A Real Solution to Obesity


The bariatric reunion at the McAllen Heart Hospital was warm and inviting. The people who attended were patients who found a way to overcome their health issues and move forward with steady progression, evolving into the people they are working to become.

Joe Garcia, 53, was 19 months into his weight loss journey and had lost an exorbitant amount of weight. At this point in his life, he subscribes to the notion that it’s not about what he’s lost, but what he’s gained.

Before the operation, he was taking five different medications, and it was humiliating when he had to ask for a seatbelt extension on airplanes. After receiving the surgery, the doctor said he would never have to take those old medications again after being recommended the “sleeve” option. He now looks and feels great, and he can put on a seatbelt in an airplane with confidence, something people who do not suffer from weight issues take for granted.

Another patient shared an experience about a time she went square dancing at a Winter Texan recreational hall with her spouse, approximately a year after receiving the operation. An acquaintance there thought she saw the patient’s husband dancing with a much younger and more attractive woman, unaware of who it was. The joy in her voice was priceless.

On their transformative journey, these patients discovered the possibilities of how they could do this with the help of a professional medical team that truly cares about the best interests of the patients who are under their care, led by Bariatric Surgeon Luis Reyes, M.D.

“These are people who made the effort to become healthier, so they came to us. Obesity is an epidemic, and by not doing anything about this earlier on, we’ve become sicker and sicker.”

Reyes believes this health issue is a product of bad habits, poor education, and genetically predisposed obesity.

“People find it easier to find unhealthy food because there is a lack of healthy options in the region and more options for fast food, but people are beginning to become aware by improving their diet and exercising. My best advice is for people to get educated, and we have seminars every month to help in this process.”

There are factors that make it difficult for them to leap forward into a state of wellness. This is mainly due to the fact that many people are unsure, worried, and fearful of the kind of treatments designed to combat what seems to be an ever growing health concern in the US.

However, Reyes’ team at the McAllen Heart Hospital is adamant about reducing these insecurities by providing a service that guides the patient through each step of the process. They continue to improve the lives of the patients after surgery as opposed to just telling them not to continue their poor eating habits and lifestyle choices. They believe it is necessary to advocate for them and become proactive sponsors in their lives.

Mandy Spiers, a nurse practitioner at the hospital, believes encouragement plays a huge role in the positive dynamic of the patients.

“An advocate is always here for the patient via face to face, email, and by telephone. We see them every three months for the follow up and make sure they are following a specific dieting regimen, improving lifestyle habits, and exercising. It’s a whole body approach.”

According to clinical reports, gastric bypass is the more popular method, allowing for 62 percent of total body fat to be reduced along with a higher caloric reduction. Not only does it eradicate 80 to 85 percent of Type 2 diabetes, it also eliminates a larger percentage of high blood pressure and obstructive sleep apnea.

Certified Bariatric Nurse Paula Kilgore got involved with bariatric surgery when she was first treated as Dr. Reyes’ patient with Gastric Bypass surgery at a different hospital. It improved her quality of life and gave her a normal, healthy existence which she pays forward by making herself available to her patients whenever they need her. Kilgore believes in the power of support and helping the patient maintain a healthy lifestyle.

She is also aware of the complications between employers and the coverage needed to receive the surgery.

“Obesity is a disease defined by the International Institute of Health, but if an employer doesn’t approve the bypass surgery or any other bariatric surgical procedure, the coverage won’t be there for the patient. If the employers do not pick up the coverage for surgical treatment for morbid obesity then most insurances consider it an “exclusion” and the employee has no recourse to appeal the request for surgical treatment.”

This in mind, it did not stop the bariatric patients of the McAllen Heart Hospital from taking control of their destinies. They sought out the treatment they needed to become healthier, happier individuals because they believed in themselves and knew they could do it.

Jason Chang, CEO of the hospital, concluded that 250 to 300 patients receive the surgery annually, sometimes for cosmetic reasons as well as for health related purposes. He believes the sleeve gastrectomy is one of the more effective surgical options that people should consider.

“Diabetic patients that come in for the ‘sleeve’ end up leaving without diabetes. It’s almost as if Type 2 diabetes can be corrected with proper exercise and diet after a sleeve operation is performed.”

The Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass is considered the “gold standard” for weight loss surgery, however the Sleeve Gastrectomy is effective in the right patient population. It depends on the patients eating habits as to which procedure will work best for them.

The seminars also allow the patients to learn about the process more intimately rather than just gathering information online. They serve as a perfect opportunity to meet others in the same situation.

Ernesto Garza, Jr., a bariatric surgeon at the hospital, knows how rewarding it can be improving and empowering individuals who decide this is something they need to do.

“These are complex surgeries, but it is very satisfying, and the follow up is very important to make sure they’re living healthier lives. It’s rewarding from start to finish. A team approach is used in order to guide patients and coach them for improving their well being so they can succeed.”