I have always been known for is my honesty.
It comes through in my book and certainly when I speak to
patients. In this issue of my e-newsletter, I would like to address
what most people are reluctant to talk about and that is what about
when things go wrong. Weight
loss surgery is not without its risks and people should be fully
informed when they make the decision to proceed.
Surgeons call this concept
ďInformed ConsentĒ and this is a requirement of the
National Institutes of Health before surgery can be performed.
I wonder about our reluctance to talk about the bad things.
It is like we are being disloyal to this surgery if we
acknowledge the risks. Or perhaps we will have the bad things visit
us if we mention them. Or
perhaps we hear enough old and outdated horror stories that are no
longer applicable that we feel this constant need to defend the
surgery. Whatever the
reason, we do need to recognize the risks.
Now let me make this perfectly clear. It is certainly not my
intention to discourage anyone from having the surgery.
I believe more strongly every day that this surgery is our
greatest hope for a normal healthy life.
loss surgery is an incredible life saving procedure for thousands of
people. It is truly the
only cure for our horrible disease and is our only chance for a
normal life. The RNY and the VBG have actually been endorsed by the
National Institutes of Health as an effective treatment for morbid
obesity. But there are
many factors that come into play during a surgical procedure that
can affect the final outcome. Members
of the surgical team are human beings and humans are not perfect.
There are risks with any surgery and some surgeons are better
than others. And being
human, some surgeons have their good and bad days.
Mistakes can happen.
the risks to not have the surgery need to be considered as well.
Morbidly obese people are at a very high-risk of life threatening
Without the surgery we are:
Times more likely to die suddenly
Times more likely to have diabetes
Times more likely to have heart disease
obese people are
at a much greater risk of developing:
had a conversation recently with a wonderful woman from California
who had a terrible time following weight loss surgery.
That conversation brought back memories of my own surgery and
is what compelled me to address this issue. I was terrified before
my surgery. What if I
died during the surgery? What
if I just didnít wake up? But I did wake up, and I thought I was
home free. Well I was told that I had a leak.
As it turned out, I didnít, but I spent a week with nothing
by mouth while I endured multiple tests to be sure that everything
was OK. I was frightened, but it all worked out well for me.
But it didnít work out well for the woman in California.
Perhaps this is why I was so touched by her. I dodged the
bullet. She did not.
researched her surgery very thoroughly, got through it, but then the
problems started. She
couldnít keep anything down.
She had three endoscopies and her stoma would just
immediately re-close. She
has been on a feeding tube for a year and during that time she
almost died. Her surgeon just didnít seem to take her problem
seriously enough. She
finally found another surgeon who repaired the damage done by the
first surgeon. It took
him 9 hours of surgery to do it. She is still on the feeding tube
but has just started to eat some solid food. But the ordeal has
taken its toll. She is now 5 pounds underweight, but her weight loss
is finally slowing. She
has just about come out the other side but it has been difficult on
her and on her family.
is the exception Ė absolutely.
But there are so many things about her story that are
unfortunate. The two things that stand out most are her original
surgeonís attitude and her online support group that did not
support her. She almost died and nobody listened. Whenever she would
mention her ordeal on the Internet, she was flamed. She had no
support when she was crying out for help.
why am I writing this? I
am writing to tell you that weight loss surgery is a fabulous cure,
but there are risks. But you are at a greater risk staying morbidly
obese. If you have problems, donít panic, but do listen to your
instincts. And donít blame yourself and donít feel like a
failure if you do have problems. We have spent enough years feeling
like a failure. If you
have problems, donít just say that you have failed again. Get
help, even if it means finding another surgeon. During our local
monthly support group, the question often comes up inquiring how
long it took people before they went back to work following surgery.
People will proudly say, ďI went back to work in 2
weeks,Ē or ďI went back to work in 10 days.Ē
I always jump up and say that I went back to work in six
weeks. And I tell
people if they are taking longer to heal, not to think that they are
failing. It is not a
contest and we all react a bit differently.
didnít have the nerve to ask the woman from California if she is
happy that she had the surgery.
At this point, she would probably say, no.
Now that she is finally healing and as the memory of her
awful ordeal starts to fade in time, I hope that she will someday
give thanks for this surgery. My heart goes out to her and I wish
her the very best.
the meantime, if you are the one having problems, be your own best
friend by understanding that it is not your failing.
And if you encounter someone who is having problems, reach
out your arms to embrace and comfort them.
We are a worldwide community of patients and are all in this
together. We need to help and support each other when there are
problems and celebrate when there is success.