Sometimes Mom really does know best.
After years of struggling with their weight, brother and sister Daisy and Luis Benavides of Fort Smith followed Mom Lucy’s lead when they decided to have bariatric surgery at Mercy Fort Smith.
All three family members say the decision changed their lives.
Lucy Benavides said she had been heavy most of her life. As she got older, the extra weight contributed to complications such as depression, sleep apnea and diabetes.
“I used to take pills for everything,” she said. “I followed any diet that they told me to do. I tried very hard to lose weight.”
And as a mother, Lucy found balancing work life and home life challenging.
“I had to be a mom, taking care of the kids and everything,” she said. “It is very tough to try to concentrate on yourself and be able to help your kids, too.”
Similarly, daughter Daisy had tried many options when it came to weight loss but without success.
“We sometimes don't see how big we get, don’t see what we actually look like,” Daisy added. “I remember one summer we went out to a lake and a lot of pictures were taken, and I could not look at them. I'm like, ‘That is not me.’ I had tried to lose weight previously since elementary. I've been in Weight Watchers. There's different things on TV, buy this and it's a program, you'll lose weight, you’ll build muscle. Every program I saw we ended up buying, we tried. Nothing worked.”
That’s when mother and daughter decided to learn more about bariatric surgery and the options that might be right for them. Both were referred to Dr. Jonathan Ferrari, general surgeon with Mercy Fort Smith, who helped them select the procedure that would work best.
Initially, the duo thought they would have the procedure done at the same time, but different insurance plans required Daisy to delay her surgery for an extra few months. This actually worked out better because it allowed them to take care of each other following their respective surgeries, she said.
Meanwhile, Luis Benavides was struggling with his weight. And after a serious skateboarding injury – followed by a double hip replacement while in his 30s – Luis found losing weight to be more difficult than ever.
“With all those surgeries and the trauma that I had on my body, it was a little harder for me to lose weight,” he said. “Bariatric surgery was an awesome opportunity, seeing as my mother and my sister have done it before me and I saw the results. And so, it was easy to make that choice to help me lose the weight that I needed to.”
Luis also struggled with health issues such as sleep apnea and heart problems, issues his weight loss have helped improve.
Taking the first steps
Once a potential patient decides to learn more about bariatric surgery, Mercy becomes a partner in every sense.
“The goal of our program is to help our patients live an active, healthy lifestyle and improve their quality of life,” said Shirley Bearden, RN, bariatric program coordinator at Mercy Fort Smith. “We are excited to share the journey with them.”
Options for bariatric surgery include lap band, sleeve and gastric bypass, which are discussed thoroughly with patients. Candidates for bariatric surgery must have a body mass index of 40 or greater, or a BMI ranging from 35-39.9, with one or more conditions such as hypertension, type II diabetes or sleep apnea. In addition, patients must have a history of obesity and have attempted to lose weight by other means prior to choosing surgery, Bearden said.
The Benavides family each chose the sleeve procedure. Luis said seeing the potential results of each surgery during consultation was a great opportunity to weigh the pros and cons and allow him to make his own choice.
Once in the program, patients have exercise and nutrition consultations, a psychological evaluation, lab and medical clearance as needed, Bearden said. When those steps have been completed, surgery is scheduled and a two-week liquid diet prior to surgery is prescribed. After surgery, the patient follows up with appointments at one, three, six and 12 months, then yearly for lab and assessment in their surgeon’s office.
Mercy also has support group meetings to assist and encourage patients to stay on track, Bearden added.
Patients who don’t meet the requirements, including those who exceed the weight limit of 500 pounds or whose BMI is too low, are referred to a dietitian or weight management program and may be re-evaluated in three months.
Bariatric surgery involves more than just the procedure itself. It’s a lifestyle change, which includes healthier eating and more activity, something the Benavides family was eager to embrace.
“I made healthier decisions about what I was putting into my body following surgery,” Daisy said. “Sometimes the scale varies, but it's how I'm feeling now compared to what I was feeling before.
“I didn't want to go out; I would stay at home,” Daisy continued. “Now, I enjoy time with my family, with my friends, going out to the lake, hiking again. Before I would go hiking, and I was out in five minutes. Now we can go for a seven- to 10-mile hike and I'm great. Just the opportunity to do all the things that I can now, to live my life the way I want, is the best thing ever.”
For Mom Lucy, lifestyle changes led to an overall change in her well-being. She is now off all medications and is enjoying being active.
“I started walking little by little, being more active, and the more active I get, the better I feel,” she said. “I went to the gym and I started walking, and for the first time ever, I started running. To be able to run two or three miles for me was a lot. I started going to marathons just to walk, and that made me feel so good, that I was able to accomplish a lot of stuff.”
The entire family said despite any challenges bariatric surgery may present, the results are worth it. And for Luis, being able to enjoy spending time with his family was the best result of all.
“Being overweight is a very hard and a tough life to live,” Luis said. “Bariatric surgery is a great opportunity to give anyone a chance to live a normal life, to be able to walk, be able sleep, just the simple things we do in life that a lot of people take for granted.”
For more information on Mercy Fort Smith's Bariatric Center, call (479) 314-2561 or click here.