Placing the Stones – documenting the story pt 2

To simplify stuff, I’m going to use a few abbreviations…
MMPC – the place where I first went through the medical weight loss program
GHP – Grand Health Partners, where Dr. Paul Kemmeter now works
WtW – Weigh to Wellness, where I did a medical fast in January of ‘09 and still go for followup

Have you ever noticed that when God decides that the time has come for something, that nothing (and I mean NOTHING) ever stands in His way? You can almost imagine the Red Sea flying back to the shore, leaving very surprised fishies in its wake. God points, the path opens, and nothing can stand in the way of His will.

We began to consider the surgery option in October and November, beginning to jump through all the little hoops that so delight the insurance industry. And yet, it was more like the hoops being flattened than jumping through them. God pointed, and we followed, more amazed at each step.

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You’ll notice that I’m saying “we” a lot… no, I haven’t suddenly ascended as the reigning monarch of Olsonhaus, speaking in the Royal we. Vicki and I have both been walking this path. I might be the one whose innards were redecorated last week, but Vicki walks with me through all of it. She was the one waiting through the surgery, while I snoozed. She was the one who greeted me when I finally came back to the world of the semi-concious. She was beside me, walking the hallways and keeping me moving after surgery. She came home with me, making note of what meds I go back on, how much protein I have to take in, water intake and all of those details that make me dizzy. I’ve done the easy part – take a nap, wake up, drink, eliminate, repeat. She’s done the heavy lifting. And I try, but can never thank her enough for being by my side. Our favorite nurse said it best – “His wife will be here soon, and he’ll be well cared for.” Indeed.

We walk this path together, now and always.

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When I first considered surgery, I met Dr. Paul Kemmeter at MMPC, and we liked him a lot. But that wasn’t God’s time. Dr. Kemmeter has since become a part of GHP, and knows Dr. Turke and her work at WtW. (Anybody else seeing a connection here?) The door opened (was blasted off its hinges, actually) and we went to surgical orientation at GHP. There were appointments to keep, tests to be run, but all was finally in place. If approved, Dr. Kemmeter would be my surgeon, doing the procedure that he first recommended when we first met – the duodenal switch.

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The term “bariatric surgery” actually means a whole flock of procedures – from the Lap Banding (which places removable bands around the stomach to constrict intake) to some that aren’t even done anymore. A large number of patients receive Roux-en-Y gastric bypass – it’s not really correct to call it “stomach stapling,” since it’s more complicated than that. If you know someone who has had bariatric surgery, there’s a good chance it was Roux-en-Y. Similar is the sleeve gastrectomy, which turns the tummy into a tube. Want to know the details? Wikipedia is your friend. 😀

The duodenal switch is a two-part operation – part one is sleeve gastrectomy, and then the duodenal switch – the small intestine is divided, part connected to the liver and part to the stomach. The result is restriction of intake and malabsorption. Dr. Kemmeter put it this way – for me, the difference between Roux-en-Y and DS is the difference between trying to drive a spike with a ball peen hammer or a sledgehammer. With my body mass and everything else considered, the duodenal switch would give us the best chance at the outcome we were hoping for. Harder surgery, tougher recovery, more meticulous maintenance – and exactly where God wanted me to go.

There was a good chance that he wouldn’t be able to do both parts of the procedure at the same time. If after finishing the sleeve gastrectomy, he found that the small intestine wouldn’t reach, the operation would end. And maybe in a year or so, after losing some weight, we’d be able to go back and finish with the duodenal switch. So my only prayer about the operation became, “allow him to do both parts.”

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So we waited for insurance approval, which could take 8 weeks. And we waited on the Lord. Not patiently, with halos perched on our noggins, but we waited. And yet, patience came. And peace – knowing that it was all in His hands, in His time, and we were to just sit back and watch.

Less than three weeks later, the phone rang. “This is GHP calling to schedule Cal’s surgery.” Ok… When? “March 30th – two weeks away.” Ok… yikes. 😀

A mighty wind was blowing the sea aside. So He pointed and we walked…

Dr appointments. Down to 800 calories / day for two weeks. All liquids after 6pm on the 29th. The time flew, and yet we were in the eye of the hurricane (my friend Dr. John calls it “The Eye of a Miracle”) and all was peaceful. Reminds me of what Rich Mulllins said in The Love Of God – “Makes me glad to have been caught in the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”

The Saturday before surgery, we were getting “things” in order – will, patient advocate forms, etc. That was my only time of fear and anxiousness. Not for myself, but at the thought of leaving Vicki behind and alone. That was almost more than I could bear, but when one is weak God strengthens the other. Vicki had no fear, no doubt – the path was clear and she was eager to follow it. And she carried me along for a bit when my feet wouldn’t move.

Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, and God was in da house. I was doing my usual thing, playing the bass in our worship team, when He showed up and healed a connection I had been missing since January 2006 – the connection between the mechanics of my instrument and the heart of worship. I worshiped while playing my bass, and rejoiced at God’s grace. He blew away the darkness of Saturday night with the light of His presence, and it was amazing!

After the service, brothers and sisters gathered around me and prayed over me. If you’ve ever been at the center of a circle of prayer like that, you understand the overwhelming feeling of God’s presence. God met us in that circle, hearing my family as they raised us up in prayer. Praying for my only concern – that the whole operation be completed. I wasn’t concerned about anything else, but my family was – they prayed for peace, for comfort and for God’s care over both of us. Sitting dead center in the Eye of a Miracle.

Monday – more things to finish up. Got to spend some sweet time catching up with Pastor Craig, recounting all the steps that brought us here. Before we knew it, we were getting into bed Monday night…

and I actually slept pretty well. Amazing? No – it’s just like God to do that.

Tuesday morning – at St. Mary’s by 7:45am. In we go, and all is still peaceful. “Scared?” “No. Not at all.” “Really?” “Yeah. Cool, eh?”

9:45 or so, I say goodbye to my best friend and get wheeled away. She has the long wait ahead, and I get a long nap. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

— to be continued —

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