Taking care of Tara

Hey this is Misti, Tara’s friend. She can tell her story much better than I can! But I just want to say if you know Tara you love her. She is funny, kind and loving! She also has been off work without pay and insurance for many months!! She does appreciate thoughts and prayers BUT those won’t pay her bills. Lets join together to help this sweet gal the best we can. If you can’t this week maybe next or the next. Or possibly share the Go Fund Me Page! I know every effort will be appreciated so much by her and her family!! Much love and thanks!!

Many of my friends, acquaintances, and even some family, don't know the journey I've been on since July 2017. I've kept to myself because hey, we all have trials in life and mine is no worse than anyone of yours, truthfully. I wanted to walk this road with those closest to me and I'm so very very thankful for those who have been by my side. I couldn't have done any of this without them!

Word has gotten out that I've been ill and so I'm just going to lay it all out there for everyone to know.

So here's my story-finally:

For two years, I researched and studied weight loss surgery (WLS). I couldn't quite make up my mind, but after being obese my entire life, I was ready for a change. To take control of my life for once and focus on me. I was so used to neglecting myself and helping others the majority of my life, I was going to take this season and focus on me. Be selfish. And so, I finally decided to have weight loss surgery.
Without insurance, I surely couldn't afford it here in the states with it costing upwards of 15 thousand and more.
So, I looked in Mexico. I researched hospitals and doctors and had testimonies from people I knew personally that had been there. And I decided Mexico it was.
And on July 27,2017 I had the gastric sleeve surgery. The Dr. Removed about 80% of my stomach and patched up my new, much smaller, pocket of a stomach. 2 days later, I was strolling the beach in Mexico and the next day, on a plane home. I felt good! I was excited for my new journey in life, a life long commitment I had made to a healthier and more conscious lifestyle.

For the next 3 months, I adjusted to my new normal. Eating or drinking only 2-4 ounces at a time, as that's all my new stomach would allow. Reintroducing foods into my life, never knowing which ones my tummy would approve or disapprove of.

And then in October, I could not eat or drink anything. I was having pain within my left chest area as well. I was hoping it was just gas (a HUGE issue after WLS) and praying it wasn't a blood clot and after suffering for a couple of days, I went to our local ER. They ran a CT scan but found nothing. They said maybe I sprained my muscle and sent me home with an Rx for a muscle relaxer.

The next day, it got worse. I was so thirsty by this point, because if I tried to consume anything, the pain radiated. And now the pain was in my abdomen. I called on my surgeon in Mexico and his RN, she's located in the states, and they advised me to get to the ER asap. "Call an ambulance!" Was exactly what the nurse told me. That frightened me a bit, but I was glad to know they had my best interest and concerned for me.

Well, since the local ER wasn't able to help me, I drove myself 45 minutes to another ER. They have bariatric surgeons in that community who would be able to help me if I needed it, plus my own family doctor is linked with this hospital, so I thought Win Win.
I had two er doctors there who basically ridiculed me and belittled me for going to Mexico for surgery. They told me no one would touch me and they mocked my knowledge of WLS completely. I had three wonderful friends who had driven to meet me in the ER and witnessed this for themselves. One of those friends being an RN herself, she was my wonderful advocate.
I was devastated as they gave me an RX for Zofran and sent me home.

I went to work on Monday, drove to DFW on Tuesday for a work engagement, not sure I would be able to handle to the drive, and Wednesday went to the work thing.
(I have not ate or drank in almost a week at this point. I literally felt like my body was dying. Although that charming Doogie Howser in the other town told me my body could survive without food and drink for 30 days. I would be ok. Sorry, not sorry)
I left halfway through the work event and drove myself to Baylor ER where they immediately began testing me. CT, MRI, blood work, etc. They weren't kidding around.

The doctor came and told me that there was a leak in my stomach. I secretly panicked inside, as I knew how dangerous that was, considering all the research I had done prior. But on the outside, I was my sarcastic, charming self and played it off like, Oh? That's it? No big deal!

The immediately admitted me into the hospital and brought the GI surgeon and his PA in to speak with me. Dr. Leeds laid out exactly what was happening inside of me.

My staple line never healed properly due to my stomach lining being very thin. It had separated and caused this leak. The leak meant that anytime over those 3 months that I consumed food or liquid, it would go outside of my stomach into my body. BUT, there was a saving grace in this story- as my new stomach was literally making me sick, it was also protecting me.
See, where that leak had formed, my stomach also grew a little sack that was actually catching all the food and drink, so it wasn't actually floating out into my body. Much like when you get a water blister and that blister collects the pus, forming the actual blister. My stomach had done the same thing. Except it was thiiiiiis close to bursting and sending food and drink throughout my body. Had that happened, I would have gone septic and most likely died. I was days away from this happening.

The good doc let me know it was nothing I could have done to prevent this and no way of knowing it would have happened. And this could have happened no matter where I had the surgery performed, Mexico or USA. It was just my body not doing its job. I was now in the 1% of WLS issues. Yay me.

So, the next day, Dr. Leeds took me back for surgery to place a stent in me to better see the leak. I have never been more sick in my life after that procedure. I seriously asked them to just kill me because after 24 hours of non stop vomiting straight bile, I couldn't take it anymore. One of my best friends who lives in that area was with me and she said she has never seen someone so close to death. It was that bad, y'all.
They took it out the following day and my body had been rejecting it, trying to pass it through like it was food, and it was tangled inside of me. They put in a different stent that was a little better, and from all of the vomiting, they were able to pinpoint exactly where this leak was.

I was there for a week before they went in for the big surgery. It was exploratory until they actually got inside of me. I had to sign the waiver and there were 3 options as to what they were going to do. Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Plan C was the last resort. And Plan C is exactly what they had to do.
What was Plan C? The removed the rest of my stomach. I now was completely stomach less.
They re-routed my intestines up to my esophagus, which is quite similar to a gastric bypass WLS.

They had also given me a feeding tube. More as a preventative in case I got home and wasn't able to eat or drink orally. I spent a few weeks at Baylor and was finally sent home. And man, was it a hard adjustment!

The feeding tube was like a tail that hung off my stomach. It was in the way and showed through my clothing and the worst part? It leaked around the tube and my stomach. And it smelled.
I did need to use it a few times though as eating and drinking were very difficult, and still is to this day.

I tried to go about life again, getting out to watch the niece and nephew in their events. It was difficult. I was exhausted and winded just going to a basketball game for an hour or two. I was weak.

I continually had issues with the feeding tube and it would get infected quite easily. It would continually leak bile from it onto my tummy.
I was readmitted for this issue and they placed three different feeding tubes in me. The feeding tube had become entangled in my intestines. Another couple of weeks at Baylor. Yippee.

A month or two later, Dr. Leeds and his team told me I could have the tube removed. They told me to just have someone locally do it. It literally takes 45 seconds to remove it and they didn't want me to have to drive the 3 hours one way just for that.
Thing is, no one locally would remove it since I wasn't their patient or they were concerned for complications and thought my surgeon should be the one to remove it due to that fact.
Thing is, my surgeon and team didn't understand that there is no bariatric or GI team here locally who could help me. It was either OU Medical or Baylor. And I've already established care at Baylor.
So, my awesome family member who used to work medical pulled the tube outta me. Lying in my bed at home. So long, monster!

Now I'm left with this huge hole in my abdomen that I've got to tend to. It keeps getting infected. It's leaking more bile. Im constantly dry heaving and nauseous. For three weeks this goes on.
Im readmitted to Baylor. Again. I thought I was just driving down for a Dr appt in his office. Nope, he admitted me. So I spent another week and a half for them to treat me. I get home and still having issues.
4 days later, back in Baylor. This last trip that most everyone knows about. Part of my bowel had not healed up from removing the feeding tube, so they had to cut out part of my bowel in order for it all to heal properly. Spent another couple of weeks hospitalized, and I'm now home.

I have about a 6x6 in wide open wound on my tummy that has to be packed every day. It will take months to heal. It's disgusting. For real.

During all of this time, I've been laid up in bed waaaaay too much, my legs have atrophied. Meaning, my muscles don't really work. I'm currently using a walker, but even that fails me at times and I fall. And can't get up. (Where's my damn life alert?!)
I obviously can't drive a car right now either.
I try to get up and walk around the house, but surely don't like doing it when alone in case something happens.
I still have trouble eating and drinking anything. I always feel like I'm chasing a thirst monster.
I struggle daily with nausea and dry heaving. ( I don't throw anything up because A. I don't have a stomach and 2. I rarely eat.)

So, that's my story. It's been complication after complication and never knew my issues would be carry me this far. I also lost my job, which truly broke my heart because it was my most favorite job I've ever had. But I can't take care of myself, let alone work. And I had to find a new home for my sweet, ornery Millie, who I had only adopted the month before I fell ill in October.
I've had several small and big procedures, spent Halloween, Thanksgiving and Valentines with some of the sweetest nurses at Baylor (seriously, I've become FB friends with some of them. They're special.)

Again, I'm so grateful for each of you concerned for my well being. Thank you for the calls, gifts, messages, visits, prayers and good thoughts

And for those of you curious about the weight loss aspect of this journey, I began at 371 lbs and currently weight 205 lbs. not exactly the way I wanted to go about it, but I guess it's the silver lining at the end of this ride.

Please continue to lift me up in prayer and send me your good vibes as I continue to battle each day. Much love to you! ❤



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Organizer and beneficiary

Misti Southerland 
Marlow, OK
Tara Harper 
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