Okay, so I’m going to go a 2-week update blog post (and video) on Friday, but I wanted to post this today for anyone who is looking for information on Dr. Aceves, Almater, Mexicali etc.
I won’t repeat what I’ve already said about how great my experience was, but I wanted to outline what my time at the hospital was like, the surgery, the tests, the hospital etc. I’m going to try and put in as much detail as I can, so a warning…this might be a long one 😉
So, let’s start at the beginning…
We were picked up by our driver (and I believe pretty much the only driver), Ernesto (who is one of Dr. Aceves’ former patients – in fact, he keeps a “before” photo of himself in the van which he’ll be happy to show you!) around 11am at San Diego Airport (Terminal 1). As I mentioned, there were also two others having surgery that day and so there were 5 of us total in the van – myself, my husband, Ken, Stephanie and her husband. The van was a recent model Honda Odyssey and very comfortable. The drive to Mexicali (mostly through California desert) was quite lovely, and was around 2 hours or so. We crossed the border into Mexico at the Calexico/Mexicali border.
We arrived at the hospital and were greeted by Karla, one of the patient coordinators. She had us sit down and then called us one by one to get our bloodwork done in the (tiny) lab on site. We also were required to give a urine sample as well (so make sure you have some water in the van!). After that we should technically have had our chest x-rays and EKG, but both were occupied, so Karla just suggested we could do them first thing in the morning the day of surgery. At that point we went into one of the rooms and waited for Dr. Campos, who was coming in to chat with us about the surgery as well as the nutritional aspect of things. Dr. Campos is quite young and is very personable, and has a great way of explaining things. One of the things he said is that this surgery is 50/50 – meaning 50% of your weight loss will come from the surgery, 50% from what you put into it. He also reminded us that they can only operate on our stomachs, not our brain, so the mental aspect of this journey is up to us. It was a great reminder, for sure.
Dr. Aceves also came in during Dr. Campos’ talk to meet us and chat with us for a few minutes. Again, he seemed very knowledgeable, kind, and caring. He reiterated some of the things that Dr. Campos had told us, and he explained some further details about the surgery itself. After Dr. Campos was finished speaking, we waited a few minutes for the anesthesiologist (I can’t remember his name unfortunately!) to come in and talk to us about the details of how we would be put under, pain management etc. (he too was very nice, happy to answer questions etc.). Before we left the hospital, we made the remainder of our payments to Karla, and we were given an antibiotic pill we needed to take, as well as a sedative to take before bed. The whole thing was probably about 60-90 minutes total (I think we were at the hospital around 2 and half hours), and then we were taken directly to our hotel.
The hotel is the Lucerna Mexicali, and is quite a large hotel complex with two small pools and three restaurants. It was totally fine for the one night that we were there, and we ate in the Mexican cafeteria-style restaurant as well as the Italian restaurant and both were quite good. We were told that we could have whatever we liked for dinner, and to keep alcoholic beverages to 2 maximum, and that we could not have anything at all to eat or drink after 10pm.
We were picked up in the morning at 7am by Ernesto in the lobby and taken back to Almater. We then had our chest x-rays and EKGs (quick and easy) and were each given our rooms and changed into our hospital gowns (which were HUGE, and actually covered my entire backside…that’s new) and the nurse came in to put in our IVs. We knew that there would be three surgeries done that day, but no idea what order they would be done in (there are apparently a number of factors they consider in how patients are ordered). Of course, I ended up being last, which meant that my surgery took place around 3:00-3:30pm – the rest of the day I was basically just hanging around in my room making videos and fooling around on my iPad. I was given an injection directly into my IV around 45 minutes before my surgery (basically a sedative), and then was wheeled down to the operating room.
I shuffled onto the operating table and the nurses wrapped my lower legs in bandages (to provide support and pressure, to help avoid blood clots), and then got me prepped for surgery until the anesthesiologist came in, and that’s about all I remember, LOL.
The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room (and thinking, ok, at least I’m alive) – I wasn’t in any pain, but it took me a while to come to, and I realized I was in an uncomfortable position. It actually took me a while to get the coordination to get comfortable, and then one of the doctors came in to ask me how I was doing. I felt fine pain-wise, but I was seriously nauseous. I remember telling them that and then was in and out of it for a while. They then wheeled me back to my room where my husband was waiting. The surgery itself was around an hour and forty-five minutes, and I was in the recovery room for a couple of hours as well. Immediately after the surgery my only issue was nausea, but that got better as the night went on. There was really no pain though, which was good!
I had four small incisions in my abdomen, and one larger incision (upper left of the abdomen) where the drain was attached to collect fluid. The small incisions were stiched closed and covered with steri-strips, the larger incision was left open to allow for the drain.
Because it was already so late, I basically just ended up going to sleep. In the middle of the night, I was just really uncomfortable (hospital beds are certainly not known for their comfort) and I actually asked my husband to switch with me and I slept on the couch (mostly in a quasi-sitting-up position), which was very comfy. That actually went on for the next two nights as well – switching with him in the middle of the night, because I found the couch much more comfortable.
The rooms at Almater are quite nice, with dark woods and furniture and homey touches (not super clinical). You have a full size leather couch, a flat screen tv and a private bathroom with a large shower. You can check out a video I did of the room here.
In the morning, I got up and started walking (not bad, not a lot of pain, just not a lot of energy), but it was a bit of a pain dragging around the IV (which I totally complained about). Karla came in and told me that if I wanted to get rid of the IV, I needed to drink, so shortly after Dr. Campos came in and brought me 4 small medicine cups full of apple juice dyed dark blue. He told me once I drank those and they checked my drain (to make sure there were no leaks) I could start drinking fluids and the IV would come out.
It was a slightly strange sensation when I started drinking, but it was fine, and I had finished all four in about 45-60 minutes (yes, it tasted bad, but not terrible – like bitter apple juice). Dr. Campos came in to check the drain a while later and everything looked fine, so I was then given a bottle of water, Camomile tea, apple juice and gatorade. At that point (and for the next day or so), I pretty much just drank the tea, and it was great. The nurses came in and out frequently, and I was given pain killers, Lovenox injections in the belly (to prevent DVT/blood clots) etc. I did my best to do my breathing exercises and get up and walk every few hours. The weather was lovely while we were there, so I enjoyed going outside and just sitting and people-watching or walking around the front area of the hospital. Even though I was there over the weekend (surgery on Friday, in the hospital Saturday and Sunday), I saw Dr. Aceves and Dr. Campos every day, and also was visited by two other doctors as well.
The next morning I had the barium swallow test and got to see my new tummy in action – way cool (and really tiny). Yes, the barium liquid isn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t that bad – not even close to as horrible as I expected. Once they confirmed there were no leaks, I was able to have the drain removed (they do not stich it, but just cover it with gauze and tell you to let it heal on its own) and then I also got some chicken broth (yummy – tasted like an actual chicken!). The rest of the day passed by fairly uneventfully and the next morning we needed to be ready for Ernesto at 7am to take us back to San Diego. Before we were discharged we got a copy of all our test (including the chest x-ray and barium swallow), the surgical report and some post-op care and diet information.
Sooo…I think that’s everything, but of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment – happy to answer them 🙂