Gastric Sleeve Keeps Weight Specter at Bay
Bariatric Surgery Helps Patients Regain Health, Life
Most people consider Halloween the scary holiday. Creepy critters. Ghoulish ghosts. But for Debbie Stephens, one day of the season stands out even more: Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pies. Those are the real spooks that threaten to greet the young grandmother of two on her most daunting holiday.
In March, Stephens, 56, finally made the leap: She had gastric-sleeve bariatric surgery, after being overweight her entire life. "I'm so happy with how I look and how much better I feel," says Stephens, whose life, stifled by embarrassment or immobility, just opened up. "I'm enjoying the heck out of my grandkids now," says the registered nurse and Kiowa resident.
"This summer, my granddaughter did not want to play in the sprinkler … she didn't really understand what I was talking about. So I showed her." The moment was so special – Grandma laughing and bouncing through the sprinkler, when months before she could barely walk a flight of stairs – that her daughter videotaped it.
Gastric Sleeve Delivers Results
A few months after her gastric-sleeve procedure, Stephens has dropped more than 75 pounds from her 5' 5" frame, and plans on shedding 35 more pounds. At her heaviest point in life, she was 260 with a body-mass index more than 41 (BMI more than 40 is considered morbidly obese). Just the high BMI – along with the fact that she worked failingly for years with her doctor on weight loss, trying
Debbie Stephens before
diets and medications – made her a prime candidate for bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgeons will perform these surgical weight-loss procedures on people with BMIs of 35 or higher if they have tried exercise and diet and suffer from weight-related diseases, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension (high blood pressure) and severe arthritis, according to Dr. Frank Chae of Sky Ridge Medical Center. These life-threatening illnesses are called co-morbidities, and Stephens had them all. A dire family history also prodded Stephens through Dr. Chae’s doors at the Sky Ridge Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence.
"My father died at 66. His sister, whom I apparently look just like, dropped dead at 50. So I'm considering everything I have right now as bonus time," Stephens says. "When my older brother died at 59, that was my wake-up call." Losing weight can reverse all of these diseases.
"It's the only cure for Type 2 diabetes," Dr. Chae says. "Bariatric surgery is about longevity; it's about saving lives." Stephens was taken completely off of her diabetic medication and requires only half the dose of her hypertension drugs. She also cancelled plans for knee-replacement surgery (another benefit she weighed when opting to go forward with bariatric surgery).