Debbie Sanders, of Lafayette, has had a weight problem most of her life. She tried, and failed, most diets and attempts to lose weight. She even went to a hypnotist when she was a teenager. She would lose weight only to gain the original weight back, and then more. Finally, Debbie changed her life. She made the decision to undergo the procedure called "Gastric Bypass Surgery." This decision did not come easy.
The turning point for Debbie was when she became very ill and spent twelve days in the hospital. Eight of those twelve days was in the intensive care unit. Debbie was sick with an oxygen level at a low of 35, pneumonia, lung problems, sleep apnea, and suffering from mild depression. She was told her weight was a strain on her heart and she could smother to death in her own fluid. Faced with the life or death situation of her health, Debbie knew what she had to do.
Her Physician, Dr. Odunusi, had counseled her prior to her illness about "Gastro Bypass Surgery." Upon her return home from the hospital, Debbie called her doctors office and said to Nurse Glenda Green, "can you get me information on the gastro bypass surgery and when does Dr. Odunusi think I should have this done?" Glenda told Debbie "The doctor thinks you should have had this surgery yesterday". Glenda immediately got Debbie the information she needed to begin the procedure.
The first step was an appointment with the specialists of Bariatric surgery at Cumberland Center for Obesity Surgery. She attended an orientation in March of 2003, at the clinic which (as Debbie tells it) "scars the patuty" out of you. They told her, yes, you can die and yes, this is considered major surgery. They were very straightforward. Severe obesity is a chronic condition that is difficult to treat through diet and exercise alone. Gastrointestinal surgery is the best option for people who are severely obese and cannot lose weight by traditional means or who suffer from serious obesity-related health problems. The surgery promotes weight loss by restricting food intake and, in some operations, interrupting the digestive process. As in other treatments for obesity, the best results are achieved with healthy eating behaviors and regular physical activity.
She consulted with Dr. Husted at the center who explained the actual surgery. Debbie underwent what is called a "Duodenal Switch" The stomach is trimmed to a 4-6 ounce volume. The main mechanism of weight loss after this procedure is malasorption. Only the downstream 40% of small intestines is used to absorb blood in this procedure, and only about one third of this is able to absorb fats and starches. With the duodenal switch mechanisms, the natural emptying mechanism of the stomach is preserved, eliminating the "dumping syndrome" and resulting in essentially normal eating abilities 6 months after surgery in most patients. Malabsorptive operations are the most common gastrointestinal surgeries for weight loss. They restrict both food intake and the amount of calories and nutrients the body absorbs.
Debbie underwent the Gastro Bypass surgery Thursday, June 26, 2003 at Baptist Hospital. She was in the operating room for three hours. During the operation, they removed her gallbladder. During rapid or substantial weight loss, a person's risk of developing gallstones increases. They also removed her appendix.
When she awoke, she was in critical care and had a respirator in her throat. That was frightening to her. They immediately tested her oxygen level, it was normal and they removed the respirator. By mid morning on Friday, Debbie was back in her regular hospital room. She said "I woke up with a wonderful feeling. I felt relieved and a sense of happiness. I had felt so bad for so long, I did not know how bad I felt until after I had this surgery. I was glad the surgery was over and was anxious to get home to my husband, Norman, and my son, Orran." When her husband saw her after surgery, he immediately noticed her skin color. Her color had come back to normal and she did not look so pale. Debbie was released from the hospital seven days later.
Of course, it has not been an easy road since the surgery. Debbie was back in the hospital in August. Her potassium and electrolyte levels were "out of whack." She had to spend her 24th wedding anniversary in the hospital. Dr. Odunusi put it into perspective for her when he told her, "you may be in the hospital now, but at least you will be around to celebrate your 25th anniversary.
In addition to other minor complications, Debbie has a Lymphatic tumor on her leg, which hinders her ability to walk. With the recent weight loss, it is becoming easier for her to move around and last September she started to drive a vehicle again after several years of not being able to. The tumor will be looked at again by doctors as her weight decreases.
Debbie needs to take seven different vitamins each day, a thyroid medication, 80 grams of protein a day and drink lots of water. Nearly 30 percent of patients who have weight-loss surgery develop nutritional deficiencies such as anemia, osteoporosis, and metabolic bone disease. These deficiencies usually can be avoided if vitamin and mineral intakes are high enough. She cannot drink with a straw and some foods will make her sick. But as Debbie says, "this is not a miracle, but a life changing procedure. Most of the side effects will disappear with time. "
Debbie visits her Dr. Husted every six months and enjoys going to the clinic and talk with other patients who have had the surgery.
To this date, December 2003, seven months after the surgery, she has lost 182 pounds. Debbie is hopeful of achieving her goal weight of 150 lbs. Although she has had some setbacks, she does not regret having the surgery. It has been a life changing experience for her. The gastro bypass surgery has given her hope and has finally allowed her to control the food she eats instead of food controlling her.
A Note from Debbie:
"To all my friends and relatives who have supported me and shown me their love, prayers, phone calls and cards, thank you. It makes one feel so good that people care and take the time out of their lives to show it. It means a lot to me and words cannot describe how thankful I am. Without your prayers, I might not have made it through. You all know who you are, but a special thanks to my cousin Jennifer Trent for all the trips she has made for me and taking time out of her busy life to help me, Uncle Harrison Jenkins, cousin David Carter & Stephanie Meador for taking me to doctor visits and for taking me and my family to the hospital, Keith Trent for all the help he gave me on understanding all I was to face. He has had the surgery and has lost over 200 pounds now. He is an inspiration to me, my mom & step dad Tom & Mildred Turner, my dad and step mom James and Marie Scott, my husband Norman and my son Orran, and to all my family who have supported me through it all. I love you all"