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Life-changing benefits of bariatric surgery

Undergoing a bariatric procedure to lose weight is not a decision to be taken lightly. Surgeries like sleeve gastrectomy are not for everyone who is extremely overweight. But for those who qualify and are willing to make permanent choices to lead a healthier lifestyle, the procedures can be lifesaving and life-changing.

Back in the summer of 2014, Cindy Tucker decided to take control of her life.

“I realized I was about to be 40 years old, and I was about to reach 400 pounds,” she says. “My child is 18 years old now, and I wanted to be able to enjoy traveling with my husband. I couldn’t fit into an airplane seat. I was mentally prepared to change my life.”

General Surgeon Brian Gary, MD, with The Jackson Clinic, performed Tucker’s vertical sleeve gastrectomy procedure. She has lost a remarkable 172 pounds since her surgery.

“I feel like a new person!” Tucker says.

When asked about her journey, Tucker says the next step is to get rid of her excess skin. She has almost reached her goal to lose 180 pounds.

Is sleeve gastrectomy for you?

What is sleeve gastrectomy? The laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy is a bariatric procedure in which the surgeon removes approximately 85 percent of the stomach, shaping the remaining stomach into a tube or sleeve. It can be used as a first-stage operation prior to a gastric bypass or as a stand-alone procedure.

What are the advantages of the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy? During the laparoscopic gastric sleeve procedure, the nerves of the stomach and the outlet valve (pylorus) are not altered, preserving the function of the stomach. Other advantages include:

  • The rest of the gastrointestinal tract anatomy is not altered, so the food ingested follows the normal course. This results in less chance of developing a lack of vitamins and minerals and eliminates dumping syndrome.
  • A minimal chance of developing ulcers.
  • Significantly decreased hunger due to the removal of the part of the stomach that produces the main stimulating hormones.
  • Fewer office visits than the Lap Band, since there is no need for band size adjustments.

How does sleeve gastrectomy compare to gastric bypass? Gastric bypass surgery is the most common form of bariatric surgery. During this procedure, the intestines are rerouted and a small stomach pouch is created by stapling off the main body of the stomach. Following the procedure, when eating, food flows through the created pouch, bypassing the main portion of the stomach and emptying slowly into the small intestine where it is absorbed.

Gastric bypass is not for everyone. More patients qualify for a gastric sleeve procedure, which promotes rapid, long-term weight loss without implants and without rerouting the intestinal tract. This makes the surgery ideal for those who do not need something as serious as gastric bypass. It also means that the sleeve gastrectomy is sometimes used in the morbidly obese who do not qualify for gastric bypass.

Because sleeve gastrectomy is ideal for so many obese patients, it is the procedure that Jackson Hospital performs and recommends to patients who qualify.

A new beginning

Tucker worked with the hospital to transition into a new, healthy post-surgery lifestyle.

“The hardest part was cooking appropriate food for myself,” she says. “I had to retrain myself on how to fix myself a plate.”

She adhered to a diet intended for healing and acclimation. She began with clear liquids and then transitioned to full liquids, purees, soft foods and—eventually—with a regular diet. Jackson Hospital staff helped to guide Tucker through the post-op process, but she knows her health depends on her daily choices.

“I feel like I am in charge of my health,” Tucker says. “This journey has changed my life, and I was ready for the challenges and the changes. I can’t wait to go to an amusement park and ride a roller coaster. It’s going to be so much fun!”

Dr. Gary says, “Changes in your diet, exercise and behavior patterns are vital for success in the long run. Keep in mind the changes you make now will benefit your health and quality of life. The lifestyle changes are significant in accomplishing and maintaining weight-loss goals. Weight loss always has obstacles, but when you overcome them, the journey becomes very fulfilling.”

If you or someone you love is considering a bariatric procedure, please contact Jackson Hospital for a consultation. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Gary, call 334-293-6858.

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