Gastric Bypass: Lillian’s Story

2 December 2011

According to the CDC, one third of Americans are obese; but instead of choosing to alter eating habits and increase exercise, some turn to weight-loss surgeries instead. In 2005, approximately 140,000 gastric bypass surgeries were performed in the U.S. alone.

Roux-en-Y Gastric bypass is the most common form of the surgery, in which the doctors cut a smaller size stomach and re-route your intestines to the smaller stomach. With such a small stomach, people feel full quickly and eat less, enabling drastic weight loss. This strategy is also called “restrictive,” since the new stomach size restricts food intake.

Although the surgery is considered to be an extreme alternative to weight loss, the recovery period is not extensive. Most people are back to their daily routines just two to three days after their surgery.

Lillian Milhouse, a mother of three, weighed in at 320 pounds, when she decided to get the surgery. Milhouse, like anyone, had worries about the surgery. She’d heard the horror stories of surgeries gone wrong, resulting in serious complications, or even death. Nearly one percent to five percent of people have serious or life-threatening complications after gastric bypass surgery, such as: blood clots, heart attack, or a leak in the surgical connections with the intestines, serious infection or bleeding.

Milhouse’s main concern was the fact that she had other existing health issues, and wanted to know how those would be affected if she underwent gastric bypass surgery. Her surgery went along well without a single complication. The only post-surgery snag was Milhouse’s heightened anemia. “The doctors told me that most people who undergo [gastric] bypass surgery generally become anemic. Well, I was already anemic, and the surgery made it worse. But that’s something I can live with,” she said.

In regard to her existing health concerns, Milhouse did extensive research about gastric bypass surgery and she was assured that it was for her. “I researched for about six years before I finally made the decision,” she said. She emphasized that research is imperative before deciding to have the surgery. Milhouse admitted that she’s tried diets and even considered other surgeries, but the results and procedure of gastric bypass seemed just right for her needs. “I’ve met people who want to get the surgery, but haven’t researched it, and I’ll tell them I don’t think it’s for them. Or, I’ll tell some people ‘You might want to check this out.’ It’s all about doing your research, and knowing what will work for you,” she said.

Milhouse says her decision was made for her when she was told by doctors that she had a clogged artery. “I knew then,” she said, “that I had to do something drastic to get on track. I couldn’t believe I had eaten my way to a clogged artery.”

Milhouse often emphasized that the surgery is not a solution to weight problems, rather a means to an end. She said, “So many people consider the surgery, but aren’t willing to make adjustments to keep the weight off once they lose it… This surgery is not a fix-all solution; it’s a tool. You have to make it work for you.”

Milhouse said she believes that people’s lack of dedication is what makes the initial process of being qualified for the surgery so long. “They do an evaluation with a psychologist and psychiatrist; they check to make sure your lungs are healthy; they also send you to a nutritionist because, more than anything, they want your mind to be made up that you’re going to eat right,” Milhouse explained.

With the advantage of gastric bypass surgery being “make it work for you,” Milhouse explained the different adjustments she’s had to make in her daily life. “I had to clear out my cupboards. I can’t eat a lot of sweets and fried foods like I used to… I try to incorporate some type of exercise into everything—whether it’s parking far away from the store so I have farther to walk, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. This surgery is something you have to be dedicated to,” she said.

Because of the many success stories and its complications to results ratio, gastric bypass is considered the leading surgery in weight-loss. Gastric bypass accounts for 80 percent of weight loss surgeries. Because of the extremity of the surgery, weight loss is often dramatic—patients generally lose 60 percent of their extra weight, a desired result.

For Milhouse, her dedication to the surgery paid off in a loss of 120 pounds that have remained off throughout the three years following her surgery. Because of these results Milhouse says she would definitely undergo gastric bypass all over again, if she had to. She said, “It made my arthritis better. I lost 120 pounds. I feel healthier. [The surgery] works! It really works!”


1 Comment

  1. Great article! very informative.

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