NAPLES, FL — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said obesity affects 42 percent of adults in our country. A Southwest Florida woman who struggled to lose weight for years turned to a non-invasive procedure at NCH Healthcare System to finally get healthy.
"Oh, I was miserable. I couldn't walk upstairs. Socially, it was terrible,” Frann Katz McCombs said.
She said for years, she felt uncomfortable in her own skin. She tried hundreds of diets.
"I’ve gone up and down and up and down," she said.
At her heaviest, Katz McCombs weighed 220 pounds. But more than the number on the scale, she said she wanted to take control of her health.
"High cholesterol, high blood pressure,” Katz McCombs said. "I was obviously very heavy and I wanted to do something, but I did not want to do an invasive procedure."
When Dr. Mazen Albeldawi told her about Orbera in March of 2017, she decided to go for it.
"It's an endoscopic procedure, which means that there is no incisions cuts, or stitches," Dr. Albeldawi said.
Dr. Albeldawi is the Head of Gastroenterology at NC Healthcare System. He said he's been doing the Orbera procedure for the last four years. It takes about 30 minutes under light sedation.
"Basically, deflated balloon is inserted into the stomach, and that's done through the mouth. The balloon is filled up with saline to about the approximate size of a grapefruit," he said.
Instead of cutting out part of your stomach, Dr. Albeldawi said you're filling it up so you feel full more quickly by eating less.
"It sits on the stomach. It's mobile. You don't feel it, so people can exercise, you can run, you can do whatever you normally do,” he said.
He also said the risk is minimal with endoscopic procedures like Orbera.
"There was no real recovery. You just get really get nauseous having a foreign thing in your body, but they give you medication for it," Katz McCombs said. "Just a couple days of nausea and otherwise, you don't feel it at all."
The balloon is removed after six months.
"We're not just inserting and removing a balloon. We're actually very involved. We have a comprehensive program where you meet with a dietitian and nutritionist throughout the six months, and you learn how to eat and what to eat," Dr. Albeldawi said.
"It just prevents you from eating big portions, and your brain got used to that," Katz McCombs said.
Dr. Albeldawi said the average weight loss in the program is 40-50 pounds. Katz McCombs lost 80.
"I lost 67 with the balloon in and then 13 after," she said.
She said the balloon in her stomach was a jumping off point. Since then, she's put in the work. She taught herself she doesn't have to eat everything on her plate, and to be prepared with healthy options when going out.
"I feel great. Like I can move, I can do things like go shopping and buy normal sizes. Matter of fact, like size six. And this is the longest I've kept weight off, ever," Katz McCombs said.
Dr. Albeldawi said people who get this surgery have to be driven to continue losing weight once the balloon is removed.
He also said obesity is linked to many diseases, so after losing weight, many patients are able to come off a lot of their medications and be healthier.
Any plans for weight loss should always begin by talking with your primary care physician.