Brenda Thompson has experienced her share of health problems, including
cancer and knee pain. One of her greatest challenges, however, was maintaining
a healthy weight. “I’d been overweight all my life. I’d
lose a couple pounds and gain back five. Nothing seemed to work,”
she recalls. She isn’t alone in her struggle; more than 93 million
U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Obesity carries serious health risks, including stroke, heart
disease, lung problems, diabetes, cancer and other issues.
The tipping point for Thompson was when her orthopaedic surgeon refused
to perform knee replacement surgery until she lost weight. “I was
devastated. The pain was debilitating,” Thompson says.
A New Option
Thompson didn’t learn about
weight loss (bariatric) surgery until she spoke with
Antonio Moran, M.D., a medical oncologist with
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Hematology & Oncology, who helped her beat breast cancer. “He asked if I had thought about
weight loss surgery and referred me to Dr. Tsai,” Thompson says.
That conversation initiated what Thompson calls her “lifesaving
J. William Tsai, M.D., FACS, is a board-certified surgeon with
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-General & Vascular Surgery. Upon his arrival to the Health System medical staff in 2016, he launched a
Bariatric Surgery Program on the
Brunswick Campus and now offers outpatient services at the
The Journey Begins
Bariatric surgery candidates must have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or
more. After evaluating Thompson, Tsai determined she would benefit from
gastric sleeve surgery. This procedure surgically removes part of the
stomach to restrict the amount of food a person can consume.
As required by the program, Thompson underwent six months of mandatory
psychological counseling, nutrition classes and
support groups before surgery. “Support meetings are important. Experiences are
shared, questions are answered and new friends are made,” Thompson says.
Thompson was Tsai’s first patient to have
bariatric surgery with the
da Vinci robotic surgical system. “This method reduces pain, decreases length of hospital stay and
improves discharge times for most patients,” Tsai explains. The
surgery requires just five tiny incisions and a 24-hour hospital stay.
“I had no problems, nor any bruising or pain. It was the easiest
surgery I’ve ever had,” Thompson says.
As Tsai’s first robotic surgery patient, Thompson hopes others will
feel more comfortable about having the surgery. “Would I recommend
robotic gastric sleeve surgery? You bet I would. I’m looking forward
to many years of better health,” she says.
Bariatric surgery requires a lifelong commitment to portion control, healthy
food choices and exercise. “Many people think this surgery is an
‘easy way out’ for losing weight. It’s not. You still
have to watch what you eat and be committed,” Thompson explains.
She is gradually shedding pounds, her blood pressure is returning to normal
and she feels, “so much better.” Most importantly, she’s
inspired. “This time next year, I know I’m going to be 100
Looking back over her lifelong struggle with weight, she shares a poignant
perspective. “An overweight person is generally left out of plans
because they can’t keep up. Life doesn’t have to be that way.
If dieting has failed and your health is getting worse, schedule a consultation
with Dr. Tsai. Do it now – have fun and enjoy life!”