da Vinci Bariatric Surgery Becomes Starting Point For Patient's Lifesaving Journey

Brenda Thompson and J. William Tsai, M.D., FACSNov. 26, 2019—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 Jr., M.D., FACP, 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 journey.”

J. William Tsai, M.D., FACS, a board-certified surgeon with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-General & Vascular Surgery, began offering bariatric surgery on the Health System’s Brunswick Campus in 2016. He now offers outpatient services at the Camden Campus as well, but surgeries are completed on the Brunswick Campus. In 2019, Tsai began offering da Vinci gastric sleeve surgery, a procedure that involves small incisions instead of a large abdominal incision and therefore is less invasive than traditional bariatric surgery.

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.

Moving on
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 pounds lighter.”

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!”

To schedule a consultation with Tsai, call 912-265-5125 or visit sgpabariatrics.org.