twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Mom Takes Son to Mexico for Gastric Surgery

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

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...


Related Galleries

Check in tomorrow to meet another teenager who underwent Gastric Lap Band Surgery....

next: Celebs Knit For a Cause
191 comments so far | Post a comment now
liv October 16, 2008, 4:51 PM

I had gastric bypass 10 years ago. I weighed 400lbs. It took 1 year for me to re learn how to eat. I threw up everyday, until i realized that I couldnt eat like I did before. Back then, they did not have any pre surg counseling to see if you were OCD with food or eating disorder. DUH .I was. I would eat all damn day . Mc donalds for breakfast before work @ 8am ,9:15a morning break at work , another meal, 12p lunch another meal, 2p afternoon break another meal ,5p after work a meal ont the way home ,to only eat again @ 6p with the family .At 8p ,still hungry, another meal. Up in the middle of the night . I lived a horrible life, like an alcoholic, waiting to get my next drink. After the surg ,I lost almost 200lb in the 1st year. My stomach skin sagged down to the top of my thighs ,I had pelican beaks under my arms ,an rolls of skin overlapping my knees.
the only thing thin was my face. I had breast reduction, abdomnoplasy ,thigh reconstruction , which none completely removed all of the skin, which as yet to this day tightened up. I could not get my underarms done , becuase of prior surg complications ,and I was just too damn tired to go thru any more. I exercised everyday ,hoping my skin would tighten and it never did. I still walk by a mirror and see a fat person, My body looks like a wrinkled patchwork quilt. So , read this testimonial to your children ,family and friends if it works to your advantage DO IT! It saved my health but not my mind. GET COUNSELING before you do this. Good luck.

Shasiti October 16, 2008, 4:51 PM

Up until about 60 years ago not many people were overweight. That was about the time fast food began to come on the seen. I have worked in Healthcare for years and every patient that comes into the office states that him or her must have a thyroid problem or blah blah blah. 90% of the time it is linked to making bad food choices and stuffing their faces with fast food. So do not sit there and tell us you have tried every diet “UNDER THE SUN” and it did not work. Most people do not let it work!

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 4:51 PM

This is to Tammy please ask our 400 patients if the lap band does not work. If it did not work it because the patient did not do what they were supposed to after the band was placed. The band is not a quick fix it is a lifestyle change. You can’t just put the band on and forget you have it. It WORKS if you work with it. All of our patients have lost weight and kept it off for well over 3 years. I respect this mother for doing what she did. If her decision is going to keep her child from developing dibetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and all the other effects that come with obesity, she made the right decision. All too often we have patients that come in our office in a wheel chair because they need double knee replacements or on oxygen because their lungs cannot expand because of the excess weight. Try to tell these people to get out and exercise. “Diet” and exercise most of the time has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that someone is obese. Genetics has the biggest factor in the obesity problem in the U.S. Because of this mom’s decision, this child will have a full and happy life.

Fran October 16, 2008, 4:54 PM

If you have no choice due to insurance co not approving you have to go any where you can to have it done —its a matter of dying from being obese or surgery =at least if you have the surgery you a chance of living a good life —The insurance companys disregard the Doctors and therapists and go with what ever restrictions they want with no thought to the patients health or well fear —it will cost them more in the long run but!!!!!

tee October 16, 2008, 4:54 PM

this woman needs to be steralized so she won’t destroy any more children’s life. she is pathetic.

Michael R Coonan October 16, 2008, 4:54 PM

They had the band, not the bypass. There is a big difference.

neesee October 16, 2008, 4:55 PM

I wouldn’t go to Tijuana to have a
pimple squeezed let alone actually
allow any kind of surgery there. What do
they sterilize their instruments with?

Deidre October 16, 2008, 4:56 PM

I understand that diets didn’t work, but it doesn’t sound like they tried exercise. Also, at his age, he can only eat what she gives him if he has no money, so I don’t understand how she “watched” him go up that big and thought surgery was the only answer. And to do it without getting him evaluated, seeing what alternitives a doctor who knew him might have? I pray for that family and those like them.

VOW October 16, 2008, 4:58 PM

First, the surgery the child received in Mexico is the Gastric BAND. This is completely different than the BYPASS surgery. Nothing is cut, your guts aren’t rearranged, and it is 100% reversible. It is also ADJUSTABLE, which means it is customized for each individual patient.

The Band is approved for use in the United States. In fact, most Mexican surgeons use the Inamed Band, which is made in Santa Barbara, California.

Bypass surgery is rarely performed outside of the US. It is considered to be “barbaric.”

Because of the possibility of regaining the lost weight following Bypass surgery, many Bypass patients eventually get the Band.

I was Banded in Mexico four years ago, by Dr Pedro Kuri. My Daughter received the Band by Dr Kuri one year later.

ANY bariatric surgery is not “the easy way out.” You still have to work at it, and you have to achieve a completely different lifestyle to be successful. The Band is a TOOL, and a very safe, effective one!


Chris October 16, 2008, 4:58 PM

BEWARE!!! My brother went there for the same thing and almost died! He ended up with a mass infection and a 5% chance of living! He spent 6 months in the hospital in San Diego- lucky to live and they butchered him!! We heard horror stories about how many people have died from procedures in Mexico!! Dont believe me — contact Sharp Chula Vista hospital in San Diego!! There might be some lucky ones who dont die but unsanitary conditions cause many deaths! BEWARE — it may be cheaper BUT you have a real chance of dying!
And these doctors use people in the US to recruit people saying how easy and cheap it is— i hate to see someone else go thru what my brother went thru. He will never be right!!

John F. C. Taylor October 16, 2008, 5:00 PM

People seem to concerned about the teen’s future now that the surgery is done.Guess what people, he might have a future now that it’s done.As for problems with the surgery, that’s what happens when people are forced to go outside the country for treatments that might help. That help should be available here. Blame the FDA for this.

CeCe October 16, 2008, 5:01 PM

Having surgery in Mexico poses a risk for anyone.As stated follow-up care when you come home is very difficult to find. But the biggest problem is the fact that you don’t know what you’re getting ie; cleaniness of the facility, expertise of the physician and I could go on and on. I lived many years on the Mexican border and saw to many times botched surgeries and dental care, even death in several instances. Be careful people!

Sylvia October 16, 2008, 5:02 PM

I have seen so many people receive this surgery and then gain all their weight back after a couple of years because they don’t want to change their eating habits or exercise. I think this surgery should be outlawed and people need to get off of their lazy butts and move. Eat a salad.

JD October 16, 2008, 5:07 PM

Cool, Mexicans are good doctors also. If you can not get what you need somewhere, go elsewhere.

neesee October 16, 2008, 5:11 PM

To Chris 4:58 PM — Thats exactly
what I mean. Mexico has NEVER been
known for healthy anything and anyone
who goes there for surgery of any kind
is taking a big chance! I hope your
brother is OK!

neesee October 16, 2008, 5:15 PM

to JD —- Let’s have a Mexican
surgeon cut into YOU and see how you
respond in a month! ‘Mexican surgeon’
That doesn’t even SOUND logical to me!

Fred October 16, 2008, 5:16 PM

If we would prosecute people leaving the country to do things illegal here when they got back lots of bullshit would stop.

wls girl October 16, 2008, 5:17 PM

I am a gastric bypass patient of 7 years….I know the ups and downs of diets…even losing over 190 pounds once and gaining back 230…so no one here has the right to judge anyone…if you’ve not walked in my shoes then you don’t know! To those of you with the nasty comments, I know who you are the creeps that oinked and barked at me when I was 500 lbs and now beg me to go out with you. I wouldn’t give you 5 minutes of my time.
To the Mom….I know the pain however I don’t think I would have gone to Mexico to have the surgery done. I have had complications with my surgery and have had to have other surgeries to correct them. There is a wonderful website called that gives names of wonderful surgeons in the US who perform the surgery, both the RNY and Gastric Banding. My surgeon will perform the surgery on a child who is over 16 but no younger. I understand wanting to do whats best for your child but weight loss surgery only fixes the size of the belly, it does not help the emotional issues, the possibility of addiction transfer and complications that can arise. I pray that she finds a surgeon in the US that will be there for her and her son if the need arises.
and again to those of you who think it’s okay to make fun of someone because of the way they look….my sympathies to you as it must be rough to have to step on others to make yourself feel better about your own shortcomings.
Peace to all.

.... October 16, 2008, 5:18 PM


I had the surgery in 2001 I am at 160 and it has been the best thing I have done for myself. I have 2 daughters that are overweight now.. I would want them to have the surgery if they feel it would help them…I know that I wish my mom would have done it a long time ago. I am not sure why some people have this problem (over weight) but it happens…everyone has their own explaination of the problem…but as I have had the surgery my life has been alot been better…I can do much more and would have enjoyed life as a teenager more if I was skinny…I didn’t do alot because of my weight..I would have enjoyed dates..more friends and felt more like myself..thats my opinion being a gastric bypass If you have any questions for me…would help anyone…thanks

beach bum October 16, 2008, 5:19 PM

I wouldn’t have a hemorrhoid removed in mexislow !

Back to top >>