Doctors make accommodations for obesity surgeries
When we gain weight, our health risks multiply. The more weight, the more challenging it is to treat and heal.
It is a delicate topic and a real health concern. Doctors are increasingly making innovative accommodations so patients can get the surgery they need, even if their extra weight makes it extra complicated.
Elisha Murphy hears the same message every time she goes to the doctor - you need to lose weight.
"I have dealt with my weight since I was eight years old. I have had a weight problem that long," Murphy said.
At 5'2" tall, weighing 425 pounds, with a BMI of 83, she is morbidly obese.
"I want people to know that I am not a slob. I'm not a pig. That's kind of what I want them to know about me and I don't live like people on reality TV with these people that weigh 1,000 pounds and lay in bed and do nothing but eat," Murphy said.
She is a mother who recently had a cycle that got out of control.
"I was dealing with a lot of heavy bleeding and it was almost everyday. It was unbelievable," she said.
When other treatment options failed, her doctor, Dr. Hubert Fornalik, recommended a minimally-invasive hysterectomy with the da Vinci robot. It comes with less complications than cutting open the abdomen, but can be tricky with large patients.
"We are the referral center for patients from the entire state and we see all the time that patients like Elisha with obesity, they are told they cannot have the surgery because of their size," Fornalik said. "Quite often, those surgeries are indicated and needed, but delayed, or patients have open surgery which actually put them at much higher risk of complications."
Part of the problem with pelvic surgery is the operating room table is put at a 45-degree incline with the patients head down. Bariatric surgery is just the opposite. When the head is down the weight of the abdomen presses on the lungs and can make breathing difficult.
Fornalik ordered extensions to widen the operating room bed and the foot area and worked closely with the anesthesiologist to make the surgery possible for Murphy. She went home the next day.
"I am so glad I did it," she said. "The best thing about life now is not bleeding everyday. My hope is that there are other people out there that desperately need the help, that feel like, because of their weight, they can't get the help that they need."
Murphy is recovering from her surgery now and is working with bariatric doctors to address her weight issues.