An Update on My Friend
It’s been one week since I learned about my friend’s condition and shared it with you here on my blog, so I felt it was time for an update. I would love to tell you that she is doing well and has “turned the corner.” But…you don’t turn a corner with liver failure…not a “good” one, anyway.
They have sent her home to…I suppose…wait for a donor, a limbo I know all to well, as my own family lived there for 3 years while my brother waited for a kidney to save his life. As you can imagine, it was a horrible time waiting and worrying that his dialysis would stop working before a match could be found. But fortunately, about 15 years ago, they DID find a kidney for him — and a great one, at that…”Sydney” has been performing like a champ ever since.
“Our” story turned out well. But…we must wait to learn how the next chapter will be written for my friend. No matter how it unfolds, her journey will not be an easy one to read. That’s because there’s a bitter irony to her survival; she’ll need a new liver to live, but someone will have to die first.
Such is the beauty and horror of organ donation.
The horror is the death. But the beauty is the life that’s given. You see, organ donors are the most special of angels; they give the greatest gift without ever knowing they gave it, and those who receive it get a gift they will never forget.
* * *
But, back to the situation at hand: I’ve been pondering my friend’s circumstances, wondering if there were warning signs that she simply didn’t recognize…wondering if some doctor, somewhere, with some blood test could have called attention to this before it got this bad; wondering WHY it got this bad…? Of course, all of this is like yearning for yesterday, but it still makes me wish for a “Wayback Machine” so I could send her back in time to face this monster before it got its hold on her.
As I write this, she has still not been able to eliminate the 30 pounds of toxins that her body has decided to hold onto, so she is feeling understandably miserable. Also, she has been banned from ever consuming sushi or shellfish again. Ever. These are things she adored for as long as I’ve known her, and I promise you, she is mourning the loss. When I asked her why the doctor said not to eat them, she simply said, “I was told to eat like a pregnant woman for the rest of my life.” And that means, no alcohol, either…
When I told her I had shared her story with all of you. she was momentarily heartened because she knew some good would come of her bad. She knew her suffering could save someone else’s life, or keep them from suffering quite as much. I’m sure she never imagined she’d become an advocate for this cause, but she has assumed that role as gracefully as one can expect, and promises me that she will avail herself to any support groups in the area who want to meet her and ask her questions about her life since weight loss surgery — especially the tough stuff about the booze.
So, where am I in all of this today? Well, for the last week I’ve been, for lack of a better word, “managing” an unbelievable volume of feedback and discussion on the subject of alcohol consumption after weight loss surgery.
I’ve witnessed an avalanche of outpouring for my friend’s condition, and I am eternally grateful for the love, support and prayers going her way; thank you all for that.
I have also felt the undeniable burn of fear and frustration as the subject of my blog spread like wildfire through our community.
I have heard a chorus of confusion, anger and denial from those who simply want to know how this could have happened.
I have fielded more than a few private messages from people who see themselves in my friend’s story, and are terrified that they will end up like her.
I’ve heard from multitudes who simply didn’t know this was a possibility after surgery, and feel betrayed that they were never warned.
I’ve met precious people who shared with me how terrified they are to be at a point where they’re so far out of control with their own alcohol consumption they wonder if they’ll ever find their way home. They worry that it’s too late, and fear that all hope is lost, but mostly, they want to know if they really are addicts.
Well…addiction is a scary word and sometimes, it keeps people from getting the help they need. So…why use it? It’s not necessary to identify yourself as an addict to seek recovery — you only have to know you have a problem and need help. It sounds trite, but it’s true, and I tell everyone the same thing: Recovery is not easy, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it; it simply means we shouldn’t give up when it gets hard.
I am passionate about this subject. I am convinced to my core that we must open the lines of communication and talk about this very real, very deadly problem. And we must start now.
- We must talk about the things that scare us.
- We must be bold in the face of criticism.
- We must not fear judgment more than we crave recovery.
- We must take a stand and tell others what so many doctors neglected to tell us: Alcohol consumption after surgery is not healthy, not necessary, and non-negotiable.
We lost weight to gain our health; why would we throw it away on something as meaningless as a drink? Clearly, we didn’t see it that way, for if we had, we might have thought a bit longer before we poured that first glass.
I’ll leave you with this: Tomorrow, I am heading south to attend the annual ASMBS convention in San Diego, California with my friend and business partner, Dr. Connie Stapleton (The Doc). We are fired up and ready to bring THIS life-and-death message to doctors and healthcare providers.
In no uncertain terms:
- You MUST talk to your patients about the very real dangers of alcohol consumption after weight loss surgery.
- You MUST educate them on how their new bodies will process the toxins in alcohol.
- You MUST let them know that therapy is okay.
- You MUST let them know about the potential for cross-transfer addictions. And finally,
- You MUST let them know it again, and again, and again.
You know my position on this:
- We must stand together as a community and support our brothers and sisters who are struggling with addiction (or whatever you want to want to call it) after WLS.
- We must bring a united message of hope — not judgment or condemnation — to those who would confide in us about their private battles with food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc..
- We must not fear the truth, for those who follow in our footsteps will demand better of us.
I am on the front lines…ready to do what it takes to shine a light upon the dark secret that is not-so-silently killing people in our community. I hope you will join me.
I will keep you posted on my friend’s condition, and update you on the feedback we get at ASMBS. In the meantime, thanks for your support and prayers. We ALL need and appreciate them.
RECOVERY FROM OBESITY: Learn About the 12-Steps