Pro: Weight-loss procedure can relieve variety of health issues
By the numbers
The mortality rate from bariatric surgery is about .1 percent, while the rate of serious early complications is 5 percent, according to a 2012 F1000 medical report. Long-term issues are relatively uncommon and can usually be managed with vitamin supplements.
Bariatric surgery results in weight loss and also often reverses chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and severe arthritis.
Reversal rates vary by procedure. For example, gastric bypass surgery cures diabetes in 80 to 85 percent of patients, sleeve surgery cures 70 percent of patients, and banding surgery cures 50 percent, said general surgeon Dr. Craig Chang.
Chang's patients, who range in age from 15 to 70, lose an average of 80 to 100 pounds with weight-loss surgery.
According to a 2012 F1000 medical report, more than 85 percent of patients lose and maintain 50 percent of their initial excess weight loss.
The majority of patients have tried 20 diets and are desperate by the time they seek weight-loss surgery, Chang said.
Doug Tesch, 47, of Victoria, tried to lose weight for years before Dr. Stephen Hougen performed sleeve bypass surgery in January.
"My life has changed 100 percent for the better," he said.
Fast food took its toll on Tesch when his wife was diagnosed with cancer more than a decade ago. The Dow Chemical employee began packing on the pounds.
He eventually became insulin resistant and developed a fatty liver.
His surgery nine months ago was successful. He has lost nearly 80 of his 300 pounds, and he hopes to lose 40 more.
He is careful to consume only 4 to 5 ounces of food six to seven times per day. And his sweet tooth has soured.
Tomatoes have supplanted his old standards, candy and soda.
His energy level has drastically improved. Instead of collapsing after work in front of the television with a plate of food, he now rides his bicycle 20 miles at least four days per week.
"The surgery is a tool, not an answer," he said.
Tesch recommends the surgery to anyone dealing with obesity.
"I feel like a kid again," he said. "My back feels better, and I sleep better."
Vickie Botello, who had bypass surgery four years ago, echoes Tesch's sentiments.
The 53-year-old Victoria teacher had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis before the surgery.
"I went from taking eight pills a day to taking one," she said.
After the surgery, she lost 135 pounds, which relieved the pain in her knees and legs.
She began water aerobics and built her stamina by walking around an indoor track.
"I went from two or three laps to nine laps," she said.
She regained 30 pounds after the second year but said she still enjoys a better quality of life than before the surgery.
"I could hardly walk from the car to the classroom because of the pain," she said.
Now, she and her husband go dancing at Schroeder Hall.
Virginia Gilstrap, another teacher, was 43 when she had bypass surgery in 2005.
"I resisted the idea for a long time because I heard about problems with throwing up," she said. "But I finally said OK."
She attended two behavioral counseling sessions, one in a group and another private with Dr. Dean McDaniel's office.
After surgery, Gilstrap dropped 180 of her 300 pounds.
"I didn't have much of an appetite the first year," she said. "It's the golden year."
As with all bypass patients, Gilstrap must take iron and calcium supplements for the rest of her life.
She has regained 50 pounds but admits she has never been a consistent exerciser. She is not satisfied and intends to lose the weight again.
"I'm so grateful to be able to move and do things I couldn't do before," she said.
She sits on the ground to fix her computer, she crosses her legs, and she plays with her nephews on the floor.
"I'm happy that I opted for the surgery," she said. "I would not have been able to live as much as I have the last eight years."