Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bariatric Betty sees the light!

Hospital C's info session was Tuesday.  That's the small catholic hospital that I decided to look at just because of the sticker shock from Hospitals A and B, as well as finding out that they have an excellent reputation for bariatric surgery. 

I am happy to say that I was blown away by Hospital C's presentation!  First, while I had heard that Hospital C was really the first hospital in the area to specialize in bariatric surgery, I had no idea how many they've done.  The surgeon who did the presentation at Hospital A talked about having done hundreds.  This surgeon talked about having done over 3,000!!!  He's going on 3,500.  Their complication rate is exceptionally low.  Their cost for the surgery is at least $16,000 LESS than the other hospitals.  And here was something that nearly made me cry.  They provide a 30-day "insurance" policy for complications from surgery.

What does that mean?  Well, if I had the surgery at Hospital A or B, and then had complications (infection, leaking, excessive bleeding requiring a transfusion, blood clots, etc), then I would be responsible for paying for all of the necessary treatment OUT OF POCKET, because I would already have used my maximum lifetime bariatric surgery benefit, and all complications would be tied to the surgery.  Now they all had lower rates of complications than the national averages, but it's hard not to worry about being the 1 in 100 who had something happen.  Add to that the worry of how much the bills could be (tens of thousands of dollars more) and you get a sense of a little invisible elephant that was sitting on my shoulders.  

At Hospital C, if you have an complications from surgery in the 30 days after the operation, you will be treated AT NO COST.  You won't be billed, your insurance won't be billed.  I hadn't even realized the stress I was feeling about the potential for those bills until it was taken away.  I felt like I had just won the lottery. 

What else impressed me?  The warmth and social aspect of the practice.  They talked about lifetime relationships between the patients and staff.  Having contact information for someone you can call if you have a question 10 years after surgery.  Having not only monthly support groups, but having guest speakers come in.  Having an online chat and website where patients can ask questions and support each other.  Having their annual holiday and summer get togethers with patients and families.  And then there was Graduation.

When you are at least one year post surgery and have been meeting your own goals, you are invited to attend the Graduation party along with your family.  Held in a beautiful hotel it's a evening where all the "graduates" are recognized for their hard work and success, and then everyone parties with a DJ and has fun.  The surgeon invited us all to attend this year's graduation just to be inspired.  Graduation is a an important step, but does not mean you have left the program - it just means that you have done what they told you to do and have begun your new life as a healthier happier person. 

One of the funnier moments of the evening was a question from an attendee who was worried because a friend of her's had experienced a drop in her sex drive after the surgery, and wanted to know if it was common.  In her words "because that is something that I've GOTTA know!"  After sharing a lot of good natured chuckles with the audience, we were reassured that he usually hears the opposite. 

I can't wait to get going.  My personal patient advocate will be calling me in the next week to start scheduling everything, and then my journey will finally start. 

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