In October 2016, I had shot myself (again) to 386 pounds. The decades of abuse I had given myself culminated in the revelation that I was at the lowest point in my life and needed to make a change or things would get ugly.
I made the difficult decision to have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy with a world-renowned surgeon based in Mexico. For two weeks, I went on a liquid diet and immediately lost 20 pounds. I flew to Mexico and had the surgery, which went smoothly. It seemed to have no complications and I was smart with my approach to the process. I did everything my doctors asked me to do and strictly followed the rules.
During my pre-surgery phase, I was told to focus on drinking 100 grams of protein every day. This involved beating Muscle Milk like a champion. Obviously, I drank water and juices, along with chicken broth to get through the 14 days.
After my surgery, the doctors were happy and told me to work on the same liquid diet for another 2 weeks and then I could switch to “soft foods”. Doing exactly what I had done the previous 2 weeks, I drank my Muscle Milks, ate the sugar-free popsicles, enjoyed the egg soup broth, and did this, to satiety, for almost a month.
On the last day of my liquid diet, I croaked.
You read well. I died for over 11 minutes and had it not been for the first responders and women’s staff at Vitacare in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I would not have survived. Obviously, there are two things your body desperately needs to stay functional: potassium and magnesium.
I did exactly what I had done before surgery and drank my Muscle Milk like a good boy. Actually, he needed to drink more Powerade Zeros and Gatorades. When your body drops below a 2.0 potassium reading, your heart just stops.
As I progressed through my morning, I had a slight stomach ache, which was not unlike anything I had experienced before. I’m always tired and didn’t really want to walk that day. My friend came into Vitacare to clean his C-PAP machine and when he came back out, I was gone.
Scared, he rushed in and called 911. The women had CPR training, so they ran out and pulled me out of the car. They massaged my heart until the paramedics arrived. Once they got there my clothes were ripped to shreds and they pulled out this thing called “The Plunger” which was an easier way to give CPR.
A person of average size usually receives 4 rounds of rowing. Due to my large size, they gave me 7, for some reason. They said it was showing signs of improvement with each explosion, but had not revived yet. The seventh was the last jolt I’d ever get, and luckily for me, my heart started beating enough to get me to the hospital.
The next phase of my journey was to St. Francis Hospital, where they put this “ice suit” on me and put me into a coma that lasted for 2 days. During this 48-hour period, doctors told anyone who would hear the following:
a) Most likely I will die.
b) If I don’t die, I’ll be a vegetable for the rest of my life.
c) I have less than 1% chance of survival.
d) The chances of stroke or other complications are high.
As all this was going on, my Facebook account was flooded with thoughts and prayers, friends drove up to 6 hours, only to sit in the waiting room and receive an answer. They knew they couldn’t see me in the ICU, but they wanted to get into the car to pay their respects.
Even today, I still feel humiliated and dumbfounded by the love I received. We tend to go through life, simply being who we are and sometimes oblivious to what we leave behind. This death experience showed me that I am worthless, that I have had a positive impact on people, and that I am appreciated. I have lived with the false internal narrative that I am inconsequential.
According to paramedics, I was dead for more than 11 minutes and experienced seizures due to lack of oxygen to my brain. This has led to some short term memory problems that I started experiencing, only recently.
When I left the hospital in December 2016, I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help. I have had to walk slowly and concentrate only on what I can do. My energy level is still woefully low and I am unable to work at a normal daily job. Since I am known as a chameleon, I had to improvise a bit.
Over the course of the past 13 months, I have worked hard to overcome my limitations and can now walk several miles a day. The hardest thing about dealing with this “new” life is that from the neck up, I’m the same guy I’ve always been. I think I can work 60 hours a week, walk several miles every day, eat a big plate of food, and do all the things I used to do before I died.
My new reality, sadly, is that I will do exactly what my lower body tells me to do and I will like it. Naps every 5 hours, the ability to eat a mere fraction of what I could eat before, while avoiding the foods that wreak havoc on my stomach – THIS is the new reality.
The hardest part of this new life is reconfiguring my brain to learn new routines. There is an emotional attachment to every type of food that I eat. A typical restaurant meal can trigger a good memory from more than a decade ago. It’s hard to admit that I’ve been an emotion eater in a closet my entire life.
Some people choose illicit drugs, others choose alcohol or gambling. My vice has always been food. I’m definitely not an angel and far from my goals, but my new weekly routine consists of doctor visits, blood work, earning money from delivery via Postmates mobile app, seeking help for JobSpotter posters, blogging on social media, attending church regularly, and finding ways to feel relevant and productive.
I suffer from anemia and have had no energy for almost 30 years. I am tired all the time. As doctors continue to do lab work to find out exactly what is causing my problems, all I can do is write about my experiences, stay positive, and suck on the marrow every day.
For whatever reason, I am still on this planet. I may not have the correct answers, but I strive to make each day mean something. I have taken my place in this world for granted until this situation happened. The way I see it, this is all “overtime” and I want to make a difference.
When I died, the lights just went out. Fortunately, when I woke up, there were people telling me what had happened. There were no pearl doors, white lights, angels or anything like that. There were no warning signs that I detected. Stomach ache, lights out, death, revival, lights back on.
The current result is that I have lost 115 pounds, I can walk further than ever before this happened, I have no swelling in my feet, and I am finally hopeful for a future where I am somewhat productive. Before opting for stomach surgery, I was pessimistic, I didn’t think much about my life and I thought I would die alone and miserable.
I wrote this to share my experience and convey to you that no matter how (un) important you feel your life contributions have been, to date, you are important. There are people in your life who care about you. There are people whom you have positively impacted. You may not know that it has made a difference in your life, but they are out there.
Live each day with a purpose and surround yourself with people who just want you to prosper. If you have people in your life who constantly reject your ideas, they say “No”, they reaffirm that “you can’t” and make you feel that you should never take risks, separate yourself from those people. Life is hard enough without other people always putting you down. Take chances. There is no growth without a little pain. You will not grow if you sit on your couch and watch the world go by.
Take a road trip to a nearby city. Explore streets you can’t pronounce. Do something “against the grain.” Say “YES” more and see what this life has to offer. The sofa will always be there to sit on. Try something different to change the pace and stop mentally punishing yourself. You matter!