Bariatric Surgery Makes Dreams Possible for Obese California Teen
December 5, 2005
(Stanford, CA) – Chelsey Lewis has big dreams. She wants to drive stock cars, design clothes, and be a plus-size model. But her dreams won’t come true until she beats a serious and chronic disease––obesity.
Checking in at 454 pounds, she has to do something and do it soon. That’s why the 17-year-old from Tracy, CA is entering Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital this week to undergo potentially life-saving bariatric surgery. At risk for diabetes, orthopedic problems, heart disease and more, she and her family are totally motivated to make the surgery work. “I’ll really miss the fried foods, sodas, and especially chocolate,” said Chelsey, “but I’m ready.” Her family has a unique understanding of what it all means. “We’ve drawn inspiration from those around us,” said mom Annette Lewis. “Chelsey’s dad had successful bariatric surgery in 1993 and my fiancé has lost 115 pounds since his surgery a year ago.”
To qualify for bariatric surgery, which reduces the stomach to the size of a walnut, Chelsey received a thorough evaluation to prove adherence to strict dietary, exercise, and nutrition guidelines after the operation. “It’s not a quick-fix,” said Craig Albanese, MD, chief of pediatric surgery and surgical director at Packard’s Center for Healthy Weight. “Instead, it’s a tool that will help Chelsey achieve a healthier lifestyle and it requires a strong support system for the patient and the family.” Dr. Albanese will perform the December 8 surgery along with John Morton, MD, director of the adult bariatric surgery program at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. Adds Dr. Morton, "For adolescent morbid obesity, it is important to treat the whole family because they can provide significant reinforcement. In Chelsey's case, she is off to great start since other family members have had similar surgery."
Overweight for most of her life, Chelsey’s had her share of bad experiences. “There’s always been some teasing, criticism, and negative comments, but not so much now,” she said. “I surround myself with friends who love me for who I am and I also have a boyfriend.” Her passions are pretty normal. “I love MTV, my computer, and NASCAR.” No kidding. This young lady works on a pit crew at Altamont Raceway in Tracy. “That’s a lot of fun,” said Chelsey, “but when I get my weight down I want to be a driver.”
That could happen, but not overnight, as it normally takes at least six months for any serious drop. “The surgery reduces the patient’s stomach to a very small pouch that initially will hold just one to two tablespoons of liquid,” Albanese said. Separating the rest of the stomach from the smaller pouch has a hormonal effect that causes patients to be less hungry. “This combination of less craving for food plus restricted intake can bring significant weight loss for Chelsey,” he added.
Chelsey becomes the eighth adolescent to qualify for bariatric surgery since Packard Children’s launched their program in late 2004, and each patient has lost substantial weight. “Our team of experts determined that all other attempts at weight management were failing for Chelsey,” said Albanese. “Bariatric surgery became her only option to become a healthy adult. In fact, she’s already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a severe obesity-related illness.”
The surgery is a life-changing event for Chelsey and her family, and they’re excited. Mom Annette, who is expecting to deliver a baby brother for Chelsey any day now, predicts success. “My Chelsey is smart, driven, and a real social butterfly. She has plans and she has dreams. We’re hoping the surgery can make them all come true.”
For the media, interviews with Chelsey, mom Annette, and Drs. Albanese and Morton will be available the afternoon of Wednesday, December 7. Also, mom’s fiancé Jeff Dopkus, who received adult bariatric surgery from Dr. Morton in December 2004, can be interviewed. Footage and stills of Chelsey’s Thursday, December 8 surgery will be provided after the operation.
Read about bariatric surgery and view a graphic of Chelsey’s surgery.