Balls Deep in Bariatric Surgery

While I know it has done wonders to improve some folks quality of life, I must say that after tonight’s consultation session at Reading Hospital, bariatric surgery is mostly a big racket. Of the hundred or so people in the room, maybe ten or fifteen were really obese enough to qualify (including myself). Mostly, the consultation was a waste of time, a waste of a trip to Reading through thirty miles of torn up highway, and a poke in the right direction.

I had been considering getting the lap-band type of surgery, which is the least invasive, and has a patient geared up to lose a pound or two a week (the other types, gastric sleeve and bypass surgery, provide a much quicker weight loss). I sat there and thought “Fuck, if I can’t do that myself by cutting out Cheetos and peanut butter sandwiches at midnight, I deserve to be slit up a fucking treat (which is what the other two types of surgery do to a person).” Also the doctor mentioned about one person whose lapband went through his stomach wall and came out his mouth. That didn’t sound too appealing.

Mind you, I have met some folks who are happy as clams with their surgery results, and more power to them! I am truly happy they got the results they wanted, and are true to themselves. I saw the results on one of Mona’s friends and it was truly amazing and inspiring.

But many people seem to go into this thinking that losing a few pounds the easy way (as opposed to dieting and exercise) is going to make them these wonderful, popular people. Sorry folks, if you’re an asshat to begin with, nine times out of ten, you’re going to be a bigger asshat as a slightly-thinner person. Consider the fact that you’re going to be on protein and vitamin supplements, among other medications, for the rest of your fucking life. That’s seems like it would be a major annoyance, and you’re gonna be taking that out on a lot of folks around you. And we won’t even get into the annoying flaps of empty, now-fatless skin that no insurance company will pay to remove.

The doctor’s spiel at the meeting, and the number of comparatively thin people there, made me realize why it takes an armload of paperwork to get insurance companies to pay for this kind of operation, even when it could seriously increase a person’s quality of life (or just keep them alive): The doctors treat it as cosmetic more than anything else. Sure, he said quite plainly that the insurance companies in this country deem weight-loss surgery as elective surgery (he did even use the term “cosmetic”). If the doctors are using it as a major profit generator (these are very short operations at about $10,000 USD each; he mentioned he had done three that morning), like face lifts or botox, yeah, the insurance companies are going to look down on that. Need bigger boobs? No problem. Need a face that makes you look like a Joan Rivers mannequin? We got you covered. Want to lose a lot of weight really quick? Buddy, you came to the right place.

The doctor and his representatives were virtually condoning insurance fraud to get the companies to pay for the procedure; you have to go through three to six months of counseling, losing weight to prove you’ve got the cojones to do it after the operation – but not TOO much weight. If you lose too much weight, you may lower your BMI too much to qualify, or the insurance companies will think you can actually do it on your own and not pay for the hack-and-slash. “Don’t lose weight too fast” the woman at the meeting said. “Lose some and then level it off.” In other words, you may have the wherewithal to lose the weight on your own, without a shiny blade being involved, but don’t do that, because then we won’t get paid you won’t get the full benefits of the procedure.

Yes, before you start leaving nasty comments, I realize that bariatric surgery IS the only option for some people. There are many legitimate conditions that preclude normal weight loss after a point. My PCP thinks I’m one of those cases, which is why he sent me there. I can’t walk more than twenty or so yards, or stand still for more than five or ten minutes, without having pains in my legs – to be honest, they feel like someone’s slicing my thighs with flaming, electrified katanas.  But I know it’s just a matter of pushing through that pain and getting more exercise and trying to eat less junk (and less of everything). It’s going to be slow at first, and it’s gonna hurt. But I also won’t be spending $10,000 (well, Medicare won’t be spending that, I should say, since apparently bariatric surgeons LOVE Medicare, as long as it’s the right one; however, they don’t like Obamacare, since none of the plans cover this type of procedure) on something that I can do without.

Beginning the first of the month, Mona and I are going to start watching what we eat a lot more closely. And I am going to start trying to exercise more. I’ve never been one to trust doctors unless absolutely necessary, since several of them have out-and-out killed members of my family, and my best friend. While my PCP certainly has my best interests at heart, I’m going to try my best to prove him wrong on this particular point.

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