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Surgery leads to dire trouble for DL woman

Shanna Bowman has had nothing but trouble from surgery. Submitted Photo

At first, Shanna Bowman was the poster child for successful gastric bypass surgery. She had lost the weight and kept it off -- all was fine.

Then she had some complications that have now turned her into the poster child for what can go wrong -- and then some.

She said that at this point, the only complication she hasn't experienced is death.

Going ahead with surgery

When Bowman, 40, went in for gastric bypass surgery 10 years ago, it wasn't a decision she necessarily took lightly. She researched it for two years and decided to go for it.

She said that she found, "You could have some problems, but most of the time it's not a real big thing and nothing really happens. It's a real simple fix."

So she went to Fargo to have the surgery done, "and he (her doctor) had told me at one time that I was the poster child for things that could go right because I had kept the weight off and really paid attention to what I was supposed to do."

But soon after, she got the stomach flu -- but that "flu" lasted 10 years.

She could nibble on food while standing up, but couldn't eat anything sitting down without throwing it back up. Going to the doctor to see why she couldn't stop throwing up, her blood work was always "goofy" and doctors were unable to find what was wrong with her.

Eventually, she was sent to the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Fairview to see if doctors there could figure out was wrong with her.

They thought maybe the blood work was amiss because Bowman had had her gall bladder removed the same time she had the gastric bypass surgery, but what they found in an MRI was that her stomach was the problem.

"They found out my stomach had been healing in the shape of an hourglass, so it was closing. Hence the reason I couldn't eat."

Doctors thought it would be an easy fix by inserting a stint into the stomach to cause it to reopen in the middle. That was the beginning of June of this year.

That worked for about three days.

Not just a quick fix

"I knew something else was wrong because I started throwing up again."

In July, they went in to get the stint out and couldn't find it.

"It traveled four feet through the remaining intestine and ended up at the top of my bowel, below my belly button."

She said that doctors ended up having to open her up to get the stint out once they found it because of its location. The surgery caused even more complications though with drainage, but she was assured the wounds would heal.

"Thirty-six hours later, I was in an ambulance on my way down there again. It hadn't closed, I was draining out more fluid than I could keep in."

She spent about a month in the hospital and continued to lose more weight.

They inserted a feeding tube, which made her still sicker.

She had another surgery on her stomach, but it failed to work. Then, she developed an ulcer.

"Great, I have an ulcer in my stomach, which is the size of my thumb. How big is the ulcer? About the size of your thumb nail. Great."

Two weeks later, she was back in the hospital, throwing up blood.

She called Mayo Clinic in Rochester to see if doctors there could take a look, but when it came time for her appointment, she was in the hospital in Minneapolis, so she couldn't make it.

She's now been back home in Detroit Lakes for a week.

She's down to 93 pounds and unable to gain any weight at this point. She said she can wear a size 12 in girls clothing -- not what she had in mind when she had the weight loss surgery 10 years ago.

"My surgeon told me the other week, I have just enough energy to run my heart, lungs and brain. I said, 'what else?' He said, 'that's it.' OK."

The only complication she hasn't gotten, she said with a laugh, is she isn't dead yet.

Last week before coming home, they took her measurements and she almost has a 22-inch waste.

"I said, you're kidding. I used to have a 26-inch thigh, for crying out loud."

Bowman clearly hasn't lost her sense of humor throughout the ordeal, which she's thankful for.

So the plan is,

there is no plan

Bowman said that doctors aren't sure what to do for her now, since they're still not certain how to solve her health problems.

There are three options, she said, but doctors aren't willing to do any of them at this point.

So what now?

"Right now there is absolutely nothing they can do," she said. "I'm stuck with the feeding tube indefinitely."

She has an appointment to go back to see her surgeon in the Cities at the end of the month.

"Cellularily and structurally, my body is shutting down and they don't know how to stop it."

Looking back, she would have said for years that she'd have the originally bypass surgery done again, because aside from the throwing up, it was a success. Now, not so much.

"I've had my pity parties and my 'oh my God, I'm going to die' thing. But, I've kind of made my peace with it."

The birthday benefit

A benefit for Bowman is set for Jan. 12, which also happens to be her birthday.

It is from 2 p.m. to midnight at the Shorewood Pub, Detroit Lakes, and will feature the band "Bad Bacon."

There will be a free-will offering dinner of barbeques, chips and all the trimmings. There will also be a silent auction and raffle tickets for trips, concerts, sporting events and more.

For more information, call Kesa at 218-205-4337.

"It's on my 41st birthday, and I said, 'great, my 41st year has got to be better than my 40th,'" Bowman said.

There is also a fund set up at any Midwest Bank location in Shanna's name for monetary donations.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.