Bariatric Surgery Helps Baptist Patients Live Happier, Healthier Lives

Feb 6 • 2018

Being overweight affects your health in a variety of ways, but can also make it difficult to experience day-to-day things like playing with the kids and being more productive. For people like Dave Embry, who once weighed more than 400 pounds, bariatric surgery is one way to help reach a weight loss goal and get healthier. Two years after his surgery, Dave completed his first marathon.

“More than half of American adults are obese, which means at least 50 pounds overweight, and many of those people aren’t even aware that they’re obese,” said Baptist Weight Loss Center Medical Director Dr. George Woodman. “It’s an epidemic that needs to be addressed, and one of the ways that it can be addressed is with surgery.”

The Surgery Process

Bariatric surgery is simply a tool to help people help themselves. Having a smaller stomach results in being satisfied with less food, which is often a big obstacle for many patients. It’s then the patient’s job to eat less food, eat the right foods, and exercise properly.

The most common and most effective type of bariatric surgery is the sleeve gastrectomy, in which a large portion of the stomach is removed. About 80 percent of all bariatric procedures in the U.S. every year are sleeve gastrectomies.

“Patients usually must have a history of being overweight and a history of previous weight loss attempts that have failed,” said Woodman. “And they have to be felt to be a serious candidate who’s willing to change their lifestyle.”

From the time Woodman first sees a patient to when the surgery takes place could range from one to 12 months depending on the patient and insurance company. Candidates should speak with their employer and their doctor about whether their health insurance covers weight loss surgery.

Qualified candidates then meet with a nutritionist and psychologist, and they must obtain medical clearance from their doctor before proceeding with surgery. In general, a patient must be at least 100 pounds overweight or 75 pounds overweight with a condition like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Usually patients go home the day after surgery with no physical restrictions. The average person gets back to normal activities very quickly and goes back to work within one week.

Priceless Results

Dave’s wife, Christy, had initially brought up the idea of bariatric surgery to him several years ago after some of her friends had the procedure.

“She got the ball rolling, and once we started the process I was all in,” said Dave, who is the information systems site manager at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton. “After years of battling weight, I knew there was no immediate answer, no magic pill. I looked at the surgery as a tool to get to my goal.” Today, he has lost more than 180 pounds.

He describes the difference in his life after surgery as night and day.

“Having the surgery is different for everybody, but for me personally I have a little more bounce in my step, I feel better about myself, and I’m more apt to go do things that I never did before,” explained Dave. “I was always afraid to do certain things like parasailing because of my size. When I hit 260, we all went parasailing as a family.”

Bariatric Surgery at Baptist

Baptist performs approximately 400 bariatric surgeries each year – a number that is rising steadily.

“The interest is increasing because the epidemic of obesity is just getting worse,” said Woodman, who has worked in private practice for the past 20 years, doing bariatric surgeries for the past 18. “Surgery has been shown to be very safe and effective when done by an experienced surgeon and a hospital that is designated as a Center of Excellence like here at Baptist.”

Baptist Memphis is a BlueCross BlueShield Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery. The designation means the hospital’s bariatric program meets nationally established criteria by demonstrating expertise in delivering quality specialty care safely and effectively.

For more information about Baptist Memphis’ Weight Loss Center, call 901-226-LOSE.