Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Yesterday, I went to EMMC's surgical weight loss program (SWLP) orientation, followed by a support group meeting. I wanted to post about this last night when I got home, but the long ride to and from the meetings and the 4.5 hours of meetings that I sat through were very difficult on me physically, so I have been resting (the pain made sleep a bit elusive). I have extreme stiffness and pain in my hips and lower back this morning, but I just couldn't wait any longer to post to you all about how it went.

First, I have been through this orientation once before, about 2 years ago, before I had any Medicare coverage. A few things have changed, or been updated, but most of the information was very familiar to me from the previous orientation and my 2 years of internet research.

The orientation meeting was filled with information about the 3 types of weight loss surgery that this program offers and the doctors who perform it. Because of the huge amount of information, they provided us with binders of information for us to take home and review. We were informed that as we proceed through the program we will be tested on our knowledge about the procedure we have chosen to have performed, because they want us to be so well educated that we become experts.

I loved that the presenter, didn't sugar coat things. She was very forthright about the risks of the surgery and the programs rates of complications and mortality. She explained the reasons that people have died during surgery and post-operative. That way we can go into this with our eyes wide open. Anyone who thinks that having weight loss surgery is taking the easy way out, doesn't realize how brave a person must be to put their life on the line by having this surgery. Although, the risks of not having the surgery are almost as great, since my life expectancy is drastically reduces and my mobility is steadily declining.

One issue I have that could not be addressed during either of yesterdays meetings, is Medicare coverage and its requirements. I was advised to contact the programs director for information about that, so I called her this morning. I explained to her that when I contacted Medicare they wouldn't really give me any information about what pre-qualifiers I need to have. She informed me that I would need a BMI over 35 (mine is 65) and one other co-morbidity.

Typically, a co-morbidity is high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or sleep apnea. I have not been diagnosed with any of these, so I was concerned that I wouldn't qualify. She read over the information that my PCP had sent over with my referral and found that one of my prior PCPs had written a perfect explanation of the severity of my osteo-arthritis and that if I did not lose a large amount of weight I would never be able to get the needed hip replacement surgery. The director told me that should be just the ticket to qualify me. She also said that based on a sleep questionnaire that I filled out at the orientation, I will have to go for a sleep study to see if I have sleep apnea, which she thinks is probable. This may not seem like good news, but if it is another co-morbidity, then it would not only seal the deal for me, but it is a dangerous condition that I would be better off knowing about and having treated.

Over all, I think that this was a very positive step forward toward my ultimate goal of better health and better quality of life. I will be reading and rereading the binder of information that the SWLP provided and waiting for them to mail to me my next appointment. I am aiming to attend one support meeting per month, because the people there offer more than just encouragement, they have lived this and really know better than even the doctors how it is to live this surgically altered life. Also, I will keep trying to lose weight, because that will reduce some of the risks associated with the surgery.

Please let me know if you have any questions, because I want to help anyone I can, and I can also learn from you! Thank you.


Anonymous said...

You should qualify. Arthritis and Lupus are nasty to deal with when obese because of the damage to the joints. I was told that with the high BMI is qualification enough. I'd stopped having sleep apnea after the first 50 or so pounds (which I lost before surgery) and my blood pressure has been (luckily) low, so those were my deciding factors. Also most places (including my medicare HMO) also has an upper BMI as a determining factor, and pretty much anyone over 50 gets in regardless.

You shouldn't have any problems getting in.