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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
neesee October 16, 2008, 5:22 PM

Fred — We need to prosecute people
sneaking into this country to do things
illegal and send them all back. And by the way all you Joses and Marias,
sneaking into this country IS illegal.

anon October 16, 2008, 5:25 PM

Eat less…lose weight. Not easy but it works. No one’s holding a gun to your head.

neesee October 16, 2008, 5:29 PM

Once again, all you biggies who would
rather be cut into than cut back on the
twinkies and would actually have it done
in beautiful cockroachland really have
a mental problem. Your brains must be
squished by all those soda pop soaked
cheesecakes you had for brunch.

donna October 16, 2008, 5:30 PM

Geez if the kid is obesely overweight, just stop over feeding him! Christ!

Jeanine October 16, 2008, 5:31 PM

As a mom of an overweight 12 year old son I think this mom did what she thought was best for her child. Who are we to judge her actions. My son has insulin resistance and struggles with obesity and if that surgery was an option now in the US i would consider it for him. The consequenses of obesity far out weigh the consequences of the surgery. Its not a cure all fix but it can help with the battle! Dont condem her till you have walked in her shoes!

basketpam October 16, 2008, 5:33 PM

I understand this mother’s desperation but it also may have been some guilt. Unless both have some major physical problems that contribute to the weight gain it’s due to poor eating habits. Sadly these are often passed from generation to generation. This mother should have long ago changed this child’s eating behaviors. Parents are the ones who control what food comes into the house. The home is where the majority of the eating goes on for kids, school lunches won’t cause that much weight gain if the rest of the diet is healthy. I hope this all works out OK for this family. This surgery is not a miracle cure, there’s alot more involved than just having it done. Your eating habits MUST change. I know someone who checked into it. If you don’t eat exactly right after this surgery you can die. This mother took a big chance on this procedure and I hope it works out well for them both. I hope this is an example to others to do something with their kids before it gets this bad.

what gives here? October 16, 2008, 5:34 PM

This is absurd, how did the child get so fat? Can he drive to buy snacks? The school should have gotten child welfare involved long ago, this is an abused child.

bb October 16, 2008, 5:35 PM

I think diets, and seeking other forms of help where a little too late in this case. Maybe he wont struggle his whole life with over eating….he was in need of something drastic, not “diet”…Good for her!! and I wish him the best!!

Dietitian08 October 16, 2008, 5:36 PM

Just an overall comment to everyone, not to judge this mother on the decision she made, but the lapband system should never be used on a 13 year old child. A child in this age bracket or younger is still growing and doing the lapband procedure on him or her could seriously damage his or her growth. There is a reason why it is not FDA approved in the USA. Please everyone who reads this article consider the damage that this procedure could inflict on a young individual. A proper diet and exercise should be tried first and foremost. If one is having trouble consulting a local dietitian could be of great help. Gastric surgery needs only to be done when all resources are exhausted and the child is at least over the age of 18. I am a recent dietetics graduate and know far to well the dangers that this surgery can impose on the youth of today. Please get out and exercise instead of sitting at home in front of your television, computer, or game box system.

Chris Z October 16, 2008, 5:38 PM

The lap-band is an excellent device and method for weight loss, however I am in agreement with the doctors, nearby follow-up is absolutely necessary to maintain the patient’s health as well as connecting with local support groups. The Band is also a tool that can be used into the future to maintain the weightloss as long as it is properly maintained by the patients and their physician.

Ang October 16, 2008, 5:41 PM

This is pathetic. A parent or guardian allowing their child to become obese is completely irresponsible! You are risking the health and well-being of your child, plain and simple. Then you want your child to undergo an invasive surgery that has possible serious adverse effects. How much sense does that make? And as far as these so-called “desperate people” saying they’ve tried every diet, it’s about being committed to making “LIFESTYLE CHANGES” you dumb*sses! I’m tired of hearing how this is about food addiction. Well you know what else is addictive, laziness and complacency! I’m glad insurance companies don’t consider gastric surgery coverable, I don’t want my premiums to go up because people who don’t understand the fundamentals of “discipline”, can’t control themselves!

Thin not done easily October 16, 2008, 5:45 PM

Having had a gastric bypass 2 years ago, I can relate, but what doctors don’t tell you are the complications that can arrise from this surgery. I spent three months in the hospital following surgery (a month in ICU) and to this day, suffer from chronic nausea. Sure I lost plenty of weight, but after having EGD’s every two months and being bounced from doctor to doctor as the surgeon who did the original surgery does not know how to handle me. Think twice before having this surgery and for heaven’s sake, don’t let children have it.

watdafuk October 16, 2008, 5:51 PM

Who cares they are illegals anyway.

Patricia Clauser October 16, 2008, 5:54 PM

I think she did a wonderful thing. This surgery does not effect your health other than making you feel better. I’ve had two friends who have had it.

Milly Combs October 16, 2008, 5:55 PM

I weighed close to 300 pounds. I stopped eating out…stopped drinking sugar laden products and walla….lost 120 pounds

Lisa October 16, 2008, 5:58 PM

Okay, so they both had the surgery and it seems to be helping. I have to tell you I only know about the lap band from what I’ve seen on the television ads. If the band needs adjusting, do they both have to return to Mexico since this isn’t an FDA approved surgery?

Serena October 16, 2008, 6:10 PM

If the son doesn’t learn how to eat and exercise the weight will just come back on.

The weight didn’t just pile on, it toyears of bad habits which can’t be broken with a quick fix surgery.

Janie Beth October 16, 2008, 6:10 PM

I applaud the Mom. She sacrificed for her child because she loves him and she cares. If you can help your child and you don’t,where’s the love in that.
I have no doubt but that she will see her child through to a successful completion. She did not go this far to let him down. Who really cares? She does. She really and truly loves her child. Heartless people care less, Would you let your child suffer???

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 6:12 PM

I had this surgery at age 15 in 1974 and without it would not have had the full life I enjoy. It was called intestinal bypass and very dangerous then but I have maintained of normal weight for the past 34 years and thank God my parents decided this for me. I also have been able to eat anything I want and this makes life even better.

patricia Remick October 16, 2008, 6:15 PM

For all of you who said the Mother should not be judged…are you NUTS!!
This is abuse!! A 13 year old only eats what his Mother gives him or buys what he wants with the money his Mother gives him. So, to assage her guilt, she takes him to Mexico for a quick fix. As a Nurse, I have seen some gastric procedures go terribly wrong. Again, she put him in danger…and in all places, Mexico. Just try to get some compensation if the surgery goes badly and you need serious follow up care. Try watching “The Biggest Loser.” These people work hard to excercise and learn how to eat right.

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