepted it.

At the 17 year point, in my WLS journey, the bottom fell out. I started vomiting more and more. I was having abdominal pain that pain medicine would not take away. I had to quit my job and then I went on a journey to try and find a doctor who would help me.

...........14 doctors later, 4 of them, bariatric surgeons. Numerous tests and procedures. There seemed to be no end in sight for this mutant stomach and my life filled with 24/7 pain.

Along the way through the years I acquired several medical conditions including Osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, Lupus, rotting teeth, short term memory loss, carpal tunnel, acid reflux. I also had a hernia in my esophagus due to vomiting all these years. It would spasm and I had to take nitroglycerin to relieve my pain which felt like severe chest pains.

So finally I got to a GP who took notice. It was like a miracle. He set me up with a gastroenterologist who dilated my vertical band and put me on digestive meds and the pain and vomiting subsided at least 70%.

For the following 4 years he did stomach scopes on me; once or twice a year for 3 years and then the next year I had to have 3 stomach scopes so I could eat and he could push the undigested rotten food through the pouch and into my regular stomach. 

Well in March of 2006 I went to get my regular scope. The doctor said it was really getting bad as my band was so tight. It had eroded and grown into my stomach. So many adhesions (scar tissue) had grown over my staples that they could hardly see them even with an MRI.  The doctor warned me that the scope might not work because the stoma (hole between my pouch and my regular stomach) had gotten like a rubber band and might snap shut soon after. 

Sure enough, this is what happened.  I went home and tried to drink water and it wouldn't go down. I called the doctor and they admitted me to ER and then the hospital. This gastroenterologist (who had done my scopes all these years) had told me often that no one could ever remove my band because I might die. But when he came into the room to see me in the hospital, he finally admitted that I needed surgery. A dear friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about WLS and the complications, found me a doctor who would do a takedown/reversal on me.

It was like a miracle. After almost 6 years ago seeing all these doctors with no help in sight, at last I was in close range of finally getting my WLS undone!  Door after door was opening up for me and I was ambulanced to Carmel Indiana to a bariatric hospital to get my takedown!

............They cut off my pouch off of my esophagus. (like an amputation) They then hooked up my regular part of my stomach after cleaning off all the adhesions, etc.  to my esophagus. I guess the WLS takedown had only took about 45 minutes.

With no intestines rerouted with my VBG he didn't have to worry about trying to fix that. I am lucky that, out of all the WLS available, I had the VBG (which is semi reversible).

So as of March 2006, I am a free woman!  After 22 years of a nightmare I came through almost unscathed. I have not vomited one time. I have only occasional abdominal pain (probably not related to the WLS). I do not have stinky bathroom issues and I have only gained 8 lbs in 7 months. But I don't care about the weight gain.  All the size 10s in the world cannot compare to the health I restored from my Takedown. I still have medical problems but the main problem has been resolved. I am a happy woman. You can walk away from a diet but you cannot walk away from a WLS. Don't be a WLS victim!

Patricia Hargis - VBG 1984..........Takedown 2006

 April: 2003: Patricia prepared and sent to me the following photos including medical photos of the undigested food in her stomach and what her stomach looks like, 18 years after surgery.  She requested I put these up on my website so people could see the long term possibilities.  Click on link to load (requires acrobat reader which you probably have).


Following are a some additional letters Patricia had written, since she wrote the above letter:

On late term leaks and the condition of her stomach, 18 years after surgery:

I think in regards to late term leaks...sometimes even with all the tests and procedures they zing in on a certain thing (like a hernia for example) and do not observe anything else. I had a stomach scope from one Doc who told my husband "everything is ok...I knew I wouldn't be able to see anything anyway. " Then in the surgery room I heard him tell another Doc, "see what a mess this stomach and hernia are in" So there goes a $2,000 procedure for no advice...no diagnosis, but from I would say an ambitious Doc. So after a dozen Docs another one operated on me thru the throat and stretched my vertical band out. He said, "I don't see even how you could have eaten anything your stomach looks like an hourglass. Not to mention scar tissue, hiatal hernia, and appendages.

on gas after surgery:

>  WLS patients have a lot of gas because when your tummy
> is operated on gas is trapped in body for X amount of
> time. The best thing to do is walk it off and try to
> belch. I know that sounds gross) but this will help
> you. Also I read someone talking about a reversal. If
> you have had your surgery over 2 years  you cannot get
> a reversal. They cant even see my staples, they are
> covered with hernia and stomach mass. And, your Doctor
> will have to be honest and tell u this is true. When
> they do a revision the tummy is re-stapled over old
> surgery.
> It is heartbreaking to me that being a person of size
> makes a lot of us feel humiliated. like we are bad
> people because we are of size. anyway whomever decides
> to go ahead and get WLS I wish u much success and
> happiness.
>     . The thing about WLS that is upsetting is how can
> someone determine long lasting results in 2
> years...    sincerely  Patricia H.

April 12.2002:

>      I have been wanting to ask  you something. I would
>like to participate in an obesity research program. I am
>desperate about my continuous weight gain still only can eat
>3 oz. But I am re-living the pain and humiliation I suffered
>so long in my childhood and as a young adult. I don't want to
>leave the house for fear of ridicule. This presents problems
>for my husband and daughter and myself. I am trying not to
>eat high caloric foods ..Also I have Lupus, osteoporosis and
>dropped bladder and bowel. And their is speculation that my
>WLS could have created these  physical ailments.

April 12, 2002:

> And my Doctor says I will have to have my [ silastic ] band
> stretched out once a year. It has been about 8 months
> since this was done and the last 3 weeks I am still
> throwing up and gaining weight. But I am lucky to have
> a competent specialist.

On regain and aftermath: April 26, 2002

I personally know 5 post-ops that are at least 15
years in. 2 of my friends have dies on the table
getting WLS; 2 have gained all their weight back and
more. And the 5th is like me suffering and up to her
butt with lots of med problems due to WLS. Does
everyone assume all veteran WLS patients have
computers. You think they are standing in line to brag
about how they are heavier than when they had surgery.
With all the bigotry and self-esteem problems people
who are of size have had...this doesn't seem logical to
anyone. Being an obese person is so painful in many
ways no wonder we are all willing to let the Docs cut
us up with no fear of the future. There are a couple
of WLS veterans here in this club that say they doing
well and that is great. I would in no way wish the
heartache, med bills, loss of jobs from being sick;
and the humiliation of gaining all our weight back
after spending thousands of dollars to try and lose
weight. I am happy for anyone who is doing well.; but
the only people post-ops who can give a valid opinion
are veteran post-ops.

On would she have the surgery again - April 29th, 2002

Personally, I (in retrospect) would much rather pass
away as a person of size before my time (and lots of
obese folks live to be old) than to go thru what I
have been thru and probably will have to file
bankruptcy after all this post-op care. For the rest
of my life. Some Docs do use scare tactics...as some
preachers do too (going to hell......etc.)I am 44 years
old I want to have fun and be a normal wife and
mother. I am trapped in this body. Not a thin person
crying to get out! But....want to be a regular person
now.. Patricia

If I I had real faith
I would be grateful for everything I have
my glass would be half-full
instead of half empty
I would be in awe
of everything I saw every day
I would smell roses every day
I would want to stay
and think of how glorious the world is
in every way
If I had real faith
I would always the early
never late
never hold grudges
never miss judge
what I don't even know
try to reap what I sow
If I had real faith
I would make
poems every day
say everything in a graceful way
and I would never say
anything ugly about those
I don't know
about us
about their woes
If I had real faith
I would find a  way
to show my love
for everyone
to those who need
implant the seeds
of happiness and gratitude
If I had real faith
I wouldn't talk about it
I would  show it
in my actions
with no sanctions
what ever loving I can do
I would do what I know is true
If I had to real faith...........
CC Trish Hargis 2008

What might be her last poem written January 28, 2011

my depression is gone
for maybe just one day
but i am grateful
for what i get
being depressed
is like being on an isolated island
writing SOS
hoping someone will save me
from this heavy abyss
this heavy cloud
that will never rain
or go away
my mind will be free today
i will not be taken prisoner
i will smell the roses
i will breathe the fresh air
i will enjoy
the feeling
of no feeling
i will put away my SOS sign
to carry dust
and enjoy this thing called
trish hargis
cames as quickly as it leaves
i will grab my moment of joy
run with it!
and share it with everyone i know
which brings me more joy
and run with that too
comes in moments
my joy is happenstance
i fill my bottle up
use all the joy left
that wont fit in
and save it
for a rainy day.
CC. trish hargis
perfect world
there will never be
a perfect world
bodies will fall apart
minds scatter
people suffer
without any relief
whats perfect is this...........
sunsets painted
by God,s hands
the oceans
flowers and grasses,plants
a majestic sunrise
to start the day new
a baby's smile and coo
a hug from someone you love
that loves you back
its not a perfect world
it never will be
and never will be
until the Lord comes back
but that doesn't mean
i cant smell the roses
see the rainbows
the beauty around me
to make me feel good
it's not a perfect world
but it can be................
CC Trish Hargis