Angie Hill, 44, lives in Margate with her partner Elaine and their daughter Emily and two foster children. After trying many diets, she decided to have gastric wrap keyhole surgery in Prague, where costs are cheaper than in the UK. The procedure folds and then stitches the stomach to make a tube, restricting the amount of food that can be eaten. Height: 5ft 7in. Total weight loss: 5st 4lb.
January 2013 17st 6lb, size 22-24
I first heard about this surgery in May 2012, when I attended a meeting at Secret Surgery, which arranges procedures overseas. My partner Elaine had a gastric bypass then went to Poland for a tummy tuck in 2010. A gastric wrap is less extreme than a bypass, gives good weight loss and there’s a lower risk of vomiting than with a gastric band.
The only question was how quickly I could save the money for the operation – it cost £4,640 for the surgery, flights and accommodation, plus £350 for Elaine to go with me. My operation is booked for 15 January in Prague and I began my pre-op liquid diet of light yoghurts and soups on New Year’s Day.
My weight dramatically increased when I came out as gay, aged 14. Since then, I’ve yo-yoed. I’m a comfort eater, plus my portion sizes are too big, I snack and I have a habit of eating in the evening. I’ve tried every diet going and asked my GP for support but nothing has worked. My blood pressure is high, I get breathless easily and my joints ache. I also find I get emotional and upset about my weight and I hate wearing frumpy clothes.
April 2013 13st 4lb, size 16-18
I’ve lost 4st 2lb and I’m looking forward to getting even smaller. The surgery was straightforward. I spent two nights in hospital and three in an apartment in Prague. I was on liquid food for two weeks, followed by two weeks of purées, two weeks of mashed food, then soft foods such as porridge and eggs. Now I’m on normal food, but much smaller portions as my stomach is the size of a banana. I’ll have muesli or porridge for breakfast, soup or cheese and crackers for lunch, then dinner on a tea plate – such as haddock with a creamy sauce and vegetables. If I eat even a teaspoon too much I feel sick. I feel so much more alive now – I can actually play with the kids when I take them to the park. My knee doesn’t lock if I kneel. I’ve just been on an all-inclusive holiday and didn’t put on the half stone I usually would.
July 2013 12st 8lb, size 14-16
I only lost 3lb in May and 3lb in June so I’ve had to look at what I’m eating. I need to cut down on carbs and choose chicken and salad instead of a roast dinner. I do get very tired sometimes and I’ve had some hair loss, both of which are problems with gastric surgery. The follow-up to my surgery has been great. I log on to the Secret Surgery forum and I attend a monthly support meeting in Rochester, an hour’s drive away. I can also see my GP if I have any concerns, but I haven’t had to do that. My daughter Emily takes a photo of me every month, so I can see how much my body has changed. She used to call my bum my ‘bookshelf’. It’s gone now.
‘Without the operation, I don’t know what size I would have been by now’
October 2013 12st 5lb, size 14-16
I’m closer to a size 14 now because I’ve lost several inches. Elaine and I joined the gym two weeks ago. My operation has brought us closer as she has helped me learn how to eat post-surgery and we both feel better about ourselves. I used to be an apple but now I’m a pear, and it’s a thrill to be able to wear fitted clothes instead of my old baggy T-shirts and trousers.
December 2013 12st 2lb, size 14
I can walk into the gym with my head held high but there are some bits of my body that exercise can’t touch. My skin was stretched when I was bigger and it hasn’t snapped back so I’m having a tummy tuck in Poland next month, then saving for a breast reduction and to have some skin removed from my upper arms. Another problem is that surgery doesn’t remove the ‘head hunger’ that makes me want to eat when I’m not hungry. But without the operation, I don’t know what size I would have been by now.
I’m really positive about the experience. It was scary going abroad for surgery but I researched the hospital and the doctor, and I chose the procedure I felt would suit me best. I look at the portions being served in restaurants and I think, ‘How could anyone eat all that food?’ But I used to. I’m so glad that’s not my life any more.
As part of our ‘Under the Skin of Secret Surgery’ series, we’ve got Professor Fried is with us today to tell us all about his own thoughts on work, life, and… everything else! Lots of our past patients will already have met the lovely Professor Fried, our bariatric surgeon and expert, but if you haven’t had the chance yet… here he is!
What’s the biggest challenge in your job?
There are several big and important challenges in my work. One of the most important is to always remember my credo, which means to perform surgeries in the safest possible and optimal way for the patient. To be able to fulfil this credo my work necessitates continuous concentration on what I am doing in the OR as well as to stay up-to-date in my professional education.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part is to see and to talk to a satisfied client/patient at the end of his hospital stay and to hear from him that he would chose the surgical care in our hospital again.
Do you have a favourite procedure to perform?
Generally, I am fond of laparoscopic (key hole), minimally invasive surgeries. From obesity surgery/bariatric point of view my favorite procedure is gastric plication (wrap), however each and every bariatric procedure is very interesting and nice to perform. As I am in favour of surgical treatment of type 2 diabetes, I consider so called metabolic surgery (treating some of the metabolic comorbidities of obesity through surgical operation) as indeed interesting.
If you hadn’t become a surgeon, what do you think you would have been?
A lawyer or writer.
If you were going to treat yourself to some surgery, what would you get done?
If surgical treatment of obesity would be of consideration, than my choice would depend on my overal health condition. If, for example, I would have been obese diabetic dependent on high doses of insulin, suffering from the disease for many years, I would go for the BPD. On the other hand, in case I would be an obese patient with a mild degree of diabetes (on medical treatment, or on lower doses of insulin), I would chose between gastric band and gastric plication. However, I would very seriously listen to the team of experts whom I would go to and ask for their opinion on the best treatment/surgery for me. So, the overall conclusion is that there´s no ideal one type of surgery which would fit all patients, and choice of the best surgical treatment depends on the actual health status of each individual.
What do you do to relax after a long day?
Walking in the countryside and having a glass of good wine after such a walk.
After going gastric surgery, there’ll be no doubt about the fact that you’ll be keen to stay fit and healthy with a gentle exercise regime. You shouldn’t do any rigorous exercise for about six weeks after your surgery, but after that you’re good to go. Here are our top tips on how to exercise safely after surgery.
1. Start exercising before your surgery. This will help you to become more flexible and prepare your body for more intense activity after surgery, and it’ll also help with any required pre-surgery weight loss.
2. Start slow. Begin with walking in short increments. This is a great way to ease yourself into exercising. You’ll begin to tone your muscles, which will make future exercised much easier.
3. Talk to your doctor before exercising after your surgery. Your surgeon will be able to tell you when you’re ready to increase your activity level and will let you know about any specific risks that you need to consider.
4. Do 5-15 minutes of cardio exercise before strength training. Strength training is, ultimately, what will help you to increase your muscle mass, but it’s always a good idea to warm your body up with a short cardio workout.
5. Start off with 1 or 2 sets of 6-15 repetitions. You’ll be able to do more as you get stronger and build up your endurance.
6. Don’t overdo it with the weights. Use enough weight so that you can feel some resistance, but don’t strain yourself.
7. Keep a diary of your workouts. Keep track of how much you’re lifting and how many repetitions you’re able to do. As exercising becomes easier, you can begin to add weight and repetitions. A diary will help you to monitor your progress.
Exercise is just one component of your overall weight loss plan. The changes you’ll be making to your diet after gastric bypass surgery will have a huge impact on your weight loss, so don’t feel compelled to overwork your body! What’s most important is that you look after yourself after surgery.