Thursday, January 21, 2016

A knot in my stomach: the story of Slimband





Tonight while watching some inane thing on TV, I saw a chirpy, cheerful, upbeat ad for a wonderful new weight loss program that promised you could lose "up to half your excess weight within a year!" There was no mention of exactly HOW you would do this, though the product, called Slimband (reminding me of "slime" for some reason) was pictured on their logo as a whiplike thing shaped like a sperm. So I had to deduce (because they didn't spell it out at all) that this was in fact a surgical procedure, not a diet plan.





I had to do some digging, and before long I found out about the dark side of Slimband. Basically they implant a band that squeezes your stomach so you can't eat normally. It's about as healthy-sounding as tying your throat shut so you can't swallow. 




People have suffered all sorts of complications like perforation and internal bleeding when the thing "slips" (see cautionery article, below)as well as a complete inability to digest food, and in many cases there is little or no weight loss. The cost of the procedure is $16,000.00. I don't think this company does much if any real research on results, or if it does they don't publish it. But people seem to be so desperate, and obesity is getting so bad. Why are people so addicted to food? Does no one ask this? No, just tie a knot in your stomach and hope for the best.




Ray Baker, a doctor in the addictions field, once said to me, "An addiction is an addiction is an addiction." Food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling: all have the same root. If you don't start off with trauma, you end up with it through the repercussions of your seemingly-unbreakable habit. It's not uncommon for the addict to leave one pattern behind, then turn to another: switch from alcohol to gambling, or drugs, or sex, or even food. Ray called this "changing seats on the Titanic".

I know all about this stuff, having experienced it through my own body and soul, and I have touched on it before on this blog. Turning off the tap in your stomach won't do it, nor will wiring your jaw shut or taking aversive therapy to tell yourself you really don't want to eat. If the underlying crap isn't addressed, you won't have any lasting success. But we're a drive-through culture of instant gratification, which is a huge part of the problem to begin with. Conventional weight loss through dieting and exercise is too slow, too messy, and too likely to unmask the hellish conditions which caused the overeating in the first place.




When I was growing up, there was a woman down the street who was completely stigmatized and had no friends because she was a "fat lady" who weighed something like 250 pounds. Now that seems almost svelte. What happened? What we used to condemn as gluttony (one of the Seven Deadly Sins) has become a relatively cheap, semi-acceptable drug, and no one is asking why so many people have to resort to it to make life bearable.

I was shocked to discover that Slimband (and I keep seeing it as Slimb - and . . . and WHAT?) is considered a remedial process,"an option for failed gastric bypass procedure in obese patients". Nowhere in that glossy, upbeat ad is botched/remedial surgery mentioned. A great many of these "patients" are refugees from the bariatric surgery industry, a fad fostered by such wildly popular TV series as TLC's My 600-lb Life and presented as a nearly-always-successful quick fix. The couple of cases per season where it fails are presented as the fault of the patient and their rotten, uncooperative attitude. One wonders if they have been coached to fail so the show won't seem too unrealistically positive. Nowhere is reality more distorted and manipulated than in "reality TV".





But the remedial surgery aspect of Slimband which is even spelled out in some of their ads (though perhaps only in medical publications) frightens me. If it was such a failed mess the first time, how is Slimband going to help?

One of the most bizarre things I found in my poking around on the internet was a blog recounting a woman's disastrous experience with Slimband, in which she told us she had lost barely any weight, had no support and was constantly uncomfortable. Then she pulled the biggest switcheroo I've ever seen:


The folks at Slimband are trying to help me, as a patient but are doing a very poor job of it so far which is why I’m so darn upset. I got my band de-filled, but now I’m not getting enough follow up or any of the other fancy post op support options they were promising me when we still thought I would be helping the company. I feel totally abandoned again and have no idea what to do or who to talk with to get this band shit figured out! So frustrating! My dietician is trying her best, but she seems limited in her abilities to assist me in my journey. And I’m gaining weight. This make me PISSED TO THE EXTREME.
Despite the vitriol and frustration I have just unloaded, I think that if they just brought me on board, let me figure out where they’re going wrong, how to fix it, and then DO IT they could be a great company and be able to help so many people, past, present and future. A company with a good reputation is going to do very, very well in today’s social media world and bring in the big bucks. I’m trying to balance my desire to fix something broken and make it succeed with my desire to help all those past patients like me that don’t realize that THEY DESERVE BETTER.

I've seen it before: first, bust down the product and get everyone onside with complaints of their own, then subtly (or not-so-subtly) turn the ship around and get it sailing in the opposite direction, specifically for personal profit. The post was actually a bizarre sort of job application, offering Slimband her resume as a possible new pitch-person who would counter all the negative press (some of which she wrote herself). If Slimband was the problem, she was the solution. If cash registers still rang, I'd be hearing: ka-ching.

http://www.plexuspoint.com/plexus-slim-reviews/

I would have been shocked, except it's a ploy I've seen before with Plexus Worldwide, a supplement company that promises weight-loss miracles and is good for man or beast. The blogger ranted and railed against it, saying it had utterly failed her, along with every other weight loss scheme she had ever tried. Nothing worked, they were all useless, and most especially Plexus which also cost her an arm and a leg. It was weird, though. Throughout the rant there were these statements that almost seemed to be defending Plexus. In fact, they couldn't be anything else.


Update: June 22 !

You can now find out if Plexus Slim is specifically right for you.

Just choose the right answers for the 6 questions below & find out if Plexus is right for YOU...




The questionnaire, when filled out, takes you to the Plexus site. Then, even more strangely, she began to hint subtly that there WAS a way out of the weight loss dilemma, and that she had the answer. All you had to do was click on a link taking you to a site which also went on for pages and pages. 

https://www.fitfinally.com/truth/

I'll relieve the suspense right now, folks. It's an ad for her book. A book which purports to provide that one true miracle that will help you beat this problem once and for all. Never mind that every week, if not every day, we see another example of the One True Religion, that awesome Secret that will make us all look slim, youthful and desirable, not the quivering piles of fat we are today.

(For more ranting on this subject, I covered it thoroughly here. But I guess not thoroughly enough.) 

http://margaretgunnng.blogspot.ca/2015/11/in-pain-any-kind-of-pain-shut-fxxx-up.html

Conclusions. If a new miracle is coming out every day, if not every hour, then obviously somebody is not getting the message. Slimfast is a huge, impersonal corporation that uses a surgical chain-saw to fix people's profound emotional pain. They're selling hope, a fragile commodity that slips away in the face of hard reality. If you stuff your face to the point that you can barely walk, you are an addict. Addiction is a minefield, and there is no easy way out. No way out AT ALL, in fact, but there is a way through. Each bomb has to be defused as you come to it. If you don't, sooner or later it will all blow up in your face. 


Chief surgeon at Slimband weight-loss clinics resigns after probe reveals ‘significant history of complaints’



National Post/Files   Dr. Patrick Yau helping to perform a surgery in 2001. Yau has resigned as chief surgeon at Slimband weight-loss clinics after Ontario's College of Physicians and Surgeons ruled his care of a patient was below standards.

The chief surgeon at Canada’s most prominent weight-loss surgery clinic has resigned from the company after Ontario’s medical regulator received what it called a “very troubling” succession of patient complaints about him.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons concluded in one recent ruling that Dr. Patrick Yau of Toronto-based Slimband waited unduly long to operate on a patient suffering acute pain from the “gastric band” installed around her stomach. His response to the excruciating complications failed to meet the profession’s standard of care, the agency’s complaints committee said.

The eroded band was eventually removed by another surgeon.

The decision, not released publicly but obtained by the National Post, also cited a “significant history of complaints” alleging the surgeon had acted unprofessionally, including three others being considered at the same time as the delayed-treatment case. It said the college had also conducted a broader “registrar’s investigation” of his practice.

Related
Leading weight-loss doctor accused of trying to ‘stifle competition’ by filing advertising complaints against rivals
Thick to thin: Gastric-band weight-loss clinic denies allegations of putting patients at risk




“In light of the college’s decision, Dr. Patrick Yau has stepped down from his role at our clinic,” Lisa Borg, Slimband’s chief operating officer, said in an emailed response to queries about the physician.

Ms. Borg declined to elaborate. Neither Dr. Yau nor a lawyer who has acted on his behalf could be reached for comment.

With extensive advertising on TV and the Internet, Slimband is the most visible of a string of private clinics across the country that offer weight-loss operations, and has described itself as the busiest. Dr. Yau says he has performed over 6,000 gastric-band surgeries, more than any other physician in the country, usually with “excellent results.”

A 2012 National Post report, however, quoted malpractice lawsuits and former Slimband employees who raised questions about whether patients signed on following a persistent sales effort were adequately screened, sufficiently warned about possible complications or provided sufficient post-operative care.

The company said at the time that patients are fully informed of the risks and receive post-op service that is the best in the industry. It also cited customer surveys that showed the vast majority of patients were satisfied with the results, their lives changed “in ways they never dreamed possible.”

‘Am I going to have to live the rest of my life this way, or am I going to die because of this?’




Like most of the other private clinics, Slimband implants a liquid-filled band around the stomach, creating a small pocket and a narrow opening to the rest of the organ. The pocket fills with food quickly, making the patient feel full much sooner than normal.

In the case recently decided by the college, the patient had the operation in 2008 and did “very well” initially. But on July 10, 2012, she complained to Slimband about sharp pain and difficulty eating that seemed related to the implant.

Dr. Yau saw her a week later and did a “de-fill” of the liquid in the band to make it looser, but the pain continued, according to an independent expert’s report to the regulator. In the ensuing two weeks, she repeatedly went to hospital, with scans eventually showing the band had started to erode, a problem that can lead to dangerous internal infection.

On Aug. 4, Dr. Yau and a colleague tried to remove the band, but were unable to do so, and said they would wait a month for it to migrate to another position where it could be more easily taken out, the college ruling said. As the pain and discomfort continued, though, the patient found another weight-loss surgeon, Dr. Chris Cobourn of Mississauga, Ont., who removed the band on Aug. 10.

Dr. Yau told the regulator he treated the patient conservatively because she was not in acute danger and he wanted to avoid the potential of unnecessary complications. When her problems persisted, he acted expediently, the physician argued.




Aaron Lynett/National Post/Files   A Slimband clinic in Toronto. The company has described itself as the busiest weight-loss clinics in Canada.

The independent expert, though, said the patient’s problems demanded “a precise and quick” intervention, while Dr. Yau exhibited “no feeling of urgency.” His “surprising” approach failed to meet the profession’s standard of practice, said the expert, a conclusion the complaints committee adopted.

The patient said in an interview she felt abandoned by the health-care system as she struggled with “incredible” discomfort for a month in 2012.

“Because I was in so much pain, and not able to get treatment, it felt extremely scary, it felt hopeless,” said the Toronto-area woman, who asked not to be named. “You begin to think, ‘Am I going to have to live the rest of my life this way, or am I going to die because of this?’ … It was horrible.”




The college’s complaints committee issued a written caution against Dr. Yau, and said he had been ordered to undergo a remediation program.

The committee said it could not rule on the patient’s allegation that he had behaved in an uncaring and unprofessional manner, but added that the surgeon “has a significant history of complaints” before the college regarding his professional communication.

“In short, the committee is very troubled by Dr. Yau’s communication and what appears to be a sustained pattern of issues related to unprofessional behavior.”

The decision also said his practice had been subjected to a “registrar’s investigation,” a broader review that can sometimes look at a doctor’s treatment of several patients. That probe led to the order that he undergo remediation and continuing education.

National Post
tblackwell@nationalpost.com

And as the kicker, a tiny excerpt from the many, many post-surgery blogs I found.

Welcome to the wonderful world of lapband life.




I had weight loss surgery, and having had the lapband 2 1/2 years I am very familiar with being “stuck”. It can happen at any time, for any reason. I have eaten dense protein like chicken or steak and it went down just fine. then later that day I have attempted to eat Greek yogurt and it doesn’t want to go down. With the Lap-Band, restriction can vary from day to day, moment to moment. That is why I call my band a psycho band, lol.

What I usually do when I am stuck is to take some Papaya Extract. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Coke is another option. Although carbonated beverages are generally frowned upon with most weight loss surgeries, this is an exception. The acid in it can break down the protein. It’s usually going to go down…….or come back up. Either way, it’s a plus. Staying stuck is not a good thing!

Fluids in general can sometimes dilute it and push it on down. Since I am now used to following the “band rules” and not drinking with meals or for 30 minutes after, I wouldn’t do this initially because I thought I needed to wait 30 minutes after it finally went down to drink. Don’t hesitate though, if you’ve been stuck for more than a few minutes, take a drink. It may help.



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