After spending years and years – and she estimates thousands of dollars - on unsuccessful diet programs, gym memberships and “all sorts of herbal pills and potions”, 36-year-old Hayley weighed close to 125 kg when she decided to have a lap band in 2008.
“Apart from feeling a bit battered and bruised, and experiencing some stitch-like pain near the port, having the band put in wasn’t too bad. The biggest problem was an overwhelming feeling of fear that I’d fail, especially before the first fill when I didn’t feel any different when I ate. I’d tried everything else and failed, and the surgery was a last resort. If this failed, then what?”
“I expected to lose a lot of weight fast at first, but I was disappointed that I only averaged about 1kg a week. However, my doctor was happy with that, and after talking to others it’s apparently quite normal.”
A typical day’s meal now would include a piece of toast with butter and an egg for breakfast; a skinny latte for morning tea; crackers with ham, avocado and mayonnaise for lunch; a skinny latte and fruit for afternoon tea; and a crumbed fish fillet, small potato and coleslaw for dinner, and a chocolate Paddlepop later.
“Overall I eat healthier food than before, and because I’m eating so little I buy good quality food – expensive cheeses and so on. But I also have treats.”
At the time of writing her weight was 98 kg: “Back in the double-digits for the first time in years”.
First band failed me
At 112 kg, Wendy was banded in 1998, and after eight years was only a few kilograms less than her starting weight. Soon after getting the band she experienced problems when eating solid food, and it seemed like she vomited after just about every meal. Then, to stop feeling hungry, she’d fill up with Mars bar smoothies.
“My skin looked terrible, my nails were brittle and my hair was falling out. I really craved nutritious, healthy food, but couldn’t stand the thought of vomiting it up.”
“I felt ashamed that I had failed, and it took almost ten years to get the courage to look for another doctor to get their opinion. It turned out the band hadn’t been inserted correctly, and had slipped, and the port had flipped as well. I was angry with my original surgeon, but I was also happy and relieved it wasn’t my fault, that I hadn’t failed.”
Wendy decided to have another band put in, and while sitting out the private health insurance waiting period the clinic’s dietitian helped her work through the diet so she was eating “proper” food that she could manage with the faulty band.
“After meeting lots of other bandits through an online support group, I would say the surgery itself hasn’t changed all that much over the years, but the pre- and post-operative care has vastly improved, with a nurse, dietitian and an exercise program to help you. Ten years ago it was more or less a case of, “There’s your band, call me if you want. Have a nice life”.
“I recently had the band replaced, and am confident this time, with more knowledge, and better ongoing care and follow up, it will be more successful.”