Weight-Loss Surgery Can Treat Diabetes

Woman went from having five shots a day to none

By Pamela Bond

Victoria Advocate

March 25, 2008

Windy Slone, a diabetic for eight years, took her last insulin shot on Dec. 19. A few days later, doctors told her she was free of diabetes. About one month later, she no longer needed the five other medications she’d been taking.

“I went from having five shots a day for the past four years to none. It’s amazing,” Slone said. “Three weeks ago I gave all my unused syringes to my friends and my family had a drumroll around the trash can as I threw the rest away.”

Slone, a 34-year-old mother of two who lives in Rockport and works for the Holiday Beach Homeowner’s Association, underwent gastric bypass surgery at Citizens’ Bariatric Center on Dec. 18. Like 90 percent of patients who have Type 2 diabetes at the time of surgery at the center, the disease disappeared after the operation, said Dr. B. Dean McDaniel of the center. Most patients stay in the hospital for one or two days and return to work after a week or two.

In gastric band surgery, when a lap band is placed around the opening of the stomach, the highest incidence of diabetes in remission occurs two years after the surgery. In gastric bypass surgery, when the stomach is stapled to make it smaller and then the intestines are reconnected to a different opening in the smaller stomach, the effects are immediate because food is re-routed away from the pancreas.

Slone has lost 60 pounds and McDaniel predicts she will lose a total of 100 pounds by the end of the year. Besides losing weight and no longer having diabetes, Slone said the best effect of the surgery is having more energy.

“My youngest said, ‘Mom, I love your energy, but you’re scaring me,'” Slone said. “I can’t wait to play chase with my daughters and I’m excited that when we go camping and hiking, I’ll get to go with them instead of watching.”

After the surgery, Slone could only eat soft foods in small portions. After her six-week check-up, doctors allowed her to eat regular food again, but still in small portions.

“It was an adjustment, but it’s worth it,” Slone said. “I’ve only been sick from eating something once. People ask me if I feel hungry, if I have cravings. I don’t. I eat for nourishment now. I eat to survive. I stop when I’m full.”

Requirements for gastric bypass or band surgery in the United States are still tied to obesity and not diabetes, McDaniel said, but a study being conducted in other countries will see if the surgery yields similar results when it is modified for patients who want to lose the disease and not the weight.

Both surgeries are becoming more common and insurance companies are covering more of them, McDaniel said.

“Every year we have more inquiries,” McDaniel said. “People are seeing a decrease in complications, an increase in security. Insurance companies are slowly seeing the financial benefits.”

Slone said her advice to anyone going through weight-loss surgery is to follow your doctor’s instructions and don’t push your limits.

“For any diabetic thinking abou this procedure, it’s a miracle,” Slone said. “It’s a blessing. I tell everyone about it. If I can convince one person on the edge to do this, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.”