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A recent study found that people who undergo bariatric surgery
have a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, helping to prevent heart-related
deaths. Coming up, we’re joined by
experts from UW Medicine to learn more about these procedures, plus we’ll hear
a patient as she shares her own experience.
It’s all next on Patient Power.
Hello and welcome to Patient Power sponsored by UW
Medicine. I’m Andrew Schorr. When you think of America today, unfortunately
we have to think of our problem of obesity, and it causes all sorts of problems
as people get overweight. Diabetes
certainly is an epidemic, but beyond that there can be heart problems, joint
problems, high blood pressure, and someone obviously can’t be as active as they
would like to be, so all sorts of things happen to the body, and life can be
And imagine if you have a body mass index that is really going
up there and you may be 100 or more pounds overweight, serious
complications. And you try weight loss
programs, and unfortunately while you may bring your weight down it may go back
up, and maybe you know you’ve tried that many times. Where does bariatric surgery come into
play? We’re going to find out.
First, I’d like to introduce you to someone who has gone down
that road and benefitted. That’s
Kristine Hillyer. Kristine is 53. She’s retired now, but she used to be a
longshoreman at the Port of Seattle, you know, where they’re moving those
cranes around and all those shipments and certainly a lot of physical
work. But then she had problems with
acid reflux, and it got to be quite severe and her activity became more
limited. And so then you found your
weight ballooning, didn’t you, Kristine?
I did, Andrew.
I understand your fighting weight had been something like 150
pounds. How high did your weight get to
in, let’s say, what was it up to in about 2006?
I think at that point I was pretty close to 200.
And then it went up further, 200, and how high did it get?
I got up to 268 pounds.
Oh, my. And you’re five-foot-five.
So you had been a size 10.
What size would you have even been when you weighed 268 pounds?
22, 24, depending upon the cut.
You’re in the plus size section always.
Now, you’re a woman who, one child, 19-year-old daughter
Natalie, and you used love to do lots of stuff, horseback riding, jet skiing,
golf, walking in the woods up the trails.
Could you do any of that at 268 pounds?
I could hardly get from one end of my house to the other. I was gasping for air. My breath was not there anymore. I had a very difficult time. I couldn’t take care of my own home. I had to get lots of help to take care of my
Oh, my. So life was
It was beyond tough. You
are a prisoner in your own body, and mentally it starts to take its toll. So not just physically, you start eventually
mentally going down the slide with it.
Hmm. So you’re from
Orting down by Mount Rainier, southeast of Seattle. You were just stuck there.
Pretty much. It was a
difficult time in my life.
So you connect with the University of Washington and you talk
to the surgeons there and eventually have gastric bypass surgery, done
laparoscopy, and that was I think in November of 2009.
So I know you go through a lot of counseling. They really have to see is it right for
you. But that put it all in perspective
didn’t it, what would be required of you, what your expectation should be. How did you feel about that to prepare you
for the surgery?
Dr. Oelschlager was actually the first person to use the
term, and it was rather shocking. I
mean, to think that I had gotten to a place where I had to have--it seemed such
an extreme thing to do to get control of your health and your life, but it took
me about a year before I decided I wanted to live with less hassle, with less
mental strain and pain. I wanted my life
back. I wanted to be healthy.
So the counseling got you to a place where the surgery then was
right for you.
All right. So what’s
happened since then? So now we’re two
years past. I understand you’re at the
University of Washington today to thank the doctors who helped you. What are you saying to them?
They saved my life.
Dr. Oelschlager and Dr. Khandelwal saved my life as far as I’m
concerned. They restored me to--they let
me out of jail. I mean, that’s the only
way I can express it…
They let me--they gave me back my life, and I can breathe
again. I’m not on steroids. I’ve lost 115 pounds. I can, you know, walk in a store and buy a
medium off the rack, which is not the important part but it’s sure a nice
Wow. And you can do
things with Natalie, your daughter.
I can. I can. We go to the theater. We can walk together. I don’t have to gasp for air anymore. The acid reflux that I was suffering from was
giving me pneumonia fairly regularly, and I was getting chronic sinusitis infections because of
the acid, and it was a little more complicated than just being a fat
It made me a very unhealthy person.
And an unhappy person.
And now your mental attitude?
I’m pretty funny. I’m
having a good time. I am very
grateful. I am. I’d like to take this time to thank
Dr. Khandelwal again. He was one of
two surgeons who did the surgery on me, and my life will never be the same, and
I am thankful to God that they came into my life.
Well, you get to do that.
You’ve just done it because one of our two guests, medical guests is
Dr. Saurabh Khandelwal, who is one of your surgeons and the director of
the UW Medical Center bariatric center.
Dr. Khandelwal, it must make you feel great to hear this
It’s very gratifying, absolutely to really impact our patients’
lives where we can get them back to a point where they’re able to live their
lives. They’re able to do the things
they want to do with their family members.
These operations, they can help get rid of many chronic diseases and get
people back on track to being healthy and getting back in control of their
And as I said at the outset, there’s increasing data that shows
that people who have surgery,
people who appropriately needed it, their heart health, other things that can
be terribly life threatening, that risk is reduced.
That’s absolutely correct.
You know, quite a few years of research both here and in Europe have
shown that the long-term effects of these surgeries can reduce the risk of
dying from medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer,
anywhere from between 40 and 90 percent.