Local News

Some Say Gastric Bypass Surgery Worth Risk

Posted May 6, 2004

— Gastric bypass surgeries come with risks: one person will die for every 100 to 200 surgeries performed.

On Friday, WakeMed announced plans to put gastric bypass surgeries on hold. The hospital's CEO said he wants a review of resources and procedures before any more bypasses are performed. That review is expected to be complete by February.

But for some, like Glinda Saxon, the possible benefits outweigh the risks.

"I look in the mirror and I see who I am and I sometimes I'll look and think, 'Gosh, is my face really this small"'," Saxon said.

For 30 years, a much heavier face stared back at her.

"My heaviest was 235 pounds. I could not bend over to tie my shoes. I could not walk. My diabetes was totally out of control, my blood pressure was sky high," she said.

Saxon's size dictated how she could live. She said she felt buried underneath her 3x-size body.

"I was like an airplane getting ready to crash,"she said.

For Saxon, the final straw came in the shape of a motorized shopping cart, like those used at grocery stores.

"I guess my pride took over and I thought I don't want to live if I've got to live this way," she said.

Saxon decided she would try a surgical weight loss procedure called gastric bypass. A friend of hers successfully had the surgery.

A year and a half later, Saxon is nearly 100 pounds lighter -- results she felt she could never achieve through diet and exercise.

Doctors caution that gastric bypass comes with a high price tag and a certain level of risk.

"You have to bring people down to earth before surgery and let them know what they're getting involved in," said Dr. Alan Brader, a laparoscopic surgeon.

Brader said gastric bypass is a serious body alteration. Going from "before" to "after" takes a year and a half.

"I tell these people when they go into surgery that they are adults with an adult-size stomach and when they wake up they are still an adult, only they have a stomach the size of a baby," Brader said.

The risks of such a new procedure prompted WakeMed to cancel its program and Brader is shopping for a new hospital. The surgery was worth the risk for Saxon and her family.

"A year ago we didn't know if my mom would be here this year because she was so sick," said Tracy Evans, Saxon's daughter.

To Saxon, the $16,000 she took out of retirement to pay for the surgery was worth it. At age 64, she has a healthy life back.

Saxon paid for the operation out of pocket, but some insurance companies will cover some of the cost.

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