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Mom Takes Son to Mexico for Gastric Surgery

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75% of people in the US are overweight. 16% of them are children under the age of eleven. For many families struggling with overweight children, surgery is their only chance at change. But is taking them across the border worth the risk?

Being overweight was just something that 39-year-old Dante Fishell accepted as a norm -- she's been overweight her whole life and suffers from diabetes. She has tried every diet under the sun and nothing ever worked. But when she watched her son Joey balloon to 300 lbs at the young age of 13, she realized that surgery might be their only hope at saving his life. Dante found a surgeon in Tijuana, Mexico that would perform Gastric Lap Banding on both her and her son -- despite the fact that the procedure is currently not FDA approved for minors. Dante did not seek consent from Joey's pediatrician or from her own physician, she just went to Mexico.

Recently, UCSD Medical Center, along with ten other centers around the US, ran a trial to evaluate whether gastric banding is a safe and effective weight loss treatment in obese adolescents ages 14 - 17. Dr. Santiago Horgan, the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Director for Center for the Treatment of Obesity at UCSD, who ran the trial and has performed more than 1,000 gastric banding procedures, told us in an interview that he does see patients in his office from complications who went to Tijuana. "It's very difficult to adopt a patient who we did not approve for surgery. It is a risk. In this case you need to see your physician and dietician, psychologist, etc., any time you need." Dr. Horgan also believes that a critical element to this operation is follow up. "The Follow up is the most important part of the surgery. If you go to Tijuana to have the procedure because it's cheaper, you will be limited to (access to) doctors with regards to follow up because you need to cross the border to see them."

We spoke to momlogic's pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson, who believes that surgery should always be the last option and "should be coordinated with nutrition and exercise counseling."

But just how worthy is this surgery? Worthy enough to cross the border? You be the judge...


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191 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anne Wingate October 16, 2008, 4:10 PM

I will have the roux-en-x gastric bypass procedure sometime within the next three months, depending on the doctor’s schedule. My doctor and I have tried EVERYTHING—decades of lose ten pounds and gain 15. If I had never dieted in my life I would still weigh the 135 I started the diet cycle with. As it is, I’m 5’1” and I weigh 231. My annual checkup was in September. I took a printout of the roux-en-X procedure with me. I laid it on the table, and before I could ask “Can I have this?” my doctor was yelling, “This is exactly what you need.”
When I first met her, my doctor was as overweight as I am. She is now slender. She eats carefully and plays a lot of tennis. No matter how carefully I eat, I still have a very bad knee, resulting
from a childhood injury. She and I are gambling that a loss of 30 pounds will make it possible for me to take long walks again. Before I broke my ankle I walked four miles a day, even with the bad knee.
I do not look forward to the surgery. But I greatly look forward to the results. Right now I have an enlarged heart, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome; and I sleep eighteen hours a day. I have an IQ about 174 and a Ph.D., so I’m not stupid, and I have a record as long as my little finger (in teeny tiny print) of “first woman to …” That’s not laziness.
If you have never been overweight, keep your flippin’ mouth shut on the topic. You cannot possibly understand it.

Run4life October 16, 2008, 4:14 PM

This is crazy!! WILLPOWER and EDUCATION is what is needed…not surgery. A pill or an operation is not going to teach portion control. I feel sorry for this family

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:14 PM

What I want to know is does being fat affect your ability to make responsible and safe decisions for your children? PEOPLE!!!! This woman (who is obese herself) is responsible for making her son obese too! Then she decides to solve the problem by taking him to Tijuana for surgery that is not FDA approved in the U.S. This woman should be put in jail for child abuse - and so should all other parents who stuff their kids like Christmas turkeys. It’s illegal to give kids alcohol but why isn’t illegal to let your kids eat so much SH** that at 13-years-old they weigh nearly twice as much as most average men. THIS IS A CRIME. And all you other fat people who think this is ok, should be ashamed of yourselves. Stop eating so god d***ED much and get up from the video game, stop using genetics as an excuse and get healthy.

MARILYN October 16, 2008, 4:22 PM

I am all for bypass surgery. If medicare paid for it I would have it done.

Rebecca October 16, 2008, 4:23 PM

I don’t know if you have ever felt so desperate to loose weight but if you have and cannot this lap band works and would help self esteem for this young boy, his mother and any one else having this problem. Sometimes it is worth the risk to find happiness.

laura October 16, 2008, 4:23 PM

this is all very sad. the mom knew what it was like to be a fat kid and she let her kid get up to 300 pounds?! by age 11?? for that alone, she should be charged with child endangerment. I mean, get off your lazy fat but and run around with your kid … but noooo .. its easier to get him surgery? PPFFFTTT!!!

chris a October 16, 2008, 4:28 PM

We all hear about discrimation in this wonderful country of ours. Hah, try being a overweight white woman in this country. I have a thyroid problem and have been over weight all my life and although I am still more active than most, I am veiwed very differently. So, please do not judge people before you truly know them.

Belinda October 16, 2008, 4:29 PM

OMG people. Gastric bypass is getting to be a norm in the US. I had it 3 years ago, Don’t you think I tried every thing before I had it. It was the best thing I ever did. I lost 148 lbs and can do things now I never dreamed about doing 3 years ago. This young boy would probally be dead in 3 to 5 years if he had not had the done. Wake up, not every can lose weight or are they born skinny. Good for the mom , they went through it together.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:30 PM

I am a health care provider that recently checked in to an ER a 435 pound 11 year old!!! To see this child was beyond my comprehension as I had to constantly remind myself that being 11 was hard enough, but to be so extremely obese had to take the cake. The mother was well aware she was creating the problem, she was not that obese. I feel so sorry for the girl, still had that sweet little voice, but the shell of about 4-5 of her peers put together.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:33 PM

No Rebecca, I have never been that fat - WHY? Because I don’t stuff my face with chickens and chocolate cake. I SHOW SELF CONTROL!!! I also parent my child and don’t let him eat everything that he wants - that’s what parents do. They don’t allow their “precious” sons to gorge themselves until they are busting at the seems like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka. As for you Rebecca, I can tell you how you could be happy, stop stuffing your face and feeling sorry for yourself because your fat and don’t have good self esteem and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!!

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:34 PM

She did the right thing. Why should this young man have to suffer like she did. This is a chance for him to lose weight, feel self confident, get healthy and move on with his life. It’s not that easy to lose weight when it’s in your family genes. The good thing about the lap band is that if she continues the relationship with the doctor they can control the band and he can lose the weight in a more controlled environement. It’s also not permanent. It can be removed if necessary. Good for the mom who is trying to change their destiny.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:36 PM

How can he continue his relationship with his doctor when the doctor is Tijuana? She did not do the right thing at all. She risked her sons life because she (and he) were too lazy to do the REALLY hard work! She too the easy way out and while doing so put her son at risk. Shame on her!

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:36 PM

great pov

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:41 PM

How can he continue his relationship with his doctor when the doctor is Tijuana? She did not do the right thing at all. She risked her sons life because she (and he) were too lazy to do the REALLY hard work! She too the easy way out and while doing so put her son at risk. Shame on her!

Up and Down the Scale October 16, 2008, 4:44 PM

All the “don’t judge mom” folks and “stop harassing large people” advocates are missing the point. It is neither her size nor her love for her son that is a sticking point. It is her judgment and lack of example.

As someone who has had a 50 plus weight loss, I understand the self-esteem issues that accompany being large in this culture. Like others, I tried diets, but the REASON they didn’t work is because I didn’t stick to them… and I didn’t tackle the psychological aspects of my compulsive eating until much later.

This mother has returned to unhealthy choices time and again. She’s given up controlling her own choices, and my major problem is that she’s abdicated control of her son’s choices to some doctor in Tijuana. It’s her example that bothers me most, like, “Honey I’m giving up teaching you better habits because I won’t change my own. Let’s go to a doctor in a foreign country who’ll make it all better. That way we can’t see him again for aftercare if we have complications. Sound good?” Didn’t think so.

BJ October 16, 2008, 4:45 PM

What in the *** is wrong with this Country?
Mother’s being overweight, underweight.
How about leaving the weight alone and making your life usefull, or get a life,
people make themself’s who they are!
Doctor’s are also at fault, all they think about is $$$$, not the welfare of the public..
Goverment is trying to control every move we make!
People are to busy worried about what Material items they have to show off, they loose track of the meaning of self worth
Have civility in who you are inside, not what you own.

Mind ur own October 16, 2008, 4:47 PM

WELL DONE! I praise the mother for doing something about her son’s life. it was a drastic measure, but it will be a learning experience for both. keep up the work… all i hope is that she did research the doctor first.

neesee October 16, 2008, 4:47 PM

Thyroid problems are completely
different than sitting around stuffing
your face with everything in sight. And
I have known many very large people who
do exactly that and then snivel about
being fat and how ‘diets don’t work’.
You have to stick to the diet and not
sneak around cheating on the diet. And
ten ‘diet sodas’ do not cancel out ten
candy bars! The thyroid problem sufferers really can’t help gaining weight and gastric band surgery doesn’t
help them. But the rest of you should
eat a lot less and concentrate on
healthy foods whether you like it or not
and quit blaming it all on something else.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:48 PM

did anyone notice the little girl is looking a bit over weight herself maybe these people are ment to be fat

Brian October 16, 2008, 4:50 PM

At least she did the lap band surgery. It is reversable where the actual roux-en-Y gastric bypass is not. I believe that at 13 they are taking this a bit to far and they need to get the kid outside and exercising, playing and running around. I wish them good luck.

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