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OBESITY: More People Turning To Surgery For Help

Nearly one in three adults in North Carolina is obese, according to statistics.

A Centers for Disease Control study shows North Carolina is one of the top ten fattest states, ranking 8th with a 29% obesity rate.

Many people are turning to surgery to lose the weight. Recently, ECU Football Coach Ruffin McNeill shared his surgery story with WITN.

We also talked recently with two sisters who had bariatric surgery.

At age 55, Janet Dickens tipped the scale at 227 pounds and was diagnosed with diabetes.

She had bariatric surgery and lost 100 pounds in a year and she no longer has to take her diabetes medication. But she has a caution.

"I’ve put 20 back on, I’m sorry to say. I was one of those people who thought it was the magic cure,” Dickens said.

She tells us she thought she just wouldn't want to eat after surgery and her cravings for sweets would diminish. But they didn't, and she still occasionally indulges.

"I need to be more careful because when I eat those things I don’t feel well.”

Bariatric surgeon John Pender at Pitt County Memorial Hospital warns patients not to eat unhealthy foods after surgery.

"They’ll get what’s called dumping syndrome, so if they eat a Snickers bar or fried chicken or high fatty foods, then they’ll get pretty bad cramps,” Pender said.

Gastric Bypass, the most common weight-loss surgery, reduces the amount of food your body can store and reduces calorie absorption.

Dr. Pender says it “involves taking the stomach and firing a staple load such that a small pouch is created so as food comes down the esophagus, they feel full after about 3-4 bites or about half a cup to a cup.”

Most insurance companies require a body mass index of 40 to cover the surgery. For example, if you are an adult who is 5'9" and your weight is 270 pounds and up, you would probably qualify for coverage. Other reasons for coverage include weight-related health risks, like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or diabetes.

Dickens' sister, Angela Sayre, also had the surgery. At 5'6", she weight 270 pounds and was on diabetic and high blood pressure medicine.

In the nine months since her surgery, she dropped 70 pounds and doesn't have to take her medications anymore.

“I used to have to wrap 2 towels around me when I went from the shower to the dressing area," Sayre said, "And I know the day I just needed one towel to wrap around me that was a red-letter day.”

One reason insurance companies started covering the surgery is because it has been seen as a cure for diabetes. Dr. Pender says 80 to 90% of patients with Type 2 Diabetes are free from the disease after the surgery.

There are complications associated with the surgery, such as nutrition deficiencies and gall stones.

The morbidity rate is equal to most common surgeries. Dr. Pender says you are more likely to die from being overweight that from having the surgery.


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