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Melissa’s Story: Gastric Sleeve Success

Melissa’s Story: Gastric Sleeve Success

By: Stacy Tintocalis, Freelance Writer

For Melissa Loftis, her mother’s heart procedure was a wake-up call. “It opened my eyes,” Melissa said.

“Diabetes and heart disease run in my family,” Melissa said. “And I’m a single mom. My son is autistic. I wanted to be there for him, to play with him and watch him grow up.”

But the problem wasn’t Melissa’s heart. It was her weight.

Melissa was 35 years old, over 400 pounds, and had a body mass index (BMI) of 64. She was hurting. She couldn’t breathe. If she was out of the house, she had to stop walking every few steps. “I knew something had to change,” she said.

Melissa had already gone through the weight loss roller coaster. She’d done over-the-counter weight loss supplements, exercise, and dieting. “I’d done it all and nothing worked. I’d lose a few pounds, and it would come right back.”

The answer was gastric sleeve surgery, a procedure performed laparoscopically through small incisions in the abdomen. The surgeon removes part of the stomach and reduces the patient’s stomach size by approximately 20%. The result is permanent stomach-size reduction, though some patients may see stomach dilation over time.

Dr. Magdy Giurgius, a bariatric surgeon at Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) Surgical Specialists Clinic, performed gastric sleeve surgery on Melissa Loftis on July 19, 2017. Since surgery, she has lost 55 pounds. Combined with her preoperative medical weight management, she has lost a total of 137 pounds so far.

Melissa’s gastric sleeve surgery only took two-and-a-half hours. Before and after the surgery, Dr. Giurgius talked to Melissa and her mother to answer their questions.

“You don’t see the same care and compassion in Springfield, where I grew up,” Melissa said. “Dr. Giurgius took the extra time, so we could understand.”

Dr. Giurgius has patients take a class before their gastric sleeve procedure. Melissa talked to a dietician, physical therapist, and counselors. “They all prepare you. So I knew there was going to be pain. I knew there’d be a struggle. When I went into the hospital, I knew what to expect.”

After the procedure, there was pain, but Dr. Giurgius’s staff helped. “If I needed something, they were there,” Melissa said. “Everyone was caring and alert as to what was going on. If I called any time, they were right there to answer questions.”

Melissa was in the hospital for two days after the surgery to make sure her pain was under control and also to ensure there were no complications. Once home, she could do basic needs without someone in the house with her.

“There were no blind spots throughout this whole thing,” Melissa said. “Dr. Giurgius sends patients home with a notebook that contains guidelines for before and after the surgery, plus exercises and nutrition options. I knew every step of the way what to expect.”

“Dr. Giurgius and his team are amazing,” Melissa said. “They want you to have success. I don’t think I could have done it without them.”

Gastric sleeve surgery is one of many weight loss (bariatric) surgeries provided by Dr. Giurgius at OMC. He also performs balloon weight loss surgery, a procedure where the surgeon endoscopically places a gastric balloon into the stomach and fills it with saline. Six months later, the balloon is removed.

To be a candidate for gastric sleeve weight loss surgery, the patient must have a body mass index (BMI) below 60. If the patient’s BMI is above 60, a supervised medical weight loss program can help the patient meet the BMI requirements. The BMI for obesity starts at 30. Doctors can help patients lose the initial extra weight. For the Gastric Balloon, a BMI of 30-40 is recommended. In Melissa’s case, Dr. Christopher Cochran of OMC Internal Medicine Clinic helped her get her weight down enough to safely do the procedure. She went from a BMI of 64 to 60 before the surgery.

Three months after surgery, Melissa has a BMI of 49.

“You have to follow the diet and do clear liquids before surgery and then clear liquids after surgery,” Melissa said. “[Dr. Giurgius’s staff] gives you a booklet that walks you through the process on what to expect and how to go about it. You have to have 65 grams of protein a day.” Now Melissa keeps a nutrition log of what she takes in every day, including carbs protein, water, and also an activity log, which keeps her motivated.

“This surgery isn’t a solution. It’s a tool that will help you,” Melissa said. “If you don’t follow the diet guidelines, you can stretch your stomach out and go back to square one.”

According to the OMC Community Health Needs Assessment, roughly one third of the population in Howell and Oregon counties (32.3% in Howell and 33.4% in Oregon) over the age of 20 has a BMI over 30. The national average is 27.1%. Missouri’s state average is 30.3%.

Insurance often will cover the cost of bariatric procedures. The staff at OMC Surgical Specialists Clinic can contact a patient’s insurance company to see if they will pay for all or part of the surgery. Medicare also will pay for some forms of weight loss surgery.

The benefits of bariatric surgery may outweigh the risks of remaining obese. Obesity is linked to over a dozen serious health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and multiple cancers. Patients who have bariatric surgery see many of these conditions improve. In some patients, weight loss after surgery can reverse eye damage and improve eyesight.

“Getting this surgery shows you how much strength and willpower you have for yourself,” Melissa said. “Nothing happens overnight. I didn’t put on the weight overnight, so it’s not going to come off over night. The sleeve, as a tool, really helps.”

Even though it’s only been three months since her surgery, Melissa has a new lease on life. She can now eat small meals that stay within the post-surgery guidelines.

“Each day is a better day,” she said. “It was a life changing experience!”

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