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Down sizing

Hindustan Times   December 08, 2012
First Published: 22:30 IST(8/12/2012) | Last Updated: 02:17 IST(9/12/2012)

Incredible though it sounds, Esther Kapinga, 40, lost 20 kg in 18 days: over one kg each day. The lawyer from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo weighed an incredible 241 kg before she got surgery done to reduce the size of her stomach to a third of its natural size.

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“The surgery will help Kapinga lose 100 kg in 18 months to two years, along with resolving her medical problems such as sleep apnea, joint pains and breathlessnesss,” says Dr Muffazal Lakdawala at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgoan, who did her laparoscopic ‘sleeve gastrectomy in October.

Sleeve gastrectomy involves removing two-thirds of the left side of the stomach, which makes the smaller stomach resemble a sleeve or a tube roughly the size of a banana. It limits the capacity of the stomach to 60 cc-150 cc.

“This procedure eliminates the hunger-inducing hormone called ‘Ghrelin’, which results in the patient feel full after eating a little. This way, they lose 80-85% of their excess body weight over two years,” says Lakdawala, who also heads  the Centre for Obesity & Diabetes Surgery in Mumbai.

The other popular weight-reduction surgery is a gastric bypass surgery, where a gastic pouch is created to bypass a part of the small intestine.

Bariatric surgery has grown ten-fold in the last decade, with surgeons doing 4,000 cases a year in 2010 compared to a handful a decade ago when it just started. Over the past two years, Lakdawala has operated on BJP heavyweights Nitin Gadkare, Venkaiah Naidu, NCP's Nawab Malik and Nitin Raut.

Siddhesh Bhise, 37, a Mumbai-based businessman, incurred huge losses for two years in his manufacturing unit producing carbon brushes, as he couldn't oversee its operation for more than six hours a week. Weighing 179 kg, there was little Bhise could do to change his situation. Simple tasks such as climbing stairs, driving, and even walking or standing for more than 10-minutes at a stretch, left him breathless.

“I saw fear in my five-year-old daughter's eyes,” says Bhise, who eventually underwent a weight-loss surgery in April this year. “She was intimidated by my size and worried that something bad might happen to her dad.”

 In India, 13% women and 9% men are either overweight or obese, shows the National Family Health Survey (2005-06).  “Apart from the obvious weight loss, it treats obesity-related disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, joint pain, sleep apnea (interrupted breathing while sleeping), acid reflux and diabetes,” says Lakdawala.

The surgery is usually done laparoscopically, with the surgeon operating through four small incisions in the abdomen. It costs Rs. 3-4 lakh and needs up to three days of hospitalisation. The patient is back on his feet immediately after surgery.

Kapinga’s life is already inching back to normal, literally. “Her size is a problem. We were forced to request airlines to keep the seat next to her empty and when it was not possible, we booked two seats,” says her nephew Blaise Musemena, 29, who accompanied her to new Delhi for the surgery. Apart from increasing mobility, the weight loss lowered her back and knee pain and helped her sleep better.

Bhinse is 72 kilos lighter within seven months, and has resumed work with a vengeance, clocking in 12 hours a day. “I feel so good each time I look in the mirror,” he says. His goal is to reach 80 kg in five months, and “fit into his old branded clothes.”

Only last week, Bhise cropped his hair short, after which his daughter insisted that he drop her right at her school gate, so that she could “show off new Papa” to her friends. “For two years, I didn't go to my daughter’s school,” Bhise says, smiling. “Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do.”

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