BANGALORE: For years, Chris Hawks and Virginia from Oregon, US, were dogged by morbid obesity. For Chris, it refused to go away even after he went under the knife. Morbid obesity brought with it a host of health difficulties for Chris, 60, weighing 140kg, and his companion of many years, Virginia, 64, who tipped the scales at 129kg. Both are retired professionals who struggled to keep their weight in check.While Virginia suffered from diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertension due to morbid obesity, Chris had a sleep disorder . The couple first consulted doctors in the US, but were disappointed. Chris was operated on, but the surgery remained inconclusive. Besides, the surgical process was not covered under insurance . As a retired person, Chris could not afford another surgery in the US.

They then heard of Bangalore’s medical advances, and decided to travel all the way down to India. Virginia learnt from a friend about laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, a keyhole procedure done in Indian hospitals, which is much cheaper and result-oriented compared to the gastric bypass Chris had undergone.

The couple underwent bariatric surgery in a Bangalore hospital on February 13, and have since shed 5kg each.

“Chris was evaluated in the US and went under the knife. However, the surgery could not be completed. While his gastric bypass surgery was under way, there was a suspected injury to the stomach and the procedure was abandoned. He took a long while to recover and his weight did not reduce,” said Dr HV Shivaram, chief of bariatric and metabolic surgery, Columbia Asia Hospital.

Said Dr Shivaram: “After the surgery , diabetic medications for Virginia have been halved and other medicines reduced. After a few weeks, she can stop most of her medications and can sleep easily, without using her machine. Chris is happy that the entire process was smooth and pain-free . They will lose more than 50% weight in the next six months.” “After my first surgery in the US, I was scared to go under the knife again. But we were counselled by a team of doctors. We’re both feeling very ‘light’ now and are looking forward to a healthy life,” said Chris.

The couple was discharged from hospital two days after surgery. The surgery costs about Rs 2.50 lakh in Bangalore and about 10 times more in American hospitals.

Bariatric surgery is not a 100% safe option ; there are 0.7% chances of patients developing post-surgery complications. Say experts: “There are chances of leakage from the future line (a surgical tube fixed in the stomach) immediately after surgery. Also, intestinal joints can narrow and the patient may develop blood clots in the legs; it can lead to severe gastric problems if not treated in time. But this happens in 7 out of 1,000 cases.”

What’s morbid obesity?
It refers to patients who weigh 50%-100 % more than their ideal body weight. A BMI value of more than 39 is referred to as morbid obesity.

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