I had lap band surgery in December 2009. I had consulted with my GP to see whether I qualified to have it carried out under the British National Health System, and learned that the approval process would take at least 2 years, with no guarantees at the end of it. In fact almost certainly I would not have been approved, because at 5’4 (1.61m) I weighed 18st (252 lbs, 114kg) and this would not have been considered life-threatening enough. Well it was to me.
However my reasons for going ahead were not just that I was eating myself to a standstill and my health was suffering as a result. The point at which I said enough was when I had reached a mental state where it seemed I could sink no lower, and using my savings to have it done as quickly as possible was my attempt to help myself to feel better, and to give me hope. I knew that better health and physical comfort would follow, and help me to climb out of the pit I was in.
It cost £7,000 (US$11,300) for which I got the operation, a night’s stay at a private hospital in Taunton, Somerset, all consultation and nursing fees, and a two-year plan of monthly visits, when I would be weighed, talk to the clinical team and dieticians and all fills and unfills were included. After that they would continue to monitor me for the rest of my life, and I would be entitled to one yearly consultation (without fills/unfills). I was also covered for about 6 months in case anything went wrong. With hindsight, this was an even better deal than I realised at the time: having read countless bandit blogs let me tell you unequivocally that it’s a false economy to cut out the aftercare to save money.
When you know you’re paying for every visit and every fill/unfill, this is what you do instinctively:
(1) You put it off and put it off, telling yourself you’ll go if you really need to and in delaying you’re likely to eat more (because the band isn’t restricting you properly) and not lose weight;
(2) When you do finally go, your judgment is inevitably clouded by the fact that you feel you’ve got to make it count so you get more fill than you should, thinking it will save you a later visit;
(3) False economy – the result is overfill. The foods that are good for you get stuck immediately and are brought up; you learn to fill yourself with the high calorie sliders chocolate, sweets, ice-cream because pleased though you are that your scales are giving you good news every day, your brain is screaming feed me!, and your body is screaming give me more liquid!
(4) Eventually say in a few days your oesophagus gets so inflamed that even drinking water is an effort and this is a dangerous place to be. You finally realise you’ll have to have an unfill, and back you go. You’ve now spent double what you would have if you had had regular appointments.
Another reason the aftercare is important is because you need to talk about how you’re getting on not just with the specialists, but also with other bandits. Comparing notes, laughing about the problems, realising that different foods affect gastric bands in different ways with different people and that there are many aspects of making a band work which are an art rather than a science. All this you need to learn.
Paying for all of the aftercare up front will make you much more likely to get the follow up you need to be successful.
Lonicera the Bandit