Local doctors, patients hail Governor's surgery

May 15, 2013 9:02:43 AM PDT
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has the country abuzz today. The normally outspoken governor secretly underwent weight-loss surgery in February - just days after joking about his weight with late night TV host David Letterman.

The governor says he did it for his wife and four kids, which is what many say when they make a decision like this.

When it comes to weight loss surgery, there are three options.

Governor Christie opted for the Lap Band procedure - the least invasive option.

Doctors place a band around the top of the stomach, making it much smaller.

Back in early February, the governor poked fun at his weight problem on the David Letterman Show. Turns out he was already planning to have the surgery.

The governor said today he began to consider it around his 50th birthday in September. It was scheduled for after the election in November, but superstorm Sandy came along.

Dr. John Meilahn of Temple University Hospital, who was not involved in the governor's care, says the silicone band is placed around the stomach is tightened every four to six weeks, allowing patients to feel full after just a cup of food.

Dr. Meilahn says how much weight someone loses can vary.

"Typically, we will see 30 to 40 % or 50% of excess body weight. That means if you are 100 pounds overweight, you might lose 30, 40 or 50 pounds of that weight," says Dr. Meilahn.

But the health benefits go beyond numbers. It can often prevent, or decrease problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Shanon Wilkerson of Northeast Philadelphia had the same procedure two years ago.

He vividly recalls what the extra weight was doing to his body before the surgery.

"I had high blood pressure, low back pain, knee pain, I had to get steroid injections in my back, uh, sleep apnea," he says.

No diet or exercise program could bring his weight down for long.

"They didn't fail, I failed them," he notes.

Just after New Year's in 2011, at close to 350 pounds, he went to Dr. Meilahn to talk about surgical options.

Shanon says he didn't eat often, but ate a lot at one sitting.

"At one meal, I would eat excessively. So I knew the lap band was for me, because I needed to cut down the portion size when I did decide to eat," he says.

Right away, Shanon says his hunger dropped, and he was full much sooner.

"I ate one egg, and I couldn't even finish that one egg. I said - oh my god, this is amazing," he recalls.

2 years later, Shanon is 80 pounds lighter, and has gone from a size 54 waist to a size 40.

Better yet, his health has turned around.

"I wake up in the morning with tons of energy. My knees don't hurt. I haven't had a single steroid shot in my back," he says.

Shanon says it probably tough for Governor Christie to make this move - but he applauds it.

"I really believe this has prolonged my life. I believe you have made the best decision ever," he says.

Dr. Meilahn also reminds that the surgery is not a magic wand. Patients still have work to lose weight.

"People do best when they eat good food- proteins, fruits and vegetables in small portions and then exercise and be active physically," he adds.


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