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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  • by OK Really Location: Greenville on Feb 15, 2011 at 07:00 AM
    So let me get this right all of you that are wanting to tax the "fat" population are at your ideal weight? And how about the ones that are talking against GOP surgery you have NEVER struggled with your weight...always ate what you are supposed to and again are at you ideal body weight??? I guess you are also a fine upstanding citizen work, pay your taxes, support your family, go to church every Sunday, never been in any trouble, give to charities every opportunity that you get, don't smoke, don't drink, cover your mouth every time you cough or sneeze, say bless you to the person next to you that sneezes, oh and help little old ladies cross the street? So I guess you are perfect? Let me alert the media the perfect specimens have been found right her on WITN's website!! You know what they say people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  • by US-First Location: Greenville on Feb 10, 2011 at 08:37 PM
    Unfortunately it seems most of you get your knowledge of this surgery from the popular media. I don't blame you but when thats all you have perhaps you need to be a little less opinionated. The gastric bypass surgery popularized in Greenville is the "Roux en-Y" bypass. And there are actually proximal and distal variations. It does not just make the stomach smaller. It "bypasses" most of the stomach and the proximal small intestine. It has been found that this bypass alone (even before the accompanying weightless) cures Type-2 diabetes 85% of time almost immediately post surgery. So while eating better and losing the weight through will power is preferred, it is absolutely cost effective to our health care system and reduces mortality and morbidity to overcome the diabetes quickly if present. Research is being done at ECU/PCMH to understand the role the bypassed gut seems to have in diabetes. It is very exciting that a cure that does not involve surgery may be discovered here.
  • by Jerry Location: Greenville on Feb 10, 2011 at 05:57 PM
    To Moma - KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! Just remember, it's not a diet. People think of diets as something temporary they do to lose weight, then they stop dieting and gain it back. Instead, think it this as a lifetime change in how you eat, what you eat, and when you eat. You'll be much more likely to have lifetime success. You can absolutely do it, and I commend you for not taking the lazy, quick fix way out.
  • by Jerry Location: Greenville on Feb 10, 2011 at 05:25 PM
    @wazzup. Good point. Want to fix our screwed up healthcare system? Since fat people are FAR more expensive to treat, have them pay rates based on their obesity. Since their obesity is the result of their CHOICES, they might think twice about gorging at the trough at K&W, if this means that their health insurance would be sky high.
  • by Moma Location: NC on Feb 10, 2011 at 02:01 PM
    I am 70 pounds over weight for a good while now. I thought about doing the surgery given the diabetes thing and more. I am in the requirements. I have kids and decided to do it myself with eating right and exercise. This world wants a fast fix for everything. Being lazy and bad choices is what got me in this size! I have a ways to go but I have already lost 12 pounds on the Michael Thurman diet. IT WORKS. Wish me luck - the kids are watching!
  • by Wazzup? Location: Ayden on Feb 10, 2011 at 01:53 PM
    Want to decrease the national debt? Put a tax on all the obese people. Tax them for exceding the prescribed weight for the height. They say that overweight is a deciding factor in peoples health care costs. They use more, they should pay more. It is being done with smokers.
  • by WITN Moderator Location: WITN on Feb 10, 2011 at 12:12 PM
    Anonymous - If your comment was too harsh, you probably answered the question as to why your comment was not posted. For a complete rundown of our commenting guidelines, click "hey, read the rules" on the right hand side of this page, under the "most commented" box.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2011 at 12:04 PM
    To WITN....I posted a harsh but true comment about Fat Americans eating pig slop from fast food joints and why this surgery doesn't work and you chose to NOT to post it. Sorry that the truth hurts.....you folks are really lame when it comes to what you post and what you don't post....no real guidelines from what I've noticed.
  • by Twiggy on Feb 10, 2011 at 11:42 AM
    Ever watch a person in a nursing home when they stop eating? In no time, they become skin and bones. It's a matter of willpower. Is that tasty morsel really worth it? If you don't shove the wrong foods in your mouth, the weight will come off. Now, need to practice what I preach :) It literally is a matter of life or death. Not to mention quality of life.
  • by Darren Location: Kill Devil Hills on Feb 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM
    Jerry, you have a great point but if you think Eastern North Carolina is that bad, why don't you go to Western North Carolina, up in the mountains. That's even worse. I was up in Asheville not long ago for a real estate seminar and noticed most of the people there had a lack of hygiene and looked like some fat slobs.
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