Weight-loss success: ‘I had to know surgery was right for me’
Surgery should be the last option for those trying to lose weight. But for those struggling to overcome lifelong obesity, it can be the best option.
“Best decision I ever made,” Karen DeBauche said. “Without it, I wouldn’t be here today.”
DeBauche, 58, of Urbana, a middle school band instructor/director in that city’s public schools, decided on gastric bypass surgery only after years of more conventional weight-loss efforts.
“I did liquid diets. I did everything imaginable,” she recalled. “It would come off, but it would come right back afterward. I was a heavy person all my life. That’s just how it’s been.”
In the 15 years since her surgery, DeBauche has hiked Alaskan glaciers and savored her job and circle of friends. To learn more about bariatric surgery and support at Carle, please call (217) 383-3240. Carle also offers free online seminars.
As an educator, DeBauche appreciates the importance of researching the options for something as critical as life-changing surgery. Her efforts brought her to Carle in early 2003.
“I had to know it was right for me,” she said.
By the time she considered surgery, DeBauche weighed nearly 500 pounds.
“It was coming to the point I couldn’t even walk across the parking lot,” she said. “Not without stopping and catching my breath. I wasn’t feeling good about myself, and that emotionally takes a toll.”
Surgeon Uretz Oliphant, MD, and his staff decided laparoscopic Roux en Y gastric bypass, one of about a half-dozen bariatric procedures, best suited DeBauche.
“She had too much weight to lose for the laparoscopic gastric band with the sleeve not being a choice at that time. However, even the laparoscopic sleeve would not have given her enough weight loss,” Dr. Oliphant said.
“You usually pick an operation for a patient based on how much (weight) they have to lose take care of their medical conditions and improve their quality of life.”
DeBauche’s commitment to pre- and post-surgery diet and lifestyle changes helped prepare her for the procedure and for success.
“That was easy, given her motivation and her personality, of her wanting to be healthy again,” Dr. OIiphant said. “That I was definitely impressed with.”
About 18 percent of the 228,000 bariatric surgeries performed in 2017 were bypasses, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). The most popular, the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in which most of the stomach is removed, comprised about 60 percent of bariatric procedures last year.
“Bypass has been around many, many years,” Dr. Oliphant said. “It’s lasted has long as it has because of its good success in the right situation.”
Other procedures have grown more popular over time: the bypass comprised nearly 40 percent of bariatric surgeries in 2011. Dr. Oliphant and Carle staff keep abreast of newer procedures and techniques especially the shift to minimally invasive techniques to lessen patient risk and speed recovery.
“The field, as with anything in medicine, is expanding,” he said. “We used to do these operations open. Then we started to doing them laparoscopically. We have now started to do these procedures with the robot. This has increased our ability to do more complex operations.”
While the immediate effects of DeBauche’s May 2003 surgery seemed near-miraculous, she knew better.
“I lost 35, 40 pounds the first week,” she recalled. “I felt it was a miracle – which it wasn’t.”
DeBauche’s commitment made all the difference.
“The follow-up stuff, you have to do it,” DeBauche said. “It’s really important.”
Support from DeBauche’s friends supplemented Carle’s aftercare programs.
“I have lots of friends through my church,” she said. “Carle has a really great support group for the weight-loss people. For a while I went to that religiously.”
Support is essential.
“There are people out there who have had the operation, and it’s almost like a community,” Dr. Oliphant said.
Like all patients who’ve undergone bariatric surgery at Carle, DeBauche meets with Dr. Oliphant every year.
“I tell them I see the patients every year for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Oliphant said. “Or until I retire – but there will always be someone there for them.”