Susan had a discouraging struggle with her insurance company about coverage for her bariatric surgery. “It was a two- or three-month insurance hell: they’re covering it, they’re not covering it, they’re covering it, they’re not covering it,” she says. When the final answer was no, she considered her options. Nothing seemed easy, or affordable. “Since coverage was denied, we started looking into overseas options, independently on the Internet. That was also sort of a frustrating experience. I felt like I was being courted. I got so many emails and phone calls. The medical tourism companies were all over me, and I found it very distasteful.”
Eventually, she sorted through them and found one that made her feel comfortable. The people she spoke with were informative and helpful, and she felt an immediate connection to them. And the savings were not to be overlooked: Susan chose a doctor and a hospital in Monterrey, Mexico, that ended up costing less than half what she would have paid in Colorado.
The hospital’s international services people met her and her companion at the airport, took her through the intake process at the hospital, and helped her settle in her room. “They were really excellent. Everything to be done medically was explained beforehand, and there were no surprises. I really thought they had a good program,” she says.
She had the gastric bypass Roux-en-Y, which she considers the “gold standard” of bariatric surgery. “It was great,” she says. “I had five little teensy weensy incisions with just a couple stitches in each. A drain was left in one, which pulled a little bit and maybe felt a little sore, but that was it. We spent six nights in Monterrey at a hotel one block from the hospital.”
Follow-up was a little more difficult, however, and Susan found aftercare a problem. “US surgeons do not want to take you on because of liability issues and malpractice issues, insurance-wise. They don’t trust what you had done abroad.”
“After your first month, you need to start on nutritional supplements,” Susan continues, “and I’ll be on those the rest of my life: multivitamins, iron, and calcium. Because you’re eating so much less, you don’t have a chance to get as much of those as you would from more food. I had no complications or pain. Things can happen after bariatric surgery: food can get stuck and not go down the small opening, which happened once, but I had just talked about it with my dietician, so I knew what was happening and waited it out instead of panicking and going to the emergency room. I followed her plan exactly, so it worked.”
And is she happy with the results? “I can barely even see the scars. I’ve always known how to lose weight; what I have not known is how to keep it off. So this means I have to work really hard. It’s not miraculous, it’s ongoing work, but it’s something you really want that’s really important. I can’t eat a lot at any one time, but if I were to snack throughout the day on high-calorie foods, I’d put weight back on. As long as I have enough self-discipline to keep that to a minimum, I can feel fairly secure it’s going to stay off this time!”
Last updated on 30 December 2015
Before Leaving the Hospital: Get All the Paperwork
Impatient to be gone, and often suffering the woozy side effects of surgery and post-operative pharmaceuticals, patients too often find themselves back at home later, missing important documents that could have more easily been obtained on site. So before you hightail it out of your hospital or clinic, be sure that you have all of your important documents.
Generally, larger hospitals provide complete medical documentation as part of the standard exit procedure. However, some smaller clinics may rely more on verbal instructions, and they are less likely to build and maintain a dossier on your case.