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Gastric bypass (Stomach Stapling): The Good, The Bad... And The Ugly!
- was up on ediets.com
by KIM DROZE
Fed up with regular injections to control weight, a daily dose of diet
pills and the roller coaster ride of a wildly fluctuating figure, Mary
Muller thought she’d opted for the easy way out when she found a surgeon
willing to shrink her stomach… with staples.
Little did the 5'3'', 240-pound patient know that over the next 20 years
she'd suffer the nightmare of four more stomach surgeries and a slew of
life-threatening health problems. Muller lost 40 pounds after the first
stomach stapling in 1980 – but she was soon seized by painful muscle
Two years later, she had her stomach re-stapled and had a tummy tuck. Her
weight dropped to 175 pounds before slowly climbing back up. She was also
diagnosed as suffering diabetes. In 1992, doctors told Muller about bilio
The technique involves removing a section of the stomach and rearranging
the small bowel to divert bile and pancreatic secretions away from the
food stream. The desired result: Fats and starches flow through without
But what Muller got was two additional surgeries, three months in
intensive care, and 12 blood transfusions.
"At one point I started throwing up and I'm throwing up bright red blood
clots the size of cherries," the 47-year-old San Diego, California woman
tells eDiets.com. "I could see it in the nurse's face. I told my husband
to call the church and have the healing prayer team come up here."
The problems continue for 175-pound Muller but doctors say additional
surgery would kill her.
Today, she visits the bathroom up to 12 times a day and frequently doubles
over from the horrendous pain. Her bone density has dropped to a
dangerously low level and her teeth are crumbling from a lack of
"We are so vulnerable," Muller says. "In my mind, I'll always be a fat
person. And you could sell us anything."
Misery loves company. More than 210,000 people a year are so desperate to
lose weight they turn to the controversial, sometimes life-threatening
The most common form of so-called stomach stapling is the gastric bypass.
In this procedure, a small pouch is formed in the stomach and stapled
shut. The small intestine is then cut and stapled onto the pouch,
shrinking the stomach's ability to take in food.
Proponents point out that in order to be a candidate for the surgery,
patients must be considered morbidly obese -- at least 100 pounds
overweight. Before an individual gets the go-ahead, he or she meets with
doctors and psychologists to rule out all other avenues of help.
Medical experts say many stomach-stapling candidates suffer a poor quality
of life. They're plagued by dangerously high blood pressure, mobility
limitations, diabetes and sleep apnea, a condition where a person stops
breathing while they snooze.
Georgeann Mallory, executive director of the American Society For
Bariatric Surgery (ASBS), says weight-loss surgery is a last-ditch effort
for these people –- and offers hope for increased health and quality of
"Usually it's a last resort," Mallory says. "They've tried every type of
diet, diet pills, hypnosis, wraps. Some have even had their jaws wired
"It's the only long-term solution for people who weight more than 100
pounds. Nothing else seems to be effective for those people long term."
At a glance, the before-and-after pictures of these patients are often
unbelievable. Once morbidly obese, the men and women now look like a
healthy shadow of the person they used to be.
But a fabulous figure comes a high price. There are health risks… and side
effects can be fatal. Three people will die during every 1,000 procedures,
according to the ASBS.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says
up to 20 percent of patients who undergo the operation will require
follow-up surgeries to correct complications. Common problems include
abdominal hernias, breakdown of the staple line and stretched stomach
More than one-third of obese patients who have gastric surgery develop
gallstones. Nearly one in three develop nutritional deficiencies. Patients
could also be at risk for anemia, osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.
These side effects can be avoided with the proper amount of vitamin and
Bettye Travis, board president of the National Association To Advance Fat
Acceptance (NAAFA), says the occurrence of scary side effects is more
common than people realize.
"Something going wrong is more common than reported," she says. "There's
rapid regain of weight and all sorts of medical problems. From vitamin
deficiencies to constant illness, stomach upsets, diarrhea, fatigue and
horrible wound infections."
But Mallory says Muller's case is not the norm.
"Although there are some complications, most patients undergo only one
surgery and there's an 85 percent success rate," she counters."
NAAFA spokesperson Sandie Sabo tells eDiets: "Many people don't want to
admit they've had problems because they're so happy to be thin.
"Even if they have problems, they're not going to say. People who have had
the surgery the past couple of years are in a honeymoon state. They're so
thrilled to be thin. They believe being thin at all costs is more
important than their own lives."
Sabo stresses that the surgery is not a cure. People who undergo the
stomach surgery basically remain on a diet for the rest of their lives.
Overeating can be a nightmare because patients often become violently ill.
Sabo is also disgusted by the tiny portions of food that patients must now
treat like complete meals.
"It makes me wonder: If it's unhealthy to be anorexic, why is it healthy
to go in and rearrange the insides?" asks Sabo. "It isn't enough food to
keep a bird alive. It amazes me someone can function on that kind of food.
The body does need food."
For Muller, the cons definitely outweigh the pros.
"Please don't do this," she begs anyone considering the invasive stomach
surgery. "Even after you go through all this, they tell you to follow fat
grams – it's the same as any other diet."
When it comes to desperation weight-loss procedures like stomach stapling,
the headlines often go to celebrity patients like Carnie Wilson, pop
singer daughter of Beach Boys' founder Brian Wilson.
But for the other side of the story, eDiets.com spoke exclusively with Ray
Muller. Here the San Diego native shares the heartache he's suffered since
his wife Mary underwent stomach stapling as a last-gasp effort to peel
away the pounds. Ray says: "The truth about these surgeries are never
conveyed to the public. The public should be made aware of the
complications and possible life long side affects associated with this
"Doctors prey on overweight individuals, knowing the weight and size are
the mental weakness of most women. The chances of my wife dying are far
greater now than when she was obese. She has suffered greatly... and will
continue to suffer throughout her life."
"As a husband it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do... watch my
wife suffer. I am helpless. There is nothing physically or mentally to do
to help her. Doctors are supposed to take care of us, not destroy our