Con: Victoria couple says surgery worsened health problems

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Sept. 29, 2013 at 4:29 a.m.

Gastric bypass surgeries in 2008 produced unpleasant long-term results for Shannon Dempsey, 37, and his wife, Christa Dempsey, 42, both of Victoria.

Shannon Dempsey had diabetes and weighed 320 pounds before the procedure.

He consulted with Dr. Dean McDaniel, director and founder of Citizens Bariatric Center and physician with Better Life Bariatrics, about gastric bypass surgery. Within two weeks, he learned his health insurance would cover the expense.

He met with a behavioral counselor and a nutritionist, and the two-hour surgery went as planned.

Dempsey did not experience complications, and his diabetes disappeared. He attended one post-operative counseling session, and his weight plateaued at 225 pounds.

However, the diabetes returned a year later - worse than before. Two medications were required to manage his condition, rather than one.

Last year, a series of five steroid shots in Dempsey's spine did not react well with his previous bypass procedure.

The local doctor, who knew Dempsey's medical history, believed the shots were an acceptable way to ease his back pain.

"I vomited for a month, my weight dropped to 180 pounds, and I passed out at work," Dempsey said.

Doctors should coordinate with bariatric surgeons when treating patients who have undergone weight-loss surgery, said general surgeon Dr. Craig Chang.

Shannon Dempsey's wife, Christa, agrees.

She gained her weight after lung disease forced her to take steroids for an extended period of time in her late 20s.

She developed hypoglycemia, breathing problems and dangerously high cholesterol as a result of her heaviness.

"I was miserable and cried all the time," she said. "I was uncomfortable with myself, and my self-esteem was low."

Following her bypass surgery, Dempsey did not feel better. Nausea consumed her immediately.

It continues to plague her five years later. She cannot vomit, which is miserable, she said.

"Nausea is not common that far out after surgery and should be investigated," Chang said.

Dempsey also cannot eat and drink at the same time, which she finds bothersome.

"So I'm dehydrated all the time instead of hungry," she said.

The purpose of eating and drinking at different times is to avoid washing the food through the stomach, Chang said. The food needs to stick so the person feels full. Otherwise, hunger might lead to regaining weight.

Patients also must take vitamins the rest of their lives to avoid malnutrition, Chang said.

Dempsey complained that her stomach swells, a feeling that might result from dumping syndrome. The condition causes her pain and fatigue three to four times per week.

"She might be overeating," Chang said. "Overfilling the stomach makes the food back up in the esophagus."

Christa Dempsey lost 90 pounds the first year, and her clothing size dropped from 26 to 12.

However, the weight loss left her with excessive skin, which caused her embarrassment. She does not have plans for plastic surgery, the only way to remove the extra skin.

"My weight fell to my hips and thighs," she said. "I used to love my legs; now, I hide them because they have craters."

Her self-esteem is even lower than before the surgery, she said.

"I was fat before, but I could buy clothes that fit me," she said.

Dempsey joined the YMCA, but exercise has not made a difference.

Insurance companies should not approve the surgery so quickly, and more patient education should be required, Dempsey said.

"I'm stuck with this body the rest of my life," she said. "Bypass surgery is not a miracle cure."

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