Doctor’s liaison testifies about weight loss

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Losing weight isn’t just about being able to fit back into the clothes we wore in high school. It’s about feeling better. Healthier. And above all, much, much safer.

Pat Mixon is living proof. Back in early 2002, the 5-foot tall Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center (BSMMC) physician liaison weighed 245 pounds – more than twice the average weight of 120 for women her height. Her blood pressure and cholesterol were dangerously high, and Mixon was a borderline diabetic.


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&uot;I couldn’t work in my garden,&uot; she recalls. &uot;Every summer, I was walking in a pool of sweat. When I was in a meeting, I’d always sit near the door so I wouldn’t bump into everyone on the way out. When I went to a restaurant, I couldn’t sit in a booth.&uot;

After several diets failed, Mixon decided on surgery. In June of last year, she underwent a gastric bypass. This is a procedure that involves dividing the stomach into two sections, one of which is much smaller than the other – about the size of a thumb, Mixon estimates.

Though the actual procedure didn’t take place until the summer, Mixon began to prepare before springtime. She was given a complete physical, including ultrasounds and diagnostic lab tests. She was tested for sleep apnea, a common problem among the overweight. Because education is perhaps the most important part of pre-surgery preparation, Mixon was taught about nutrition, changes in eating habits, and how her system would be affected. She attended several support groups, meeting people who were about to undergo similar surgery, and some that had been through it.

Finally, she was operated on – for all of two and-a-half hours. Rather than having to make several long incisions around her stomach, doctors used the minimally invasive laparoscopic technique, which creates only a few small incisions, leaving far less chance of infection, pneumonia or hernias. Her gall bladder was also removed, as gallstones can be aggravated by rapid weight loss.

Two days after surgery, Mixon went home. Less than a week later, she was walking a mile a day. Two weeks later, she was back to work.

Over the next few months, Mixon’s friends and family started seeing less and less of her -‘figuratively’ speaking. &uot;I lost 50 pounds in the first three to four months, and 70 pounds in six months.&uot;

Patients are required to visit their doctor two weeks, one month, two months, four months, and six months after such a surgery (after that, they make annual visits). &uot;They made sure that my incisions were healing, and took blood work every time. We reviewed my diet.&uot;

The surgery had literally forced her body to stop wanting excessive amounts of food.

&uot;I used to joke that I could only eat three grape for the first few months,&uot; she says. &uot;Your body simply doesn’t allow you to eat more. I’d drink an 8-ounce instant breakfast in the morning, and it would take more than 30 minutes. You can’t drink with your meals, because your stomach has to have room to digest the food.&uot;

Even now, her appetite is far short of what it once was.

&uot;For some people, there are certain foods that they can never eat again. Beef is one example, because the stomach loses the ability to break it down. I was lucky, because now I can eat Mexican and Italian foods, and even steak, but only in moderation. I usually eat half, and then give it to someone else.&uot;

Just a few months ago, Mixon reached for something next to her, and felt something hard and unfamiliar near her waist. &uot;I panicked at first,&uot; she said. &uot;Then I realized that it was my hip bone.&uot;

Now, 14 months after her surgery, Mixon is nearly half the woman she once was.

&uot;I’m down to 147 pounds, and I want to lose another 20. I can run two miles, and I’ve taken up scuba diving, which I never even thought about before. I don’t have to take medicine for my cholesterol or blood pressure anymore, and my diabetes is gone. I don’t even notice the heat anymore.&uot;

Starting Wednesday night, overweight people from all over South Hampton Roads will be able to take their first step toward Mixon’s success. The BSMMC at Harbour View will be holding its grand opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. today.

Directed by Dr. David Spencer, D.O., the center is Hampton Roads’ leading surgical weight loss program for patients with sever obesity. The specialists have performed over 400 procedures with positive outcomes, which are the best in the region, and even surpass national standards.

&uot;The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. is such that the surgeon general declared it a national health epidemic,&uot; Spencer says. &uot;Tidewater, Norfolk in particular, is one of the most obese areas in the nation. There’s a huge need for (gastric bypass surgery).

&uot;Bon Secours has a team approach. There are surgeons, nutritionists, psychologists, any of the sub specialties a patient might need.&uot; Doing the surgery laparoscopically is a huge advantage to patients, he added, because of the shortened hospital stay and recovery time.

&uot;The main reason for doing this is the health of the patients. People who are overweight might only have 10 to 15 years left because of their increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol. But 95 percent of these problems disappear when they lose weight. Their well-being is much better, they look better, feel better, and have higher self-esteem.&uot;

Need proof? Just ask Mixon.

&uot;I’d always been very successful, but I was in such despair about being overweight,&uot; she says. &uot;Now when I see people who are overweight, I want to go up to them and say, ‘I can help you!’ I never realized that there could be so many simple pleasures with this, but there they are. This is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.&uot;