Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, please consult with your GP and/or Weight Loss Surgery support groups before considering getting an operation.
Since the anniversary of my surgery is coming up (Jan. 26), I thought I'd share my experience with travelling to Tijuana and getting the surgery done. Hopefully it sheds some insight to people who are nervous or who would like to know what to expect.
I'm 20 years old, female, and my starting weight was 285 pounds, and 275 the day of my surgery.
Back story (feel free to skip this): I've struggled with my weight most of my life. I was a pretty skinny kid, and it was when my parents divorced when I was eight that I started eating considerably more. My weight slowly ballooned over the years until I hit my highest weight at 285 at the age of 18 and 19. I was disgusted with myself, I had no self confidence. I was pretty damn unhappy.
My mom's friend had received a gastric band a few years earlier and looks absolutely amazing, that was the seed that planted the idea of weight loss surgery in my head. I had tried countless times before to lose weight. Diet and exercise, Herbal Magic, a personal trainer: Nothing worked. I'd get discouraged and stop two to three weeks in and continue my old routine of inhaling vast quantities of junk food.
My mom received severance from retiring, and it was then that I realized that weight loss surgery seemed like a very obtainable goal.
Things get going: My mom's friend from earlier brought me to her support group, all of them had had gastric band surgery. It was at the support group that I learned about OCC. One woman had gone there and had a glowing review about it, I was under the notion that hospitals in Mexico were going to be horrendously dirty. I was very wrong.
Before I had gone to the support group, I had met with a surgeon here in British Columbia twice. What an asshat. He enraged me to the point where I was certain he would feel my pugilistic rage upon his face. To keep things simple, he had absolutely no bedside manner and our meetings digressed into two hour long conversations about his family. I felt hopeless until learning about OCC.
I decided to go with the Gastric Sleeve, I felt too young to hinder myself with a band, and wasn't comfortable with the idea of having a foreign object in my body. The plication was my first option but I didn't think I'd ever get it reversed.
I emailed OCC, set up a date for my surgery, did an online health questionnaire, and made a deposit. I cannot stress this enough: it is incredibly easy to get booked in.
I spoke with the Nutritionist, Dr. Miranda, on the phone and she gave me my pre-op diet. I had to lose between 10-30 pounds before my surgery. My diet consisted of small portions, and was very high-protein low-fat/carb. I went for half-hour walks every day, however I only lost around ten pounds before my surgery.
San Diego / Tijuana: We flew into San Diego from Seattle, stayed a few days to go sight-seeing, and then we were picked up at the hotel by the OCC driver. We were brought over the border early in the morning (it's not a scary process what so ever, if you're used to travelling it's nothing new).
The Clinic / Surgery: We checked into The Marriott, and then went back to the clinic. I can't stress this enough, but please keep hydrated. You're allowed to drink water before getting all of your blood work done. Don't even think about drinking anything but water.
I'll try my best to describe the lay out of the clinic. It's a small hospital. However it's the cleanest hospital I have EVER been in. Canadian hospitals step your game up please. There's an industrial complex underneath the clinic, and a parkade. You go up in the elevator and it connects directly to the clinic. The waiting room consists of cushy benches built into the walls with a single coffee table with pamphlets for the Ariel Center, OCC, and their supplements. This is a great time to converse with other patients and to get to know one another since it's a sort of round-table set up. You'll be with these people for a few days, sleep rooms away from them, and they will go through the same things you will. It's a great support system. The reception desk is a few meters from the benches. Past the reception desk is a small hallway that leads to Dr. Miranda's office on the right, Ariel Center's dental surgery room, the X Ray room, and continuing left is the hospital's core. There are three hospital beds where blood work is done. This room leads to another hallway with four-five rooms where you will be deposited after your surgery. The Operating Room connects from this hallway.
I had to wait around an hour before seeing Dr. Miranda. This process is different for everyone, it's a combination of Dr. Miranda > Blood Work > ECG > Scrubs and IV Drip. I'll be blunt, it's very similar to being herded like a cow to slaughter. It's a meticulous, quick process within the span of two-three hours. Some get blood work first, others get ECG first, it all depends on how busy they are or who's working. I went into Dr. Miranda's office first. She's incredibly nice. She took my weight, talked about what I should expect food wise for the upcoming first year, and told me what my goal weight should be. After that, I went back to the waiting room, and then it was off to get blood work. The nurses there are wonderful, very helpful, and kind. After I got my blood work, I received my ECG, went back to the waiting room, and then I was finally brought to my Recovery Room. The Recovery Rooms come with a hospital bed, a mounted TV, and a few chairs for family. The nurse instructed me to put on compression stockings, paper underwear, and a hospital gown. The underwear are NOT one size fits all, do your best to squeeze yourself into them if you can.
I waited around fifteen minutes to get my IV put in. After my IV was in, I was given a cocktail of drugs. I'm not sure what most of them were, but I'm certain one of them was a sedative because I had to to cling to the nurse like a newborn fawn when she led me to the Operating Room. Dr. Ortiz came in to talk with me, there wasn't a lick of a Spanish Accent in his voice. He was very reassuring and kind, I knew I was in safe hands.
They don't tell you when they put you under, I just remember laying down, putting my arm out for the Anesthesiologist as he casually conversed in Spanish with a colleague, and then I woke up in the Recovery Room with ice chips in my mouth wondering if that was the Afterlife. Dr. Ortiz was sitting down adjacent to my mother and I do not remember for the life of me what they were talking about, but I was later told I had a hernia he promptly fixed. The surgery went well, no complications, and I was left to sleep. I do remember waking up constantly because it was so damn hot. My heart monitor kept going crazy because I was so over heated. I was given more ice chips. Around five in the morning we were given freezies and juice. I ambled around dragging the IV with me, it felt good to stretch my legs.
I didn't get a very restful sleep, I kept waking up, but I did have a drain hanging from my left side. I will warn you, you won't feel the drain until you are taken off the IV. Once you're off the meds the drain is hell. I couldn't sit down without being in pain.
We only stayed for one night in the hospital. The lot of us were discharged in the morning and we left for the hotel. This surgery will not incapacitate you, you can walk as soon as the Anesthesia wears off.
We were lead to reception, and had to pay for the medications. You will be given a liquid antibiotic, two month's worth of antacids, and a Benzamide-knock off gastrointestinal cure-all. I think it was around $175 for the lot of them.
The first night in the hotel I slept like a baby and was limited to chicken broth and water. I will tell you this, you will want to murder anyone eating pizza and normal food in the air port when you leave.
I was warned on the forum that the popsicles at the Marriott are the worst, but I shrugged it off as entitled Americanism. I was wrong. If you like sucking on frozen water with a microscopic hint of strawberry, you'll love them. I called them ghettosicles.
The next day we went back to the clinic for a follow up and a barium swallow. The barium was a chalky white mixture and didn't taste half bad. I saw my new stomach on the monitor which was pretty frickin' cool. I then had the drain taken out, and I was so relieved. It was the craziest feeling, like a long wet noodle getting pulled out of you. A few days later and I was back on a plane to Vancouver Island.
Closing statement: My weight now is 185 pounds. I have lost 100 pounds in under a year. I couldn't be more happy with my decision and I HIGHLY recommend OCC to anyone considering weight loss surgery.
However, weight loss surgery isn't a magic pill that will make all of your problems go away. The instinct to over-eat will still remain for a few months. Get to the root of the problem concerning your food addiction. Therapy is wonderful.
If you would like to see before and after pictures please PM me. If you have any questions feel free to PM me
Cheers, and I hope my experience was helpful. If you're in the Victoria area or in Vancouver, feel free to PM me if you'd like to meet up to talk about the surgery if you're considering getting it!