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Bariatric Surgery provides a second chance, transforms lives

Capt. Janice Perido, 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron bariatric surgery physician assistant, explains the six month follow up report to Sharon L. Burton, bariatric patient Jan. 25, 2018, at a bariatric surgery waiting room at David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, California. Burton had a gastro bypass in July of 2017, and has currently lost 68 percent of her body mass index. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathon D. A. Carnell)

Capt. Janice Perido, 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron bariatric surgery physician assistant, explains the six month follow up report to Sharon L. Burton, bariatric patient Jan. 25, 2018, at a bariatric surgery waiting room at David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, California. Burton had a gastro bypass in July of 2017, and has currently lost 68 percent of her body mass index. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathon D. A. Carnell)

(From left to right) Captain Janice Perido, Kelli Miller-Freeman, Major Jason Babcock, Major Michael Rawlins, all assigned to the 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron at the David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, California, pose for a photo Jan. 25, 2018, at the Bariatric Surgery Clinic at the DGMC at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures on people who have obesity and can potentially help individuals with health issues related to their obesity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathon D. A. Carnell)

(From left to right) Captain Janice Perido, Kelli Miller-Freeman, Major Jason Babcock, Major Michael Rawlins, all assigned to the 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron at the David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, California, pose for a photo Jan. 25, 2018, at the Bariatric Surgery Clinic at the DGMC at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures on people who have obesity and can potentially help individuals with health issues related to their obesity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathon D. A. Carnell)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – According to the State of Obesity’s website, 35 percent of Americans have a body mass index that falls under the morbidly obese category.

The David Grant USAF Medical Center bariatric clinic at Travis Air Force Base, California, welcomes people who fall under this category and has treatments to help people in the local community to stymie health hazards they’ve encountered due to obesity.

The bariatric clinic at DGMC is comprised of U.S. Air Force members and their civilian counterparts who specialize in offering patients the support and operations necessary to assist their needs.

For many, being overweight causes symptoms which include breathlessness, back and joint pain, low confidence, self-esteem issues and isolation. There are also medical problems associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, all of which are significantly improved after surgery.

Millions of Americans annually have a New Year’s resolution of diet, exercise and to shed a few pounds. Medical weight loss therapies alone lead to a 95 percent fail rate.

“Typical patients have failed to achieve sustained weight loss efforts either through medical supervision or on their own,” said Capt. Janice Perido, 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron bariatric surgery physician assistant.

The process at Travis AFB begins with a referral from the individual’s primary care manager. With that referral, the person will get in contact with Kelli Miller-Freeman, 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron bariatric nurse coordinator, at the bariatric clinic to get scheduled for a bariatric seminar, an educational class which provides information regarding surgical weight loss treatment options.

Requirements for being a recipient at Travis’ bariatric clinic is the individual must be at least 18 years old and have a BMI of 35 kilogram/squaremeter or higher. Eligible beneficiaries are dependents of active duty personnel, retiree, dependent a veteran patient referred by their VA PCM.  

“When a new patient is onboard, I try to answer their questions openly and honestly with complete transparency,” said Miller-Freeman. “My job is to make sure patient get as much support for their journey.”

Miller-Freeman underwent a bariatric operation in 2002 and is able to bring a personalized perspective to the program.

“I developed blood clots in both lungs from standing for long hours and being overweight,” said Miller-Freeman. “I developed cardio myopathy after having my daughter in 1997. There wasn’t a choice for me. I had to reduce the volume of work my heart had to do for supporting my 400 pound body.”

For Miller-Freeman, being overweight did not define her.

“I really believe I was a fat happy woman,” said Miller-Freeman. “I used to say if Oprah could be heavy and be on TV, what could I have to complain about. But it was when I had to fight for my life due to my weight, I understood that after my operation, I had been given a second chance.”

It’s what you do with that second chance which defines who you can be and defy whatever mindset you previously had, said Miller-Freeman.

“The bariatric surgery clinic offers comprehensive surgical care to TriCare and VA beneficiaries who’ve met qualifications,” said Perido. “We provide a multidisciplinary approach to weight loss surgery and are committed to safe and top quality care.”

“One of the hardest decisions which can be made by an obese individual is saying, ‘I need to start living a healthier lifestyle,’” said Miller-Freeman. “The surgery is a challenge. It will not be an easy way out and after the operation is complete, there are still hardships which remain from the past. Along this journey, you have to remember, living alongside these new lifestyle rules will make you successful.”

Daily life experiences became much easier and spreading the word about bariatric surgery with a smile, helps invite people, said Miller-Freeman

“Bariatric surgery is so much more than just weight loss,” said Maj. (Dr.) Logan M. Rawlins, 60th Medical Group Surgical Squadron general and bariatric surgeon. It resolves medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reflux, heart disease, sleep apnea.”

“Weight loss surgery is a jump start patients need to help them reach their weight loss goals; it is a pause button that allows you to reset. However weight loss surgery is not plastic surgery.  It is a metabolic operation that changes your entire body in how you digest and process foods, we are not sucking out fat cells.”

On average, individuals who’ve partaken in a bariatric operation here, have reduced their excess BMI by 70 percent and cut the prescription drug use by 75 percent, said Perido.

“I had my gastric bypass surgery July 18, 2017, and since have lost nearly 100 pounds,” said Sharon L. Burton, bariatric surgery clinic patient. “This journey has been the best thing for me in my life. With still managing children at home, this surgery has given me the opportunity to have more and better experiences with them.”

“Only one percent of people nationwide get bariatric surgery who qualify based on BMI criteria,” said Rawlins. “Some are talked out of it by their family or PCM as many people think surgery is too risky when in fact, it is very safe with very low overall complication rates.”

Doing anything with the word surgery is a very difficult mindset to break for most. The hardest part, though, is to ask “why did I not take advantage of this surgery long ago?” said Burton.

After completion of the bariatric operation patients undergo many follow-up appointments in the first year and beyond. At the sixth month mark, staff members run diagnostics to see how much their patient has improved and to keep them on the road to success, and check for any vitamin deficiencies.

“Bariatric surgery offers people a new life free from obesity, medical problems and social stigma,” said Rawlins. “It is the new start many patients are looking for.”

All appointments are booked through DGMC’s referral management office after a consult has been electronically placed by the patient’s PCM. Alternatively, patients may also self-refer for this program.  All follow-up appointments can be made directly at the general surgery clinic’s front desk. Patients may also call 707-423-5224.