Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Worth the Weight? Part 2

It took just about two hours to complete the renovations. Two hours to make a conceptually simple change--shrink the stomach to the size of an egg and bypass the duodenum, you'll eat and absorb less food, lose lots of weight--that will rank among the most significant two hours of this woman's entire life. In two hours, with a few snips and staples, we waged and won a war on evolution, on our brains, on capitalism, on America--conquering the multitude of "evil" forces that have driven us to eat like we are starving while surrounded by food, to stuff ourselves with calories like a scrooge hoarding money with no intention of ever spending any of it. It was a war against our those perpetually big eyes of ours, driven by those sometimes detrimentally big brains of ours, both of which consistently sabotage our best interests and cause civil wars inside the borders of the country inside each of us. Fighting against a culture of excess, against the capitalistic greed-driven apathy that would ignore Huxley's warnings and allow--even subsidize!--high fructose corn syrup to permeate our food supply, running through our veins like soma, lulling us all into a sugar-coma dreamland until we wake up to the horrific reality of diabetes that has rendered us blind and legless, forced to enslavement under the power of the not so innocent insulin master...

In the recovery room, I met my patient as a person, not just a body, for the first time. She was lying in bed, eyes shut, not moving or talking unless requested specifically by one of us. Are you in pain? She moaned yes, pointing to a spot over her stomach. Do you have any questions? Where's the phone. I need my things, the stuff I brought with me. Nausea? No. Hungry? No. Need anything? No. One last question--Have you been waiting for this for a long time? She opened her eyes and looked straight at me as she gave a long, slow nod in the affirmative.

I cried when I got home. Not necessarily for my patient specifically, because hopefully this will have been a successful operation for her and she will live a happy life. If all goes well, this woman will literally become half of her current self within the year. But what I wonder is: at the end of it all, will she miss her other half--or will she feel like Michelangelo's David, a former blob of stone whose excess has been carved away to reveal the true beauty underneath? If the latter, why was there no other less dangerous way to feel beautiful available to her--and so many other women, for although there are approximately equal numbers of morbidly obese men and women in this country, women far exceed men in the patient population getting this surgery. I cried because I feel in my gut that there's something wrong and twisted about the fact that we live in a world, and subscribe to a medical system, that doesn't have the capacity to support natural weight loss through healthy diet and exercise and acceptance, or to recognize the malignance and addictiveness of our typical diet and make some major changes so these poor patients don't have to bear the brunt of the change. If anything, I cried because the success and popularity of such a grossly unnatural procedure acts as a shocking reflection of the mores of our culture, the toxicity of our nutritional environment, and the lengths people need to go in order to lose weight and become accepted by the rest of society.

Bariatric surgery: the (I can't wait until I can no longer eat) "bread-and-butter" of the Yale GI surgery service.

To Be Continued...


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