Seeds were sown! *

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  • Name: Shannon Skogstad
  • Age: 60
  • Surgery: Gastric Sleeve
  • Surgery date: February 10th, 2014
  • Testimonial date: March 1st, 2014
  • Surgeon: Dr. Almanza
My journey began when a friend of mine's mother started talking about getting bariatric surgery during American Thanksgiving dinner. At first I thought "what" at her age! Then an former coworker "Skyped" with the good news she was slated for surgery to get a lap band. She had to pay $17.000 for this because although her in Canada we have free Medical, she was over 60 and did not qualify for any bariatric surgery. The cut off for bariatric surgery is 55 in Manitoba but I hear they are raising this age to 60. Finally a neighbour excitedly told me she was accepted for bariatric surgery and she was so excited. She is in her mid 50's. Although I had wondered about this surgery, especially since the hospital I work in in Manitoba has a bariatric surgery program, I had never seriously considered it - until now. Three people, all older, were getting this surgery! The "bariatric surgery" seed had been planted. I decided to research lap band surgery on the net as I really did not know the specifics of the surgery. I was reluctant to having the gastric bi pass as this surgery seemed so drastic to me. I had had a psych patient hospitalized who had had Gastric Bi pass surgery and she was in bad shape physically because of malnutrition and vitamin depletion - a complication I did not want to potentially live with.

I began to research the lap-band surgery in earnest. During my internet research I came across the Weight Loss Agents site. I thought I would fill out the medical to see if I qualified medically for lap band surgery. I received confirmation I qualified for the gastric sleeve surgery. What! What on earth is a Gastric Sleeve? Again, I began my research but this time on the Gastric Sleeve surgery. After many days of research I was convinced that for me, the Gastric Sleeve surgery was the best surgery to have and now came the dilemma. I could not get this surgery in Manitoba and I have refused to go to Mexico even for a holiday, as I felt it was not safe. People from Canada had been killed in Mexico in the past. I then remembered something a friend in Arizona had said to me in regards to taking chances, she had said No Guts; no Glory". I joined the Gastric Sleeve support group on line and read the reviews. No where did it say anyone felt they were in danger and in fact the Weight Loss Agents made sure you were picked up from the San Diego Airport and taken directly to the hotel or hospital. I then thought of the reality of my morbid obesity and thought, "you Shannon are walking time bomb with the weight you are carrying".

I took the plunge and agreed to the surgery, paid the deposit and booked a flight. My partner and I discussed the surgery and agreed I would go by myself where I would meet folks going through the same thing and if there were any complications what so ever, my partner would be on the next flight down. I was excited but worried about telling my family doctor as I had read many family Doctors refused to follow up on the surgery. I booked my appointment with my family doctor and was resolved to stand my ground about the surgery and ask for suggestions for follow up if need be. Much to my relief, my doctor was happy I had made a decision which would help my long term health and he was sure I had researched the options and knew what I was doing. He also was in agreement that I should get my gallbladder out at the same time as waiting times here in Manitoba for this surgery can be lengthy and if one is in pain, this wait is miserable. Furthermore, he stated it was said our government had not yet realized the health cost benefits of such surgery in the long run. I made my follow up appointment with him and a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

The pre op diet was tolerable as I had made up my mind I was going to follow the plan in order my liver do what it was supposed to do for the operation. I also did not want to get sick to my stomach after surgery which I somehow connected to the diet, but have not foundation for this thinking.

Two days before surgery, there was rumblings in the Gastric Sleeve Support Group that Dr. Almanza had decided to venture out on his own an was moving surgeries to the HMN Hospital and the hotel had changed to the Cameo Real. TWO DAYS BEFORE I AM LEAVING there are changes? I immediately wrote the Weight Loss folks a note asking for clarification. They wrote back stating yes, he was moving and they saw this as a good move as he was now going to be operating out of a state of the art operating room in a hospital. Now I had convinced myself the Jerusalem Clinic in the strip mall was ok, so the change of locations did sound like a positive change for me. However, I know new ventures have their growing pains and I was now preparing myself for some chaos which I did not feel would happen in a state of the art operating room but other places in this journey.

I arrived in San Diego and got myself to the new meeting area. Hmmm, the phone number I had for Melissa did not work, I got some other business. I wondered if this was my phone roaming or did I have the wrong number. I recognized another woman from the Gastric Sleeve Chat line and approached her. Whew she was who I thought she was and I had in fact, reversed the order of the last two numbers of the phone number. My fault but thank goodness I had connected with who was soon to be my roommate. We found the van and two people who were to be picked up at the same spot had gone to the old meeting place and we eventually picked them up there. No big deal but stressful for them. From the airport we were delivered to the HMN Hospital where we first hooked up our WiFi, then one by one, met with someone to discuss surgery and get our blood work done. Shock, they did not wear gloves when taking blood. Hmmm I calmed myself down, I remembered a time in Manitoba where gloves where not worn, but that was before AIDS and rampant HEP C. I wondered if the nurses realized the risk they were taking. I would mention this to the coordinator for sure. From the waiting area in the hospital it was determined myself, along with my friend I had met on the Gastric Sleeve site would be staying at the hospital overnight and be one of the first to be operated on tomorrow and the rest would book into the Cameo Real Hotel. We were escorted to our rooms and we were starving. The hospital tests etc. took hours and we had not eaten. The hospital did not have food service at this time and our coordinators took it upon themselves to go out and get us some broth which was to be our last meal until after surgery.

In the morning we had a visit from the anesthesiologist and the cardiac specialist. Many questions were asked and we had our heart rates tested. All was fine, whewww! There were people ahead of us and we were not due to be operated on until the afternoon. We had compression bandaged put on our feet, booties and caps. Dr. Almanza arrived to explain our surgeries and ask if we had any questions. We each posed for a picture with Dr. Almanza. What a sight we must have been in our caps, compression bandages and booties. We never did get a copy of the pictures in spite of my asking for a copy as a keepsake of my journey.

When they came to get me for my operation, I was getting anxious about the anesthetic, as in the past they put a mask over my face and I hated that. I got on the operating table and lay my arms in the arm rests and the next thing I remember is being back in my room and being on Face Time telling my partner I was ok. However, after around 20 minutes I began to dry heave, but this did not last too long. We stayed in the hotel overnight and the next morning I had the runs, scheech...I did not think I had anything left in me. We were moved to the hotel where we rested and had IV fluids, pain killers and antibiotics. We did not walk too much this day as we slept a lot and I had more of the runs. A note to the wise here, make sure you get your IV in the hand you do NOT wipe with. I found it hard to wipe with the hand I am not used to wiping with.

The next morning we were to have our "leak" tests to make sure our stomachs were not leaking where the staples were. We were given this purple stuff to drink. As we were not drinking yet this seemed like a formidable task especially to drink it all. We were to meet downstairs to be driven to where we were to get the x rays. Five at a time we were driven to the x ray clinic where once again we were given a foul tasting liquid to drink while they took x rays of the liquids journey into the stomach. All was well and we were rewarded with a wonderful Popsicle once we were back on our rooms. We could now sip on water or juice which is harder to do than one would think.

Time was flying and we were one day away from leaving. I asked about a possible shopping trip and that evening, 6 of us went shopping on the famous Revolution Drive. Now I am savvy when bargaining but remember to check sizes if buying tee shirts and check that chimes (or other items) are not broken. Do not buy tequila that is not sealed, lol. Oh the things one does when on pain killers, lol. I did enjoy the shopping trip and was the last in the van. I was tired when we got back to the hotel even though we parked right in front of the one shop and I did not shop anywhere else as we were given one hour to shop as we had after all just had surgery.

The next morning the people who were leaving on the earlier flights were to meet in the lobby at 9 am. Before this however, we were to get our IV ports out as well as our stomach drains. Gloves were now being worn!! My roommate went first and she said the drain did not hurt coming out but felt funny. Well my drain was very vocal and made the longest, funniest noise when pulled out. I just about pulled out my stitches I was laughing so hard. I looked over at my roommate and she too was laughing and finally the nurse could not hold her composure any longer and she began laughing. What a nice end to the journey in the hotel.

My journey home was long but uneventful. I had a wheelchair booked at the airport and they were able to help me maneuver to where I needed to be to catch my plane. I made sure I had liquids to drink and even managed to get the broth only from one kiosk selling chicken noodle soup.

Once home sweet home I had Popsicles galore, and now am weening off them. Some habits are going to be hard to change. My doctor's follow up appointment went well and he was impressed with what he saw. The next Dr. appointment I made was to get my stitches out and my Dr. commented on how well I was stitched and that is why I was healing so well. I had one weepy hole under where my bra irritated it and it is healing fine as well. My doctor had asked I request some medical information be sent to him about the operation for his records. I have not received any of this to date but hope to get this. These are the little things that help build the medical tourism business. A Dr. in Canada that is happy with what he sees and information he receives can refer alot of patients - especially patients who do not qualify in Manitoba. I am pleased with my overall experience with Dr. Almanza and the Weight Loss Agents.
Sincerely, Shannon Skogstad MSW RSW


* This is an actual testimonial, however, your results may vary. For more information, please read our Testimonial Disclaimer and Risks of Surgery.

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    * The testimonials, statements, and opinions presented on our website are only applicable to the individuals depicted, and may not be representative of the experience of others. For more information, please read our Testimonial Disclaimer and Risks of Surgery.