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Welcome to America, the greatest country in the world – where deep-fried fast food in supersized servings is the lunch of choice on any given day. Two double-cheeseburgers, fries and a milk shake to wash it down is the fastest, most affordable way to grab a bite on the run. Sure, there’s salad, but who can eat it driving a car? And here’s the result – we are the most overweight country on the planet.


In her late twenties, Stacy Clayton RN, BSN, saw her life going in a dangerous direction. This North Carolina native worked for the public health system where she assisted indigent patients in attaining their needed medications. As she watched them come in day after day, she recognized that so many of them suffered from serious conditions that were the side effects of obesity. She saw patients so overweight that they had difficulty walking into her office. They suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, orthopedic conditions and liver malfunctions – all side effects of morbid obesity. At nearly 28 years old, Stacy was heading down this road as she reached 280 pounds.

Dr. McKernan is very proud of Stacy who is thinner, healthier and prettier with every post-op checkup. “It is so rewarding,” says McKernan “to see the results of Lap-Band.”

Stacy had the great advantage of being smart and medically savvy. She knew a lot about bariatric surgery. Her own grandmother had gastric bypass surgery in 1992 to save her life as she had reached the point of what doctors refer to as morbid obesity, meaning that her weight was actively killing her. This was a highly invasive major surgery at the time, not the greatly improved procedure known as laparoscopic Roux-en-y gastric bypass performed today. Stacy knew about the newer Lap-Band, which was minimally invasive, adjustable, reversible, and covered by her medical insurance.

Stacy cannot pinpoint the exact moment in time when she decided to reinvent her own life, but she set out to find the most qualified surgeon in her area to perform what she viewed as a life-saving operation.

She began her search on the Internet by visiting the Web site of INAMED, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the Lap-Band. Here she found a number of surgeons in the Southeast. Most impressive were the credentials of Dr. J. Barry McKernan, whose office is located in Woodstock, just north of Atlanta, a two-hour drive from her home in Murphy, North Carolina.

When Stacy first met with Dr. McKernan, she tried to convince him that she was in fact an excellent candidate for Lap-Band instead of gastric bypass. Even though she knew her grandmother’s perilous gastric bypass operation had been greatly improved in the past dozen years, she was afraid that this is what Dr. McKernan would recommend because at well over 100 pounds overweight, she was nearing morbid obesity. Lap-Band is generally recommended for patients with about 100 pounds to lose.

Dr. McKernan’s response was an enormous relief to Stacy. “You are so young. I would never want to perform bypass surgery on you or any woman in her childbearing years,” said Dr. McKernan. Stacy’s overall health was surprisingly good considering her weight, and Dr. McKernan began preparing her for Lap-Band surgery with a required list of pre-qualifications.

A psychological evaluation was required by both Stacy’s insurance company and Dr. McKernan. The purpose is to ascertain whether a patient is mentally and emotionally equipped for bariatric surgery. The degree and nature of each patient’s food addiction is assessed to determine if the patient has a full understanding of the life changes they are pursuing and if they are willing to follow doctors’ orders. With Lap-Band a degree of commitment by the patient is necessary because the Lap-Band, unlike the bypass, can be cheated if the patient consumes liquid sugars. For patients whose level of food addiction is too severe, the Roux-en-y gastric bypass may be a better option.

The nutritionist prepares the Lap-Band patient for the changes in diet following surgery. They educate the patient about the nutritional values of food and give them reasonable expectations. Stacy reflects, “I used to love cheeseburgers and fries and hardly ever ate fish. Now the super high-fat foods don’t even appeal to me because they make me feel uncomfortable. Now I just love fish, especially grouper. The softer, more tender and juicier foods appeal to me because they’re so easily digestible. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than ever before in my life and the best part is that small portions are satisfying.”

Since she felt that she had failed on every diet in the universe, Stacy was able to put a positive spin on the three week pre-surgical high protein diet as the last diet she would ever have to be on. She understood that the effectiveness of the Lap-Band would thereafter change her desire to overeat. With this attitude and her overall pre-surgical education, Stacy forged ahead.

Stacy’s parents drove her to Advanced Surgery Center of Georgia in Canton the morning of her Lap-Band surgery. Stacy recalls, “I woke up after the Lap-Band procedure shortly before noon and, other than feeling a little drugged from the anesthesia, I felt fine immediately. The nurses at Advanced Surgery were great and very attentive. The night of my surgery some friends visited me and the only discomfort I felt was a little tenderness at the surgical site. My outpatient surgery was on Thursday and I was able to return to work on Monday.”

Part and parcel of successful weight loss with Lap-Band is having a few periodic adjustments to the Lap-Band as needed. These adjustments are simple procedures where Dr. McKernan injects saline solution into the Lap-Band through a portal near the surface of the skin to make it tighter if the patient isn’t losing weight at an appropriate rate. Conversely, if a patient is losing too much weight too fast, saline can be removed the same way. Stacy reports that no anesthesia is even necessary. “It’s just a quick bee sting and in a few moments it’s done.”
Following her surgery, Stacy could consume about 8 ounces of food per meal.

Following her second adjustment, her consumption had decreased allowing her to lose weight a little faster. Today, more than a year after her Lap-Band, she is more than halfway to her goal weight loss and is incredibly happy with the steady results. “For the first time in my life I feel that I am in control.”

For more information on the Lap-Band surgery, contact the
Center for Videoscopic and Laser Surgery
or J. Barry McKernan, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S.,
at 2001 Professional Parkway, Suite 110,
Woodstock, Georgia 30188. Call 770/924-8808 or
visit the Web site



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