Friday, August 24, 2007

stomach stapling leads to longer lives

Other blogs have talked about this study,, and I agree with most of what has been said. Like studies don't prove anything, but they add to the discussion and add to the areas that can be investigated. It's the media spin that tries to cite them as proof of whatever agenda is being promoted at the time.
I happen to know of one person whose life was not lengthened by having her stomach stapled. And with her health history, I have no fucking clue why her doctor even thought it was an option, let alone recommended it.
My best friend, Pat, was an lpn in a surgical ward when she had to have her gall bladder removed. At the time, she had a BMI of about 25. Three weeks after her GB surgery, her doctor at the time sent her back to work with no restrictions. Pat ended up with a massive ventral hernia (it took about 3 years to develop). She had numerous surgeries to try and repair it, and gained weight in the process. By the time I met her in 1991, she was no longer able to work and had to wear a special undergarment to hold her organs inside her body cavity. She finally had a surgery to repair the hernia that placed mylar mesh across the herniated area (it went from one side of her body, across her stomach, to the other side of her body). She had a lot of pain, and weighed about 400 lbs. She didn't like leaving the house because of her size, and all of her friends came to see her, she didn't go out to see them, she didn't go out to do the grocery shopping (her husband did it), and very seldom went out to church. When we became friends, I lived across the street from her (our sons were friends and that was how we actually met, her son thought we would like each other), and was over there on a daily basis. I finally convinced her that she could go out of her house, no one was going to make fun of her as long as I was with her.
She confided in me that she had been severely abused by family members when she was a child and that she was a multiple personality (actually, the way she broached it was by asking if I had ever felt like I was different people at times. I had read When Rabbit Howls by Trudi Chase and knew about multiple personality disorder). Pat learned that she could trust me and gradually let her different people out when I was around. She had a lot of problems, cutting and hurting herself, but who was I to judge her? I hadn't lived through anything nearly as bad as she had (and it was bad, she told some of it and it was sickening). I didn't like that she hurt herself, but all I could do was accept her, love her, and be there when she needed me. Pat was there for me when I needed someone too, so we became very close.
When she and her husband and sons decided to move from Illinois to Minnesota, I moved with them. Pat's new doctor here in MN thought that Pat needed to lose weight because of the hernia and all the problems she had with it and knew that dieting wasn't going to work for her (Pat had dieted off and on for years). So she recommended that Pat get her stomach stapled. A surgeon who teaches this bariatric method at the University of MN did her surgery, and Pat went from 400 lbs to about 160 lbs in a little less than a year. Now, I don't know what the doctors were thinking, but they didn't do the follow-up with her that they should have, because within 2 years of losing the weight, she was back in to have the surgery redone because she was gaining weight. When they went in, they found that her intestines had gotten tangled in the mesh from her hernia repair, and lengths of them had died. So they ended up removing all but about 10 feet of her intestines (out of the approximately 25 - 30 feet that a normal person has). Now, not only did she have her stomach stapled, but she had short gut syndrome on top of it. She had to be close to a bathroom when she ate a meal, she had horrendous gas, and had to take vitamins and supplements to make sure she got the nutrition she needed. She also took liquid opium on a daily basis to try and keep her bowel as inactive as possible to lessen the short gut syndrome effects. Pat ended up back in the hospital because she was having severe stomach pain, and they removed an 11 lb cyst (this was her 15th stomach surgery in 20 years, she was 42 years old at the time, in 1997). She was released and came to my house to recuperate because her husband was working and her sons were in school and she needed someone to care for her. She woke me up one morning with chest pain, and was rushed to the hospital. They had her on complete bed rest, she couldn't even get out of bed to use the bathroom, she had to have a nurse help her with a bedpan. I found out later that she had myocarditis. She came back to my house for a couple of days, said the doctors had discharged her (that I'm not sure of, I think she may have signed herself out AMA). She went to her home a couple of days later. I called her the next day because we were supposed to go shopping for her birthday, and her son said she was sleeping and he didn't want to wake her. I called several times that day, and he kept saying she was sleeping and he didn't want to wake her because she needed the rest. Pat's husband and her oldest son came over that evening to tell me that Pat had died in her sleep. We found out later that it was the myocarditis that killed her. She died the day before her 43rd birthday, and to this day, I think it was all the complications from her hernia and stomach stapling that killed her.
So I don't believe it when they say they screen out people who are too ill for the surgery. Pat's mental state alone should have kept her from surgery, but she was a very intelligent woman and I think she knew how to manipulate the tests and the psychologist. I also think when they stapled her stomach, they should have taken out the mesh and done a better repair of her hernia. I think she saw the surgery as an approved way of mutilating herself (she got in a lot of trouble with her therapist for the cutting and burning she did) and the weight loss was just an added incentive.
Did I learn anything from this? No, I was stupid too. Pat and I had talked about WLS for me because I was having issues with mobility. I had been hit by a car when I was 19 and had my pelvis fractured in 3 places. I also have degenerative joint disease in my right knee (I roller skated a lot when I was younger, and that was the knee I landed on when I fell). So I've always had problems with my back and my knee, but as I got heavier, the problems got worse. I dieted, but we all know about how successful diets are. My doctor put me on phen-fen and I was losing weight with it, until they took it off the market because it caused pulmonary hypertension. So every time I dieted and lost weight, I gained it all back when I quit dieting (and then some). My doctor (the same one Pat had, that should have given me a clue) recommended stomach stapling for me, with the same surgeon Pat had.
At the time, in 1997, I weighed 350 lbs, and was told that with the surgery, I could get down to an ideal weight of 160 lbs (I never weighed 160 as an adult, the lowest I ever weighed was 175 and I would have been satisfied with 200). But anyway, I was scheduled to have the surgery in September of 1997, then Pat died August 5th, 1997, and I was going to cancel. Pat's husband and sons talked me into going through with it, telling me how much better off I would be if I lost some of the weight I was carrying (I was having trouble with walking for any distance over a block, and I couldn't carry anything for any distance, and stairs were a big problem too). So I went in and had my stomach stapled, and in the first 3 months, I lost 70 lbs. When I went back for my 90 day check-up, the doctor told me I could start adding regular food back to my diet instead of eating everything pureed or mashed. Big mistake. I couldn't eat meat, other than hamburger or ground chicken/turkey, veggies were out unless it was squash of some kind. If I ate anything that wasn't ground or mashed, it came back up, but I kept trying because the doctor said I should. Well, to make a long story short, my stapling came undone, and I put back on every one of the 70 lbs I lost, and another 40. Now, my blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar numbers were always in the normal range, the only problem I had was with my mobility, and that did improve some when I lost weight, I will admit that. But because the stapling didn't work for me, and I gained an additional 40 pounds, I'm worse off than I would have been if I hadn't done anything at all. At least before, I could walk for a block before my back cramped up and my knee started hurting. It's nine years later, and I'm lucky if I can walk 50 feet without severe back pain. I can't walk on uneven ground (like our lawn) because it kills my knee and back. I can't stand long enough to do a sink full of dishes (I have to sit down until my back quits hurting, then finish the dishes). I can't sit in a bathtub because I can't get up without help, so I have to shower instead (and sit down as soon as I get out of the shower because my back hurts). I can't vacuum the living room all in one shot, I have to do a section, sit, do a section, sit, and then finish because I'm in pain if I try to do it all at once. Shopping is a bitch if they don't have a motorized cart or have seats in the store if I have to walk. The only vehicles I can get in and out of with any ease are minivans and trucks because they don't sit low to the ground and I don't have to bend my knee more than it wants to bend without pain. I can't carry anything up and down stairs because I have to use the handrail to help pull me up the stairs and go down the stairs sideways one step at a time (right leg down to step, then left to same step and repeat all the way down because my right knee won't bend enough to go down like normal people do). My life has become so limited because of that additional 40 pounds and I absolutely hate it.
But I'm a success according to the article mentioned in the first paragraph of this long story, because, hey, I'm still alive 9 years after my surgery. Doesn't matter a rat's ass that my quality of life sucks compared to what it was before the surgery, I'm going to live longer because I had the surgery even tho it didn't work and I'm fatter and in worse shape.
I don't know if there's any hope of my life improving, but I am working on it, thanks to all the fat acceptance blogs I've been reading. I've always had a fairly well-balanced way of eating, not a lot of junk food, plenty of fruits and veggies and meat and grains. Exercise has been my downfall ever since I got to the point where I couldn't roller skate and ride my bike anymore. But I did find Megan Garcia's Just My Size Yoga and I'm gradually working my way into the exercises on the video. I'm hoping that by getting to where I can work through the whole video, it will put me in good enough shape that I can start walking without being in a lot of pain and maybe I can actually get fit, or more fit than I am now, anyway. I want to be able to go for a walk and not hurt, clean my house without having to stop until the pain goes away, go shopping and not have to use a motorized cart, and do all the things I used to do before the WLS.


  1. I have only been reading and learning about WLS in the last four years, and I have always thought that it was a dangerous alternative.

    Keep doing what you have been doing and getting as much education on being healthy as you can. Good luck on your journey.

  2. Good grief, that is such a sad story. And it is all too familiar and happens far too often.

    I lost weight using Weight Watchers and determination. It was pretty easy but I regained my weight due to problems at work and a medication called Wellbutrin. Now I am about to begin again and have no doubt that I can get the weight back off and this time I won't listen to what anyone else has to say about it. Thin is much better than fat. There are two things I like about being thin; I can cross my legs and all the clothes that I try on fit! good luck to you!

  3. Losing weight for good is very hard. It takes daily vigilance. If you have a health problem (I do) then it's easier because you know if you do not eat a certain way, you will get sick. I don't feel thin is better than fat. I lost 95 lbs (weight Watchers) but I felt better when I was heavier. Now I am having problems with an illness which was dormant when I was larger. Even THOUGH exercising. Thin isn't a panacea. Health is the most important whether fat or thin and a lot of folks when they go on diets, they do not live healthy nor take supplements and in that case it's better to just make healthy food choices, exercise and let the chips fall where they may. JMO.

  4. I agree with SueW that "thin isn't a panacea"... it seems to me that you have the right attitude in focusing on things like regaining more mobility. I found your account of weight-loss surgery very interesting; thank you for sharing it!


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