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Woman Afraid She’ll Die Waiting for Weight Loss Surgery

Woman Afraid She’ll Die Waiting for Weight Loss Surgery

 

Lillian Coakley, a 42 year old resident of Nova Scotia, Canada, isn’t dead yet, but she has already written her own obituary. Coakely is obese and is currently on the waiting list for bariatric surgery, a procedure that reduces mortality rates and significantly improves the patient’s health. According to Capital Health, the clinic that provides weight loss surgery for the province of Nova Scotia, the waiting list is currently more than 10 years long. Coakley fears she won’t make it that long.

In a guest post on Weighty Matters, the blog of Ottawa obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff, Coakely wrote that her province’s health care system has failed her and many others like her who struggle with their weight and with obesity. Her obituary began like this:

We are sad to inform you of the untimely passing of a young mother, sister daughter and friend. She died at a young age due to complication with obesity that she fought for years to overcome. She was the youngest child of 7 and she leaves behind her 2 sons, who both lived at home with her. Her entire life was lived for her boys who she loved immensely and were her pride and joy.

In her post, Coakley made a call to action, writing: “We as tax payers and humans need to be heard and helped. People need to stop putting a stigma and sweeping weight loss surgery under the carpet and realize people are going to die on this waiting list.”

Paying For Weight Loss Surgery is Worth It

Coakley’s blog post was picked up by media across Canada, including the Chronicle Herald, which interviewed Coakley and Dr. James Ellsmere, the surgical director at Capital Health. Ellsmere explained that his clinic has done 60 to 80 sleeve gastrectomies per year since the clinic opened in 2007 and that when patients get the surgery, “the outcomes are so impressive, life-changing for the individual.” Weight loss surgery also yields savings in other parts of the healthcare system, because patients no longer require treatment for diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, painful joints, and other conditions that are related to obesity.

The Blame Game

Coakley has struggled with her weight all of her life. According to the Chronicle Herald, “at six months, she was put on a skim milk-only diet” and later “her mother brought her to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax where the teenage Coakley was put on a diet and strictly monitored, only to gain more weight.” She has willpower, she says, citing the fact that she “quit smoking cold turkey, coffee and Pepsi all on the exact same day.” Ultimately, diets never worked for her and never yielded the expected results.

That doesn’t stop people from blaming her for her condition. After Freedhoff published her obituary, he received numerous comments claiming that she just needed to take personal responsibility and do something about her weight and that she obviously wasn’t trying hard enough. In a follow-up post, Freedhoff explained why the “good ole, pull herself up by her bootstraps and take things into her own hands” mantra just doesn’t compute. He wrote:

For readers who don’t know, I’m not a surgeon. I’m the medical director of a behavioural weight management program. And while I’ve seen with my own two eyes many a person lose enough weight to preclude surgery, I don’t delude myself into thinking that downloading the solution to extreme obesity onto personal responsibility is everyone’s answer.

If there were a non-surgical, reproducible and uniformly effective plan for the management of extreme obesity, I’d agree with you, but the fact is, there is no such plan.

Of course, even if you do want to embrace personal responsibility as the sole cause of obesity, medicine isn’t about blame. We patch up drunk drivers and folks who don’t wear seat belts. We offer smoking cessation programs. We treat asthmatics who don’t bother keeping up with their puffers, pneumonias exacerbated by the early discontinuation of antibiotics, and the psychotic breaks of folks who stop their antipsychotics.

Personal responsibility is just one part of the equation. We also need people to be educated about nutrition and fitness, we need healthy food to be affordable and accessible, and we need the regulation and cooperation of the convenience food industry to make food healthier. Even if we have all of that, there will still be people who struggle with their weight and the health care system needs to be there to help them, in the same way that it helps anyone who struggles with any aspect of their health.

The Wait is Too Long

Weight loss surgery is something that the government has rightly decided that it should be providing to Canadians as part of the public health care system. The business case is strong — it improves lives and reduces costs in other parts of the health care system. A 10 year wait for surgery is both inhumane and fiscally irresponsible. The Government of Nova Scotia needs to find a way to reduce the wait times and ensure that people can get the surgery that they so badly need.

PETITION: Please sign the petition asking the Government of Nova Scotia to take action to reduce wait times for weight loss surgery.

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Is Severe Obesity in Kids a Sign of Child Abuse?

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Photo credit: Lillian Coakley (used with permission)

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113 comments

+ add your own
6:10AM PST on Nov 17, 2011

Weight No More Consulting Ltd. and Dr. Jaime Ponce De Leon are proud to be able to offer a life changing surgery to Lillian Coakely from Nova Scotia. It is very generous of Dr. Jaime Ponce De Leon and his medical team to offer this life saving procedure to a wonderful client of Weight No More Consulting Ltd. We are so happy to be able to provide you with this care Lillian. We are looking forward to spending time with you in Tijuana...
My name is Darlis and I had this surgery with Dr. Ponce De Leon and I feel fantastic...Good luck LIllian!

6:08AM PST on Nov 17, 2011

Weight No More Consulting Ltd. and Dr. Jaime Ponce De Leon are proud to be able to offer a life changing surgery to Lillian Coakely from Nova Scotia. It is very generous of Dr. Jaime Ponce De Leon and his medical team to offer this life saving procedure to a wonderful client of Weight No More Consulting Ltd. We are so happy to be able to provide you with this care Lillian. We are looking forward to spending time with you in Tijuana...
My name is Darlis and I had this surgery done by Dr. Ponce De Leon and I am feeling fantastic.
Good luck Lillian!

7:24PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

@ Rosemary G--- Surgery is not the answer. All it does is decrease the amount of food you can put in your stomach, the same effect you can get from eating smaller amounts. It is not a cure. Over time the patient can stretch the reduced stomach and it is back to square one. Concentration camps are a poor example for weight loss. Inmates lose as much muscle as fat, a really unhealthy procedure. Science has in fact discovered a fat gene, and found that with people doing regular physical labor, the gene effect doesn’t kick in. I think that in our culture there is more to obesity than overeating and lack of exercise, perhaps some of the unavoidable chemical pollutants that fill our lives, possibly in this case.

10:40AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

People really need to take responsibility for themselves and not rely on government to do everything for them.
She needs to be more pro-active and take control of herself.

12:27AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

exercise

8:55PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

I hope she gets the surgery before it's too late.

7:41PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Still loking for the best way to lose weight? Your genes can help!
visit amway.com/greisys
weight managements.

7:34PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Still looking for the best way to lose weight?
Your genes can help!
Go to:
www.amway.com/greisys

Weight managements and you'll find your answer to the weight problems.
I hope to help.. anybody!

5:01PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Is surgery really the answer?

1:03PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Interesting article.

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