Another gallbladder/fat-phobia story

sierra writes:

First, some history. My mother and father have always struggled with their weight. I grew up watching my mother agonize over eating a piece of chocolate, or shouting at me to hide my Halloween candy so she wouldn’t come and eat it in the middle of the night. My father was thin until his late 20s, when he gained a ton of weight and then spent the next couple decades yo-yoing up and down, depending on how stressed and overworked he was. Did I mention he’s a doctor? Only in the past five or six years have my parents both gotten to a good place weight wise. They’re both just over 50, and while not as skinny as they were in their early 20s, they’re both at a healthy weight. Unfortunately, that suddenly means that almost every conversation I have with either of them is about my weight. And I won’t even go into my other family members. Thankfully, stage performing (I’m a singer), along with having a family member in the medical business, has given me enough confidence to not take shit from doctors. While I’ve had doctors mention my weight, I either steer the conversation away from it or forcefully explain that I have very few health problems, and none related to my weight.

I’ve had moderate gastrointestinal issues for several years, usually controlled my acid reflux medicine, but I lost my insurance after I graduated from college in August 2008, and thus I’ve been off my meds since around then.

About a month and a half ago, I began having abdominal pain accompanied by severe nausea. I work a minimum wage job at a grocery store and am on my feet for 8 hours a day, five days a week, so it quickly became a problem. I went to a doctor, who strongly advised me to have an ultrasound done for possible gallstones, as well as blood work for gallstones and liver problems. Unfortunately, I don’t get insurance through my job until October, and I barely make enough to live on, so I decided to wait. I ended up in the emergency room a couple weeks later, after missing work several days in the between time. At the emergency room I had an ultrasound, which showed no gallstones, and was informed that I needed to have a HIDA scan.

This is where the issues really started. I’d gone to the emergency room on a Friday, and got out too late to schedule the scan. After suffering through a weekend (constant nausea, untouched by meds, as well as pain) I called first thing Monday morning. While they were pre-registering me, I was asked my weight. Wondering how this had any relevance, I told her. I am currently 370, I was around fifteen pounds heavier before my current problems started, as I have been unable to eat much besides plain rice and pasta in the past month. I’m also 6′ tall and have a very large bone structure and wide hips and rib cage. At any rate, I was informed that the hospital I’d been to did not do HIDA scans on anyone over 350 lbs. Frantic, in pain and feeling horrible, I called my doctor’s office and my mother. The doctor’s office made a half hearted attempt to find another hospital that could “accommodate me”. My mother, of course, was the real help. She called about five different hospitals, and finally found one that would get me the scan in a prompt manner (two days after, rather than a week and a half) without any mention of my weight. They did weigh me when I was there, but only because they needed to know how much of the radioactive tracer and the synthetic hormone to inject. And the equipment used had nothing to do with my weight. I was laid on a regular hospital bed (and I know those are designed to take a lot of weight) and the machine went over my body. So I’m at a loss. Why on earth did I get rejected at the other hospital? I don’t understand.

I urge everyone to not take shit from doctors. There is no earthly reason why any of us BBWs should let people treat us like shit and misdiagnose us because they don’t see anything but fat. If your doctor does that, get a second opinion. Get a third, fourth, fifth, eighteenth opinion. Go to specialists, go to other doctors, go until you find someone who doesn’t look at you and assume you’re going to keel over from a combined heart attack and diabetic shock fifteen minutes into the visit. Go to younger doctors, if possible, as they tend to have less prejudice in general. Pay attention to how the nurses act in a doctor’s office. Mean nurses usually work for mean doctors, and vice versa. If your nurse doesn’t try to give you the right blood pressure cuff size, or makes any kind of comment about your weight, be prepared for the doctor to act similarly. Make sure they use the right cuff size. Be firm!

The bottom line is that doctors are not gods. They make mistakes, they have wrong ideas. Unless you’re poor and insurance-less, like me, you have the right to go through as many doctors as you can to find the one who treats you like a human being. No one should be made to feel subhuman when they’re seeking medical care. You have rights. If you don’t feel confident, have someone go with you who does feel confident, who will speak up for you. Get a medical advocate, if you have to.

As for me, I’m having surgery to get my gall bladder out next Monday. So far no one has said anything about general anesthesia being dangerous, or there being any problems with the surgery because of my being fat. I just hope it stays that way.

Leave a comment


  1. Piffle

     /  August 17, 2009

    Those HIDA scans are painful; but shouldn’t be affected by your weight. My husband is about your size and it wasn’t even brought up for him. He had laproscopic surgery to have his gallbladder removed and no-one brought up his weight then either. He healed beautifully and it was a very good thing, the pain relief was great. The only thing you should watch out for is that for about a year after the surgery, he’d get some pain there, we think it was the surgical scars stretching themselves.

    A very worthwhile surgery.

  2. Anony Mouse

     /  August 17, 2009

    I was probably 325ish (at 5’10”) when I had gallbladder surgery. The surgeon and his entire team were absolutely respectful and my weight was never mentioned. Of course, my weight was taken to ensure the appropriate amount of anesthesia was used.

    What seems all the more shocking is that losing weight wasn’t mentioned, considering the surgeon who did my gallbladder was one of the top bariatric surgeons in the area; at no point did he or anyone on his team try to get me to consider weight-loss surgery – they treated the problem at hand – the gallbladder.

    I’m sorry to hear that it’s not the same everywhere.

  3. JM

     /  August 17, 2009

    I hope things get better for you. Much praise for your persistence in getting the medical attention you need. This story illustrates (as if we needed more examples) why universal healthcare is a must.

  4. Jamie

     /  August 18, 2009

    Its bad enough to deal with Fat-phobics in everyday life on a healthy day but to have to deal with them when you are in such bad pain is just wrong. Good luck with your surgery!!

  5. Megan

     /  August 18, 2009

    Wow, good job finding the right doctors, and great advice for the rest of us to do the same. 🙂 I hope you get to feeling better.

    JM, that was my thought as well. Having to wait months for insurance to kick in, or putting things off indefinitely because one has no insurance should not be something people have to do. Being in pain, missing work and not being able to afford medications (and of course having to deal with fat-phobia!) shouldn’t be stories we hear all the time.

  6. I had to butt in here to say you sound absolutely beautiful, by the way!


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