Part 14…. Home! 

So my day of discharge had arrived Friday 13th (what could go wrong right?)

The nurse told me that they would have my meds ready before lunch and yet again, Kyle came to the rescue because the ambulance still wasn’t available. I owe Dr Gillespie a debt introducing me to Kyle. Everything I’ve been through he’s already done it so it gives me a pretty honest perspective of what’s to come..

So whilst I was in hospital I decided to have my living room decorated, a new room for a new start of my life. My friend Paul who has been such a great friend did it for me with his dad. They did a fantastic job, when I got home I just sat in the room for about an hour and then my friend Emma came round. She’d been cleaning for me before I went to hospital and helped prepare me some meals. 

After Emma left I went to bed as I wasn’t feeling the best, the following morning the district nurse came out and hanged the dressings over the staples I had from my wounds. Despite being as gentle as she could it still killed. But the main thing was, I was at home and in my own bed. After 5 weeks in hospital their beds do not get any comfier as time goes by. Saturday evening, Trev came to see me. We stood outside by my trusty wheelie bin and had a chat. It was great to see him, even if it was only a quick visit. 

The next morning I woke up. Stood up to go to the toilet and felt the agony in both my ankles.. my old foe Gout had come back to say hello….

Now unless you’ve suffered with gout, you really cannot begin to understand the pain of it. It’s the most excruciating pain I can describe. You can’t put any kind of pressure on it. Even a bed sheet hurt too much to touch my ankles. 

I’d suffered attacks of gout for a few years so I knew what I had to do, plenty of fluids, rest it as much as humanly possible and wait for it to pass…

Sadly my body had other ideas, this wasn’t shifting, after 6 days (attacks normally clear in 2-3 days). I rang the doctors and spoke to the brilliant Dr Gould. He prescribed me some tablets that will help clear it and keep it at bay. Sadly they didn’t work either. 

A week after coming home I was still laid up and the nurse came out to remove the staples. This was a really weird feeling. I always thought it would be so painful. But not at all. One of my wounds was still not healed properly it was where they put the drain in my chest.. 

But the main thing was, I was in my safe place of home and despite the Gout, I was starting to heal from surgery well.. 

Next time I’ll go further into how long the gout attack lasted and my foray into a “normal” way of life so to speak. 

Part 13… Recovery 

So the first night back on the ward was the worst. In pain, feeling like the world was going to end and basically feeling sorry for myself. 

I must have slept 2hrs at the most. The following day was mainly being pricked, prodded and having the people on the ward checking in on me. I’m not completely certain but I don’t think I managed to get out of the bed that first day post op. 

The biggest concern was that they were giving me plenty of fluids through a drip but nothing was passing out he other end. As much as I tried I just couldn’t bring myself to go. I was told that if I didn’t pass urine soon, they’d have to put a catheter in. Now unless you’re an old man or just extremely unlucky you won’t know how much these suck. It’s the most uncomfortable thing ever. 

But within minutes of them getting it in, it was almost a release of pressure being let go. Over the next day or so, I started walking with the Zimmer frame, not very far as I was still in a lot of pain. I knew that it was a massive operation but nothing quite prepares you for the post op recovery process. 

I know that a lot of people were concerned about me, especially as I was so out of it that first night I couldn’t reply or contact anyone. My friends and family could ring the ward. But the friends I’d made online in the group “Lets shrink obesity” were inboxing me and the fact people I’ve never met in person were concerned was very heartwarming. 

So my recovery, although slow and arduous was getting there.

On the Wednesday, 6 days post op. I was messaged by Katrina that Larry Evans, the man who inspired the group “Lets shrink obesity” had sadly passed away.
 I came across Larry’s story by chance. He was a man who weighed over 800lbs and with his own determination and with the help of his friend Chris Booth was changing his life for the better. I’ve spoken on my Facebook page how much he inspired me to get my life back. His legacy will live on for many years and I can’t even begin to imagine how many lives the man has saved, just by having the strength to be honest and get out there and do something.. 

I was gutted. In fact I cried. I was meant to be going home and had been told I wasn’t and then hearing a man who despite his own health problems had inspired so many had lost his life, it got too much for me. At some point in the future I will do a full post about Larry and Chris. 

On the Thursday I was meant to be going home (again) but was told that the bariatric ambulance wasn’t fixed (again) so I made it abundantly clear that I was going home the next day. Even if I had to get a mates transit van and put a pillow in the back. I’d been in the hospital for 5 weeks now. I wanted my own bed and my own home. The people on the ward right up till the minute I left on the Friday were absolutely first class. They do a thankless task in that job. But they’re heaven sent. And I’ve made some great friends from my time there. 

Next time I’ll go into how the recovery wasn’t as easy as I’d have hoped… 

Part 12…. Operation

So the week of my operation had arrived. I was warned about all the pitfalls of the procedure and even though I knew the risks I just wanted it done.

The final weigh in went well. In the 4 weeks pre op in hospital I had lost just over 3st. Everyone was pleased. Myself I was kind of gutted as I was aiming for 4st but it’s not to be sniffed at..

The day of the operation came. My nerves began to kick in. As you will be able to see in the pictures I post with this part of my story….

The porters came and collected me just after lunch. The staff on the ward all wished me well and told me I’d be seeing them soon.. 

One of the student nurses, Bex asked if she could come into theatre with me, which after her being there on the ward for the 4 weeks I was delighted there would be a familiar face there with me till I was under.. 

I got to the reception of the theatre and my heart began to race. Dr Awad and a couple of the team came to greet me and told me I’d be walked down to the theatre shortly. 

It was only 5/10 mins but it literally felt like hours.. 

We got to the room before the operation theatre and the team was there waiting. They were all brilliant. A friends sister in law was part of the surgical team and she also made me feel at ease. 

The team got me on the operating table and wired me up so to speak. I was given the anesthetic and the operation began. After this I was told it really was touch and go as to wether Dr Awad could pull it off, after all I was the biggest patient he’s ever operated on. But the team he has with him are the best and the man really is a genius. 

It turns out that a sleeve gastrectomy usually takes between 60-90 mins. Mine actually took between 3.5-4hrs such was the magnitude and effort required. I was sent to recovery.

When I woke up it felt like someone had stabbed me in my lower back with a hot iron brand (like they use on cows). The pain was excruciating all along my shoulders, back and arms. I was so drowsy and disorientated.. 

I was taken back up to the ward and I can vaguely remember staff coming in to see me but it’s still a real blur. Now what a lot of people do t know is that after bariatric surgery, they have you up on your feet within a few hours of being back on your ward. It’s to help with the blood flow in your legs etc. 

Now bearing in mind I was still around 40st at this point and the nurses aren’t exactly powerlifters. I was in so much pain that they managed to get me on my feet and they then had to sit me in my chair next to the bed. My hands felt so strange, I couldn’t even grab the button to call a nurse.. 

I hated this. I wanted to die. I couldn’t do this. The pain was too much. I asked a nurse for enough morphine to end it. Thankfully she just smiled and said that wasn’t happening. 

The next thing I can remember is looking down to my left and seeing a pool of blood on my bag. The first thought was that my staples had come away (all kinds of thoughts went through my mind then) fortunately my cannula’s had come out. Still incredibly painful but at least my insides were staying put. 

I barely slept that night. I couldn’t lie flat due to the staples and I was in way too much pain. 

Next time I’ll go into the process of getting back on my feet post operation. I know I’ve said how bad it was after the op and how hard I found it in the hospital but it’s literally saved my life and I’d do it again tomorrow if the circumstances were the same. 

Part 11….

Sorry for the delay in this post. I’ve been without a phone so it’s been a while…

I was coming to the end of the 2nd week of my stay. The staff had become easier to remember, and the diet had started to get to me. There’s only so much chicken soup a grown man can handle. I was weighed on the Friday and I had lost another stone! I couldn’t believe how quickly the weight was coming off..

Mentally it was starting to get a lot harder. My dad had taken ill with his own issues. The lads visits were not as often as I’d have liked due to their own lives and work. So most of the time I stayed in my room with my own thoughts and doubts…

Unless you’ve suffered with anxiety it can be really hard to understand where I’m coming from. But being in the hospital, alone and knowing my safe haven (my flat) was empty made me long to be there. On the Thursday I packed my bags and was literally ready to go home. I knew it’s where I wanted to be as it was safe. 

Just as I went to pick up my bag, one of the ward staff came in and asked what I was doing…

I explained to her that I wasn’t strong enough to stay there and that I wanted to go home. She told me that if I walked now, there wouldn’t be another chance for this operation and realistically I’d be going home to die.. 

She told me to sleep on it and see how I felt in the morning. Whilst in the hospital I began to make friendships on Facebook with other members of a group called “Let’s Shrink Obesity” there were 2 people in particular I connected with. 1 was a woman called Katrina who was always there to listen to me moan or go on when I was down. We’ve since become good friends and she’s always there. 

The other was a chap called Gino. Now he’s seen a lot of loss in his life. We’re close in age and he’s one of the most brutally honest guys I’ve ever spoken to. He tells it how it is and doesn’t care who he offends or upsets.. He says I motivate him and in truth he motivates me. He’s lost a lot of family and friends along the way and continues to be the best version of himself that he can be. 

The following week I was told by Dr Awad that we’d be doing the dummy run. It was a run through of what would happen the day of my operation to make sure the aperatus would carry me etc.. Now this was a scary prospect for me. But it went ok and by the time the operation came around Dr Awad wanted me to lose another stone to make his and his teams life as easy as possible..

Next time I’ll talk about my final pre op weigh in and th surgery. 

Part 10…

So the day of my first weigh in at the hospital had arrived. 

The nutritionist came in with the scales and to my amazement I’d lost just under a stone in 7 days. Whilst I wasn’t enjoying the menu options, trying to do as much as I could was starting to work. 

By now, being poked, and injected became pretty normal.. The staff on ward 313 were absolutely amazing and felt more like friends than nurses HCA’s etc..

I’d try and be as happy as I could and as always with me it was easy to paint a picture over the cracks.. My dad was having mobility issues so I didn’t get to see him much. And with the lads working shifts, some days I wouldn’t have any visitors. Newt’s mum drives an ambulance with a lad I knew as a kid and they’d often poke their heads in to see how I was doing, as would the security lads Mark, Dean, Danny, Wayne & Malc. Looking back now, those visits helped so much. 

I also had a lot of help from my oldest mate Gaz, he came and collected my laundry because with me not being operated on for another 3 weeks, I didn’t need to be in slippers and pyjamas etc..
To help stem the boredom I was collecting football stickers which occupied the time nicely.. 

My friend Leanne was heavily pregnant when I went into hospital and she had given birth to a beautiful little boy, which she named Brax. She brought him in to see me and he was tiny. Literally sank into my chest when I held him.. Again, looking back that little lad has become a big part of my life. I love to see him and spend time with him. He brightens up the darkest of days. And I’d like to think he loves seeing me too. 

Another couple of friends who visited that week were Emma, and her 2 youngest girls Tori-Jane & Lucy. They made me a little decoration to hang in my room which was lovely. 
And also Elizabeth, someone who’s become a great friend over the years came with her 2 girls Holly & Freya. Having people like this in my life as a support is a true blessing and I and so thankful to them all, even if at times I don’t show it.. 

Over the next 7 days I kept trying to be as active as possible. Trev came and took me out in my wheelchair… He certainly drives a car better than he does a wheelchair but it was so good to be outside in some fresh air.. Every time I left the ward to walk or to go out with my mates I always joked I was going to the pub for a steak or the strip club… it’s my sense of humour and luckily the staff on the ward understood that.. 

In my next post I’ll write about the next weigh in and how I came close to walking away from it all.. 

Part 9…. 

So the first night came and went in what was my new surroundings. 

On the Saturday my dad and stepmum came to visit again, with my dads own ailments I was to soon realise I wouldn’t be seeing him as often as I needed to or would have liked.. 

The mad thing about hospitals is how quiet they become on a weekend, time almost certainly goes slower. I’ll fast forward to Sunday evening when my mates came to visit. Newts, Trev, Beesla and Rueben come to see me and I’ll be honest, it was probably needed more than the operation at that point. They arrived after going to Costa Coffee and said they didn’t know if I was allowed one. Being on the VLCD I wasn’t but what stood out was how gutted Rueben was at paying for everyone’s drink 😂. 

We had a few laughs and with me being in a side room, they stayed a little after visiting had finished. Once they left it was back to normality, stuck in a mental and physical prison, only this time it was a different location. I’d only been on the ward for 3 days and I was already craving the security of home. The mental safety net I had created myself, somewhere I could feel comfortable and at ease. 

But it was a case of this or be at a high risk of losing my life, with my size I’d sometimes fall at home and let me tell you, trying to lift 40st+ off the floor is a lot harder than you’d ever imagine. 

Monday came and the physio’s came to see me and asked if I’d like to go for a walk. It became apparent pretty quickly I’d form a bond with these 2 ladies, we’d have a laugh and giggle, they’d follow me with my wheelchair as they understood I’d only be able to walk so far and then they’d have to push me back.. Being completely honest, I probably managed to walk about 40 yards the first time we went. 

Looking back 15 months later I’m not only shocked but completely ashamed as to how bad it became. I was once a lad who played football literally every day, played cricket, worked etc.. I’d gone from that to a man who couldn’t walk 50 yards without feeling he was going to collapse.. 

After that first walk with the physio’s I knew how much had to be done. So I set about walking to and from the lifts as much as possible each day.. 

I was starting to remember the names of the staff on the ward and by the end of the first week it was starting to feel a bit more like home.

Next time I’ll discuss the first weigh in and the dreaded pre op…  

Part 8….

So after discussions with Dr Awad, a plan was put in place. I was to be admitted to hospital on April 8th with a 4 week pre op stay on a vlcd (very low calorie diet) with my operation taking place on May 5th.

The reason for the VLCD was to shift as much weight as possible to be as safe as possible for the operation. Now I’m not too sure as to how much I weighed on admission. But I’d estimate it being in the region of 275kg (43.3st, 606lbs). 

The day of my admission, Kyle offered to take me to hospital as there was a problem with the bariatric ambulance. It was my first time in approx 5 years of leaving the street where I live. Kyle took me on a bit of a tour of Derby, showing me how much the place had changed. It became abundantly clear to me that I’d missed out on so much. 

We drove through Breadsall where I spent the early years of my life. Drove past the house I was born in, the same house where I grew up. And through the city till I was met by a couple of porters who took me up to Ward 313 of the Derby Royal Hospital. 

When I got to the ward I was wheeled (my walking was still really bad) to my room, side room 5 and was greeted by the sister on duty at the time. 

The first couple of hours were a bit of a blur. So many people introducing themselves, making me feel welcome. After a while I was asked what I’d like for lunch. I said chicken soup. The lady serving meals came in with 2 bowls. Which I thought was very odd as I was on a VLCD. I had my chicken soup and it was lovely (but more on the soup and how I came to hate it later).

I took the lid off the 2nd bowl and there was Jam Roly Pudding and custard.. now I love me a pudding but I couldn’t believe this was sent to me.. I sniffed it, it smelled amazing. But I called for the nurse and I told her that she had better take it away before I inhaled it. 🤣.

In the afternoon my dad and step mum came and made sure I was settled in ok.. they stayed for a short while and then that was it. I was alone, something I’d became used to after being housebound for so long. But this was different. My anxiety was really at its peak that first night on the ward with being away from my prison, my sanctuary. The hospital internet was really poor (to be expected really given the amount of people using it). And the selection of TV stations was just as bad. I had to pay for both which despite that, it would be a time consuming thing to help pass the hours.. 

The staff that night were amazing, checking in on me. But to be perfectly honest I was trying so hard not to lose it and leave for home I probably came across really ungrateful and ignorant. Little did I know the bond and love I have for these people that work on 313…

Next time I’ll go a bit further into the mental torture I put myself through whilst having the surgery that would change everything. 

Part 7….

So now my weight is coming down steadily and Dr Gillespie (Psychologist) had mentioned in Feb 2016 about being able to get a Dr Awad come to see me, he is the surgeon who would operate on me. 

Now having surgeons come to a patients home and assess is extremely rare. But as my case was so severe it was almost a necessity. 

Dr Awad came out and he was really helpful, he explained that the plan would be to get me into hospital for a 4 week pre op stay to put me on a VLCD (very low calorie diet) to get my weight down. 

He asked if he could take some picture of me to see if surgery could be done, pictures from the side, front and also some of my stomach and panus area. 

Being perfectly honest I felt ok when taking the pictures until we got to the point where I’d have to get my stomach out and the panus area which is near my groin. It was so embarrassing but Dr Awad was fantastic. He was also very up front. He warned me of the potential risks such surgery carries, and also said that if he was unable to complete the surgery he was planning (a sleeve gastrectomy) he would put in a gastric balloon. 

He did say that the aim would to be admitted to hospital late April/ early May. He shook my hand and said I’d hear from him soon. 

It all suddenly became very real. Dr Gillespie put me in touch with a chap called Kyle. He, like me was a former doorman who had been given a gastric sleeve and would be such a huge help in the months to come. Kyle has since become a good friend who has been a constant source of support and knowledge. His journey, like mine has been ongoing for a long time and he’s nearly completed the process as a whole.

I’m my next post, I’ll go through the admission to the Derby Royal Hospital and my time on the ward. 

These are a couple of pictures Dr Awad took of me the first time I met him. 

The mental battle

Ever since I was about 12 I’ve struggled mentally. It all began when my mum was diagnosed with M.S.

Back then in the early 90’s there was no internet to research it like there is now. I didn’t fully understand the devastation it can cause like I do now. When mum got diagnosed it hit me hard. Really hard. Mainly because I knew she didn’t know what was going to happen. Being 12/13 years old at the time, you not only feel useless but lost too. My mum was poorly.. 

School were really good about it and gave me councelling sessions to help me get my head around the massive change all of our lives were going to experience. 

We managed to keep a relatively normal life with mums illness. It became normal for us to help her walk, and if we went anywhere of distance we took her wheelchair. In September 1997, things took a massive turn for the worse. We were on our way to my cousins wedding in Bolton when we were involved in a car crash. 

Looking back now, we really didn’t know how much effect that crash would have on my mum. 
Although not seriously injured her illness excellerated so, so fast. She spent most of her time in that wheelchair, and couldn’t walk more than a few steps. The woman who I’d seen work 2 jobs at a time was now confined to a chair. Her mental capacity also started to dwindle. When we moved from the family home in 1999 her speech and communicating abilities were also starting to decline.

When we were told by her specialist in November 1999 that we were looking at “months and not years” it hit me like a truck. My mum, even though I knew she was ill was dying. And there was literally nothing we could do. She was refusing to eat and seeing the turmoil my dad was going through killed me. He didn’t want to say goodbye to the love of his life and made the decision that mum would have a “peg” fitted into her stomach to make sure she was getting some form of nourishment. 

I’ve never said it before but for a while I hated him for that. I think she was more than prepared to leave us on her own terms. She had no quality of life bar the love we had for her. Those last 9 months of seeing her go through it was horrible. Mentally it destroyed me. But as always I tried to function, go to work, try and help where I could. My sisters were both in relationships, my brother had his girlfriend at the time too and my dad had his parents to confide in. And I felt so alone, I couldn’t go to my dad as he was being torn apart by it all too. 

So in the typical way I buried my head in the sand. By the end of June 2000 mum had become so poorly she was in respite care up at Staunton Harold. A facility for families to have their loved ones go to give us at home a break. I was at work when I got the call to tell me mum had become really poorly and that she didn’t have long left. Dad pretty much stayed up there with her until I got the call. July 4th 2000 shortly after 11am, my queen had decided this world wasn’t for her now and had left us. As harsh as it sounds I didn’t cry. I told the carer that I’d let family and friends know (this was before the days of social media) I must’ve spent an hour ringing people up telling them that she had passed away. 

I just felt numb. My mum had gone. I didn’t know how to function. Lost, alone and so upset I couldn’t bring myself to cry. I didn’t know what to do. 
Even on the day of the funeral I felt so numb. And to be completely truthful I didn’t truly grieve for my mum. I spent so long trying to be strong for my dad I didn’t really care about anything else. By the time mum passed away I was the only one out of the 4 of us kids at home. I was constantly surrounded by her. I think that hurt more than anything else. I don’t know how my brother and sisters felt and I’m sure it was just as hard for them.. 

Not grieving properly has had the biggest impact on my life. Mentally I’ve been so bad that I just ignored signs of my ill health for years. Until 2007 when again I asked for help. Antidepressants and councelling sessions were arranged by my GP. Again they helped. But they would only allow me to have 6 sessions. I cried at every single one, like I’m crying now writing this. It helps, a good cry. Even if you feel silly doing it, it’s good for the soul. 

So that’s pretty much where my battle with depression stems from. Anxiety and everything else came with me getting bigger and bigger. But the depression started way, way earlier than that. 

The best picture of my mum, our queen. Before all the pain and suffering came into our lives.  And one of me and her in Skeggy when I was a toddler. I love and miss her so, so much… x

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