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Now that I’m feeling better here is the run down of my Tijuana adventure to have WLS.

One of the girls at work traveled the end of February 2015 and had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG), commonly called Gastric Sleeve.  She raved about it and dropped 20 lbs. pretty quickly.  I was surprised because in my head I really didn’t think of her as fat, just a slightly chunky ex-cheerleader type.

But it got me to thinking again about having some kind of surgery done.  K had been talking about it and I had agreed that when my settlement money came in from Bayer (apprx. 1/2016) we would do something.  Then my diabetes decided to kick in ful strength and I started feeling pretty bad, K’s sugars were through the roof all the time and without insurance(or even with Obamacare) there was no way we could afford insulin for her.  She started looking at surgical groups in Tijuana and found A Lighter Me.  They are probably the #1 ranked group, have a stellar reputation.  We talked with one of their coordinators for weeks, and finally applied for a medical loan.  We were denied twice.

We decided to move ahead anyway and at least pay our non-refundable deposits to hold our surgery dates until we could figure out funding.  Then they dropped a bombshell on me.  They tacked on a $350 high bMI fee (which I am calling a FAT FEE) onto me surgery amount!  That put my total surgical cost at $4950!  I emailed and asked about the additional fee and was told that since my BMI was over 55 that they charged an additional $350 because of the extra equipment and supplies they would need due to my ‘size’.  I called BS.  BMI has nothing to do with the need of additional supplies.  It has to do with how you are built.  While my BMI is/was high, I’m built in a manner that does not make that a requirement. When I pointed this out I was pretty much told, “yeah we get that, but too bad”  I was already paying $400 more than K because only one of the doctors at ALM will do surgery on anyone over a 55 BMI.  So now I’m being charged ANOTHER $350 because I’m fat…Ah…NO.  They also informed us that they would not be able to provide K with vegetable broth after surgery.  BUT Walmart was only a block or two down the street and we could walk down and it up ourselves!  What?? I’m paying you thousands of dollars and you can’t send a maid 2 blocks to pick up a $1 box of veggie broth????

In the meantime I was starting to get a touch of cold feet plus I was angry about the extra fee.  Going through ALM we were now looking at $10,350 just for surgery, plus airfare, hotels & parking while we were gone.  I figured in total a minimum of 11K.

I started looking for other options.  I found Long Term VSG, a new group running a marketing special of $2999! No extra fees or expenses.  But instead of 5 days we would only be staying 3 days & 2 nights. I spoke at length with the Coordinator Ruben, and felt like this was the way to go.  K wasn’t thrilled, she was sure it was going to be some horrible back room abortion clinic type deal, but she agreed just so we would stop talking and actually do it.  But I still had to figure out how in the heck we would pay for it!

After talking with my parents, we decided that we would try to do a re-fi or a line of credit on my home.  We then discovered that even though my house is worth a whole lot more money than we owe on it, you can’t take out a line of credit on a “modular home”.  So we regrouped and decided to use my tax return to pay off my parents small home.  Since their house is an official “house” we then applied for a loan using their now paid for home as collateral.  We got approved, but we didn’t get the money until the Thursday before we traveled!

On Sunday May 31st, 2015 we drove 2 1/2 hours to Dallas.  Dropped off the car at long term parking at Dallas Love Field Airport and took a shuttle to our hotel.  With a 6 am flight we didn’t want to have to deal with the car in the morning.  We stayed at the Park Inn just 5 minutes from the airport.  It had good reviews and we got a pretty decent price for it.  The hallways were humid and kind of stinky, but the room itself was good.

Monday June 1st we got up at 4:30 am to head out to the airport.  The night before the desk clerk told us that the shuttle was available at any time, so we figured if we left between 5 & 5:15 we would be ok to catch our flight.  Arrived to see the shuttle pulling away from the doors and were told there wouldn’t be another one until 5:30! We didn’t arrive at the airport until 5:45, and instead of pre-boarding we got on right before the last boarding group and had to sit at the back of the plane.

Now for my shout-out to SouthWest Airlines!  SouthWest has a “Passenger of Size” policy.  If you are a big person and need a 2nd seat, they will give you one free of charge.  They prefer it if you purchase the 2nd seat at the time of your booking so that they have a correct head count before the flight(so they don’t have to bump anyone at the last minute) but you can wait and ask for an additional seat when you get to the airport.  If you buy the 2nd seat, after the flight they will refund the ticket price to you, it may take a few weeks, but you do get your money back.

We arrived in San Diego at 7:30 am California time.  K started to freak a bit because our pick up person was about 20 minutes late, and we had expected her to be waiting for us.  She took us straight to the Surgical Clinic.  I had expected to have a bit of a drive, but it was a 10-15 minute drive to the border from the airport and then the Clinic was just 5 minutes on the other side.

The Surgical Clinic is on the 2nd floor of a medical plaza with other doctors and groups.  There didn’t appear to be an elevator and we walked the flight of stairs.  Not a problem for us, but could see how it might be an issue for others.  The Clinic was very clean and modern but small.  It has 2 surgical suites, a recovery bay that can accomodate 2 people at a time, 2 ‘rooms’ which hold 2 people each, and a bathroom with a shower.

SIDEBAR: Someone posted on one of my Facebook groups about how insulting it was to call Mexico a 3rd world country and make comments about how “clean & modern” the medical facilities are because “come on people it is 2015!”…I’m sorry but Mexico, especially Tijuana does not usually call up mental images of clean or modern until you are thinking of vacation resorts.  And because I want people to be able to reject those automatic ideas I’m going to continue to say CLEAN & MODERN when I talk about my experience.

We arrived inside the clinic about 9 am.  We were immediately ushered into our room area, think ER bay sort of. 3 walls with a curtain blocking off the hall.  Elizabeth, the nurse(?), got us changed into hospital gowns, started IVs and put us in compression stockings in a matter of minutes.  Blood was pulled and sent off to the lab. By 9:30 we were ready.  We sat and waited…and waited…and waited.

Ruben had told us to expect the first surgery to start about 1 PM. At 1:30 Dr. Montano, Dr. Maytorena’s assistant came in and told us that as soon as the Cardiologist showed up and did our EKGs and cleared us that Dr. M & Dr. David(the Anethselogist) would come in and do their final assessments and we would get started.

Sure enough, the Cardiologist showed up about 1:45, cleared us for surgery, and the docs came in and ran us through our histories.  I had wanted K to go first, but due to my small mouth(yes, physically my mouth doesn’t open very wide) Dr. David wanted me to go first as he thought I would give him the most problems.  Both Doctors were great.  I went back about 2:15 and woke up about 4:30 in the recovery bay.  I’m slow to come out from under and didn’t go back to my room until about 5:15.  K came out of surgery about 6:30.

To be continued