Today in The Tennessean, they ran a story about a woman who died after having gastric bypass surgery. Turns out her surgery triggered a wasting disorder where her body was turning protein into ammonia which her liver couldn’t convert into urea. So she lost weight until she died. She was 43.
What’s unusual about this story?
1. No pictures of headless fatties. We see the faces of fat people.
2. An acknowledgment that Hilary Lane was active, even though there’s a tone of some surprise at this:
Although she was no couch potato, she had been heavy since elementary school, said her sister, Catherine Parks McAfee.
“She was the most active overweight person you have ever seen,” McAfee said. “She was never sedentary. She was diving coach of the Sequoia Swim Club for 25 years and a music teacher at a Metro elementary school, always going, doing choirs and private lessons for piano and all kinds of things.”
3. Some truth about whether doctors can actually make morbidly obese people not morbidly obese:
Yet doctors really don’t have any other effective options for treating morbid obesity, generally defined as being 100 or more pounds overweight. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, are rarely successful for these patients without surgical intervention. Prescription drugs have been yanked off the market because of adverse — sometimes deadly — side effects. No new diet drug has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in more than a decade, although the agency’s recommending committee has endorsed two medicines, Qnexa and lorcaserin, that could become available later this year.
4. Some more truth about how difficult it can be for patients to keep the weight off:
Even those who are able to lose 100 pounds without surgery often gain it back.
“I’ve had some patients lose 500 pounds over their lifetime, gaining and losing, gaining and losing that same 100 pounds or so,” he said. “Bariatic surgery is absolutely not the perfect fix-all, be-all, everything is going to be lovely afterward. That’s not true either. There are risks associated with the operation — absolutely no question about that.”
As an aside, I cannot even begin to fathom how bad it would be on a person’s heart to lose and gain 100 lbs five times over the course of their lives. Holy shit. Honestly. How can a doctor look at a person who has fluctuated between, say, 200 and 300 pounds five times and tell them that’s a better outcome than if they’d just found a way to stabilize their weight at 300 pounds?
And yes, there are some things that annoyed me. The fact that they know that they’re fucking with how people’s bodies work in ways that will make them forever dependent on supplements and doctors’ close supervision, in ways they know there’s a risk of death of (and note the clever slight of hand where they say that deaths from the surgery are only 1%, but say nothing about the number of deaths from complications where the surgery has worked just fine, but the person’s body is so fucked up that they can’t function. I mean, it’s not clear that Lane’s death would count toward that 1% because her surgery went fine. She did die during it. She didn’t die from complications directly related to the surgery. She just died from something the surgery caused. That’s a slightly different thing. And it lets doctors–and gives doctors–a false impression about the safety of the surgery.) and yet they still advocate it as THE option for the morbidly obese.
No, there’s another option. Eat well, exercise, and make peace with your body. We are all going to die, too soon. Have some mercy on yourself in the meantime.