This post is something i’ve been talking about doing for months. I’m sure many people will have a reaction of shock when reading the title to this post, but I ask that you please respect my decisions to change my life, and keep all negative comments to yourself. This is a safe place for people who may be battling with weight issues or food addiction, and for those considering surgery.
At the beginning of 2017, I started researching options for weight loss surgery. I had followed many Instagram accounts from people who were in their twenties and underwent surgery. After living 21 years of my life being overweight, I was really tired of failing diets, only to gain more weight afterwards. I was on the brim of a major food addiction to the point where the only thing I really thought about was how my day was going to be planned around which food I was going to eat. Going out to eat was my favorite thing. I had really, really, unhealthy habits. I would start a new diet and do really well for a few weeks and lose weight, but eventually fall back to my old habits and then gain more weight. I was miserable. I felt gross, and knew I had to do something to change and SAVE my life. After having my first surgery ever (emergency surgery mind you) in December of 2016 due to an umbilical hernia, my doctor stressed the importance of losing weight because the stress of the fat in my mid-section was placing too much pressure on my organs. Wow. Now that’s scary. I was so sad and so disappointed that I probably could have avoided this stressful and scary emergency surgery if I were taking better care of my body. With this situation and my blood pressure getting higher and higher every time I went to the doctor, I decided to make a change. That was the final straw for me. I was ready to commit to taking my life back and I knew I needed help to do it.
For those not familiar with weight loss surgery procedures, there’s a few different types to consider. Gastric Bypass is probably the most well known procedure. With this, they resize your stomach to be a fraction of it’s original size AND re-route your intestines. By doing this, it limits your portion size and lessens the amount of calories you absorb and retain when consuming foods. I decided to go with a Vertical Gastrectomy Sleeve instead of the bypass. The sleeve has less risks involved because of the malabsorption and malnutrition issues that have been caused by the bypass. With the sleeve, 80-90% of your stomach is being cut out. They don’t re-route your intestines, or make any other changes to your digestive organs. In the end, you still absorb the normal percentage of your food intake, but the portion you can physically eat is very SMALL. The procedure is permanent whereas most bypass procedures are reversible. There are many pros and cons to both, but I decided VSG was best for me.
I originally planned on having my surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio. I met with a doctor referred to me and it was explained to me that in order to have my surgery covered by insurance, I would need to do 6 months of nutrition meetings in Columbus. After 5 months of making the trip, I was informed that my insurance provider dropped bariatric surgery coverage. After months of believing I was going to get my surgery, it was taken away from me. There was no way I could afford to pay the $21,000 it would take to get my surgery here in Ohio.
With that bad news, I started researching doctors in Mexico. The cost for medical procedures is significantly lower in Mexico versus the US. I read hundreds of websites and reviews. I scrolled through thousands of comments on bariatric message boards and the one facility that had outstanding reviews across the board was Obesity Control Center in Tijuana, Mexico. I was impressed with their overwhelming amount of success stories and the fact that have many certifications of excellence. I started messaging the team at OCC and learned more about their lead surgeon, Dr. Ariel Ortiz. Dr. Ortiz has been doing bariatric surgery for two decades and gained a reputation after making a commitment to specialize in bariatric surgery in the 90’s (which is crazy considering it was so incredibly new at the time). He traveled the US and Canada consulting and training other surgeons in bariatric surgery as well. This guy seemed legit!!
After putting a deposit, completing paperwork, and choosing my procedure, my surgery was scheduled. I had to get a passport which took 21 days to arrive to me. My mom and I left Ohio on May 28 (memorial day) and flew into San Diego airport. We gave ourselves a couple days in San Diego before my surgery which was Wednesday, May 30th. We stayed at the Bay Club Resort in San Diego which was super cute and cozy. They had different soup/broth options for room service which was awesome because I was on a strict clear liquid diet 48 hours before surgery!
Photos from our time in San Diego at the Bay Club Resort:
On Tuesday, a driver from OCC came to pick us up at the hotel. It took around one hour to get from San Diego to Tijuana with traffic and border crossing. At the border, the driver dropped us off, we went into a building and showed our paperwork and passports, and the driver met us on the other side of the building. The process was easy, but we did have to keep our luggage on us while crossing- so consider that if you’re planning to go to Tijuanna for surgery.
Once we got to Tijuanna, the driver dropped us off at our hotel, The Mariott, which was very close to the hospital. The hotel was very nice, and we were greeted by a few staff members that spoke english fluently. 🙂 The hotel had a pool, hottub, and a restaurant inside. The next morning, OCC sent a driver to pick up everyone having surgery that day. We met crazy early (like 5:20 AM I think??) There were 6 of us that day, so this was the first time I met my sleeve sisters.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were required to get blood work and an EKG. After everyone did that, we went back to our individual rooms. The hospital looked like an American hospital! Clean, modern, and bland 🙂 We spent most of the day waiting our turn. The room did have netflix available which was a relief. Sometime later in the morning Dr. Ortiz came in to see me. He sat on the couch next to me and asked me about what kind of work I did and what hobbies I had. He was so kind and had great bedside manner. At this point, the little bit of nerves I had were completely GONE. This man was an angel and so comforting. He held my hand and I asked if I was scared or nervous, I said “not really to be honest, I’m just excited.” and he said “Good – i’m not nervous either!!” we laughed and he left the room. At this point, I felt even more confident in my decision.
I was taken back for surgery around 1:30 pm. I never felt scared or worries, I felt so much excitement for the future. The thought of going to Mexico for surgery was scary, but once I was there, I realized it wasn’t scary. I remember briefly waking up after surgery and napping most of the afternoon. I did feel very nauseous when waking up the first time, but the pain was really minimal. After nausea medication, I felt much better. We all got up to walk for 15 minutes every hour until around 11pm when we all went to bed. Throughout the night, the nurses came in to check on me and at one point gave me more nausea medication. I started sipping pedialyte that night. Early in the morning, we got up around 5 and the other doctors made rounds to ensure all of us were doing well. We got dressed and left the hospital around 7 am. The driver took us back to our hotel.
I spent most of the next day napping and walking once an hour. Room service delivered water and broth to us each throughout the day. By day two, I was able to leave the hotel and walk around with no problem. There was very minimal pain and the nausea had completely subsided. We spent the next couple days exploring tijuanna and walking to local stores. At this point, I did not feel hungry at all, so broth and pedialyte was enough to make me feel content.
I went back to the hospital 3 days after surgery to do a leak-test and ensure there were no problems with my new stomach. Everything went well. I did have some extra swelling in my upper esophagus when drinking water. I received a steroid shot to help with swelling.
Most patients were able to fly home that Saturday, but because my Mom was having dental work done in Mexico, we had to stay an extra week. We moved to an airbnb on Saturday, which was right beside the Pedwest border crossing. The Airbnb was very small and cute in a secured building. After the first week, I felt more hungry (still not starving) but it was very hard to find foods I could eat in Mexico. I was limited to liquids and most restaurants in Mexico only serve soup that is spicy, or has large chunks of vegtables/tortillas in it. I would suggest flying home on your schedule day if possible, and if not, make sure you bring enough broth to Mexico with you.
Photos from our AIRBNB in Tijuanna:
At one point, we walked a block the pedestrian border crossing and walked through to san diego. It only took us 15 to walk across the border whereas the line of cars for the vehicle border crossing can take up to 4 hours one way. There was a shopping mall in San Diego right on the other side of the border, so we went to a couple stores and grabbed some soup from Olive Garden (which was AMAZING after 10 days of pretty much zero food – lol!!)
It was extremely easy to walk around by day 2 after surgery. I felt like my normal self. I highly suggest getting up to move around as much as the doctor tells you, I believe doing this helped me heal faster and feel better within such a short period of time.
After our second week, we walked with our luggage through the walking border crossing and got an Uber to the airport and flew home.
The hardest part of the entire thing is the pre-op diet and the liquid stages after surgery. I was required to do a liquid diet for 2 weeks prior to surgery, which is so hard when your stomach is its NORMAL size!! I ended up losing 15 pounds in that 2 weeks, which made surgery easier for my doctor and shrunk my liver which is required for surgery.
The first few days, you will likely not feel hungry. Once you get closer to the week mark and going into the 10-20 days out, you will feel hunger, but just a couple of sips will fill you up. It’s hard to adjust your mind to the amount of food you need to feel content.
Overall, this experience was something I have never once regretted. I would do it all over in a heartbeat!! I am almost 8 months out and have lost over 100 pounds. I am so pleased with my experience at OCC and my decision to go to Mexico for surgery.
I am an open book and love answering questions that others may have about this experience!! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something you want to know!!
Updated weight loss photo: