Thursday, June 4, 2009

The miracle weight loss that isn't (DUH!!!!!)

This isn't something you'll be seeing shouted from every media source, and I'm shocked to see that it was on MSNBC (and I wouldn't have known it was there if it hadn't been posted in its entirety on Yahoo group OSSG-gone_wrong).
Eileen Wells was smiling as she was wheeled into surgery. She was too excited to feel nervous. At 38, she was about to get “a new lease on life,” she says, echoing jargon in weight loss surgery ads. She had seen the before and after pictures in celebrity tabloids, watched the TV infomercials, listened to the patient testimonials and researched online. She was ready to begin her own transformation. At 5 foot 3 and 290 pounds, she was sick of being fat. Her joints ached. Her feet hurt. A stroll through the mall near her home in Greenwood Lake, New York, was enough to leave her sweat-slick and gasping for air. She was anxious to say good-bye to sleep apnea and dieting, ready to take control. And so in March 2005, Wells underwent a laparoscopic gastric bypass. She was grinning right up until the anesthesia knocked her out.

From the menu of weight loss (bariatric) operations, Wells had chosen the Roux-en-Y bypass, the most popular option in the United States. The surgery sectioned off her stomach to a thumb-sized sac — sharply limiting the amount of food Wells could eat — then connected it to a deeper portion of her small intestine, to limit absorption of the calories she did consume. (An increasingly popular alternative, gastric banding, cinches in the stomach to restrict its capacity.) The rearrangement required Wells to radically overhaul her eating habits. She learned to eat tiny, frequent meals, cutting her food into pencil eraser–sized bites. On her doctor’s orders, to replace nutrients no longer absorbed by her digestive tract, she faithfully swallowed a multivitamin, calcium and B12 supplements and two protein shakes daily. Soon she resembled the women in those weight loss infomercials: Fifteen months post-op, Wells had lost an amazing 160 pounds — more than half her body weight — bringing her down to a trim 130.

But although Wells looked like a satisfied customer, she didn’t feel like one. Seven months after surgery she had developed an agonizing ulcer on the new inner seam between her stomach and intestine, which required a second operation. Not long afterward, Wells recalls eating a bite of tuna steak her husband, Ron, had prepared and doubling over in pain; an ambulance rushed her into surgery yet again, this time for an intestinal hernia — her bowel had snagged on a slit in her abdominal wall. A fourth procedure followed to ease the pain of the abdominal scarring from her previous surgeries. Meanwhile, Wells’s gastrointestinal pain had become so severe that she could barely eat. One day while shoe shopping, she realized she couldn’t flex her right foot. Within weeks her limbs began to tingle, her energy evaporated and her weight plummeted. She stopped menstruating. By late 2006, Wells had shrunk to 105 pounds.
“I feel like I’m dying,” she told Ron. Months of doctors’ visits revealed that Wells had beriberi, a disorder caused by extreme thiamine deficiency. Rarely seen outside 19th-century Asia, it’s present enough among those in the weight loss–surgery world that doctors call it bariatric beriberi.

This is just one story of many, and don't you believe the hype that Wells is just one of a very small percentage that have this happen to them. If the membership rolls at OSSG are any indication, it would be fair to say that your odds of developing similar (or more, or worse) complications are probably 50/50 no matter how closely you follow your surgeon's/doctor's directions, and that's just within the first year (and the longer out from your surgery you are, the more complications you're going to have and the more severe those complications are going to be, mainly because doctors refuse to accept that they don't know all there is to know about this surgery, and if you have problems, they're "all in your head"). Once you've had this surgery, your surgeon doesn't want to see you anymore because your complications are bad for his business of pushing this surgery on as many people as he can because anything is better than being fat (and yes, even though it's not recommended for anyone with a BMI under 40, surgeons are still doing this surgery on people with BMIs lower than that). Doesn't matter if you don't have any of the co-morbidities that are supposedly a requirement for having this surgery, along with a BMI over 40. If you don't have one of those (high blood pressure, CVD, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc), the surgeon will come up with one for you. And that psychological exam you have to pass? They'll fudge that for you too (if you aren't smart enough to be able to tell them what they want to hear, even as depressed as I was, on 40 mg of Prozac twice a day, I managed that).
So go read the whole article, it's very enlightening and should scare the hell out of anyone who thinks WLS is the magic miracle cure for TEHDEATHFATZ.


  1. These stories are so heartbreaking... though, I hope that folks like you, Vesta - who work hard to get the word out about WLS, can reach some of the folks who might be considering WLS.

  2. luv - That's one of the reasons I do this, and keep posting stories about people who have had WLS and how it hasn't been a miracle cure for them because those are the stories that MSM doesn't tell often enough and those are the stories bariatric surgeons don't want fat people to hear. Bariatric surgeons only want us to hear the success stories of those still in the "honeymoon" stage who haven't had serious complications affect them yet. Well, I'm not going to sit idly by and let them get away with it. Yeah, I don't have a huge readership, but if just one person reconsiders, or tells one person who reconsiders having WLS, then that's a good thing. And I never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth information.

  3. Dear Mariellen,

    It's too late for my friend, who nearly died as a result of WLS, but hopefully someone else will reconsider. Thank you for your posts.


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