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How Surgery Put Her Weight, Diabetes (and Life) Under Control

March 02, 2018

I’m sure you’ve heard of someone’s struggle with weight loss. Perhaps a friend or coworker.  Maybe this is something you’ve had to work on, too.

So many people struggle with trying to lose weight. Many are obese and have obesity-related diseases.  Staying healthy requires the majority of us to participate in healthy behaviors.  But what happens when diet and exercise just aren’t enough to keep you healthy?

I recently spoke with one of my bariatric surgery patients, Roseanne, who struggled for more than 20 years with excess weight.  She tried many diets.  She was on Sugar Busters (similar to the South Beach diet), spa therapy, working with a trainer, Weight Watchers and . . . With one diet she lost 35-40 pounds, felt fantastic but in less than one year, despite eating a healthy and exercising, she gained the weight back.  On another diet she lost 45 pounds.  She was eating a healthful diet and participating in regular, meaningful exercise.  Guess what?  She gained back more than she lost.

“It was a lot of work for a limited reward,” she said.

Here’s our conversation:

Q: What made you choose bariatric surgery?
A: I eventually developed diabetes. I did not respond to oral medication: They didn’t control my blood glucose.  I had to inject two different types of insulin.  I was testing my blood sugar 3-4 times per day.  At one point my doctor suggested bariatric surgery, specifically a gastric bypass.  I talked to a cousin who had Gastric bypass seven years prior and lost 100 pounds.  I was nervous but inspired by the success of my cousin. I didn’t want to live with diabetes.

I attended an Information Surgical Weight Loss Information Session.  I  listened to what the surgeon had to say.  He talked about the reasons for obesity, the various ways surgery can alter metabolism and assist in substantial weight loss. He said the weight loss is sustainable over a long period of time by following the recommendations from the team.  He also reviewed the work up process.

My first appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Edward Hannoush, took place soon after the Information Session. We discussed the most appropriate surgery for me. At the end of the appointment he said, “Rosanne, I think this surgery is going to change your life”.

Those were very motivating words for me to hear.

Dr. Hannoush and the team members arranged for me to see several specialists, undergo tests and also suggested physical therapy to help with some physical barriers to exercise.

Q: In addition to diabetes, did you have any other obesity- related diseases?
A: Yes.  My blood pressure became difficult to control. I eventually ended up on several different medications for hypertension.  I was starting to develop an enlarged ventricle in my heart.

My cholesterol was also elevated.  My triglycerides were at 500. (Normal is less than 150 milligrams per deciliter. Five hundred mg/dL or above is considered very high.

I always had asthma but it was getting worse. I was using my short-acting inhaler all the time.  I had a daily long-acting inhaler.  I used a nebulizer treatment every time I had a cold. I was often short of breath and had a difficult time climbing a flight of stairs or walking longer distances.  I also had a fatty liver and my liver tests were abnormally high.

The worst part was not being able to participate in many activities with my family.

Q: What was the hardest part of the surgery?
A:  The week or so after the surgery was the most difficult.  I had some discomfort from the surgical incisions and I had some nausea. By the time I went for my two-week post-op appointment after surgery, I felt much better.

Q: What is nutrition like for you now vs. before you had surgery?
A:  I was eating fairly healthy before surgery: a lot of fruits and vegetables but very little protein. I had to start eating more protein and keeping track of how many grams I was consuming.

Q: What improvements did you see after surgery, in addition to your weight loss?
A: I had no idea how beneficial the surgery would be for me.  I came off both insulins.  In fact, my last A1C was 5.2! (A1C measures the glucose, or blood sugar, in your blood. Below 5.7 percent is considered normal. Anything over 6.5 percent is considered Type 2 diabetes.)

My diabetes is in remission.  I am taking only one blood pressure medication.

I have not needed to use my rescue inhaler since surgery.  I am no longer short of breath when climbing stairs or walking or hiking.

My triglycerides went from 500 to 42.  I no longer have a fatty liver and have normal liver tests.

Q: So you have gained a lot since surgery?
A: I have.  I didn’t realize what the surgery would do for me. I feel “alive” and have a great sense of wellness.   If you want to succeed with bariatric surgery, you will be given every tool you need to be successful.

Q: Any regrets?
A:  I wish I didn’t wait so long.

Sara Thompson is a nurse practitioner with Hartford HealthCare’s Bariatric and Metabolic Services, part of the Surgical & Medical Weight Loss Center.