Getting a gastric sleeve.. When societal pressure places us under the scalpel

Monday 17 October 202208:25 pm
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Some women in our Arab societies are subjected to great pressure because their weight does not meet the standards that society deems as "perfect", and this may lead to them having to resort to going under the scalpel for surgery, in a way that usually leads to negative repercussions on their health.

Societal Pressure

Omniah Ibrahim, 39, was subjected to a lot of pressure because of her weight. Some people would give her bad looks, making her feel unwanted in public places and finding it difficult to get around using transportation.

From a young age, this young woman did not leave any kind of weight loss regime that she didn't try. She underwent all types of diets and methods, from herbs and acupuncture, to taking medication, and the situation remained the same until she became depressed, stopped eating and had to take IV solutions.

Some women in Arab societies are subjected to pressure because their weight does not meet the standards society deems as "perfect", and this may cause them to go under the scalpel for surgery, in a way that usually leads to negative repercussions on their health

At the time, all the doctors recommended her to get a "gastric sleeve" (or 'sleeve gastrectomy') to prevent her from developing diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer, and indeed, she decided to perform the operation in 2015, when she weighed 125 kilograms.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, sleeve gastrectomy is the process of losing weight by removing 80% of the stomach, leaving a tube-shaped part of it, in the size and shape of a banana. Reducing the size of the stomach limits the amount of food one is able to consume. People usually resort to this process after trying several diets without success. This process helps reduce the risk of health problems associated with being overweight, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Omniah, who was working in a Gulf country at the time, started looking for a hospital with low costs, especially since health insurance does not cover this operation because it is considered a "luxury". Her father had to take out a loan from the bank in order to be able to pay this relatively large amount.

Omniah's journey with gastric sleeve surgery was full of unpleasant surprises, and she discovered that the operation is not as easy as some think. For her, she did not know much about it before the procedure. Before the operation, she underwent lung and heart examinations, and received psychological counseling. But she soon discovered that it was just a business for the hospital, since the doctor was bragging about the number of patients who performed the operation every month, and no one cared to prepare her psychologically for the operation and its consequences.

The gradual intake of food and fluids was a daunting task that she could not find anyone to help her with, and she found herself forced to follow a certain diet, because any wrong meal or excessive amount of food could cause her to spend the night in the hospital.

Eating became a crisis for her, she was not able to recognize whether she felt hungry or not, or when to stop eating, or what to eat. This period lasted for a long time, knowing that the negative effects did not stop there, as she had a constant feeling of nausea and vomiting, severe stomach pain and a drop in blood circulation, and till now she is still suffering from the effects of the operation.

On the other hand, she was stunned by the social changes she witnessed after the operation. She started to get accepted into jobs, got praised by employees for her hard work, and found places in the cinema... It is true that she is still the same person. What has changed is society's perception of her.

Between the parents' wishes and not reconciling with one's self

Lamis al-Bambi, 30, resorted to gastric sleeve surgery due to pressure from her family, and although she was fed up with the advice of doctors, she decided to resort to sleeve gastrectomy so as not to be subjected to constant comparisons by her family with those who are skinnier than her.

"Following the operation, I reached the weight that my parents had wanted. I lost 60 kilograms of my weight, and I also noticed positive changes. I was able to pray while standing, and my movement became light, but despite this my parents still ask me to lose weight," al-Bambi tells Raseef22.

Shaimaa al-Jamal (pseudonym) does not know if what made her get gastric sleeve surgery was societal pressure or not, since society usually puts pressure on some women who are overweight. However she personally did not like the shape of her body. Even though she was reprimanded by her friend because she underwent this operation and has somehow succumbed to the pressures of society, she does not regret it, as she confirms to Raseef22, "If I go back in time, I'll do it again, because I feel comfortable in my body and like I'm more in harmony with it, even though I haven't reached the ideal weight I would have liked."

However, there are bad effects from the operation, since she considers eating as one of the very few pleasures in life, and now having to limit the amount of food after the operation causes her depression. But she has learned to listen to her body more after the operation, and know what she should eat or not, to be able to maintain her health.

Dr. Mohammad Moussa, a surgery specialist at Tanta University, tells Raseef22 that getting gastric sleeve surgery is sometimes done for health reasons, and other times for cosmetic reasons, while some resort to it for non-medical reasons, such as weight stabilization. He goes on to reveal that some doctors see this operation as a trade, agreeing to even perform it without any medical reason.

Moussa points out that the minimum age for this operation ranges between 9 and 14 years, and there is no maximum age limit as long as the functions of the heart and breathing allow for general anesthesia. As for the weight recommended for the operation, there is no specific weight. Recently doctors have been relying on the average BMI (body mass index), which is the value derived from dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters. The option of getting a sleeve is available if it exceeds 35, and the need for the operation increases when there are medical problems related to obesity: polycystic ovaries, diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery insufficiency, joint stiffness, chronic back pain, difficulty breathing, or obstruction of the upper airway.

This operation is not magic. It may fail as a result of choosing the type of operation, or the patient's lack of commitment to the diet, or the stomach widening later on. It is necessary to choose the right type of operation and adhere to the diet

This procedure is performed after non-surgical weight-loss attempts with a nutritionist have been unsuccessful for at least six months.

Moussa advises those who are undergoing this operation to read a lot about it, and it is preferable that performing the operation is a joint decision between the patient and the doctor.

It should be noted, however, that this process is not without potential complications, such as complications from anesthesia involving respiratory obstruction, high or low blood pressure, as well as blood clots, pulmonary embolism, or allergies to drugs and/or medication, and pneumonia. Whereas complications from surgery may include bleeding, and injury to the liver and spleen, while the most serious possible complication is leakage from the stomach or the stomach staples, which can be life-threatening as a result of septicemia.

In conclusion, Dr. Moussa stresses that this operation is not magic, as it may fail as a result of choosing the type of operation, the patient's lack of commitment to the diet, or the spontaneous widening of the stomach later on. He goes on to stress the need to choose the appropriate type of operation and adhere to the diet recommended by the specialist doctor. 


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