What happens when a gastric bypass patient dies? (effects on the family)
I had heard of Weight Loss Surgery deaths previously (and the REAL stats are
1/2 to 1 percent fatality according to most surgeons). I even have a link to a
site which lists WLS deaths. But that didn’t really affect me other than the
numbers being a bit higher than my comfort zone. After all, 99 percent of
gastric bypass patients DO NOT die from the surgery.
Then I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with a lady named Alice whose 27 year old daughter Misty died, one week after her gastric bypass. Misty had been healthy, Alice told me but just fat (around 317 lbs at 5’4”). Alice described her daughter as a very pretty gal with long hair. The only health problem Misty had had was gestation diabetes during her pregnancies. Misty had had so many hopes going into her gastric bypass. Her young husband, Wayne, in the service, was not really happy about her surgery but he supported her because he knew that’s what she wanted.
Before surgery, Misty wrote letters to her Mom and Dad who lived across the country and to her husband and their three children, girls aged 6 months and 3 years and 7 years. She told her children she loved them and was doing this for their sake to see them grow up (the common reason folks have a gastric bypass). Misty’s letter to Alice said that she loved her parents and that if she's ever done anything, she's sorry for it and she was sorry she gave them trouble as a teenager.
Misty had surgery on Friday, and woke up feeling poorly. The nurses told her that was common after that surgery. She called her mother, Alice to tell her she got through the surgery OK. Alice told me that she and Misty talked every day, no matter where Misty’s husband was stationed at the time. “We talked 3-4 times a week when they were in Germany,” Alice told me, “And our phone bill was huge!”
By Sunday when they discharged Misty, she still had not been able to even get down the liquid diet – had a hard time getting down ice cubes. All week she was in a lot of pain and Thursday, she called the surgeon’s office and complained of the pain and again, was told that this was usual after a gastric bypass. Friday morning, her husband hauled her into the emergency room and she was diagnosed with an abdominal aneurism and medicated for that. By 2 PM she was dead. When they did the autopsy, they found that she had had peritonitis and sepsis (wrong diagnosis in the E.R.).
I sat with Alice as she cried, remembering her daughter, trying to understand why her daughter had to die so early in life. As she told me, the family was devastated and still, even 18 months later, has not recovered.
Misty’s Dad is disabled so Alice was the wage earner but when she took on taking care of Misty’s children, she had to quit her job. This financially busted them, used up all their savings etc. After Misty’s death, Misty’s husband went through a period where he was drinking a lot and even, at one point, attempted suicide. Was discharged from the service 6 months after Misty’s death. He’s getting his life together but Grandma still has the kids.
Alice described to me how the 3 year old (now 4) goes around saying “I wish I could die and go to heaven so I could be with Mommy”. The 7 year old, now 8 years old, is being treated for clinical depression. And Alice and Misty’s Dad are on Paxil for depression and anxiety.
This death hit me so hard, this is the first I am even able to write about it (the family approached me – wants their story on my website and I feel it belongs – but it’s been so difficult to sit down and write about it.)
For it is true that it’s a whole lot different when statistics take on names and become REAL people WITH families, husbands, kids, mothers, dads, all of whom are devastated by a tragedy. People in making these decisions should be aware that WLS is a family decision and that the repercussions on their loved ones of their death might be too high a risk to take, even if that risk of death is a small risk.
Article by Sue Widemark, -for reprint permission please contact the author through this website's feedback form.
This article is based on several phone interviews with Misty's mother. The family has requested I offer their story because they feel this aspect of Weight Loss surgery (effect of a death on the family) is so often not covered.
To Contact Alice Brown, Misty's Mom, write to:
This is Misty's Aunt:
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