MedWatch Today: Doctors at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital save patient’s life, after international bariatric surgery

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Weight-loss surgery can be a choice for those who want to lose weight and combat the serious health risks of obesity, and it’s often a life changing procedure for many. One local woman was denied bariatric surgery by her insurance. So, at 420 pounds, she said she felt she had no choice but to travel to Mexico to have it done there. She suffered near-fatal complications weeks after her international surgery, but finally found herself in the care of world-renowned doctors at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital.

“I come from a family that’s pretty much, obesity is kinda, is in there. I lost my mom five years ago, that’s when things went down hill for me… started gaining a lot of weight and got diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol,” stated Adelia Perez.

Adelia said she felt like she was going to die.

She continued, “I had no energy. I was not living. I was barely existing, you know, my husband had to help me do everything.”

Adelia knew something had to change, and looked into getting bariatric surgery.

“I tried to get gastric sleeve here done in the United States. Got denied three times,” stated Adelia.

Adelia said her insurance company told her they were not going to cover the surgery. Feeling like she was up against death’s door, she traveled to Mexico to have bariatric surgery that she could afford out of pocket.

Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital Doctors Keith Boone and Kelvin Higa said it’s not uncommon to hear about people travelling out of the country for surgeries not covered by insurance.

“Obesity and bariatric surgery is something that should be available to everybody in the United States, and it shouldn’t be limited by some insurances and not others,” said Dr. Boone.

Dr. Higa added, “The real tragedy is why did she have to go to Mexico to have her operation in the first place? Why does anyone in this country have to travel outside our borders to get the care that they deserve for insurance reasons?”

After coming home from Mexico, Adelia described, “On the tenth day, I was bent over in pain.”

She was rushed to Fresno Heart & Surgical Hopsital. Dr. Boone explains where her pain was coming from.

Dr. Boone said, “She had a sleeve gastrectomy, which is basically a metabolic bariatric surgery that narrows the stomach to where you have a really long narrow tube. Her complication was, she had a leak from the staple line at the very top of that, that little tube that they created.”

Dr. Higa said that small leak, less than a centimeter wide, could have killed Adelia.

“All of the gastric juices, the acids, saliva, bacteria, was just swirling around her abdominal cavity, sepsis, paranitis, and if that’s not controlled, treated with antibiotics, drainage, stenting, things like this, then the patient really has no chance to survive,” stated Dr. Higa.

Dr. Boone and Dr. Higa helped save Adelia’s life as she was in the hospital for more than two months.

“They put a stent, which is basically a covered tube on the inside of their sleeve, that way saliva and liquids can go down but aren’t going to seep out of the little hole on the side, gives it a chance to heal,” stated Dr. Boone.

Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital has an internationally recognized metabolic and bariatric surgery program, and is one of the busiest in California.

“They were so amazing! I’ve never been to a hospital where they actually make you feel like family,” said Adelia.

Today, Adelia said she has her energy back and she looks forward to this new chapter in her life.

Adelia ended, “At the beginning, I was just like, ‘What do I do? You know? I was doing this to try to save my life, and now I’m fighting for my life. But by the grace of God and my family, and the doctors, I made it. And I’m glad I made it.”

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