Honey, I shrunk myself
Honey, I shrunk myself
Sidney Nnamdi Nwangwu II
I’ve been big my whole life. When I was in elementary, that just meant that I towered over everyone and I was the last pick for pretty much everything in recess except maybe kickball. We actually had to stop playing when I was in the fifth grade because too many of the school’s balls were on the roof.
In middle school, my bigness transform to fatassness with a side bonus of boobs bigger than most girls at the school. I had a cup size bigger even than some of the teachers and administrators. Around this time in my life, I developed a defense mechanism. Nothing worrisome or trouble-inducing. I actually thank God I developed this defense mechanism, made me into a person I like when I looked in the mirror.
Basically, I became the nicest person alive. My mother always told me to reach out to those who seemed lonely but I took this a step further. I befriended everyone who would talk to me and I never made fun of anyone. In my mind I believed, who in their right mind would make fun of someone who was nice to everyone?
Middle school children would. Middle school children will not be stopped from cliquing up and marginalizing outcasts. Instead of making fun of me to my face, the kids at my middle school just chose to make fun of me behind my back.
Ignorance and bliss, no?
In high school, I played football so my large heavily man-boobed body was actually appreciated on the offensive line. However, not even becoming one of the Team Captains got me much play with the girls. I did manage to get a girlfriend in my senior year of high school but she to France before prom...so guess who went to prom solo? The man-boobed Team Captain of the five and five football team.
After high school, I played one year of Division-One football but after seeing those dreams die in the desert of my laziness, I was officially retired in my serious pursuit of playing football professionally. Of course, who could admit to themselves that the only future they envisioned since the third grade was not their future? I never even imagined life without football but there I was, living without playing semi-professional football fooling myself that I was decent enough to catch a scholarship.
But playing semi-professional football was perfect for me because I didn’t even have to practice in order to play the game. So while I appreciated being allowed to feel like the man again once a week in the spring, in all reality we were just a bunch of guys trying to see if we still had it or even had it all.
Some still had it, others discovered it and the rest developed it but none of that mattered at the end of the day. When all was said and done, we were brothers, on and off the field and that was the real reason we played. At one point or another, we all were a part of something bigger and the semipro team allowed us to have that again. I didn’t realize this back then.
Back then I was still on that everlasting mission for cheeks and football was the only way I knew how to get girls to even talk to me. But since I literally put no effort into being on the team, my exercise routine, if one would dare call it that, evaporated.
However, my eating habits did not and as time passed, I was feeling like I was in middle school again anytime I left the house. I felt like everyone I passed was staring at me. As a six foot five black man, I’m sure more than a few people actually were staring but there were nowhere near as many eyes on my back as I felt.
I ignored the stares like I was immune to all attention but that did nothing to help that feeling of exhibitionism. Obviously I wasn’t on display but between my mask of indifference and my overwhelming kindness as a defense mechanism, I made my way. By which I mean I floated around rudderless for quite some time until I became serious with school.
At the time, I was still living at home and my older brother came to live with us to help out with the bills. A few months after he moved in, my mother decided to have the gastric sleeve surgery. She had been struggling with her weight for years and after hearing the success of one of our cousins, she went ahead to took the plunge.
Now to me, the surgery was almost like giving up on doing losing weight naturally but I understood that weight loss was a simple issue with complex solutions. So if a person wanted to have the surgery, then more power to them and God bless them.
My hang up was that she was having the surgery in Mexico.
Now, I am not a bigot. I know Mexicans are absolutely lovely people. They are genuinely good and loyal people who know how to have a good time. Growing up in Texas, I can proudly say that many people of Hispanic descent rank among my friends. I know that is exactly what bigots say to deflect attention from their racism but I really do have multiple genuine friends of Mexican descent.
However, at that time, all I could think about was that El Chapo was out. I knew that the Sinaloa ruled further south and the surgery was set to take place in ten minutes from the border in Tijuana but logic doesn’t work well when one is panicking. All I could imagine was maybe this surgery being a front to see my dear precious mother robbed of all her organs and used as a drug mule that also had a passport. If that wasn’t the case then I was sure she would be kidnapped and then definitely turned into a drug mule.
My older brother was going with her so I was scared for him too but there was no need to be and I knew this. I knew my cousin had returned from there safe and sound and I knew that this hospital had hundreds of people online praising this staff and the doctors but none of that registered with a pessimistically over-analyzing mind.
But I know how paranoid I can be so I said nothing and gave my mother a hug praying that wasn’t going to be the last time I held her. I almost cried every time I thought about that possibility. I love my mother deeply. So when my mother shuffled into the house a few days later, to say I was relieved was an understatement.
For the next six weeks I watched my mother struggle through discomfort to come out on the other side many pounds lighter and much happier. I was happy that my mother was happy and everything was fine...except everything was not fine. At least not fine for me.
At this point, my lack of exercise and unrepentant eating left me sitting at over four hundred pounds. When I was doing literally anything, sometimes when I was doing nothing, my chest would start hurting. Nothing serious that couldn’t be chased away with a few well practiced thumps on my chest but I know that any pain in your chest is a bad thing. Like mortally bad. But I didn’t say anything except to my younger brother who is quite my confidante in all things.
This was about the time when as I would walk, my knees would suddenly give out on me on occasion. I was an athlete once upon a time so I would always catch myself before I went tumbling but I always felt a slightly burning and stinging sensation just above my shin immediately afterwards. Sometimes the sensation would come while I was just sitting. Either way I knew. I did not want to admit it to myself or anyone else but I knew.
My body was breaking down and it was because of my weight.
I had to do something but I was stuck in this fog of apathy that had hung on me since I stopped playing football seriously. I guess that is the fog that is adulthood but back then, I just went along with the currents around me. I did nothing for myself or my future, and my family became worried. My family kept on me about solving these problems but the fog made their words just sound like nagging.
‘Of course I’m going to lose weight, I just don’t know when.’
The picture perfect definition of a terrible goal but it was the one I stuck to like Jesus himself gave it to me. Of course I was going to procrastinate but my procrastination developed arresting syndrome in which I stopped trying to do whatever I was holding off doing.
Eventually my older brother had had enough and stepped in. He came to me and my mother and said I need to go ahead and save because I was going to have the surgery as well.
My mother was delighted with the idea but she was worried about my school payments that semester. A hiccup in the payment schedule and suddenly I’m taking the semester off, freeing up my extremely limited funds to pay for this procedure.
I was reluctant to say the least.
I had no reason to be but I was hesitant. I then grew resentful towards my brother for forcing me to this and for then feeling justified in taking the majority of my checks when I made excuses as to why I had nothing saved. Even as I wrote that, my heart grew angry.
But I couldn’t say no because I had no logical reason not to do the surgery. So I went along with my brother and a few months later I was leaving work to go to the airport to catch our 9am flight to Phoenix to catch the 10:30am flight to San Diego.
By the time my brother and I landed in San Diego I had long accepted the positives about the procedure. While I was supremely annoyed that my family would force me to this, I knew it was done out of love. They didn’t want me to be the one who died from a heart attack at 35. So I was on board then.
Plus it was cool to travel with one of the two brothers I had idolized practically my entire adolescent life.
I hadn’t done my due diligence in terms of research but I was no longer fighting against it. However my paranoia of becoming a drug mule refused to leave me despite me running through all my assurances. So to say I was skeptical when the plane’s wheels landed would have been an understandable understatement. But like I had my entire life, I kept my emotions close to chest and forged ahead.
After my brother and I got our bags, we headed to the pickup point where the driver was going to be. We didn’t see him at first but I had been in contact so while my skepticism flared just slightly, it dissipated with each text I got from the driver. The cartels would need my body to get my organs after all.
We were not looking for long before a minivan matching the driver’s description appeared in the distance and pulled up next to the curb right where the driver said he would park. I walked over and saw the name of the doctor in the window, a sigh of relief escaping my lips involuntarily. However my skepticism erupted like Mount Vesuvius when I saw the driver.
The man was fatter than I was!
And not even by a little but either. The man’s stomach cast a shadow over his feet for goodness sake! How in the name of God can a man as obese as this be a representative of a weight loss clinic?! It made no sense but he knew my name and was actually a pretty charming guy. The longer I thought about him, I figured his weight was to make the patients feel more comfortable and felt an odd sense of appreciation for the man who was simply doing his job.
Less than an hour after we packed up the minivan with our luggage, the driver was pulling over and I blinked, really looking at my surroundings.
The concrete buildings had paint chipping off the walls and we’re casting shadows on the cart vendors who were literally at every corner. The roads were wide but the gutters were compacted with wrappers of all kinds and other various bits of trash. There were stray animals roaming around and the fact that they obeyed traffic laws showed how long they had been strays. Some of the buildings were nothing more than shacks but these shacks stood next to five-star hotels and beautiful plazas. Cars from every decade rolled through the streets, some spewing black smog like it was a building on fire. It seemed every wall in the area was covered in graffiti but this was traditional Mexican art so the views were amazing.
I know and have seen some absolutely stunning Hispanic women in my life plus everyone has passed by Telemundo and Univision and seen the gorgeous women there. So I was halfway distantly expecting to see models walking to streets. Unfortunately the models were examples of women solidly in their midlife so there was not much eye-candy for me.
Other than the graffiti and the people walking the streets, the city reminded me of cities in Nigeria. The culture was different, the food was different, the people were definitely different but the feel of the land was the same.
I knew we were in Mexico and after the driver unloaded our bags and sped off, a man emerged from one of the buildings and motioned us over. We enter and after doing some paperwork and tests, I was hooked up to an IV drip and in one of those hospital gowns that exposed every unflattering inch of your butt if you were not careful.
Soon after being prepped, I was being told to lie down on a bed in a different room while another doctor asked me questions. I looked around and while the nurse was a lovely woman, who also had the midlife build, I wondered if I would wake up whole or even wake up at all. Before I could dwell on the question bouncing in my skull, a mask was being placed over my face and then I was waking up.
As soon as I woke up, I felt something.
Something in my chest was slightly inhibiting my breathing and I was weakly flailing my arms as I tried to lean up. The muscles to do this had just been put to sleep so I was accomplishing a whole lot of nothing.
Suddenly my mouth started overflowing with saliva and I knew from my football days that I was about to throw up. I said this and almost immediately a little blue tray was placed under my chin. Just in time too because within seconds, blood mixed with other fluids I cannot, in all honesty, say was saliva spewed out of my mouth. That was my fate every fifteen to twenty minutes that whole first night. Throwing up, pissing and farting, under the doctor’s orders of course.
Only, because I had been just drinking fluids for the past two days, nothing but air bubbles and saliva would come out if anything came out at all. Most of the time I was dry heaving which was so much worse. The muscles lining my ribs and stomach were sore. Before long my back and neck ached and so I tried to lay down and sleep.
Unfortunately when I tried to lie down I could not get comfortable. Eventually, I put my hand on the source of my discomfort and I discovered a drain leading to a clear pouch filled with blood and bits of what could only be fat. I nearly threw up each time I looked at it, especially after I picked up the pouch and registered it’s seemingly unnatural warmth.
I’ve been a healthy, as in uninjured, person most of my life and had only been in surgery once before. So when I saw the drain I knew, just knew that one of my organs were missing. Probably my liver since my back and chest felt fine. But when I went to use the restroom I saw only five small incisions on my stomach so I knew I was whole but that knowledge did little to help my comfort.
That entire first night, I tossed and turned unable to sleep for more than an hour or two before I either had to throw up or piss so I resigned to watching TV. Luckily, the TV had channels that broadcast in English so I was able to watch the NBA playoff game among other American programs to take my mind off my discomfort that first night.
The next morning, my brother and I were moved into the building next door and the room I was put into then had only Hispanic channels. This was the room I was going to be stuck in for the next twenty-four hours and there was only one channel that had English. That channel actually played some pretty decent movies and one really good movie, the third installation of the Dark Knight trilogy.
I also had my laptop which was filled to the brim with games and movies so I was literally just waiting for time to pass.
The next day, my last day there, I was given an incredibly bitter blue drink as soon as I was woken up at 8am so that everyone was sure that everything was okay. Everything checked out. I repeated the process with a clear liquid that was a little sweeter but this time I had to drink it while being x-rayed. Again everything checked out and I had the drain pulled which was a weird experience.
I forgot to mention earlier, while I was there, there was a couple, the wife was getting the same surgery I was, there but there were odd coincidences between us. Okay, so there was one actual coincidence and one kind of coincidence.
The actual coincidence was that the couple was just a few miles away from where my brother and I lived. Their flight was actually just an hour after ours in the same airport. The kind of coincidence was that my brother and her husband shared a name but their name is actually quite common so that coincidence almost doesn’t count.
But when my brother told me this, I said if the wife’s name had my name then we were leaving. We had different names so they checked out.
This couple was awesome and the namesakes went to for a drink while the wife and I rested from the procedure. Their adventure actually upset the wife, especially after my brother coerced her husband to take shots. He was a four year starter at a Pac-12 school and quietly joined a frat during his tenure as a collegiate athlete. We all know how frat guys get, especially with a playoff game on TV.
The namesakes stumbled in professionally and collapsed into their beds in their respective rooms. We did not eavesdrop but my brother and I were laughing when we heard the wife’s distinctive voice going off on the man. She was still cool about the whole thing in the morning though…I think.
Anyways, the wife got her drain tube taken out before me, because ladies first, right? But while she was in the room with the door closed, all I heard was her crying out and saying go slower like she was a sober virgin on her wedding night. Yet when this woman came out of the room, she had the audacity to say, ‘Oh, it didn’t hurt that bad.’
I damn near slapped her.
If the pull was not that bad then why was she making all that noise? Rather than asking, I nodded and opened the door to go in. She asked to watch and I didn’t care so I said that was cool.
When I laid down, I made sure to settle myself to give the nice nurse as much room to maneuver around me as she needed. After I was settled, the nurse took one more look at me and nodded. Neither of us spoke the other’s language but we were both intelligent enough to communicate to one another.
She smiled softly as she took off the tape and cleaned away the area around the drain. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised and I smiled with a chuckled because I was not feeling any pain for some odd reason. She nodded with a more confident smile before she gently tugged on the plastic tube just enough to break the premature scabbing.
Now, while yes, there was a twinge of pain, for the most part, the pulling was just an odd sensation. As she continued to pull on the drain with a smooth practiced stroke, once the tube was out, I felt like I just finished taking the largest of craps. Not an insignificant crap but one of those stomach bubbling craps that was causing your intestines to hurt and the relief from the putrid drop could be ranked as a top five sensation…but my butthole was sealed at the same time. Almost like the best of both worlds, the oddest of sensations.
The drain had been bothering me but now that it was gone, I was given the okay to drink sports drinks, Gatorade and Powerade, as well as water. I hadn’t had anything to drink in three days but with the IV drip I was fine. But the IV drip had been taken out the night before so I was incredibly thirsty. When my brother brought me some Powerade, I was ecstatic to drink some.
One of the nurses who spoke enough English, said to drink slowly or I’ll throw up. So when I took my first sips and nothing happened, I was elated. I took more and bigger sips and I got cocky. I got way too cocky way too soon.
Saliva flooded in my mouth so I ran to the restroom but the husband was in there throwing up from my brother’s ministrations the night before. This left me puking into a cup I found right there in front of my thoroughly amused brother. He was more than just amused but you get the idea. When I was done I learned my lesson, and sipped slowly. I’m still sipping slowly in fact.
After a few scares due to my own stupidity, I am the lightest I have been since I was a sophomore in high school. During the time when I ignored what I needed to do, I was miserable. I bitterly questioned the surgery but once I got past my own stubbornness, I healed quickly and weight continued to drop off me.
Now I can eat normally albeit on a much smaller scale and at a much slower rate but nothing is restricted to me except carbpnated drink but that is my personal prerogative. I’ve actually saved quite a bit of money from the lack of food expenditure and that was a nice collateral benefit.
I still miss buffets though.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Sidney NwangwuWrite a Review