Sunday 18 March 2018

Call for funding to help morbidly obese

Niamh Keegan

A WEXFORD man who lost 20 stone over 12 months after life-changing surgery is calling urgently for funds for 183 morbidly obese people in Ireland waiting for the operation to get the go-ahead for surgery, because the wait could kill them.

Kieran Keeling, who lives with wife Shirley in Murrintown, underwent bariatric surgery at the Loughlinstown Clinic, which involved the removal of the lower part of his stomach, making it the size of a banana. He had to wait three and a half years for the surgery, during which time he had to lose 10 per cent of his body weight, as well as maintain a certain level of fitness.

'It was the best thing to happen to me. I struggled with obesity for 20 years. I was borderline diabetic, suffered with sleep apnoea and was almost entirely housebound. The operation saw me reduce from 37 stone to 17 stone over the course of a year and now I have a new and better life,' Kieran said.

The father of two adult children in their twenties, Kieran celebrated with a sky dive last August because he is no longer morbidly obese, which is defined as being 100 per cent over your ideal weight and which leads to increased illness, disability and even death.

'I am new person, in every way. The operation has transformed my life so much that it makes me sad to see the numbers of those on waiting lists who could die waiting,' he said.

'Our government is concentrating on obesity at school level, but very little is being done for adults who are already obese. Denmark does 1,000 operations for every million people, but Ireland only does some 80 operations per million people,' he said.

Not alone has the operation seen Kieran radically reduce his weight, it has also cured his borderline diabetes and improved his sleep apnoea, although he still uses an oxygen machine to help him to sleep. Now he enjoys a 15 mile walk every day when previously he couldn't even walk the length of his driveway. 'I was almost housebound before but now I am out cutting the lawn, I can tie my shoe laces and buy clothes off-the-peg in shops,' he added.

'I always had a tendency to be heavy, and I went on many diets and would lose maybe six stone but then I'd put it on again. When you are morbidly obese it is extremely hard to lose weight, so I went looking for help from my GP. He referred me to the team in Loughlinstown but I had to wait three and a half years for the operation. The team of doctors, psychiatrists, physiotherapists and nurses do marvellous work at the clinic but there is just not enough funding for the level of need out there today,' he said

As a private patient, the operation would have cost Kieran in excess of €15,000, excluding any after care, however he was operated under the public health system and will now have a check-up every six months, for life.

'He is also hoping to receive an operation to remove excess skin, called an 'apronectomy'.

'People who are addicted to food simply don't get the same treatment as those addicted to alcohol or drugs. Being morbidly obese has not got anything to do with their glands, they weren't born that way, they are food addicts,' he said.

Kieran believes the provision of the operations for the morbidly obese would ultimately save taxpayers' money because of a reduction in funds needed to care for the many obesity related diseases as well as social welfare payments due to disability.

'The majority of morbidly obese people are unable to work and are in receipt of social welfare, with a medical card and using the drugs allowance scheme while a bariatric operation could radically improve their lives in a matter of months,' he said.

Wexford People

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