Approaching 60, Elaine MacMahon had battled with her weight for over 30 years, visiting her GP for a regular supply of slimming tablets and enduring an emotional rollercoaster of slimming clubs which only exacerbated further weight gain. Despite being content with her family life, Elaine was miserable at the prospect of turning 60 and living in constant fear of having a stroke or heart attack and not being able to buy the clothes she wanted as a result of her weight.
At 18 stone 9lb and a size 24, Elaine had been getting a regular supply of blood pressure tablets from her GP for her escalating blood pressure. Her larger frame and weight were the result of poor eating habits that had developed from her early childhood. Growing up in a broken home and being force-fed from an early age had resulted in Elaine rewarding herself with cakes and chocolate. In the school holidays, Elaine would look forward to helping her father in his patisserie, where she was tempted by a wealth of pastries and cakes within easy reach.
As a child, Elaine was able to burn off the extra calories she consumed through her passion for sport. Captain of the netball team and on the hockey and cross-country teams, Elaine was always the first to be picked for team sports. Her stockier frame also helped to give her the power of endurance.
However, this all changed when Elaine got married and had children. Working as a legal secretary, Elaine would grab sandwiches and chocolate during her lunch-break and despite cooking healthy meals for her family, Elaine was always lured by convenience food for herself. Her weight crept up after having her children, and despite her concerted efforts to diet and exercise, Elaine was in a vicious cycle of losing three stone at a time and then putting the weight back on, and more.
She explains: “After 30 years, I felt like I had spent my lifetime going to slimming clubs and taking slimming tablets, with seemingly little gain. The only gain I did have was more weight! I was beginning to feel miserable as being a size 24; you are really restricted about where you can buy clothes. I knew that my weight was down to me and I made a concerted effort to ensure that my family ate healthily so that they wouldn’t have the same issues as me. The real turning point came when we went to see the fireworks with my grandchildren in late 2007 and we had to all squeeze into one car. My grandson turned to me and said that if I wasn’t so fat, it wouldn’t be such a squash! I was rather hurt, but knew that he was right. It suddenly became apparent that this is what people really thought of me and that it wasn’t just my own burden to carry.”
After reading an article in the Evening Leader about a lady who had had weight loss surgery, Elaine was interested in finding out more. She visited her GP who was very sympathetic to her cause and even supported her decision to undergo weight loss surgery. She was advised that the North Welsh Health Trust wouldn’t fund her surgery and that she would have to pay for her own treatment. Desperate to spend the autumn of her life happy and healthy, Elaine contacted private hospitals as far afield as Manchester and Liverpool.
Having done some research into local hospitals, Elaine contacted Spire Yale Hospital and spoke with the private secretary for Mr Andrew Baker, consultant general surgeon at the hospital. She suggested Elaine attend a consultation, where she could openly discuss her weight issues with Mr Baker and explore the various surgical options. Elaine subsequently first met Mr Baker in March 2009, where during her initial consultation she was advised that given her love of sweet foods, that a gastric bypass would be the most appropriate option.
Mr Baker comments: “Given her sweet tooth and high blood pressure, I felt that a bypass was the more appropriate option. The gastric band wouldn’t give her the outcomes she needed as it doesn’t control the cravings. The gastric bypass would help to provide better control for cravings for sweet foods and as it involves the creation of a small gastric pouch and by bypassing a portion of the upper small intestine, it effectively reduces the absorption of calories nutrients. It also helps to treat the symptoms of diabetes. However, the gastric bypass is just a tool to aid weight loss and it takes a lot of personal responsibility in order to achieve long-term weight loss.”
In order to show her commitment to losing weight, Elaine was advised to lose 10 kilos prior to surgery. This would also help to reduce the amount of fat surrounding the liver to optimise the effect of the anaesthetic. She underwent standard tests including lipid profiles, thyroid tests and she was recommended an ECG just to monitor her high blood pressure and further minimise the risks of surgery.
Elaine says: “I knew that surgery was the only option left. Having contacted lots of hospitals, I was inspired by Mr Baker’s no-nonsense approach. He immediately instilled confidence in me due to his experience in weight loss surgery and his detailed diagrams showing what gastric bypass surgery would involve. He gave me lots of literature to read and explained that surgery was only the beginning of the process and that I would need to put a lot of effort in to lose the weight and maintain it long-term.”
The surgery lasted two and a half hours and was the first gastric bypass to be performed in Wrexham. She was given pain relief and was discharged after two nights in hospital, due to the speed of her post-operative recovery. Within a year of surgery, Elaine had lost 7 stone 9lb and was at last able to wear size 14-16 clothes. The biggest difficulty for Elaine was retraining herself in her food habits. She had to make a concerted effort to make healthier food choices.
She concludes: “I had to really think about what I ate as I knew that if I overate or binged on chocolate, I would risk being ill. My efforts really paid off and I had great support from my husband of almost 40 years. People sometimes say that they don’t mind being fat, but for me this simply wasn’t true. I was miserable for many years and now I feel like a new person. I could have paid Mr Baker twice for the cost of all the slimming clubs and food that I ate during my 30 years of yo-yo dieting. My blood pressure has returned to normal levels and I now look forward to my weekly line-dancing class as well as playing a more active role in my grandchildren’s lives.”
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