"We’re getting ready for a party
this weekend – Our daughter is graduating college,” says Nelwyn Babineaux, as
she springs into her suspended wicker chair dangling on the patio. She glows with anticipation at the
thought of sprucing up the yard, the swimming pool and around the house for the
big day. A year ago, before her
and her husband’s bariatric (weight-loss) surgeries, the occasion might have
seemed like a much more daunting ordeal.
Nelwyn and her husband Michael had
battled obesity problems for decades to no avail, and it was taking its toll on
their health in detrimental ways.
Exasperated and tired of fighting for minimal or temporary results,
Michael first learned about bariatric surgery from some of his co-workers, and
grew interested. He started
telling his wife about it, and then one day they came into contact with someone
they knew had the operation. "I
didn’t recognize her,” says Nelwyn.
They became even more intrigued.
The Babineauxs had seemingly tried
everything. They both participated
in weight-loss programs, and lost weight, for a short period of time. "I was right above my goal,” Nelwyn
says of a past attempt. "But, I
went on a cruise, and had a little weight gain. I came back and said, ‘I can do
this myself’, but over the course of the next few years, I gained the weight
back.” Michael had embraced the program so whole-heartedly he even became a
spokesman for it. But he, too, had
seen his weight losses reverse with time.
Nelwyn tried several different programs, and was on a variety of pill
regimens. "They looked like
Skittles,” she says of the pills she was taking. Some weight would come off for a while, but it always came
back. The Babineauxs say they "yo-yoed”
up and down the scale as many as 10 to 12 times.
By last year, associated ailments,
called co-morbidities, had been racking up because of the problems caused by their
excessive body mass. Nelwyn’s
concerns about the growing frequency of numbness and tingling in her hands and
feet turned out to be the onset of (Type 2) diabetes. This only added to the already long and growing list of
medications she was taking, such as anti-anxiety, beta-blockers and
anti-depressants. Michael’s diagnosis of diabetes compounded his high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and triglyceride medicines. "Every time I’d go to the doctor, he
was finding something new,” he says.
They decided together that bariatric surgery was something they wanted
In May 2011, Michael decided to
contact the doctor, Philip Gachassin, M.D., that had performed the surgery on
his past co-worker, of whom she spoke highly.
Dr. Gachassin is the medical
director of the bariatric program at Lafayette General Medical Center (LGMC). He has been performing bariatric
surgeries for more than 10 years and helps conduct seminars for people looking to
have surgery. "We look at it as a
free informational, educational seminar,” he says. "At the seminar, we typically discuss the disease, the
procedures we offer, and the effects on the medical problems that the
procedures have. We then describe
our program at Lafayette General, and how to become a patient if you want to move
General was designated as a Bariatric Center of Excellence (BCOE) by the American Society for Metabolic
and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) in 2011, as well as the Surgical Review
Corporation. High-quality perioperative and long-term follow-up
care are among the many prerequisites to obtain the prestigious title. Dr. Gachassin
is teamed up with Dennis Eschete, M.D., both certified with the ASMBS. The two doctors help instruct and
educate patients at the seminars. The hospital coordinates a comprehensive support network to
see them through the entire process, if they qualify.
Doucet, registered nurse and Bariatric Program Manager at LGMC, describes how
the center has a multi-disciplinary team to assist patients. "We have an RN on
staff, a registered dietician, a behavior modification educator, a licensed
practical counselor and exercise physiologist. They all work together and follow patients post-operatively
to make sure that they continue their success,” she says.
Gachassin prefers to call the surgeries "metabolic surgeries” rather than
weight-loss surgeries because of their metabolic effects, and this view has
been bolstered by recent scientific news.
These operations made medical headlines based on two studies published
last month in The New England Journal of
Medicine. The studies, by the
Cleveland Clinic and Catholic University in Rome, established some of the
strongest data yet in supporting what doctors have clinically observed for
years. The surgeries appear to be vastly
superior to traditional medical therapies for Type 2 diabetes treatment and
other co-morbidities in patients having a high body mass index. While the benefits of metabolic
surgeries have been touted for years, these two studies were the first to pair
the traditional diabetes treatments up against the surgery option, Dr.
Gachassin explained. The results
are clear, and have rippled through the medical community. Metabolic surgeries are far beyond
"Our surgeries surely have a metabolic
effect on patients with diabetes in that we can put their diabetes in
remission,” says Dr. Gachassin, although he stops short of calling it a cure. The importance of metabolic surgeries
is increasing, as almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight and this number
is growing, especially among children, Dr. Gachassin points out.
surgeries help reduce several other risks associated with obesity, such as certain
cancers, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, and can dramatically
extend life expectancy.
The Babineauxs can testify to this
first-hand. Both of them have shed
medications with the pounds.
Nelwyn is now down to simple multi-vitamins and other minor supplements. Michael is only on blood pressure
medication, which he attributes to heredity and family history. Nelwyn says that, after some recent
bloodwork results, her nurse told her, "It looks like you’ve never even had
One of the main hindrances to
people qualifying for the surgery, aside from the medical criteria required
under program guidelines, is insurance coverage. Some plans cover it, but Dr. Gachassin would like to see
more people covered under the state’s major providers. Interested patients can learn about
their options by attending the seminars offered at Lafayette General.
"It changes your life”, they both
proclaim. Aside from a modified
diet with a decrease in appetite and eating capacity, which they’ve adjusted to
comfortably and happily, they both feel great. "I feel like I’m 40,” Nelwyn gleams. "I can walk, cross my legs, I want to climb
a mountain, I can accomplish anything… I can conquer the world!”
The Babineauxs want to travel
again. They’ve picked up new
hobbies and have newfound enthusiasm for living. They want to visit places they’ve already been just so, this
time, they won’t have to stop to take breaks as they go.
As for this weekend, they plan to
party. Michael is preparing to mow
the yard, which he can now do in one-fourth the time it used to take.
"If you would like to have a
better life, go (to a seminar) and listen to what they have to say,” he
says. "It’s a different life.”