By Heidi Smith, Contributor
In 2012 before moving to Florida, Idriss Belghali underwent a sleeve gastrectomy – a type of metabolic/bariatric surgery – and lost considerable weight. But he says he didn’t manage his nutrition properly and re-gained substantial weight. He also developed severe acid reflux and had such bad knee pain he gave up playing pickleball, a sport he loved.
“I was at almost 400 pounds and was looking at potential knee replacement surgery,” said the 51-year-old Venice resident. “I knew that (metabolic/bariatric) surgery could help with weight loss, but didn’t think I’d be a candidate since I had the sleeve.” The sleeve is a “banana-shaped” reservoir fashioned from the native stomach.
A physician told him there was a surgeon in Venice with expertise in bariatric surgery, including “conversions,” where the surgeon converts the sleeve to a gastric bypass. So Idriss consulted with Joseph Chebli, M.D., an independent bariatric surgeon on the medical staff at Venice Regional Bayfront Health.
While individual results may vary, a number of surgical alternatives can help a person lose weight and may even resolve conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, infertility, and sleep apnea associated with obesity. Dr. Chebli has performed more than 1,000 metabolic/bariatric procedures at Venice Regional, which is accredited as a Center of Excellence by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program.
“Often after this surgery, obese patients see their conditions improve dramatically, even before substantial weight loss occurs,” Dr. Chebli said. “Type 2 diabetes patients may no longer need insulin or medication. Nonalcoholic fatty-liver disease can be halted or even reversed. Blood pressure medications can be reduced or even eliminated. And for women, it can resolve problems with conceiving and carrying a baby to term. Individual results may vary, but for many patients, it really is life-changing.”
“In Idriss’ case, we found that his acid reflux had progressed to a precancerous condition in the esophagus,” Dr. Chebli said. “I recommended converting his sleeve to gastric bypass to resolve the reflux issue while helping Idriss achieve a healthy weight.”
Idriss discussed Dr. Chebli’s advice with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Kaitlyn, who both had their own issues with being overweight. At 21, Kaitlyn was 120 pounds overweight. She decided to see Dr. Chebli, and he found that she had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to end stage liver disease, cirrhosis, or liver transplantation. She also was diagnosed with sleep apnea and advised to use a forced-air machine when sleeping.
On Dec. 31, 2018, both Idriss and Kaitlyn had metabolic/bariatric surgery at Venice Regional. Dr. Chebli performed a gastric bypass on Idriss and a sleeve gastrectomy and hiatal hernia repair on Kaitlyn.
Both Idriss and Kaitlyn dropped weight rapidly after surgery. Working with Venice Regional’s nutritional counselor, they learned more about healthy eating. Idriss became the family expert on food planning and preparation. They bicycled together and Idriss was able to return to pickleball.
“I feel great!” said Kaitlyn. “I have lost over 100 pounds. I love the improvement I see and the confidence I gained from it.”
Melissa, 56, saw her husband and daughter lose weight and keep it off. She had been struggling with weight gain following a hysterectomy and hoped that Dr. Chebli could help. She also had sleep apnea. Dr. Chebli recommended a sleeve gastrectomy for Melissa, which she underwent in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 “safer-at-home” lockdown.
The family continued to receive support from Dr. Chebli and Venice Regional’s metabolic/bariatric program throughout the quarantine using virtual consultations and a Facebook support group for the program’s patients. Since their surgeries, the Belghalis have lost a combined total of 269 pounds, sleep apnea has been resolved, and everyone is able to be more active. Idriss’ acid reflux is gone, too.
Metabolic/bariatric surgery changes the way the body digests food and takes up nutrients so maintaining a healthy weight requires lifelong behavioral and nutritional changes, Dr. Chebli said.
“I’ve had many families as patients, and they tend to have better outcomes because they support each other and hold one another accountable,” Dr. Chebli said. “That built-in support system is extremely valuable as patients learn to change their nutrition and become more active. The Belghali family is a fine example of making the most of the second chance that metabolic/bariatric surgery offers.”
“I feel it’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Melissa. “It changes your whole life. We all received a second chance to have good health, so collectively, we’re making good choices. It’s a family affair.”
For more information about approaches to achieving a healthy weight, please visit http://bit.ly/IsWeightLossSurgeryForMe
Joseph Chebli, M.D., FACS, FASMBS, is a Center of Excellence metabolic surgeon and chair-elect of the State of Florida Diabetes Advisory Council. Dr. Chebli performs life-changing metabolic and bariatric surgery for obese patients as an independent physician at Venice Regional Bayfront Health.
Venice Regional Bayfront Health
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