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New surgery helps woman lose 80 pounds

  • Published
  • By Ilka Cole
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Danielle Hindel, struggled with her weight since the birth of her youngest child. She followed diet plans and committed to exercise. Although she worked hard, she was consumed with thoughts about her outward appearance. This self-imposed stress about weight built. She was overwhelmed with disappointment and repeatedly turned to unhealthy eating habits to cope.  At her lowest point, she was convinced she was destined to be overweight due to medical issues and genetics.

Last December though, the 31-year-old was re-energized when her endocrinologist told her Eglin Hospital had reintroduced bariatric surgery. In April, she underwent the elective surgery and has since lost 80 pounds.

"I was hopeful and nervous. There's a stigma associated with bariatric surgery. It's common for people to think you took the 'easy way' out. I didn't know how people would treat me," said the former Airman. "It's a big surgery. I was finally going to lose weight and I was successful."

Bariatric surgery produces significant weight loss quickly by changing the size of the stomach or through manipulation of the intestinal tract.

"Bariatric surgery is medically recommended to prolong life, improve health and quality of life in excessively overweight patients," said Lt. Col. Phiet Bui, Eglin's bariatric surgery program manager and surgeon. "However, we can't force patients to undergo surgery. They have to want it."

Patients who want to be considered for the surgery screening process can consult with their primary care manager for a referral or they may self-refer, if they meet the strict guidelines based on height and weight.

"It doesn't mean we'll do the surgery, but we are happy to evaluate them," said Bui. "Each patient must meet the program criteria to proceed with surgery. At the very least, we will provide them information."

Eglin Hospital uses national guidelines to determine a patient's need for surgery. Patients with a body mass index of over 40 are abnormally overweight [morbidly obese] and can be considered based on body mass index alone. Patients with a BMI between 35 and 40 who have significant medical conditions should be considered as well, according to Bui.

Hindel exhausted all weight loss efforts was thankful she was considered for the procedure. She said she'd basically given in to the idea of always being heavy prior to the surgery announcement.

"My BMI was borderline morbidly obese at 39.7. Although, I didn't have diabetes or high blood pressure, I had several other co-existing chronic medical conditions," she said.  "The combination of these factors qualified me for the screening process."

Months before surgery, Hindel, like all patients, attended the required comprehensive bariatric seminar. Following the seminar, pre-op education continued through one-on-one appointments with nutritionists. Patients also undergo extensive labs and studies based on individual needs, to include mental health screenings. Depending on the patient, the process may take up to six months.

"Dr. Bui depends on the word from the mental health provider and the nutritionists. It's a team-based decision," said Hindel. "To be approved for the operation, you have to maintain your weight. The doctors want to see you implement changes before surgery."

A great emphasis is placed on a well-balanced weight loss program and a lifestyle that incorporates diet, exercise as well as behavior modification.

"To ensure successful outcomes and continued weight loss, we want motivated patients, like Hindel, who understand the operation and what we are doing, as well as the risks involved," said Bui.  "The hope is that patients will continue to incorporate the pre-operative changes long after surgery for continued, steady weight loss until they reach their goal weight."

After surgery, the substantial physical changes to the stomach size require a change in mind-set about food, and how it's injested.  

"The doctors compared my stomach size to a highlighter or magic marker. I don't have space to eat more than three or four ounces now," said Hindel. "My meals are a quarter to half a cup of food. If I eat too fast or eat too much, my body will expel it almost immediately.  Slowing down to take the time to eat has been one of my biggest challenges."

Hindel admits it hasn't been easy and her biggest challenge is to reach her target weight of 140 pounds. In addition to dietary changes, she recently started a crossfit program and says she feels more confident now then she did months ago.

"I wouldn't have been brave enough to enter a crossfit box [gym] then. I don't tire as easily, I can hang in a little longer, she said. "Even though I am still a little overweight, I don't feel I'm dramatically overweight, so I don't feel like people are staring at me, thinking 'what's that big girl doing in here?'"

According to Bui, bariatric surgery resolves a majority of the medical conditions and emotional disorders associated with obesity.

"The profound impact from surgical weight loss offers patients a new outlook and a new lease on life," said Bui.