Thin Twins Discover Less Is More
Terri and Cherri will be the first to admit that they were good at losing weight. The only problem was that they were better at putting it back on.
For years the sisters supported one another as they dove into diets that drastically transformed their figures, sometimes by as much as 100 pounds each. But not long after their victory weigh-in, they’d go off of the strict regime and slowly watch the pounds come back on.
“Every time I lost weight I would end up gaining back more than what I had started with,” says Cherri Riffell of Greenville. “I would just gradually go back to my old habits.”
After years of riding the roller coaster together, Cherri finally decided to look into bariatric surgery. It was something that she had lightly considered when she found herself between diets, but she never did anything more than read the occasional ad about the procedure.
Finally, Cherri decided if her insurance covered the surgery, she would go for it.
Her conviction only strengthened after going to an information seminar offered by Premier Metabolic & Bariatric Associates. But as she saw it, she had one more hurdle to overcome: her twin sister.
“She tried to get me to do it because we had always lost weight together,” Terri Ginter of Springboro says. “But I told her no because my husband didn’t approve, and our insurance didn’t cover it. I told her I would be fine.”
But, in truth, Terri wasn’t fine. Finally she got her husband to attend an information seminar on the surgery where John Maguire MD, director of MVH Weight Loss Surgery Center and clinical associate professor at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, talked to him one-on-one about his concerns.
“The meeting was an important step in the process,” Terri says. “My husband did a complete turnaround, and said we should go for it.”
With her husband’s blessing, Terri was onboard, and the two sisters were headed towards the same goal. This time, however, they would walk down two different paths to reach the finish line.
Same Goal, Different Road
Weight loss surgery comes in several different forms. Some procedures – like the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band – are less invasive, but carry a greater likelihood that the patient will put the weight back on. Likewise, other surgeries may be more extensive, but provide a better chance that the weight will stay off for good.
John Maguire, MD
Mujeeb Siddiqui, DO
Donovan Teel II, MD
With that in mind, Terri and her husband chose an open-abdomen approach called the duodenal switch procedure. The surgery shrinks the stomach by 75 percent and reroutes the food so that it bypasses much of the small intestines. As a result, the patient cannot eat as much and absorbs only a portion of the food that is eaten.
Patients who undergo a duodenal switch absorb only 30 to 50 percent of proteins and carbohydrates, and only 20 percent of the fat they eat. Simple carbs like sugar and alcohol are still completely absorbed. This type of surgery is desirable because it delivers weight loss that will stick and has the highest rate of resolution for those with type 2 diabetes, explains Dr. Maguire, who performed Terri’s surgery.
On the flip side, the operation can require higher maintenance than other bariatric surgeries because of nutrition loss. Patients most commonly have problems with Vitamin A and D deficiencies as well as calcium. That’s why surgeons like Dr. Maguire say it is so important for patients to stick to their daily routine of vitamins and never miss their yearly check-ups with their physicians.
Meanwhile, Cherri decided to have a laparoscopic procedure called gastric bypass. The procedure, which takes place through tiny incisions in the abdomen, works by making the patient’s stomach smaller and redirecting the food past the first and second segments of the small intestines. Her surgeon was Mujeeb Siddiqui, DO, a colleague of Dr. Maguire’s, and a clinical assistant professor at WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine.
Since her procedure was laparoscopic, Cherri’s recovery was much quicker than her sister’s. She went home two days afterwards and experienced a relatively smooth transition back to feeling normal. Terri, on the other hand, took two months to get used to her new life. Over time, she learned what was acceptable to eat and what portions her smaller stomach would handle.
Perhaps the biggest thing that keeps obese individuals from considering bariatric surgery is reconciling the risks it poses.
“Surgery is surgery, and it always comes with its own risks,” explains Dr. Siddiqui. “Aside from malnutrition, bariatric surgery comes with the risk for infection and possible leaks in new connections made in the digestive track.”
Those having their procedure done by surgeons at Premier Metabolic & Bariatric Associates have the assurance that its physicians have a lower leak rate than the national average, Dr. Siddiqui says.
What individuals need to know is that the benefits of the surgery drastically outweigh its risks. And it’s not just personal experiences like those of the twins that prove it. Dr. Maguire often cites a 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine to show the health benefits to patients after weight loss surgery.
The study followed a group of 1,000 individuals who underwent surgery; the study found that they had 40 percent fewer deaths, 60 percent fewer cases of cancer, 56 percent fewer incidences of coronary artery disease, and 92 percent fewer complications from diabetes compared to those who remained obese.
“Those are huge advantages to having bariatric surgery,” Dr. Maguire says.
Perhaps Cherri’s husband had more insight than he realized when he addressed his wife’s fears of surgery by telling her that she was nearly killing herself already by staying obese.
Cherri was aware of the damage she was doing to her body too. It wasn’t just being overweight that she saw as the danger. All the dieting was creating stress on organs, like her heart, that constantly had to adjust to new weights. But all that yo-yoing changed the moment she and her sister underwent bariatric surgery.
The Final Weight Loss Plan
|The twins have lived life “through thick and thin.” Both agree that thin is better. Family members, including Cherri’s daughter Ciara (middle), are thrilled the sisters are happier – and healthier.
Within months of having their procedures, the sisters saw drastic changes. It was almost as if weight was falling off before their eyes, sometimes as much as 10 to 12 pounds in one month. They recall actually skipping whole sizes of clothes.
And the change wasn’t just external. Two months after having her procedure, Cherri had dropped 54 pounds and felt like a new woman inside. So much so, that she went snowmobiling with a friend – something she would never had dreamed of doing before.
Both women were taken off high blood pressure medications after the surgery, and they started to enjoy lives free of the aches and pains that come with obesity. Now, they are ready to face 50 with a whole new perspective.
Cherri, who went from 284 pounds pre-surgery to 145 pounds today, doesn’t have much time to sit idle as she cares for one adopted child and five foster children, ranging in age from 4 months to 9 years old.
“I have tons of energy now,” Cherri says, “and I’m a lot happier.”
Terri, who went from 281 pounds pre-surgery to 175 pounds today, is spending more time with her young grandson. “When you are around a baby, you’re constantly on the floor or lugging around that heavy car seat,” she says. “Now, I’m able to do all that. I can’t wait to get outside and go non-stop. Before the surgery, I would have just stayed in the house and been unhappy.”
The sisters share their experience as often as possible. They meet frequently with others who have gone through the surgery. It’s that support as well as their disciplined approach to vitamins and follow-up visits that have helped them keep the weight off for nearly four years.
To register for a Weight Loss Surgery Information seminar, call CareFinders toll free at 1-866-608-FIND (3463) or sign up online.