Monday, September 12, 2011

Don't cry for me Argentina...

(Warning: this is a very long post) -

I have battled with my weight pretty much my whole life.  As a little kid I was skinny, then when I was about 8 I started getting chubby.  I was chunky up until about the end of 8th grade.  Then I started slimming down. I stayed slim until I was about 6.5 months pregnant with my daughter.  I gained about 80 pounds while pregnant with her and it took me about a year and a half to get it off.  I stayed at a healthy weight for the next 3 years and then I fell in love with my soulmate and packed on the pounds.

In 2005, I decided to get gastric bypass.  I went to Argentina to have the surgery.  Why, you ask?  Simply because it was cheaper than having it done in the States.  I was simply fat.  I did not have Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or any other diseases attributed to being obese.  God, I hate the word obese. YUCK!  Anyway, I went to Argentina because I assumed that my doctor would have just told me no. Looking back this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever done in my life, one notch below actually boarding the plane and having surgery abroad.

On November 19th, 2005, I hugged and kissed my hubby and daughter goodbye and boarded my plane.  I landed in FL, where I met my mother and we both boarded the 2nd plane on to Buenos Aires.   A company called Plenitas coordinated everything for us.  They provided a guide, Cecelia, and she met us at the airport and then we took a taxi to the hotel and checked in.  The next afternoon I met a man who had the same surgery with the same doctor and was recovering nicely.  He was from the US as well and he spoke very highly of the doctor.  I spent most of that second day at the medical center, where I met with the doctor and had my blood work and testing done.  I was then all set for surgery the next day.

That last day before surgery, I emailed back and forth with the Hubby and also with a friend that I worked with.  I bid and won an auction on Ebay and had it shipped to my friend for her birthday.  My mother shares the same birthday as her and I filled out her birthday card and had her gift prepared to give to her the next day.  Her birthday was actually after I was scheduled to be released from the hospital but just in case something went wrong and I had to stay longer I wanted to make sure that she had her card and gift.

I was excited and nervous at the same time.

Day 3 in Argentina, Cecelia came to the hotel and picked me up and we went to the hospital.  I signed some documents and soon after I was prepped for surgery.  Anesthesia came and sedated me and I started counting backwards from 100.  I was out...

The next thing I remember I opened my eyes and my wrists were strapped to a hospital bed.  I WAS TERRORFIED!  I knew something was not right, but at that time I didn't know what.  I was calling for my mom.  Then calling for anyone!  Nobody came.

I was able to get one of my wrists out of the restraints and then untied the other.  Then I realized that there was something in my nose.  At first I thought it was just an air tube and went to pull it out.  As I was pulling it, I realized this tube was inside of me.  I could feel it coming up through my throat and out through my nose.  It was a feeding tube.  What the HELL is going on here!?  My imagination started running wild.  I had recently seen the movie Hostel, so I was having really crazy thoughts!  Were they experimenting on me?  Was I being sexually violated?  Why in the world would they have me tied to a bed?

My mother arrived what I guess was a couple hours later (it felt like days).  She looked like hell.  I could tell she had been bawling her eyes out.  I still had no idea at this time what had happened to me.  She told me that there was a problem and that the doctor had hit an artery and he suspended the surgery.  The doctor told her I had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia due to my high blood pressure. (I don't have high blood pressure.)  She explained to me that I had been in a coma for 10 days and had to have dialysis during that time.  She explained that my wrists were tied to the bed because I kept ripping my IV out and pulling at my feeding tube.  And there was also a problem with my leg.  Following the botched surgery I had Compartment Syndrome in my right calf.  I do not recall any of this, but my mom told me that the day after the surgery I was awake and that I told her that my leg was really hurting and that it was hot.  She touched it and she said it was significantly hotter than the left leg.  She told the doctor but he was not concerned.  He was preoccupied with the other issues I had going on.  Knowing what I know now about Compartment Syndrome, the doctor had to respond immediately and make incisions (fasciotomy) in the limb in order to relieve the pressure that was built up.  Failing to act immediately can result in the muscle dying and possible loss of the limb.

It was over 24 hours before a fasciotomy was performed.  It was too late.

My leg felt very very heavy and swollen, but I could not really move much due to being so weak.  I was covered with a blanket so I could not see my leg.  When the doctor came to see me and tend to my leg, what I saw was horrorfying.  I had two gapeing holes in both sides of my right calf.  The first thing that came to my mind was a rack of raw meat.  Disgusting, I know.  I actually could not eat meat for some time afterward because of the sight of my leg.  I cried and sobbed uncontrollably.  I just couldn't wrap my brain around what I was seeing.  The doctor cleaned the wounds and packed them with...wait for it...SUGAR!  Yes, white granulated sugar.  He actually had a 2lb bag of it and poured it into and all around the wounds.  When I asked him what the hell he was doing, he said that this will keep any bacteria from eating my flesh.  Um, ok...I know I was in another country, but what is this the early 1800's or something? There has to be some more modern medicinal way of doing this.  Anyway, this cleaning and sugaring went on for the next 3 weeks.

After a few days of being concious I was moved from critical care.  There was a little more communication upstairs.  No one really spoke any English.  This was traumatizing for me being in the situation I was in.  There was one doctor who was originally from Chicago.  She worked in a totally different unit, but word must've got around about me and she came to visit me every so often, until she was instructed not to.  This would be around the time that my mother hired a lawyer.  The reason for the lawyer was we were being told conflicting stories about what had actually happened in the operating room that day.  The doctor and Plenitas were sticking with their story that hitting the artery was unavoidable due to my "allergic reaction to anesthesia due to high blood pressure".  One nurse, who we assumed was fired after speaking to my mother (because we never saw him ever again), told her that the doctor made a mistake and there was blood every where.  Another nurse who would only speak to me when she knew no one was around, told me that the doctor hit an organ.  I said, no an artery...thinking since she didn't speak much English that she was confusing the word artery and organ.  She said no ORGAN!  Every now and then over the month that I was there, staff would either slip and tell us info or come right out when they knew that they weren't going to be caught. 

I was in severe pain the majority of my stay in this first hospital.  I have issues with body cleanliness (not OCD  level, but I sometimes shower 3 times a day).  I sometime would have to damn near beg to be washed.  There are few things more damaging to your pride then begging someone to please wash you because you can't and you feel dirty.  I was on Morphine my entire hospital stay.  I needed it for my pain, but to be totally honest, I needed it for my mind.  I was a mental and emotional wreck!  All I did was cry and cry.  A therapist came in to speak with me and I'm sure he couldn't even understand a word I was saying.  He spoke English fine,  but I'm sure my constant blubbering and gasping for air through my crying made me impossible to comprehend.  He prescribed me some anti depressant and anxiety pills.  Not sure what they were.  I do know that my mother, the promise of seeing my family again and Morphine saved my life.  I am pretty sure that if my mother wasn't there, that they would have just killed me.  I truly believe this.  I would've just been some person all alone in a foreign country.  No one to follow up on me, no one waiting for me to get out of surgery.  They could've totally got away with not having to fix all the damage that they did to me if no one was there with me.  And just having my mom with me meant so much.  This ordeal brought us closer than we had been before.  It sucks that we had to go through this to bring us closer,  but I'll take it.  I did get to talk to my hubby and daughter on the phone a few times a week.  Even though those conversations were terribly hard for me, I needed to hear their voices.  I mostly cried listening to them but I needed and wanted to savor every minute I could of hearing their voices.  And Morphine.  For those times when I just couldn't deal.  It was on auto dispense but they also gave me a clicker to dispense more if I felt I needed it.  Just not mentally being "there" got me through many days.  I will admit that I was pretty much a junky for the month and some change that I was in that hospital.

Christmas was coming up and I was promised that I would be home in time.  We don't have a whole lot of Christmas tradition but who wants to spend it in the hospital.  I was still in the hospital on Christmas day.  A couple of days before Christmas they had told us that I could leave on on December 27th.  On the 27th, representatives from Plenitas arrived and brought a typed letter with them that they wanted me to sign.  This letter listed everything that had REALLY happened during surgery.  That the doctor made a mistake and hit an artery, that there was NO reaction to anesthesia, that he nicked my colon while trying to correct his error, that I suffered from acute compartment syndrome as a result of his mistake.  Then there was a paragraph at the end of the letter that basically said that I absolve them of any wrong doing and I will not sue.  SCREW YOU!  I honestly was too weak to argue and fight but my mom was NOT having it.  I really thought that my mother and one of the women were going to come to blows.  They finally released me from the hospital.  My mother had already booked us tickets on American Airline, we were leaving that night straight from the hospital.  I needed to keep my leg elevated at all time so Plenitas offered to have an ambulance drive us to the airport so I would be more comfortable.  We accepted. Just a little word of advice here...Don't arrive to the airport in an ambulance.  No sooner did we pull up did someone from American Airlines come out to the ambulance and ask for my Medical Release.  We showed him my release documents from the hospital.  He said no, he needs the Medical Release so I can travel.  We didn't have that.  Never even heard of it.  The people from Plenitas had followed us to the airport and my mom was asking him for the Medical Release.  He told us to sign the letter clearing them of any wrong doing and he will provide us with the Medical Release to travel.  NO!  We sat there bewildered for a little bit and then the man driving the ambulance asked if we wanted him to take us some place else.  We asked for the nearest hotel and he brought us.  We checked in and I laid in the bed for the next 2 days.  I needed a wheelchair and my mom's strength to get to the bathroom.  That was the only time that I even got out of the bed.  I couldn't shower or bathe because I simply didn't have the strength and I also was afraid to get my wounds wet.  I needed my mother to wash my most private areas.  How embarrassing!  I was not eating.  I was running a high fever and I was still an emotional mess.  After the second day, my mother insisted that we go to another hospital.  During the time I was in the first hospital my mother and my aunt back in the States were trying to get help from Red Cross and from the American Embassy.  The Red Cross never even returned one of my mother or aunt's many phone calls or emails.  The American Embassy suggested a British run hospital in Buenos Aires to my mother.  At this point, I just wanted to die in the hotel room.  I did not want to go to another hospital ever again,  I was tired of being stuck over and over with IV needles just to have my veins blow.  I was tired of the loneliness of the hospital, I was tired of laying there 24/7.  I was tired of only having one or two English programs on TV.  I was tired of smelling a hospital.  I just felt I could not bear it one more day.  But my mother persuaded me to go to the British hospital.  We went and they admitted me.  I had sepsis, this is why I was running a fever.  They treated me for my infection.  They were attentive and very nice.  And most of the staff spoke English, score!  After a couple of days they moved me upstairs and began a wound vacuum on my leg and within a couple days you could see the wounds were closing slightly.  No more barbaric sugar treatment.  I was able to speak to the hubby and daughter anytime I wanted since I had a direct phone line in my room.  My mood was definitely improving.  I knew I would be going home and seeing my family soon.  I was finally released from the second hospital on January 12th, 2006.  I arrived in Florida on January 13th.  We figured since I was in a wheelchair that my mom's one level Ranch would be easier than my 2nd floor apartment back in Mass.  The hubby and daughter flew to Florida the day after I got there.  It was so amazing to see them after such a long time, that feeling is indescribable.  We all stayed at my mom's for two weeks, then my mother flew back to Mass with my daughter since she needed to go back to school and the hubby stayed with me in FL.  My Mommy was what I needed to get me through the ordeal in Argentina, but my hubby was what I needed to get me back on my feet.  My mom coddled me and even though I was supposed to be trying my best to use a walker and less wheelchair, she would not push me to because she didn't want to see me in pain or struggling.  In her eyes I had been though enough.  Hubby was all over me. Not in a mean way, but in the way that I needed.  I need to be pushed.  He would put the wheelchair on the other side of the living room so if I really really needed it, I had to use the walker to get to it.  After about 4 days of his help I only used the wheelchair when we went out.  He got me out of the house everyday, I had doctors appointments often but we also went to Target, Walmart, a drive in movie, out for lunch.  Nothing fancy, just out of the house.  He didn't want me sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  We knew life was never going to be the same, but it is what it is and he was going to see me through this and love me no matter what.

We flew back home February 1st.  Even though it was hard work getting up to the second floor, it felt SO good to be what I call "home home".  To lay in my own bed.  The smell of home.  The sounds of home (which I typically despise since I live in a very busy noisy neighborhood).  I knew I had a long road ahead of me to a full recovery and I wasn't really sure what my final prognosis entailed.  I had daily appointments with everyone from the Coumadin Clinic to the Vascular Surgeon.  Plastic Surgeon to Orthopedic Surgeon.  I also had a physical thrown in there.  My GP told me that he had planned a lunch to sit and meet with my whole team, Vascular, Orthopedic and Plastic Surgeons to discuss my case.  At that lunch they came up with a plan to get me on my way to recovery.  First, the vascular surgeon made sure there were no issues with my veins and/or arteries.  He also removed the nasty bed sore that was on my left heel.  Then the plastic surgeon debreided the still open wounds and then surgically closed them.  This was MAJOR for me.  Just to see those huge wide open incisions finally closed made a phenomenal improvement to my state of mind.  The Plastic surgeon also "prettied up" the mess of a frankenstein scar that was left on my abdomen.  He did this out of the kindness of his heart, free of charge.  Then a few weeks later, the Orthopedic surgeon lengthened my Achilles tendon so that my foot would not be dropped any longer.  He set pins in it so that it would not drop again.  He attempted to do a couple tendon transfers while he was there to see if they would take.  Unfortunately, the transfers did not work, since I had so much muscle and tissue damage.  I wore a cast for 6 weeks and was able to walk with crutches.  Then when the cast was removed I had an air cast.  About a week after having the air cast I asked the hubby to stand in front of me because I wanted to see if I could take a couple steps without using the crutches, and I did!  It was awesome!  I am only 5'4 but I felt so tall!  I had been laying in bed, sitting low in a wheel chair or hunched over a walker or crutches for over a year.  I had a custom Orthotic brace made so I could wear a regular sneaker again.  Since my foot was now fused in a flat footed position I would never be able to wear heels again.  This was a bit hard for me to swallow, but at least I had my leg still.  (my GP later told me that during that lunch that he had with all of my surgeons, they all agreed that if their surgical plan did not yield the results that they hoped that they all agreed amputation was the next course of action.)

I started physical therapy about a month or so after the last surgery.  The first therapist that I had was a little too laid back for me.  About 3 weeks in to therapy, she had to break our appointment and another woman named Roxanne saw me.  I knew from the moment I met her that she was the one for me.  She pushed me!  I typically did all of my therapy with my brace on.  She asked me how much I can do without the brace on.  I told her, I can't do anything without the brace on, I even wear it with my slippers.  She said, "take it off.  I want to see how much you can do, I think a lot of that is mental.  If you are physically uncomfortable you can put it back on."  I took it off and put my sneaker on.  I was scared.  She stood in front of me with her arms out and told me to walk slowly towards her.  I did and that was it.  I never put that sucker on again!  If she hadn't pushed me that day it would've taken me much longer to not be dependent on the brace and to build up my confidence.  I made the rest of my appointments with Roxanne.  I still have a slight limp when I walk.  I tend to favor my left side when I'm just standing around.  I have lower back pain because I am uneven now since my right foot is permanently flat.  I had to learn how to drive a car with my left foot.  I can't run...or maybe I can, but haven't gotten over that mental block yet.  But I am alive.  And I have both of my legs and feet.

So let's recap.  One botched surgery, ten day coma, one fasciotomy, two skin grafts, several debridements, several rounds of dialysis, four blood transfusions, two blood clots, one punctured colon, one dropped foot, one bed sore, two open wounds, three tendon transfers, one surgery to close the wounds, six months of physical therapy, over a year of depression, don't forget the 2 pounds of sugar a day wound care. a year of being almost totally bedridden, enough needle pricks to last a life time and life long disfigurement ....AND I'M STILL FAT!

I lost close to 30 pounds before conceiving my son.  And I really didn't gain any weight during my pregnancy.  But since giving birth and going back to work after maternity leave, I have gained back 10 of those 30 pounds.  I have dieted for the past couple of years since giving birth.  I always have good intentions, but I always go a little over board.  I am ALL or nothing.  I am either drastically cutting out all sugar and all starch or "F" it, I'll eat whatever the hell I want.  There was never any happy medium.  My current approach is much healthier.  Not a diet, but just eating healthier.  It is not practical of me to cut out all sweets.  I would feel too deprived.  I am basically counting calories and exercising.  I believe you can have anything in moderation if you are exercising.  I plan all of my meals and snacks the night before and I add them to my food log, using  This is what I did when I lost the 30lbs pre-baby.  I know that I can stick with this once I get past the first few weeks and really make a routine of it and start seeing results.  I am about 2 weeks in and I have lost 3.5lbs.  Nothing whopping, but definitely a decrease and that is what I am looking for.  I feel that this blog is helping me to maintain my goals.  I feel that I am holding myself more accountable for my actions.  I can see that people are reading the blog and that makes me not want to give up and have to admit to the "world" that I failed.

I will win the battle of the bulge!!


  1. WOW. I never knew the whole story. I only knew that you went to a foreign country to have surgery and that it was botched and you were paralyzed in your foot. I'm speechless. I had NO idea you had to endure so much. You are truly an amazing person! I am soo proud to have you as part of my family. Your strength and positivity are amazing to me.

  2. Thank you Michelle. This horrible experience definitely changed me, strangely for the better. It also made the relationships with the people who are truly most important even stronger. I realized at 30 years old how short life can be and I decided at that point to weed out all of the people who weren't really true friends. I no longer bite my tongue, if it is worth saying, I say it. I never intend to hurt anyone's feelings, but I feel that I have to say what I feel at that time because you never know if you will get that chance again. Crazy things happen and you or that person could be gone just like that. Love you girl. You were a keeper!

  3. I remember Argentina!!! It sounds like you went thru a lot, but there is so much more that you didn't even mention. I remember being in the hotel room trying to fiqure out how we can get you on another airplane. I thought you were going to die there. You were so weak and could not walk at all. I'm so glad we went to the second hospital. Their first thought was that they were going to have to amputate, but then after all the testing they did they tried the wound machine. Thank God it worked and I still have my beautiful daughter. Love you, Mom

  4. I love you too, Mama! And I can never thank you enough for all that you did for me. Glad to still be here :)