ROLY POLY ROARTY: HOW DID WE GET HERE? WEEK 1 (TOM)
Hey all, thank you so much for checking out this new ongoing series for the “High Regard Show” called “Roly Poly Roarty,” where Nikki and I will take turns tracking track the path through my bariatric surgery and beyond. This first week is my turn, and I thought that as an intro, I would tell you how we got here.
Last Christmas (2015), I thought I came down with food poisoning after an awesome catered dinner from Carmine’s restaurant here in New York City. It was weird since we have always loved the place and never had an issue, but the symptoms started happening a few hours after dinner and consisted of nausea, diarrhea and a very sharp pain in my upper left chest and lower right stomach, which would last three to five minutes, anywhere from four to six times a day.
After about three days of dealing with this, I found myself at an emergency clinic looking for any relief and thus started the chain reaction of misdiagnosis, neglect and an insane amount of bills, all while managing the pain, which was and still is the worst part of the situation. The clinic set me up with a doctor, who started an entire battery of tests, but offered no solutions after a month and a half of care. Her general thoughts on what could be causing the pain did include food poisoning, but then expanded to a virus, an ulcer (which I have already had) and a parasite, all of which were ruled out.
In an effort to find some relief, a co-worker suggested I meet with their doctor, who from their personal experience was an amazing manager of patient care. I had tried to get into this person’s practice before, but at the time, he was no longer taking new patients. This time around, however, he was, and I felt as if this was a step in the right direction. I could not have been more wrong.
Let me start off by saying that I am well aware that not every doctor is going to be able to find a cure for what is ailing their patients. I am a realist when it comes to this, and what one doctor may easily diagnose may never be found by another. For that reason, I was open to any testing by my new medical staff, but pretty early on there were issues. Nothing big in the beginning, really, just weird things like I could only pay my co-pay in cash, and if they didn’t have change available, they would have me go out and get change from a candy store across the street. If my primary care physician brought in his partner, who was a gastroenterologist, to ask me any questions that could help in the case, they would charge me an additional co-pay, even without an exam. I was willing to look past this general shady stuff like if they were going to make the pain stop.
By mid-February, this new doctor had me see his gastroenterologist, a urologist, a sleep specialist and a cardiologist — all of whom were his friends and made it clear in conversations how they all saw each other outside of work. Again, I was willing to look past the money ring they were sending me though so long as they could get the pain to stop, which, by this time was occurring eight to 14 times a day, lasting one to two minutes per attack. I really felt as if I was handling all of the appointments well until the cardiologist said that because of an irregular heart beat and my current fluctuation in weight, which would be up or down anywhere from nine to 15 pounds every week, he figured I had 11 good years of life left, unless I lost 120 to 140 pounds over the next 12 months. And that was something every doctor I had seen after that agreed upon. As a suggestion, I was sent to bariatric doctor they recommended, which lead to the decline of trust between the group and myself.
Knowing my target weight goal and time frame, this new member of the team suggested I go with the gastric balloon method, but said I would only lose about 40 pounds that way and that in six months the balloon would be removed and there was a good chance I would gain all the weight back again. If the suggestion of such a procedure sounds weird, it gets weirder. The procedure was not covered by insurance, but if I gave the doctor, who would also be the one performing the operation, a check for $7,500 during that Thursday night visit, I could have the procedure the following Tuesday — and this is without him even knowing my medical background. And if I wanted pain management pills after the procedure, it would be an additional $2,500. How is this legal let alone close to a fix for any of my problems, especially when other weight-loss solutions available to me were actually covered by insurance?
I walked out of his office and made an appointment with my primary to explain the situation. He did not seem phased by anything I had told him, but did say that if I wanted to pursue a more drastic approach to weight loss as suggested by the cardiologist, he would continue to keep the necessary records required by most insurance companies to get that process in place. At this point, the pain patterns remained the same, and I could feel my quality of life slipping, which just amplified the problems I was facing.
Between mid-February and mid-May of this year, I had 26 appointments with these team of doctors, 19 of which were directly in my primary care physician’s office, and still no solution was found. It got to the point where I would go to the office, they would weigh and measure me and send me out, no longer even suggesting any future solutions or plan of actions. The even began sending me for the same tests I had just a month or two earlier because they exhausted their abilities, but it didn’t stop them from having me come in over and over. The last straw for me was when I called the doctor after a very severe attack and was told he would call right back with instruction on whether I should see him or proceed to the hospital. In a three-hour span, I had called his office three times and never got a call back. On my last attempt, I was told that he left early for vacation. It must have been nice to enjoy some time off. All of my sick days and vacations were spent on the couch or in bed while my bills had grown to more than $30,000.
So in early June, I found a new doctor who was kind of surprised that with all the testing nothing was found. It was her conclusion that I could have kinking in my intestines due to my weight, which would cause pain and the digestive problems I had been facing for the past six months. My new doctor agreed that weight-loss surgery would not only be a good idea from a general health standpoint, but could also help relieve the pressure on the intestine area and alleviate the pain. So the rest of this story should be pretty straightforward right? Not with my luck!
It took more than three weeks for my previous doctor to send my charts to my new doctor, and when they were finally received, there were only notes from three visits, three visits out of 19 in his office alone. This led me to fight for information for all of my visits, and it wasn’t until I threatened legal action that a new much bigger batch of records were released, nearly eight weeks after the initial request was sent.
Some of the strangest parts of this ordeal:
- Only three visits were charged to my insurance company
- There were no weight management documents for the month of May, which I personally have proof of (I’m saving that for a rainy day, and a storm is coming … )
- In the charts supplied, there are someone else’s heart test results, which triggered the need for a cardiologist
- There was both a kidney stone and a cyst that were found and never properly addressed because the doctor did not believe that is what could have been causing the pain. Both have grown in size since they were initially found and are now being monitored by my new physician
After a few months of vital statistic tracking with my new doctor, I was back on track and am now just two weeks away from getting the gastric sleeve surgery I hope will eventually cure the pain I have been in for the past nine months and maybe extend that 11-year life span prediction given close to a year ago.
It is all of the above that I reflect on as I write this, three days in to my 14-day liquid diet as needed for pre-op. For those who have said bariatric surgery has been the best decision of their lives, I don’t see it that way just yet. The pain has not lessened, and five shakes a day mixed with two cups of vegetables and broth is a rough diet to get used to. I feel mentally spent at this point. My mood swings from the lack of solid foods were evident by the end of Day 1, when I threw a bag of broccoli across the room after finding out I could not have tomato soup till after the operation. I go from happy to angry and energized to exhausted in a matter of minutes, and we have only just begun.
Allowing people to hear the whole journey of this transformation is my goal for this segment. I will not just say it is the best decision I have ever made in a year from now when all of these rocky bits are smooth over. You will get the good, the bad, the bad, the bad and whatever comes after that going forward. So sit back, relax, pop open a lactose-free shake with me and come along for the ride.
If nothing else we can all laugh at my tantrums together at some point, I’m just not there yet …
Photos by Tyler Roarty
Categories: Roly Poly Roarty