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.
How did it all start? Where do I start – I think I should be first of all saying a big thank you to Secret Surgery and Dr W (a God!), Aga, Hanna and Jack for making a dream come true – my tummy tuck and hernia removal!
I had gastric surgery 2 years ago abroad as I got refused on the NHS and I could not afford the prices in the Uk so off I went on the start of my journey. After losing over 6 stone things were looking bleak as after years of yo-yo dieting my skin was ruined – I was a mess!
What happened next? Again I got refused on the NHS, so I looked at tummy tucks in the UK and Ireland and the cheapest I found was 9 thousand pounds! First of all I had not got that kind of money and second, I was very nervous of the fact that you were in and out of the clinic in 48 hrs in some cases, so on that note I started to look abroad again.
How did you come across us, then? I had met loads of new friends on weight loss surgery pages online and I kept seeing the same words – SECRET SURGERY – so I asked a few people what it was and I was given nothing but positive responses! I asked to join the Facebook page which was just amazing, it was totally private and it was normal men and women all sharing their before and after pictures and every one was very keen to help answer any questions I had!
I called the owner of the company, a lady called Angela Chouaib, in Feb of 2012 and I asked her so many questions her head must have been spinning! She went through everything I asked her and more so I decided there and then Secret Surgery was the company for me!
What happened when you got here? The day had arrived! Jack picked me up with another few ladies who I had spoken to for a long time on Facebook it was great to meet them at last. We were so happy that we were all in this together and of we went to the hosiptal. There we were met by Aga who took me to see DR W and I had my consultation and we both agreed on to what i wanted and to what he could do.
And then? Off I went for X-rays, ECG bloods – the lot! I got a min health check which was also great and everything came back fine. I was so excited I had to ask for a sleeping pill as I wanted to go and have my surgery there and then! I had a great night’s sleep. The next day I took my pre-meds and had a shower, and my surgery buddy said that when they came down to fetch me I was out of it! The next thing I remember I was waking up in recovery and everything was done and dusted.The nurses were amazing, and were always checking to make sure I was OK.
And we hear you had a surprise around the corner? Yes! The next day I went back to my room where Dr. W and Aga came to see me. Was I in for a shock – I had a hernia the size of my hand wrapped on my bowels which could not be repaired, so it had been removed! Thank you to all, God knows what would have happened if it wasn’t found!
How did you feel after the surgery? I felt amazing, I was walking about very slowly and I thought I was going to be in agony but I was just a little uncomfortable. Dr. W and Aga were in checking the wound and dressing it – they were all over us!
Any last comments? I was so well looked after it was amazing. If anyone is thinking of cosmetic surgery, please do your homework – there are cheap cowboys out there and you only have one body! I am glad to say I found the best in Secret Surgery, and I will be going back!
Undergoing a tummy tuck might not make you quite as tough as Frodo and Gandalf, but in our opinion, it certainly is an epic journey of its own. Joanne came to Secret Surgery for a tummy tuck recently, and today’s she going to share her journey – and all of its highs and lows – with us.
Let’s start at the beginning. “My journey started in May 2010 when I discovered that my blood pressure was so high I was at risk of having a stroke. This was due to me being six stone overweight – I was a size 22 and weighed 15 stone! The next day I joined a slimming club and in six months had lost three stone, which in turn led to me starting to exercise and then running.
And can you tell us what happened the next year? “In May 2011 I had hit my target weight and was now a size 14; me being me, that was not good enough and I continued running every day. By August 2011 I had slimmed to a size 10 , and had a fantastic new man in my life!”
Well that’s great – isn’t it? “But this weight loss, being big for 10 years and having two kids had taken its toll. I had loose skin on my tummy which hung down and looked like a deflated balloon! I was desperately unhappy with my body yet again.
So how did you hear about us? ” One of my friends had had the same problem, and she told me she had booked surgery with a company called Secret Surgery, in Poland. She showed me the Facebook group, and I read all the positive reviews, and felt totally reassured by these. She came back from her surgery a different woman! The results were fantastic, and I decided then and there that this was the company for me.”
What was your experience of Secret Surgery like? “From the first time I contacted Secret Surgery, they were totally professional in every way. Angela, the founder, was so helpful, my fight and accommodation were booked for me, and I was put in contact with two other ladies having the same op in the same week! It was a fabulous idea – we talked to each other on the closed Secret Surgery site and got excited together! Everyone else at the hospital – Aga and Dr. W. in particular – was great.”
And… what we’re all waiting for – the op? “I was taken down to the operation room by the nurses, and made to feel totally at ease. When I woke up, a few hours later, my every need was catered for. Pain relief was excellent, and I had a very comfortable night’s stay. I was transferred back to my room the next day and met up with my surgery buddy, my dressings were changed every day, and Dr. W. answered any questions I had!”
And after the op? “A couple of days later I was driven to my modern, homely apartment by Jack, the Secret Surgery driver. He was a wonderful and charming man – and knew Wroclaw like the back of his hand. We stayed in the apartment for five days, with my dressings changed at the hospital every day and visits from Aga and Dr. W reassured me that everything was well. In my last few days, I was well enough to sightsee around the city, and I said my goodbyes to Aga and Dr. W.
One final question: are you pleased you went? “I am 100% happy with the results of my op! I cannot thank Secret Surgery enough for changing my life and making the whole thing so easy. They are a professional, friendly company who I would have no hesitation in recommending. I will keep in contact with any concerns in my recovery – though I’ve got none yet!”
Call it what you will, the tummy, belly, stomach, abdomen (if you’re feeling fancy) can be a source of distress. We all know how good they can look, but similarly, we all know how off-putting it can be to sport a paunch protruding over a skirt or bulging beneath a tailored suit. Fat and flab on your tummy is the most difficult to hide, and, cruelly, it can be the most difficult to shift. Even if you have the time to crunch and squat, pull up and lunge down, twist and shout all day long, if you’ve had a baby or three it can be nigh impossible to get rid of that tyre surrounding your once-trim tummy. Even if you succeed in shedding the weight after multiple pregnancies, you’ll likely be left with stretch marks as an unwanted reminder of your pregnancy.
Phrases like ‘tummy tuck’, ‘abdominoplasty’, and ‘cosmetic surgery’ come with a lot of misinformation. At Secret Surgery, we believe that all cosmetic procedures should be entered into with a full understanding of the methodology and any inherent risks.
There’s a difference between a full abdominoplasty and a mini-tummy tuck (yes, such a thing exists!). A full tummy tuck or abdominoplasty involves work in both the mid and lower stomach areas, together with a tightening of the abdominal wall and re-sculpting and replacement of your belly button. A mini-tummy tuck is closer to a Caesarean, leaving a smaller scar, and involving no belly button reformation. Recovery can take up to and including 6 weeks, with some precautions to be taken for 6 months after your procedure. The surgery itself takes only 3-4 hours.