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  -- ADHD: Not Just Boys
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  -- Bariatric Surgery
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  -- Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric Surgery: New Hope for the Morbidly Obese
By Judy Shepps Battle

At 48 years of age, Debbie was morbidly obese. She wasn't at her top weight -- 515 pounds -- but even though she was "down" to 420 pounds, she suffered from hypertension and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GRD). She was confined to a wheelchair after one leg was amputated, the result of out-of-control diabetes, and her kidneys were beginning to shut down. Additionally, Debbie was on 27 different medications.

Heavy all her life -- she weighed 186 pounds in fifth grade -- Debbie speaks with candor and frustration at the many weight-loss strategies she attempted, only to eventually fail each one of them.

"There wasn't a diet on the planet that I had not tried," she shares. "As I kid, I tried diet pills. As an adult, I tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and liquid diets. I didn't like the way pills made me feel so I never went back to diet pills, but I tried starving myself. I tried doing liquids only. Doing fruits only. Doing vegetables only. You name it. And if there is a weight-loss book in print, I have read it.

"I was a member of Overeaters Anonymous for about 24 years. That was when I lost my biggest chunk of weight on my own and went from 515 pounds down to 236 pounds. My low weight was probably in about 1990 but by 1994, I was back up to 300 pounds. And then it just escalated from there."

Today, Debbie weighs in at 198 pounds and envisions losing an additional 28 pounds. Diabetes, GRD, and hypertension have been relieved and she no longer takes medication for these conditions. Today, her daily pill regimen numbers only ten, and seven of those are vitamins and supplements.

"I went from being in a wheelchair full time to part time, from using a walker with wheels to a solid walker, from walking with a four-prong cane to a one-prong cane to no cane," she states proudly. "All in the course of a year and a half."

What finally worked for Debbie? Gastric bypass surgery.

Her surgeon? Robert E. Brolin, M.D., F.A.C.S., board-certified bariatric surgeon and chairman of the Bariatric Surgery Program at University Medical Center at Princeton.

Dr. Brolin explains that this procedure, also known as stomach stapling, "separates the stomach into two unequal compartments, with less than 5 percent of the stomach remaining usable for food consumption. During digestion, the food empties from this tiny stomach pouch into the upper intestine." This enables the individual to feel full after eating much smaller portions of food, which facilitates rapid weight loss.

Post-surgical weight loss is generally rapid and most patients continue to lose weight for 18 to 24 months. Studies have shown that patients may lose 30 to 50 percent of their excess weight in the first six months

Gastric bypass surgery is a major medical procedure and, in most cases, the candidate must be 100 pounds or more over ideal body weight and/or have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. In addition, patients are required to show proof they have failed in serious attempts at weight loss by non-surgical means and that they have a serious commitment to follow lifelong dietary restrictions.

Debbie believes that gastric bypass should not be entered into lightly.

"You have to know going in that you can never eat the way you ate before. You have to make use of the first year and a half to retrain yourself to get out of the old eating habits and into new ones -- because the weight loss from the surgery only lasts for a certain length of time.

"The operation is no joke. You are radically changing your body. Although you will hear now and then that the surgery can be reversed, it really can't. And that's why I say the gastric bypass is not for everybody. If you don't have the commitment to yourself that you are doing this for more than just a quick weight loss, then you are going to blow it when the weight loss stops."

Debbie is equally quick to praise the courage of her fellow success stories.

"I will tell you the way I feel about people who have had gastric bypass for the right reasons and have committed to a necessary post-surgical lifestyle. To me, they are brave souls. That is exactly how I think of them. It takes a lot to look at your life, know what you have to do, and have the strength to do it."

Copyright 2006 Judy Shepps Battle
First Published in the Princeton Packet, Princeton, NJ


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