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11-18-02: Area woman takes own, risky path
Gastric bypass surgery set to help her reduce weight

    Editor's Note: Debbie Borns, a 50-year-old business owner, wife and mother from Celina, has volunteered to share the story of her weight reduction surgery with The Daily Standard. Today, The Daily Standard introduces Borns and the procedure that she is undergoing, which she hopes will help her lose over 150 pounds. We will follow her recovery and her weight loss in the months ahead.)

Standard Correspondent
    Debbie Borns wanted to smile in her "before picture."
    Everybody always slumps down in the "before picture,"taken before they embark on any weight-loss program, she said. And they always look  so unhappy. They stand there with their arms held out slightly from their sides as if they have a bad sunburn, their shoulders drooping. But not her.
    "I want to look happy," she said.
    After all, she said, why shouldn't she look happy? She chose her own path. She signed up for an elective surgery that might eventually give her a new body, a new way of looking at the world, a new life. Or it might kill her.
    At 11 a.m. today, Borns, a Celina real estate agent, wife and mother, underwent gastric bypass surgery, in which a surgeon made a small pouch near the junction of her esophagus and her stomach using a surgical stapler. The pouch in most patients is the size of an egg. It will be Borns' new stomach.
    Her old stomach has always been a problem to her.
    "I've always been overweight, and I've always tried to do something about it," said Borns, 50, who owns Coldwell Banker Lakeshore Realty.
    She has exactly the same body type as her great-grandmother, a large woman who was always laughing in the kitchen with her relatives. They all seemed happy and comfortable with themselves, she said. That wasn't such a bad thing, Borns used to reason, "until I realized that none of them lived to be very old."
    It wasn't that Borns hasn't tried to lose weight. Diets just didn't work for her. With pills, she had limited success - until the pills were taken off the market because of their dangerous side effects.
    "I started looking at the surgery three or four years ago, because people I knew were having it done," she said. "At first I said, ONo, I can do this on my own.' And that is a standard comment for a heavy person. We all think, OI can do it on my own.' And I could lose weight, but I could never keep it off."
     Weight loss surgery is increasingly popular in the United States. Doctors plan to do 60,000 of the procedures this year, Borns said, "and I wouldn't be surprised if it was doubled next year."
    There are different types; the one Borns is undergoing, called the Roux-en-Y procedure, is the most common. With the Roux-en-Y procedure, surgeons restrict the size of the patient's stomach, and also reroute the intestines so that less food is absorbed by the body.
    Weight loss surgery has received a lot of attention lately, as television weatherman Al Roker has come forward with his own story. Roker, who appears on NBC's "Today" show, had the surgery in March, and has lost 100 pounds. He appears on the current cover of People magazine holding his big ex-pants.
    Borns is not exactly like Roker, she said. Like Roker, and anybody else who qualifies for the surgery, she wants to lose more than 100 pounds. She now weighs 307 pounds. But she isn't fighting the mental demons that she sees in Roker.
    "As I watched his story on TV, I thought that for somebody who appears to be a well-balanced man, Al Roker was fighting a lot of sadness about his weight. All these years, he was putting on a good act," she said. "I've never put on an act. There were times when my weight bothered me - but not that much."
    She chose to have the surgery because she sees it as the gateway to a better life, not just a better look. She realizes that with obesity comes risk - heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, even a higher rate of cancer.
    "It's time to do something," she said. "I decided to have the surgery because I started to think of all the things I might miss out on because of my weight: seeing my grandchildren, travel, weddings, family gatherings, being able to walk with my husband around the block. I thought about how not only was he going to have to take care of our parents - he was going to have to take care of me."
    She had to weigh the risk of the surgery. Obese people are at increased risk of poor outcome during any medical procedure, even when they go to the dentist, Borns said. During weight control surgery, or any surgery, they have a higher risk of heart failure. There could be a life-threatening blood clot (for which obese people are also at higher risk). There is also a risk of infection after the surgery, if the newly modified gastrointestinal tract should happen to leak.
    "But I'm a person who thinks about the odds," Borns said. "One out of 200 people don't make it through the surgery. But obese people have a much greater chance to get cancer, diabetes and other ailments. When I put all the numbers together, I saw that I didn't have the ghost of a chance of ever being 80 years old."
    Once she decided to have the surgery, she said, "people came out of the woodwork" who have also had the procedure. "It totally amazes me how many people in Mercer and Auglaize counties have had this done," she said. But many of them aren't comfortable talking about it. There has always been an element of shame in being overweight, Borns contends, and that shame connects itself to weight control surgery as well.
    "They don't tell anybody about it. Or they tell people that they've had gall bladder surgery," she said. "But a lot of them have come to me, as soon as they found out I was going to have it done. And they've all said the same thing: that it was the best thing they'd ever done."
    Borns will be in Sycamore Hospital in Miamisburg for three or four days following today's surgery. Then she will return home, and the real work will begin. She'll be on a clear liquid diet for two weeks, a liquid diet for two weeks after that, and then she will have to learn how to eat.
    "This isn't a miracle cure. You still have to work at it. Because you have a stomach the size of an egg, you have to learn to eat slower, or food backs up," she said. With the changes to the gastrointestinal tract, "the body won't tolerate fatty foods or sugars like it once did. And everybody warns me that until you find your new limits, you're going to have some bad moments. That has me more scared than the surgery. Can I learn to eat the right foods?"
    It's not unusual for people who have undergone weight reduction surgery to lose 20 or 30 pounds in the first post-operative month, she said. She hopes to reach her target weight of 150 pounds in the first year.
    "Usually in a year, the whole evolution has happened. Then it's a matter of living right, and maintaining your new life," she said.
    If she is also scared about sharing her story with her hometown newspaper, she doesn't show it. Talking about her surgery is part of her mission, she said. She has always intended to stretch the benefits of the surgery beyond her own skin: to her husband, Mike, so that he'll have a healthy mate, to her two grown children and her extended family, so that they have her around longer. And to others who might be struggling with their weight, as she has for so many years.
    "I'm a person who prays for guidance. In my prayers to God, I said, 'This is a new chapter in my life. Show me the right direction. How can I make a difference?,' she said. "It came to me that telling my story is something I should do. The more knowledge that's out there, and the more understanding, the better. Maybe there will be someone out there who says, 'If she can do it, I can do it.' "


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