What Really Happens *

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  • Name: MARK EVANS
  • Age: 54
  • Surgery: Gastric Sleeve
  • Surgery date: July 29th, 2014
  • Testimonial date: July 28th, 2014
  • Surgeon: Dr. Almanza
I just returned from Tijuana after my surgery (July 23, 2014). I am feeling terrific and extremely pleased with the entire experience.
That being said – there are so many post on this forum to encourage each other (which is simply terrific). But I wanted to go one step further to see if I can describe what you will experience.

Day 1 (You Arrive) – You will arrive at the San Diego Airport where a driver (in a Black or White) unmarked van will pick you up. You will not be alone. There will be others starting their journey as well. It takes less than an hour (depending on traffic and the boarder) to get to the hotel or hospital.

Day 1 or 2 (Lab Test) – If you arrive in Tijuana early enough; you will have your pre-surgery test on Day 1. If not; it will the morning of Day 2. You will be taken to a small clinic for your lab work (not the Hospital) - they will draw blood, listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, and do an ECG. You will go with a group of others who are having surgery on your same day. This will effectively become your little family for the next couple of days. You will feel an immediate bonding with these new faces. Each person is taken in one at a time for the test. The test last about 10 minutes for each person. So we were at the lab for no more than 1 ½ hours.

Day 2 (Surgery) – After the lab you will be taken to the Hospital where you will meet with Dr. Almanza as a group for the first time. He will briefly describe the procedure and then take photo’s himself with each of you. This was an exciting moment; as the reality of what was about to happen starts to come into focus.

The Hospital is small (but not that small). And it is NOT in strip mall like some others have noted. Your will be taken to your room where you will be given a hospital gown. You will be instructed to strip down (100% buck naked) and to put the gown on (backwards of course). No socks, No underwear of any kind). Let it all shine out baby…this is the start of your new life. You will lay in your bed for about an hour or so and watch TV (there are only a couple of English channels…but who cares). You’ll have time to chat with your roommate (if you have one) to continue bonding.

In an hour or less; a nurse will come to your room and insert an IV needle. Most of us had is in the top of our hand; but I guess I depends on the patient and their veins. And they will start a saline drip. This IV will remain in your hand (arm) for the next three to four days.
Right before your surgery; a nurse will come in an wrap your legs with bandages (leg wraps) to prevent blood clots. These are very attractive. They will put some paper booties on your (also very attractive) and they will put a paper hairnet on your head. You are one hot babe at this point.

Day 2 (Actual Surgery) – When it’s your turn, the nurse will come in and take you down to the surgery floor (more on this in minute). You will walk to the floor. No gurney or wheelchair yet….

The Surgery Floor looks like a basement. It sort of looks like a storage area as well. Don’t be alarmed. The actual surgery room is isolated and secure (germ free).

You will lay on the gurney (sitting up a bit) until it’s your time. I would say you will be waiting no more than 15 minutes or so until it’s your turn for surgery.

Anesthesiologist – The nurse will wheel the gurney around the corner to the Anesthesiologist. He will introduce himself and ask you a few basic medical questions (are you allergic types of questions). Then he will inject the medicine for you to go to sleep in to the IV. You’re out cold in less than 15 – 30 seconds.

Surgery Complete – From what I could gather, the surgery takes about 45 minutes. The next thing you know – the nurse is waking you up to put you in a wheelchair to take you back to your room. I would guess from the time you left your room to the time you return….it is about 1 ½ hours (on average).

They will help you into your bed. Where you can get some rest.

Start Walking – Believe it or not; you need to start walking as soon as possible. You’ll take slow movements…but you’ll take your IV drip poll with you and you’ll start “wandering” down the hall. Everyone will be doing this. You’ll take a short stroll…then go back to your room. An hour later. You’ll take another stroll.

The purpose and key is to MOVE. During the surgery – they will have pumped air into your torso. You want to do everything possible to get this air moving around so it will exit your body.
Burping and Farting – In as much as you want these happen…the air is not in your stomach or intestines. So these will not release the air (on the first day).

Pain and Discomfort – This is what scares most people about the Sleeve Surgery. How much pain will there be? The truth is: On a scale of 1 -10 with 10 being extreme pain. Most of us experienced discomfort (not pain) on a 4-5 level. It’s not that bad.
You will definitely feel that there is a gas bubble right below your diaphragm. It will feel tight (at times) and not so tight at other times. This is normal.

Five Small Holes – The incisions are extremely small. They will be stitched up and your belly will have lots of bandages and tape. For the guys – they do not shave your stomach. You may want to consider shaving it yourself. The surgical tape sticks to the hair (ouch).
The nurses will change your bandages from time to time (even in the Hotel – more to follow).
Jackson-Pratt Drain – Ok…this is an interesting little device. Right in the middle for stomach there will be a tube going right into your body. It’s rather small and it’s stitched in place so it won’t fall all. The tube is about 18 minutes long. It has a flexible blub at the other end. This bulb is designed to “suck” a few juices out of abdomen. It basically captures an excess blood and other fluids (watery)….from your belly. The bulb as a small cap on it (that you can hand unscrew). Believe it or not; you’ll find yourself emptying this little bulb four or five times over the next couple of days.

The Jackson-Pratt Drain does not hurt even in the slightest way. What’s so funny about it; is when you try to roll over in bed or better yet take a shower – you have to “manage” your little bulb. It becomes a funny point of conversation; especially with ladies they comment how it must feel to be a man with this little bulb between their legs at times.

We laughed about this at times; which can make ones belly hurt … but you’ll being laughing with friends.

Day 2 or 3 (Back to the Hotel) – You’ll be taken back to the Hotel as early in the morning the day after your surgery. The Hotel Ticuan is a beautiful hotel. You will NOT be disappointed. About 50% of the guest in hotel are patients. Patients are easily identifiable by our IV bandages and that darn Jackson Pratt Drain. Most of us tucked that little baby in the elastic of our shorts.

You will amazed at the support you receive from the Hotel Staff, the Other Patients, and the onsite nurse (24 / 7). Everyone knows why you are then and they are there to help.

This is a normal hotel with normal check-in and check-out rules. Checkout is 12 noon. You may need to wait to get your room..so don’t be too quick to leave the hospital until there is a room ready to go; otherwise you’ll find yourself sitting the lobby with the others from your little group waiting for their rooms.

When you do get a room, the nurses will want you to take a shower so they can change your bandages. They will more than likely start you on another saline IV. Got to keep those fluids going.

You’ll spend the majority of the day in your room – but as noted below…you need to keep moving. The hotel floors go completely around each floor. Remember to take two or three laps around the floor every hour or so.
The nurses will visit you frequently. They are the kindest people you will ever want to meet. While their English is not so good (at times); they get the message as to what needs to happen next. They will come in at times to check your vitals, to change your IV bag, or to pump some pain medicine or antibiotics into your IV. This goes on most of the first day back at the hotel.

Just lay in bed and watch TV and of course walk as much as possible.

Popsicles, Ice Chips, Water, Apple Juice and Jello – At this point in your journey. You have not had a thing to eat except your pre-liquid diet since you arrived in Tijuana. Take your time, but when you feel up to it; you can go to the hotel desk and they will give you a popsicle. I would recommend that you start with one popsicle. Don’t push yourself. Take it slow and allow the popsicle to melt in your mouth (slowly). It will take time..but you will eventually get that puppy down. The ice machine is located on the 5th floor. Take a bucket of ice to your room. Keep a small cup of ice beside your bed for quick access. One cube at a time. Allow them to melt in your mouth and then swallow.

The ice is especially helpful because it not only brings fluids to your body but it helps to reduce the swelling of your abdomen.
You’ll find yourself strolling down the hall, or going to the hotel lobby to enjoy your popsicle with others many times.
Day 3 or 4 – The nurses will continue to visit you throughout the day. Mainly to provide you with more pain medicine and to check in on you.

Leak Test – The night before your leak test; you will be given a small bottle of something “purple” to drink. It’s the same stuff they use for Barium test. That little bottle can’t hold more than 2-3 ounces..but it take you about 45 minutes to an hour to get down. It didn’t taste bad…it was such too much to drink in one gulp.

You will leave the hotel at 7:45 a.m. to another facility (about 4 blocks down the road…very close). The leak test itself is very quick. You’ll be called in one a time. You’ll stand in a front of the radiation equipment and given a small Styrofoam cup with a clear quick. It’s about 1/3 full. Not that much to drink.

This liquid they will want you to take in one gulp. The test itself takes less than 1 minutes from start to finish. Your stomach may experience discomfort (not pain) for no more than 30 seconds after you take that quick gulp. Then it’s gone.
All that is left is the aftertaste. Here’s a hint…there are some hard candies at the receptionist desk. Take one with you into the testing room. Have it unwrapped. As soon as the test if completed….pop the candy into your mouth. It really helps with aftertaste.
From start to finished; your group will be at the testing facility no more than 1 hour

You’ll each be giving a copy of your Xray (hope you were smiling for the camera). You can take these home.

You’ll be taken back to the Hotel.

The rest of the day is yours. Believe it or not; you should be feeling pretty good at this point. You’ll still have your IV and your Jackson
Pratt Drain (love that bulb). Your little group will probably go back and order some Chicken Broth from the restaurant. We got our to go so we could sip it in the lobby. I bet they gave us each 12 ounces of the broth…as if we could drink that much. I venture to guess…you’ll get down 2 ounces (about 10-12 spoonful’s). It is wonderful.

You’ll find yourself going back for more Popsicles, Jell-O and Broth as the day progresses.

Visit Tijuana – Time to go shopping. Your little group will probably want to go shopping. You’ll more than likely walk down to Ave Revolucion. It’s only about three blocks from the Hotel and it has tons of souvenir shops. I would highly recommend it…as it get you moving.

Day 4 (Evening) – The nurses will come to your room to give you more pain medication and to change your dressings one last time. They will instruct you to take a shower around 5-6 p.m.
Jackson Pratt Drain (Removal) – You’ll lay on the bed. The nurse will cut the stitches holding it is place. They will ask you to inhale at the count of three. At which time they will pull that puppy out of your stomach. Now one would think it would hurt. But the truth is…you feel NOTHING. It’s completely painless.

IV (Removal) – After giving you the final pain medicine and antibiotic injection thru the IV; they will remove the IV. First time since you arrived four days back.

It’s wonderful to get all of this “stuff” off of your body. Yes – you will still have bandages on your belly but for the first time – you feel that you can roll over or use your hands without catching the bulb or IV on something
Enjoy the rest of the evening. Go outside or to Lobby to catch with other patients. There is always some around.

Leaving Tijuana – You’ll be scheduled for the Van trip back to San Diego. Get ready for a fun adventure. It typically takes 3 hours to cross the border back on the states.

I recommend that you take some apple juice or a popsicle with you. I took a bottle of water with crystal light. Took me three hours to get it down. But I did it.

In Closing

This was a truly rewarding adventure. Not just for the visit to Tijuana but the life changing things that are about to happen to me.
While I had no fear (what-so-ever) going into this journey. Some people were terrified. I won’t pretend that it was all roses and sunshine. There were moments (and I do mean moments…not hours) where I sometimes felt “icky”. A couple of times I felt like I need to throw up … but nothing came of it.

My discomfort moments were only about 1-2 % of the adventure. The rest was a piece of cake (too bad I can’t eat it now).
I sincerely hope this helps to explain what you will experience and that eliminates and doubts or fear that may surround you.
    * 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.