Owner, patient co-ordinator and eating psychology coach
It was the day that I got on the airplane back from France that changed my life. I had been talking to the lady next to me in the queue and we sat together on the plane. As we were seated, she kept trying to push the arm rest all the way down on the seat; I was too ashamed and embarassed to tell her that it was my thigh that was stopping it going down, the pain was terrible but I said nothing. Shortly afterwards the air hostess came round to check we had our seatbelts fastened and I was trying to hide under my coat the fact that I just couldn’t fasten mine. She whipped the coat away and shouted down the plane “Lady here, needs a seatbelt extension”. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, I was so embarassed. The following morning I woke up and all of my left thigh was covered in bruises and I knew I just could not go on any longer this way. I just didn’t have a life. I have grandchildren that I couldn’t play with, I had arthritis in my knees and hips and I was in constant pain, and I could do hardly any exercise because everything hurt. Coupled with that and almost more importantly to me, I was mentally in a terrible place, I had lost all confidence and had little self esteem and I felt fat, unattractive and ill.
“Why was it I was successful at everything else I did in my life, but I just could not get a grip with my weight??”
I decided there and then, that I would go to my GP and ask for weight loss surgery, I had tried every diet going, I could have started a library with the amount of diet books, self help manuals and exercise videos Ihad, I had joined a gym, joined various weight loss support groups, tried meal replacements, tablets, supplements, you name it, I had tried it. Each time I would lose a bit of the excess weight, but I just couldn’t keep it up for long enough, and the weight would pile back on plus more. Each year I was getting heavier and heavier., and I knew that I was at the stage where I was putting my life at risk Why was it I was succesful at everything else I did in my life, but I just could not get a grip with my weight??
I went to the GP and she took my weight, height etc and referred me for weight loss surgery. However, I was told that I would more than likely have to wait 3 years as the waiting list was that long. Now, only another person with severe weight problems would understand exactly how difficult it was to walk in there and admit I could not do it alone. That I needed to go to, what I believed to be the extreme lengths of surgery to stop me from killing myself by overeating. So once I had made that decision I needed to do it quickly, I was already at the end, I just couldn’t go any further!
I went home and started to research surgery with a view to getting it done privately in the UK. I did lots and lots of research about the types of procedures, the surgeons, the clinics and hospitals and the costs. Ultimately, for me the costs were just to prohibitive for me to have it done in the UK. I was looking at about £12k for a gastric sleeve and I could not raise that sort of money.
Marie Diesel Dyer
Patient Care Assistant (Bariatrics) and Facebook Support Group Manager
I wasn’t really a fat kid…I had a little ‘puppy fat’ aged 11 onwards, but rapidly developed big boobs in my last year of primary school..oh the humiliation of having to wear a bra before starting High School…in 1971 everyone still wore vests.
Exercise decreases as you move on up at school, leave school and go to college, find a job…dieting is the norm, whether you are overweight or not, and the fear of being fat is all pervasive, so a little yo-yo dieting becomes the pattern.
In fact I had just lost weight and was pleasingly slim when I met the father of my eldest child..probably because I was pleasingly slim. Relationship, baby, lost pregnancy weight with a little struggle, lost partner with bigger struggle, couldn’t exercise as much between work and home life, single parenthood. Life and weight crept on.
The children got older, I got slower, and the peri-menopause approached, with increasingly heavy periods, tiredness, inability and disinclination to exercise at all, lack of iron, and my new anti-depressants gave me my appetite back….sitting and eating became almost life’s only pleasure. So, now I was fat, forty-something, and fit for nothing. I had to get the weight off. Spurred on by comments from someone I loved, I stopped eating, started walking, shifted half a stone, started going to the gym, walking further and faster and the weight started to move. Right up until I had to start working with my husband, and had no time to walk, go to the gym, attend aquafit classes and generally look after myself…then the weight started its insidious creep back upwards. By this time I was almost suicidal. I felt and looked awful, and was starting to experience restriction in my daily life, and wasn’t able to do the lifting and carrying at work. I asked my GP for help, and was offered an appointment it the (overweight) dietitian. But I felt there was little they could tell me that I didn’t already know.
“By this time I was almost suicidal. I felt and looked awful, and was starting to experience restriction in my daily life.”
I asked about the Gastric Band…the only form of weight loss surgery I had even heard of, despite having an interest in medical matters. No chance on the NHS…I wasn’t fat enough! Could I have a Tummy Tuck? Nope, I was too fat. Could I have a breast reduction (from 38H)? No, I was too fat. Stuck between a rock and a hard place as far as the NHS was concerned.
I started investigating the private sector…around £10-£12,000 in the UK for a Gastric Band. More than my annual income. Not a chance.
I’d seen an article in a magazine whilst waiting at the GP surgery about weight loss surgery abroad, and decided to investigate in online. The company was called Secret Surgery, and had been started by 2 women who went abroad for their surgery and had started to offer a service to other people who couldn’t afford surgery in the UK. At this point I still hadn’t flown for over 20 years, and had no idea how I would be able to manage it, but the prices looked keen compared to those in the UK. Fully energised now, I hammered away at the search engine, discovering that there were more and different surgeries that could be performed…not just the Band, but the Vertical Gastric Sleeve, the Gastric Plication (wrap), and several different flavours of bypass (RNY, SADI-S, mini-bypass etc).
Lots of forums, companies, differing reviews, different countries…almost overwhelming, but several things struck me. Most were private clinics in Europe and Elsewhere. I quickly discounted Elsewhere….I wanted somewhere in the EU, where the EHIC card would cover any unrelated illnesses that might occur while I was abroad. Flights in Europe were cheap as well. It seemed that most clinics would allow you to stay for 1 or 2 nights, and then you would go to a hotel for the rest of your stay abroad. I almost gave up as this point. I couldn’t envisage being alone, unwell, and with no nursing care or family nearby. I carried on looking at surgeons and places to say, and came across Dr Hruby and New Leaf. It looked good…the website indicated that the prices were good, there was a 7 night stay in a real, proper hospital with all emergency facilities, and when I enquired further, I would be able to bring my husband who could stay in my actual room in the hospital, and hold my hand. Done, sorted, and booked my sleeve op for about 6 weeks from the moment I spoke to New Leaf.
I chose the sleeve because I am a big wuss…if they’d stapled, cut and cauterised my stomach, and thrown away the useless bit, there was no way I could be a wimp and tell them to put it back, was there? (I know exactly what I’m like the day after an operation). All I felt at this point was euphoria…I was finally going to be able to fix my weight problem. Now I was alternating between terror and elation, but I managed to keep it to elation most of the time, and started planning, packing and organising, whilst going through several days of ‘last supper syndrome’; eating all the things I thought I’d never be able to eat again after my op.
I’m not alone in this apparently, but most people don’t have to give everything up, just modify things a little. When we arrived at the hospital I was given my room which was a brilliant, large room with..TV and Satellite box, excellent ensuite, somewhere to plug in the kettle and fan, and 2 electrically adjustable hospital beds. Settled in went to bed and waited, sleeplessly for the morning; nil by mouth from midnight due to the impending gastroscopy, Nurses in very early pointing a digital thermometer at my head, I have no memories of anything else until Dr Hruby came and introduced himself to us. He was calm, friendly, and spoke to us as intelligent human beings who would understand everything he was telling us; unlike some consultants I have met previously, and answered all our questions. After he had gone, my husbband and I agreed that all our lingering nervousness and worry had been allayed, and we felt completely confident and happy…well, that was easy for Paul as he wasn’t the one having the op. For all the details of my stay at the hospital please read my ‘week in the life’ post but suffice to say I was looked after extremely well and could not fault the care of the nurses, doctors and support staff.
Now I’m nearly 2 years out, and I remain 5 stone lighter. I didn’t have as much to lose as some, and I’m quite short so it made a big difference to my BMI. I have a good memory for medical data, and spent some time answering questions from people who were thinking of weight loss surgery. So, now I am a patient co-ordinator an admin on the facebook group for New Leaf. . I drink some alcohol, and occasionally eat unwisely. I’m human, but I’ve remained at the same weight for over a year now. Not skinny, but pleasantly plump as some would say. And Dr Hruby, who comes to our annual reunion just like a normal person, remains, to me, a hero.
Patient Care Assistant (Cosmetics) and Facebook Support Group Administrator
My story starts like many peoples – I come from a “Fat” family. We all like our food and as a child I associated good things with food such as birthdays, Christmas, Sunday lunches, in fact most of my memories involve food in some way or another. I was quite slim as a young child but once puberty hit my weigh started to creep up. That’s when the yo-yo dieting began! I would do some fad diet only to give up after losing a few stones then put it all back on again and then some.
When I was 21 I joined a slimming club. I was horrified to learn that I weighed nearly 19 stone at the time. I lost 7 stone over the next two years, however I started a relationship and stopped following the plan and all the weight was back on in less than a year. That started another pattern of joining various slimming groups only to give up after a few months and put the weight back on and more.
“I was determined to succeed with losing the weight. Its been 10 months now since my surgery and my life has changed dramatically for the better. “
Starting university in 2006 and then doing a busy office/ community job meant that my eating habits were terrible – I would not eat all day at work, come home late and then sit in front of the TV all night eating anything and everything – in fact I remember several times actually making a sandwich to eat whilst I was cooking my huge evening meal!. I knew my weight was starting to affect me in all aspects of life – I had no energy, my relationship was suffering and I was struggling to do everyday tasks.
I started to care for my niece who was 13 at the time and I realized that I was repeating the cycle of teaching her bad habits and what would end up being a lifetime of weight issues.
One day I realized I couldn’t lift myself out of the bath without going on all fours. I also took my niece to a local shopping centre and couldn’t walk from one end to the other – I drove round to a closer car park! I knew that was the time to do something about it. I was 34 years old and weighed a whopping 25 stone!
I started to do some research about gastric sleeve surgery and found out it would be more affordable to go abroad. I came across Dr Hruby’s name on a group about weight loss surgery abroad – it included his email address so I emailed him and he responded straight away and directed me to New Leaf and Amanda. I read all the information Amanda sent me and did my own research about Dr Hruby and the hospital in Turnov and was really impressed by what I found. I decided to only tell a few people about my surgery – my close family and a few friends.
I booked my sleeve for the 1st March 2015 and started my preop diet on 1st February 2015. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stick to it but I was determined to give myself the best chance of a successful surgery so actually found it quite easy to follow once I got the hand of it. On arriving in Turnov I was very impressed with the whole process, from being collected at the airport to having a lovely en suite room with beautiful views outside. I met my surgery buddies – who I soon became close friends with due to the unique experience we were sharing. My operation went without a hitch and my friends and family back home were shocked at how well I was, even a day after surgery. By the end of the week I was walking into Turnov town centre.
On returning home I got weighed and was horrified to learn that my home scales were 1st 6lb lighter – meaning my start weight had actually been a whopping 26st 6lb!, whilst this was devastating at the time it also reminded me why I had the surgery in the first place and I was determined to succeed with losing the weight. Its been 10 months now since my surgery and my life has changed dramatically for the better.
I have lost nearly 11 stone so far (Including preop) and gone from a size 28-30 to a comfortable 18 (sometimes a 16!). At the time of my operation I didn’t use Facebook so didn’t really know about the very active support group for New Leaf or that there were such thing as secret groups where your friends on your main page couldn’t see what you discussed in the group. On returning home from Turnov I decided to join Facebook to participate in the group and I’m so glad I did. I’ve made so many friends and love being able to learn from other people who have had surgery and to share my own experiences – I was thrilled to be asked to join the admin team for 2016 and am really looking forward to sharing my knowledge and skills and supporting others starting this journey.
My life is so different today to what it was pre surgery. I am now interested in food in a completely different way and what I put into my body is now more about getting the right nutrients and protein rather than huge quantities and all the wrong foods – I’ve even started an online nutrition course to learn more about food and what we put into our bodies to help other patients.
I’m not going to say its always easy – the surgery is a tool, but you also have to dramatically change the way you see food and consume it and it can bring other issues to the forefront such as things going on in your life that you didn’t even realise until you go through this process. However, I don’t regret it for a second, in fact I wish I had done it years ago! I now feel that I can fully participate in life – I’ve recently been roller-skating, to theme parks and I just generally have more energy and can walk anywhere without getting out of breath and having to stop every few minutes. I’ve even joined a gym and did a challenging aerobics class that some people only manage half of on their first attempt!
Facebook Support Group Administrator
What a difference a year can make? I had my WLS surgery May 19th 2014 under the expert care of Dr Hruby and his team. As a result of this and the efforts I have made to follow his advice on nutrition and activity and the amazing support and insight I have received from Coaching with Amanda Duggan I am now 8 stone lighter. I am lighter too emotionally as prior to wls I felt like I was living my life with the sound turned off. I was angry all the time – mostly with myself for allowing myself to get to a BMI of 56. Being hugely overweight negatively impacted my life in ways that I am only now beginning to fully understand. I was very guarded in relationships both professionally and in my personal life. As I result I missed out on opportunities and experiences.
Taking the step to embark on coaching where I would need to open up and be more open than I would be normally was a major leap of faith for me. I cn see know that this was partly due to my “last chance” mindset but mostly it was down to the initial chat I had with Amanda Duggan.
Facebook Support Group Administrator
I was a skinny child but in my teens the weight started to climb. I would be constantly on diets trying hard to keep it under control. While I worked at it the weight would fall but the second I took my eyes of the game it would creep back on…FAST!
I always felt a sense of achievement every time I had managed to get my weight back down to normal but over the years I would spend less and less time at a comfortable weight. I tried all of the diets all with excellent levels of success but nothing I seemed to do would change the way that I would eat for ever.
As my weight increased the destructive nature of my eating would get worse. It eventually got to the point where I was planning binges days before I knew that I would be in a position to have one.
I gained the strength to talk to my GP about my problems. I knew what I was doing to myself was harmful, I could see and feel the effects every single day but for some reason I couldn’t stop. My GP referred me to a psychiatrist who assessed me and referred me to an eating disorder clinic at a large psychiatric hospital in London.
I was enrolled in a group therapy course which I completed and found very beneficial. I came to terms with the shame I had always felt when eating and realised that there was no need for me to be hiding what I eat. This really helped me to feel comfortable eating in front of other people and as a result my urges to eat in private dropped significantly. Not having this need to hide what I ate really was like a massive burden off my shoulders and I never returned completely to my old ways.
Having tackled this part of my eating problems I then started thinking what would be the best way for me to approach weight loss. I was finding it more difficult to sleep with my CPAP machine, something that had transformed my life years earlier was now becoming less and less effective.
Surgery had always been an option for me. My mother had a gastric band fitted about 15 years earlier and had lost a lot of weight thanks to it. However I was reluctant to put myself through the same thing because she hadn’t lost an appropriate amount for me to feel as though it was the best solution out there.
Administrator and Accounts Manager
I am Amanda’s husband and I help out with some of the administration and accounts for New Leaf. To be honest, when Amanda originally wanted surgery I was a bit sceptical and I couldn’t understand why she just couldn’t eat less and exercise more. It really frustrated me.
Eventually, she was adamant that she was going for surgery, so I supported her and accompanied her to Turnov for the surgery. I was a bit worried about what we would find; I suppose I had some pre-conceived ideas about Eastern European countries. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The hospital was clean, well equipped and the standard of care was fantastic. We could not have been better looked after.
Over the past few years I have seen Amanda grow in confidence and shrink in size. It has been amazing. She qualified as an Eating Disorder Therapist and she has been helping others. She is so passionate about helping people to ‘recover’ from obesity and I know that New Leaf is a vocation for her rather than a job. I have seen New Leaf go from strength to strength and now I am retired, I am not just happy, but I feel privileged to be able to help out and become part of such an amazing team of people.
I now understand that obesity and weight loss is not just a case of eat less and exercise more and have a much greater empathy. Over the past few years I have developed a good working relationship with Dr Hruby and the staff at New Leaf and the hospital. I like to help out wherever I can and am happy to chat to any partners of patients to put their mind at rest if they have questions or concerns.