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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
stiny October 16, 2008, 7:49 PM

Hah, too funny. The mom eats like a heffer, teaches her kid the same poor habits and now wants the easy out. Symbolic of how she got so fat in the first place. You’ve got to love people’s stupidity…

solar64 October 16, 2008, 7:49 PM

I think this mother had the lap band surgery not the gastric bypass. I wish her and her son all the best. The lapband is healthier and yes, there are physicians here in the states who will follow-up. My sister is having surgery done, however, hers will be performed here in the states.  I do not think though that she will continue to do as she is told (she’s bullheaded) and may wind up back where she started. She, like most in my family, is very overweight. Our friends seem to think skinny is best and judging from the spouses of my sister and brother, they prefer skinny over fat. Not fair!!! There’s more to a person than just their appearance. Overweight people are not lazy and we’re definately not stupid. Nor are we ugly. Most of us have medical reasons for being the way we are. We just have to work harder at maintaining a healthier look, than again I know several skinny people who can’t for the life of them gain weight. They wish they had more meat on their bones to stop them from looking sickly. So who is worse off than the other?

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:49 PM

MontanaMom, I’m sorry to say it but skinny people get gawked at as well, AND INSULTED. As I posted here earlier, my best friend is obese (and losing weight now finally). But I didn’t say was: when we go shopping, they have stores for her, and not for me. (We’re both 5’6, she’s a size 16 and I’m a 1.) I’ve had strangers tell me to go eat a sandwitch, ask me how many times a day I make myself throw up, and much worse. If anything, being heavier has become more common and my obese friend, who DOESN’T get put down, is the one who has to stand up for me! I’ve learned to accept it but it does hurt that people don’t know anything and still judge. Because I DO EAT. A LOT. At least 3,000 calories a day and more when at a buffet! Now when someone tells me to go eat something, she tells them to buy us both dinner! ^_^

Carl October 16, 2008, 7:54 PM

My wife and I have been over weight our entire lives. our daughter now 22, and suffering a physical handicap since birth is also over weight. Since being born we have been very conscience of what she eats, as in what we give her. we have not had “junk food” in the house for over 20 years. It didn’t help, she would steal food from the fridge, things like a pound of bacon, hide in her room and eat it raw. we were at our wits end. We tried her in counceling, yes including family counceling. We took her to dietians. My wife and I took classes on how to cook healthy meals, and to shop better. When it was time to fix a meal, half the ingredients would be missing. We changed our whole life style. I went from 430 lbs to 260 lbs. my wife has lost about 100 lbs. Our daughter kept gaining weight to the point it became dangerous to her life, she needed bladder surgery and was to heavy to preform the surgery safely. I’m not sure that surgery would have been a good option for her, but I beleive if I had the means, I may have taken her also. On an up note, we came home from work one day this past February, and she said that she made an appointment to see a doctor to have gastric by-pass, and asked if we would go with her. On March 7th she had the surgery, 7 months later she has lost 130 lbs and is so happy with herself. She told us she wished she could have done this much sooner. Thanks for reading this. To anyone overweight, hang in there you can acomplish any goal you have. to anyone not overweight, please do not be so judgemental, we are hard enough on ourselves.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 7:57 PM

This is just wrong. I have struggled with weight issues for most of my adult life. I am 40, work full time and have a family. I know how hard it can be to always eat right, but people who say “I have tried every diet and they dont’ work” is a load of garbage! Most of us are more than aware, as we are chowing down on a big fat cheesburger, that we should be making better choices, but it is human nature to take the easy and more satisfing way out. It is sad that our society is so comfortable with not taking personal responsibility for their behavior, its easier to say “it” didn’t work than to say “I couldn’t/didn’t/wouldn’t make it work.” For a kid this age, the parents are fully responsibile for what they feed their children. I have two pre-teens and am always instructing them on what is good to eat and what isn’t. They are fit and trim as a result and when they make food choices, they realize it is a choice and there are consequences to those choices, both good and bad. Most of the time, they choose good because it makes them feel good to know they are healthy people! The bottom line is healthy eating habits and a little physical activity go a long way. If they don’t teach their son to eat the right foods, in the right proportion and exercise he will just continue to eat the way he always has and gain all the weight back. They are doing more harm than good and when he drops dead at an early age because of internal complications, they will have no one to thank but themselves!

Suzanna October 16, 2008, 8:01 PM

All I can say is if you have NEVER been severly obese, you do not understand that it is not easy for just to change your diet and exercise plan. If it was this easy, we would all have a normal BMI.

I know I am probably going to get slammed for saying this but I applaud this Mom. She has the child’s best interest in mind. She might be giving her child a chance to live a normal, healthy life. I just hope that she finds a doctor that will provide great aftercare program for her and her son. The aftercare is very important! I know this from experience. I too have a Gastric Band otherwise known as Lap Band. I had my surgery 7 months ago and have lost 119 lbs. I am 41 years old and wish I would have done this sooner. I wish this family the best!

Angie October 16, 2008, 8:04 PM

I think that it is reasonable for an adult to choose whether or not to have weight-loss surgery performed on themselves, but I do not believe that it is right for children. The lap-band and gastric-bypass force you to eat less (if you stick with solid foods…it is easy to get ice-cream and pudding down if you have the band), but one component of maturity is having mastered the ability to excercise control over ones impulses, it is very rarely something a child of 13 has mastered. Therefore, the liklihood of this child over-eating and busting his stitches, potentially a fatal complication, is high. If they could afford surgery, then they could have afforded one of several inpatient clinics offered in the U.S. specifically for obese persons; they are behaviorally oriented.

solar64 October 16, 2008, 8:07 PM

To “Carl”: Congrats to your family. You are right, we are hard enough on ourselves. It’s great to hear a success story for once though. To “anonymous”: Keeping a sense of humor is great but it’s what’s inside that really counts. It should not matter what people think of you that’s important it’s how you feel about yourself that’s important. If you don’t like you only you can fix it. To everyone else: Remember the Serentity Prayer: God grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Going for it October 16, 2008, 8:09 PM

From very young age I was hugh. My mother back in the 60’s had us eating all the time. Fatty foods was eating on a daily basis and we did not have fast food resturants.

When I was a teenager I lost 67 pounds and looked good. I have a high stress job and it took 11 years for me to gain over 267 pounds now I am over 50 bmi and I am going for by pass surgery. I am healty and a grandmother,however I see that my lifestyle is changing and I do not have the engery when I was at 135. My doctors are giving me all the necessary tests for pre surgery I am
looking for this next month. I do have a lot of support from everyone.
Diet for me is when you need to lose 20 to 70 pounds but when you have to loose a half of you then surgery is needed. I want to be around when my grandsons are in high schools and beyond.

a duh October 16, 2008, 8:11 PM

Good for the mom and son.We have the lap band so why not??You can die from riding in a car so do the rest of us do that?

rockstardrink October 16, 2008, 8:13 PM

well it is sad to hear that kids are over weighted at age 13 or even younger. I use to weight about 150 at age 23 but I was short. I was only about 5’3” inches. I use to go eat at mcdonald during a lunch time at work. i ate like 2 big mac every time and almost every other day. Just cause it was close to my work area.Then i no longer acepted the fact that i start to have a belly. AIt made me so unattractive for a short man. So i quit eatin at fast food and start eatin steam rice ,beef , chicken with no fats and eggs become my main lunch and dinner. I also reduce the amount of food I had consume before by half. now I am happy i weigh around 130 and no more belly for a short man like me ha ha. I guess we just need to try hard comitting to our diet plan and keep it that way. I know it would be hard for kids though since they know nothing about the ocnsequence of their eating habit. Any thing delicious will just be eaten and they don’t have much limit to what they like to eat. Parent must focus on how to keep their kids away from addictive food.

Anonymous October 16, 2008, 8:13 PM


Justin October 16, 2008, 8:15 PM

i believe that the reasons why people are obese are due to genetics, along with their lifestyles. genetics has played a role everyone’s life, handing down traits such as whether your nose is arched or normal, or whether your eyes are which color, or what color your hair is. the same concept applies to the fat hereditary traits passed down from GENERATION to generation. this makes sure that people don’t blame their parents, cause they did not do anything :)
as for their lifestyle, i used to be overweight. i was just about 100 lbs at 9 years old. how did i lose weight? over the course of 6 years, i have grown one foot and 7 inches, and 60 lbs. even so, most of that is relatively muscular tissue. how did i do it? i try to stand up when doing my homework, that was because i found that by standing up, you allow your food to digest in a vertical way, not stopping at the “lover’s handle” or your buttocks. not only that, but i find my homework very boring, and that by standing up, i don’t fall asleep, helping me finish my work. i also try to keep a regular schedule of exercise. i also believe good posture helps too, just try to keep your back straight, don’t eat canned foods, don’t eat fried foods, and don’t sit on your bottom for over two hours. i don’t care if you’re at a meeting, go to the bathroom or something just to walk. i know as a fact that student classes at school don’t last that long either, so don’t make any excuses. good luck to all who try to lose weight. remember, another key to maintaining your dream weight is to eat regularly. Do not starve yourself, either if you do not have any food to eat or you choose to, and then eat some high sugar, oil, or carb food. try aiming to fulfill your protein requirements and take some multivitamins if your doctor recommends it.

good luck to all,

L. Borja October 16, 2008, 8:15 PM

Mom’s fat so the kid’s fat. Big surprise. Throw out all the chips, soda pop, ice cream, cookies etc. and guess what??? the weight will come off. I also have been on every diet under the sun so I know what makes people fat. Being on a weight lost diet is the hardest thing you can ever do. Esp. when you have a 100 lbs or more to lose.

Richard October 16, 2008, 8:20 PM

Hey Anonymous…simple is not the same as easy. How many things that you should be doing in your life are simple, but you find that you’re not doing them? Don’t be so judgemental (and simple).

AnnouyedWithY'all October 16, 2008, 8:20 PM

Seriously, do you people have nothing better to do than sit on your butts and criticize the way other people choose to live their lives? It’s you people who need to get lives.

Tired of the Crap October 16, 2008, 10:07 PM

I have an original idea; Why not teach the kids about proper nutrition BEFORE they get as big as cows? I know a kid who weighs over 200 lbs and he’s just 11 years old! He has pizza for breakfast and mac and cheese for lunch. I guess he’s just big boned. Yeah right!

miarsi October 16, 2008, 11:33 PM

With great thought, I do believe that after EVERYTHING else has FAILED and due to the health risks as well as the Terrible, Neverending Torture he certainly must get from his Peers, it has to be this childs only hope for a healthy life. I feel it is a crying shame that Insurance will not cover this condition, (Yes, Obesity is a Medical Condition) and should be treated EARLY in childhood, followed with Medical Care to which time it is absolutely safe to perform the surgery. The worst thing here??? THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!Why are we making the underprividlged and underinsured have to cross borders to help combat this horrific desease, just because, MONEY is more important than self respect. How can a Doctor of Medicine, choose to let children suffer, simply because of their in-ability to pay the tremendous cost of this surgery? We as American Citizens, need to come together some how to take care of our own sick people. I don’t get it? The United States is a Country where dreams can come true! ! Our Government has stepped up and welcomes all Nationalities, Races, Ages, Male & Female with open arms. We have programs in place to care for these beautiful people who choose MY COUNTRY in which to live and that is Wonderful, However our system contantly fails it’s own People! I know 1st hand, as my Son was shot in Dec 2008 by a man (Middle East Decent)who was hiding in in a row of hedges with a loaded 45 pistol.This man obviously has no concern for life or death! My Son and his Friend got out of a Vehicle. My Son’s Friend was shot Point Blank and then the shooter put the gun to my Son’s head and said” Say your Prayers, This is your last day on Earth”. Fortunately my Son fought with the shooter and instead of getting shot in the head, the shooter pulled the trigger and the bullet entered my Son’s upper thigh, traveled down the thigh and lodged just inside the back of the knee. My Son is 25 Yrs Old, has a Fiance and a 6 year old Daughter. He still can’t walk and is in TREMENDOUS PAIN,Why? Doctor’s will not treat him because he does not have INSURANCE and Doctor’s will not take a patient on a Cash Basis, Even if we had the means to pay, which we don’t. I’m the only person working and Divorced. I’m paid less than $15.00 Hr and Im caring for My Son, My Grand Daughter, His Fiance, In addition to that I’m also caring for my Grandson,7yrs old! Medicaid turned us down, Social Security turned us down, TONS of DOCTOR’S turned us down!

Since December 8, 2008, The Orange County Sheriffs Office has only called ONCE! They have NERVER asked for a Composite Sketch of the shooter either. They just don’t think this is a high priorty case and are assuming the shooter was visiting the Orlando area, theefore choosing to close the case!He may have been from right here in my neighborhood!!!!, another State,Country and have failed to follow through in searching for the shooter. The Sherrif’s Department still have my Son’s Wallet, Drivers License, His New Sneakers, his Money and Clothing!

I was able to get (1) Neurologist ( I begged my Neurologist to see him a couple of times)accept payment from Victims Compensation ($10,000.00 Limit in a Lifetime)Most has already been deleted due to Emergency Rooms, ER Doctors, Tests on the night and following day of the shooting. The Neurologist said he would see him but Victims Compensation only pays approximately 35 % per Visit. This Doctor wanted my Son to have a device implanted that would allow my Son to dispense Ladicaine ( It is NOT a Narcotic!) into the Siatic Nerve in order to give him pain relief. Guess What? Victims Compensation said NO, They will NOT pay for it! So the only alternative for my Son is Pain Medication! and since he can’t work and I’m paying for EVERYTHING else, we can hardly get the Medications. He is severely DEPRESSED, and Cries ALL the Time. He see’s himself as a Non-Productive Father and Son and doesn’t want to live the rest of his life in PAIN.

Sorry to go on about this, but I want to get this out to anyone who may listen, to anyone who may want to help him get the help he needs to get the training needed in order to provide a Normal life for his Daughter. He was a Landscaper, prior to the incident, of course everything he has worked at up to the shooting, he can no longer do. So there you go, another issue, he needs help learning a New Carrer BUT how are we going to do it? There is not a program to assist him, we have contacted every organazation we can think of!

The question of crossing the BORDERS to obtain help from another Country, is what millions of United State Citizens who are so VERY PROUD of this Country are being forced to do! All because of GREED, MONEY,Lack of CONCERN from our Medical field, it’s not all their fault, they can’t work for free! But my Son is a Human Being, Pure Bred American who needs help at this time, all we see are people turning their backs on us. Crossing the Border may be our only option too, or Applying for Citizenship in Canada in order to get the help we need. Isn’t it Terrible to think that you are turned away by your own Country?
We still Love our Country and will always be PROUD! But PLEASE, people like my Son as well as many other majorities seeking help are told “No Insurance ?, No Money ?, I can’t (or Won’t) help you….SORRY
Thank You for the time you took to read My Son’s Story!

cheer October 17, 2008, 1:00 AM

You all need to really read what the surgery is about. It is NOT a Gastric Bypass it is a LAPBAND which is totally different!

It is much less invasive and dangerous than bypass for one. You do not need to take additional protein or supplements for the rest of your life.

All it does is put a band around your stomach basically devideing it into 2 halves but not altering your physical makeup in any way. It is totally reversable and what the band does for you is make you feel full after you have eaten a very small amount.

What many people don’t realize is that you CAN get followup care in the US as doctors are becoming more aware of the surgery and need for fills.

I personally know the doctor in TJ that is probably the one who is doing it and know personally some of the kids he has done the surgery for and I applaud him for being able to give them a more normal childhood without teasing, redicule and harrassment.

Get a grip people and check out what the whole process is and what you can get from it before you criticise others and their reasons. Have YOU checked it out as well as I am sure that mother did?

I am talking from experience as I had this surgery done 7/5/2001 and lost 140 pounds and maintained this weight loss and tho it is not an easy life has been well worth the changes I had to make. I would not have changed it for anything.

ICU RN John October 17, 2008, 12:07 PM

Gastric Bypass Surgery IS NOT OKAY AT ANY AGE!!!! SHAME ON THE PARENTS WHO ARE CONDEMING THIS KID TO A LIFETIME OF HEALTH PROBLEMS (not just from allowing a lifestyle that got him to this point, but problems from the surgery itself. Read on…) Just ask anyone who works in an ICU where we see them go into multi-organ system failure and die. We see them enough in our hospital we affectionately call them “GBGB’s” (Gastric Bypass Gone Bad). Staff at other local hospitals have equally affectionate nicknames for these patients. Here’s the problem: It is a risky surgery whose intent is to force dieting (why not just diet instead of risk all the surgical complications?) I’m just going off the top of my head on this statistic, but I believe the death rate is 5% in the first month after surgery (1 in 20… For an ELECTIVE surgery… We aren’t talking open heart surgery or a craniotomy for a big head bleed… We’re taling “I just want to be thinner”). And provided you survive the surgery…what if you get sick later and need extra nutrition…your body’s ability to absorb the life saving extra calories has been eliminated…which means you come see us and end up with a central line, on TPN (and who knows, septic, on some fluid resuscitation protocol, on a vent, go onto multiple pressors, go into renal failure, then into ARDS, increase the vent settings until we max out at 100% FIO2 & 24 of PEEP…etc, etc, until someone finally pulls the plug or you code on your own several times until we are no longer able to successfully resuscitate you)… Elective surgery here folks. Okay, yes, I do personally know some success stories, but there’s always some minor chronic health problem involved. AND TO THINK THAT IF THEY HAD JUST GONE ONTO THE GASTRIC BYPASS DIET WITHOUT HAVING THE SURGERY THE AFORMENTIONED PROBLEMS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED. Weight loss is a lifestyle change / choice. It doesn’t come in some magic pill…at least without risk and complications…and a magic pill cure doesn’t address the underlying problem of developing a healthy lifestyle, odds are they’ll still want to eat, sit around (and get fat…again). Shame on the parents!!!

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