Patient Spotlight – Tabitha Geary

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How was life before the surgery?

I was 31 years old, a schoolteacher, and married with two young children. I was very unhappy and on antidepressants. I hated going shopping, but I had no choice; I had to buy new bigger clothes. I had no energy whatsoever and felt like a blob. One of my friends had the surgery and I started talking to her and thought it wasn’t for me, but I made the appointment on a whim. On January 30th I made an appointment for February 1st and he happened to have an opening for the time I needed. I decided to just go and talk to him, but I probably wouldn’t have the surgery. One reason I decided to look into the surgery is both sides of my family have diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and while I didn’t have any of those problems yet, I knew that’s where I was heading.

How did you hear about Dr. Dirk?

My friend told me not to go to her bariatric surgeon in Dallas, TX  because she had a horrible experience, and I had another friend that used Dr. Dirk and said nothing but good things about him. So, I researched Dr. Dirk before and I found nothing but good things so I decided to go with him.

What were your reservations about going through with weight loss surgery?

It was concerning that it was such a big surgery, and I didn’t know much about it.

What made you decide the surgery was right for you?

During the consultation, he told me he wish more people would come in before getting to the point of needing medication. I thought about my two young kids that I have to be around for so I need to do this for me and so I can run and play with them without being exhausted. I didn’t want to take a bunch of medication and depend on insulin down the road.

I was very unsure when I went to him, but he sold me on the surgery by explaining everything very well, including the risks of the surgery. He explained the risks of the surgery versus the risks of the health problems that could arise from being overweight, especially diabetes. There was no comparison; it just made sense to do the bariatric surgery procedure.

How did you prepare for the surgery?

I had six weeks to prepare and I researched a ton. I wanted to find out everything possible, good and bad. I sampled protein powders and bought everything I could possibly need. I was excited to get the process started and a little nervous the night before.

What were you nervous about?

Just the fact that it’s surgery, and you are being put to sleep. But the people at the hospital were wonderful and Dr. Dirk came out beforehand and put me at ease.

How did you feel after the surgery?

It was a tiny bit worse than I expected only because I had a huge hiatal hernia they fixed as well. But even with it being worse than I thought, it still wasn’t “Oh my gosh, I won’t do this again”. I had minimal pain and was very comfortable at the hospital. They made me get up and walk around, and I thought I was going to kill those people that made me, but it felt a lot better once I did that actually. The pain from the actually surgery didn’t hurt, only the pain from the gas they used.

What was the first positive change that you noticed?

After about a week, I started having more energy. After about two weeks when I started to lose weight and the swelling went down in my stomach, I felt amazing. I didn’t have any discomfort after the surgery. I had surgery on Tuesday and was able to go to Walmart on Friday. A week and a half after the surgery I walked a 5K, and I was just a little tired after. I followed the rules because I’m a teacher and I like to follow rules and it really helped. I had such a good experience and I would recommend everyone to Dr. Dirk, in fact, I’ve recommended eight people to him.

What would you tell someone thinking about weight loss surgery?

I would tell them to at least go talk to him. This surgery has honestly changed my life. I’m not on anti-depressants anymore, I’m happy, and I love going shopping. I even wore a bikini at the beach this summer. I wore shorts for the first time in ten years, and we live in Texas and its not exactly cool here. That to me is so amazing. Even my husband tells me he’s noticed my attitude has changed and I feel better about myself. I actually run quite a bit now and I can play with my kids. I want to be a good example for them and being overweight was not it.

Would you do everything over again?

Absolutely. And that rough period after the surgery was three hours long, which is nothing. If I had to go back, I would absolutely do the surgery.

What were the rules before and after the surgery?

He didn’t have many rules for before the surgery, but after you are on a liquid diet for three weeks. Anything you can put in a blender you can eat, he says. I ate soup and the protein drinks for three weeks. Then Easter was right at my three weeks, so I got to start soft foods. My family goes all out with food on holiday, and I didn’t feel deprived or like I was missing out on things. I still got to have my turkey, dressing, and macaroni, but it was one tiny bite. I couldn’t eat bread for about eight months, which was my weakest point before the surgery, and I don’t even crave it anymore.

How has the surgery changed your outlook on life?

I am much happier, my kids think I’m much happier, my husband thinks I’m much happier. When you feel good about yourself, it shows in everything you are doing. For the first time in 10-12 year I feel good about me.

How do you stay motivated and stick to your schedule?

At first, the schedule was very hard for me because you’re used to your old ways. It’s hard to get out of a 20 year old habit in a couple of days. Now, I set alarms on my phone to eat and drink. Even now, the hardest thing for me is getting enough water so I have an app on my phone that tells me when to be drinking, just as a reminder. I don’t have any problems with the food. I just make sure to eat small snacks now. I really wanted the surgery to be a success and not gain the weight back like some people I’ve seen. I didn’t want to waste my time and money. Once, I started feeling good about myself I didn’t want to go backwards. A year and a half out, I still try to eat every 2-3 hours and stick to that.

What changes have you seen after the surgery?

I didn’t lose any weight for about two weeks, so I started doubting my decision. But I researched and found sometimes that happens. Then I started losing 3-5 pounds a week. When I hit that stall, it was hard so I made sure to up my water and work out more. I started walking more and going to the gym so that I have people to push me. That made the stall a lot easier to get through, knowing I was going to lose. I encourage people to take measurements because I was building muscle and you can see those changes more in measurements than just the weight alone.

Do you participate in any support groups?

I found one on Facebook for people who have had gastric sleeve surgery. It is people from all over the world that has had the surgery. I think its key to have someone to talk to, whether it’s someone you know that had the surgery or people online.

What does your exercise regimen consist of?

After the surgery, I started going to the YMCA and doing their classes like Boot Camp and Spin. I would do those classes three times a week, and run two days a week. At first I could run for a minute and every week I would up it by 30 seconds because I wanted to start running and had never been a runner in my life. I would workout 4-5 days a week and I went to the Y because I needed that group exercise to push me. Now, I work out 3-4 days a week doing classes and running at the Y.

How has your diet changed?

Before surgery, I ate anything and everything that there was. I had tried to diet several times and it just didn’t work for me. I’ve tried every diet known to man. Once I tried diet pills and lost 20 pounds, but gained it all back immediately. Another diet pill I took actually made me pass out at work, and I thought I cannot do this to myself.

Now, grilled chicken is one of my favorite things and I eat it about three times a week. My husband grills things quite often, and he has started eating better as well. When I went on vacation recently, I had vacation food like fried shrimp. It was just a tiny bit and I didn’t feel guilty because I eat so healthy the rest of the time. I eat three snacks a day either string cheese or a handful of nuts. One between breakfast and lunch, one between lunch and dinner, and one after dinner.

How was your communication with Dr. Dirk after the surgery?

Every time I came in to see him, he answered any questions I had. He made me realize that I did make the right decision. His staff is just wonderful, too. I emailed the staff a few questions and they always responded quickly. This is one of the best doctor office communications I’ve had. Even after the year, he told me if I needed to come back I was more than welcome to.

Anything else?

If you are on the fence, talk to him [Dr. Dirk] and talk to people who have done it. This has been the best decision I’ve made for myself.