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

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191 comments so far | Post a comment now
MarciaJM October 16, 2008, 7:13 PM

Apparently, most folks are oblivious to all the differents types of gastric surgery there are. The procedure this young guy went through is the LAP BAND procedure and is entirely reversible. It is NOT a gastric bypass, which is not reversible. The lap band and gastric bypass are preludes to a life of different eating behavior - OR, significant obesity can repeat itself. I wish son and entire family the best of health. I feel it was necessary. No one should poo poo anything in life unless you have personally walked in those shoes.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:13 PM

Look here people, you sit here and critisize this woman for doing what she thought best for her kid. You have no say in what she did nor do you deserve any. This was her choice.

MercysMom- “this Mom should have been getting up off her tail and making changes in the home and in their activity level- unless this child had MAJOR health issues, his weight hitting 300lbs was just her stupidity! She should face mandatory dietary classes, have to be accountable as a responsible parent- and more.” Do you even have kids? If you do, do you have a job? I’m an overweight teenager and I’ve tried dieting, fasting, exersizing, everything, and my mom blames herself because she works all day and couldnt watch me all the time. Its not her stupidity that keeps me overweight. Your stupidity astonishes me. The proceedure has not had a negative effect on the kid, so why should she be charged with being an unresponsibe parent?

Leve her the hell alone. I bet everyone of you with kids do things that other people disapprove of but are you thinking about that now? No. Your critisizing someone for doing something she thought was right.

Get a life.

J Smith October 16, 2008, 7:14 PM

So far no one has mentioned a huge part of this situation: the medical society in this country is so money gouging few can afford much medical attention. Before anyone can have the actual surgery, which costs many thousands of dollars, they have to see psychologists, dietitians, nutritionists, counselors, ect, ect, all of them on the money bandwagon; who except the very rich can afford it? Medical insurance, while enormously expensive, covers little or none of the costs of bariatric surgery. Desperate people do desperate things, including going out of the country for help.

neesee October 16, 2008, 7:22 PM

Another really good way to lose weight
(if you really want to) is to invest
in some BIG MIRRORS and place them
strategically around your home so you
HAVE to look at yourself a lot! I have
noticed the lack of full size mirrors
in almost all of my overweight friends
homes, and have suggested it to them.
Some took my advice and have thanked
me many times. Often they didn’t really
know quite how big they were getting!

V October 16, 2008, 7:23 PM

My mother recently had a tummy tuck. The day after surgery she wasa eating ice cream and cake. And yet, she believes surgery was her only option. I can’t begin to tell you how many times she’s joined a weight loss program but quit after only a few sessions. She does not exercise and continues to eat fattening foods. I wonder how long it will be before she needs another tummy tuck. People are always saying they’ve tried every diet but failed to lose weight. Why is it they never say they’ve tried every exerecise program but failed to lose weight? You don’t lose weight simply by dieting. You have to change your lifestyle. You have to learn to eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis. Most people are too lazy to do either. They want a quick fix instead of a long term solution. This mother should have sought nutritional counseling and worked to change both her lifestyle and her son’s. Instead learning to eat healthy and exercising, she sought the easy way out. I’ve heard of people having surgery to lose weight only to lose it and gain it all back. All because they never learned how to eat healthy. I hope that doesn’t happen to this mother and her son. I wish them both much success.

Kittycat October 16, 2008, 7:23 PM

I applaud a mother who recognizes that her child has a life threatening condition and was will do whatever she could to help him. I have had the gastric banding surgery and it’s the best decision I have ever made. I see my youngest son getting chubby and hoping he doesn’t struggle like I did as a teen. If he needed help to conquer his weight problem, I would not hesitate to suggest gastric banding. It’s a miracle tool!! From Mom to Mom, I applaud you!!!

Mary Ann October 16, 2008, 7:24 PM

If we would only accept that some people are prone to be heavy. Trying “every died under the sun” is something we all have done. The way a weight loss surgeon explained it to me is that in prehistoric times, it was the fatter person that survived. The thin people perished. Being fat was a genetic predisposition for survival. Our bodies are EFFICIENT. Period. We shouldn’t have to mutilate ourselves with surgery and skin amputation to meet the expectations of society. Can’t you just let us be?

Bonnie October 16, 2008, 7:24 PM

The decision for weight loss surgery is very personal. I am not sure I agree with adolescent surgery or having it in another country, The studies on adolescent surgery are not conclusive, but take a look at the parents, and the child may never have a chance IF the parents have not handled their own obesity. It is like trying to ask a child not to do drugs when parents have their alcohol (also a drug)every night, weekend, etc. Obesity kills and can be painful in so many ways. The increase in the rate of obesity in America is astounding. As an RN of over 30 years, I know that patients are heavier, more difficult to take care of and recovery from most medical conditions are impeded when obesity interferes with healing. People keep raising the bar for what is an acceptable weight. The succuss of any weight-loss surgery should be connected with an aggressive post op program of nutritional, psychological and medical support. Putting a lot of vitamins in the mouth is better than a lot of food. It takes committment. TV is full of temptations like Taco Bell’s “fourth meal”, quick meals for families on the run, and the general change in American family schedules, etc. The surgery can be a good choice. I know as I had Gastric Bypass 4 years ago. For ME, it was a great choice. I battled weight issues since 8 years of age (I am 59) I am committed to my post op care, and have maintained my weight loss for 4 years. I still wear a size 6, my nutrition, weight, measurements are monitored by the special trained team at the hospital. I have lab every 6 months. I do not miss the health issues that I lost like CPAP for sleep, high cholestrol, etc. I can now hike mountains in Colorado! I do not want this to be my testimony, but I do feel bad for the child taken outside the country. It may work, but if not, he may have to pay a high price for a life long decision made by his parent’s .I hope they are committed to his after care. I wish him well.

ken October 16, 2008, 7:30 PM

I had gastric by pass 6 years ago at a VA hospitol and would go thru it again. I’ve lost 175 lbs.,I started refing softball and basketball again and I turn 60 this month. My blood pressure is great and I lead a great life with 6 grand kids 2 jobs and my wife is 10 years younger than me. It made me change the way, what, and how I eat. And I had problems but I was able to work thru them with support from the VA and my family.You never change your life alone.

Tracy October 16, 2008, 7:30 PM

It is important to understand firstly,
how did he become obese?

No one is born obese, except perhaps
those with a rare genetic condition that
at some point becomes out of control.
Perhaps this is the case with this young boy? But, typically I would say that for many others it is the way they eat.

Coming from a family of obese and overweight people, I have learned by
example how NOT to become that way.
I walk daily, eat well, meditate, etc.

I married a man who struggles with his
weight and one of my daughter’s thus
far, will more than likely have to
watch hers as well. So, I lead by example. If she chooses, once she is
out on her own, to treat food in an
unhealthy manner, this is her choice.
Hopefully though, by setting reasonable
examples of taking care of oneself, she will be successful at maintaining a
healthy weight.

I think it is so very important to
always look at the cause of why we
choose the things we do and how we can
correct those situations which are
unhealthy for us.

When we become more accountable for
how we live instead of blaming this,
that or the other, our lives can
be significantly different.

Sophie October 16, 2008, 7:32 PM

My best friend is finally losing after a trip to France!

I’m French but living in the U.S. since 1985. I’m underweight (supposedly, because in France, 106 lbs for 5’6 was normal…) and my best friend, whom I go everywhere with, including some vacations when my husband won’t go, is my height and almost 300 lbs. I see what she’s going through and it wasn’t until we visited France together that I realized the differences in eating between the 2 places (didn’t really pay attention when I came here because I was too young!) She changed her diet there and continued here. That was 3 1/2 months ago, and she’s already lost 24 lbs!

Nakaina October 16, 2008, 7:33 PM

75% of Americans are overweight? Someone doesn’t understand what checking facts are for in journalism. I really doubt much of what is stated in this article is true. It’s probably been exaggerated. If the mother has been overweight all her life why did she even bother having children? I know it sounds cruel but this kid is going to have some serious health problems down the road. The article also never mentioned what this child eats and whether or not he’s active at all. I knew a fat girl who whined about being on a diet all the time and yet she ate like a pig at school, getting all the junk food she could. She never understood why didn’t lose weight and she never exercised. A 300 lb kid sounds like a junk food diet to me.

Sophie October 16, 2008, 7:34 PM

About my last comment:
It’s not so much about French food, as much as it is the eating habits
(yogurt at the end of each day, dark chocolate only (4 squares and no more), sit down to eat because stress is fattening, take your time and chew well for the same reason, light breakfast with the only carbs of the day, green tea and no sodas (it speeds up the metabolism AND brings TONS of anti-oxidants, a 10AM snack AND a 4PM snack! (5 small meals keep the metabolism going when only 3 or less make it learn to REST and slow down) and a MUCH MORE VARIED DIET (here, we mostly eat chicken, turkey beef and fish and we rarely consume other meats!), etc…

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:34 PM

I would like to hear from one thin person who thinks this is ok. It’s only the other fat people who have had this procedure or dream of having it done who condone it. Why don’t thin people condone it? Because they know it takes hard work and self control not to balloon up like these people did. Why do fat people condone it? Because they are too lazy and full of excuse to do the work it takes to be thin so this is an easy answer. Sorry if I sound nasty, but it’s the truth!

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:37 PM

Mom is a loser.. First of all you are so stupid to take your son and yourself to the FILTHIEST part of Mexico. Obviously you are not putting the best interest of the child first. Why didn’t you make him eat healthier and exercise more. Ballooning to 300lbs DOES NOT happen OVERNIGHT! Mother’s like you do not deserve to have children, you are to make the smart and best decisions for your child and you obviously didn’t. So lets put his life at risk, so you can cry later when he gets an infection or if something goes wrong with the banding. Do you as a mother realize what all is involved AFTER the procedure? Probably not.. This mother doesn’t deserve to have kids. And this poor boy will suffer. Next we will be reading how he died due to complications…

cindi October 16, 2008, 7:39 PM

I am sick and tired of people stating that overweight people are lazy and just eat the wrong foods. My husband gained a tremendous amount of weight due to steroid therapy that he needed for a lung problem. He tried everything to get this weight off and it did not work. He had the gastric bypass surgery. He has lost 90 lbs so far. The surgery is not easy and there is a total change in eating habits. Sometimes you have to go with the drastic options. I am overweight also. I have tried about every diet and I am very active but I will lose a little and gain a little. This is me. I will probably never lose the weight no matter how hard I try. I will not have the surgery. I would like people to accept me for who I am and not make a judgement about me because of what I weigh. You never know you may like whats on the inside of this size 18 girl.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:44 PM

Haveing been obese myself, pre type 2,
sleep apnea, at age 35 I was heading towards an early grave. I had Gastric Bypass
and now 14 years later I’m at my ideal body weight, and have
an improved life. That haveing been said, who the hell are you to critse someone trying to save her child from an early death, and life as a second class person.
Until you live their lifes you have no right to make any judgement. Do you smoke, drink, do drugs, hooked on coffee? Why don’t you just quit? Whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:47 PM

We aren’t talking about people like your husband who have a true medical condition - but I have to say, if he was able to lose weight after gastric surgery then he probably could of lost it through diet and exercise. Also, I just don’t buy the fact that people are naturally overweight…you were not born overweight - you became overweight.

Vicki October 16, 2008, 7:47 PM

That mother saved her child’s life!

susan October 16, 2008, 7:48 PM

my daughter started to gain weight around puberty- it was a battle trying to get her to eat properly and maintain exercise, so i can empathize with the parents- she mentioned lap banding and as a nurse i am not in favor of it for young children or young adults, I was thankful when SHE decided to join weight watchers - to date she’s lost 90 pounds, has a better understanding of food and a great outlook on life and she’s happy that she learned HOW to relate to food- this young boy in the story might have Prader Willie which is a totally different entity though

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