A Durban couple have lost more than 100kg on their epic weight-loss journey.
Cecilia and Marthinus Deetlefs have always struggled with their weight and tried several weight-loss methods through the years, including vertical banded gastroplasty surgeries in the 1980s, where their stomach size was restricted with mesh and staples.
After finally not being able to eat and feeling gravely ill, Cecilia was referred to bariatric surgeon, Dr Gert du Toit. He found that the surgery Cecilia had all those years ago caused excessive scarring and was making her feel ill.
Cecilia told Health24 that she and Marthinus were full of hope after having their initial surgery in the 1980s. They went ahead and joined a gym, and were fully invested in maintaining their health.
"I never felt well after that operation. We couldn't eat meat, fish or chicken, which we learned to live with. We ate lots of cheese, pork and lamb, including the fat because these foods were the easiest to go down the narrow stomach opening.
"Years went by and we started gaining weight again and this affected our health negatively as well," said Cecilia.
After Dr Du Toit examined Cecilia, he recommended gastric bypass surgery. She also had excessive scarring, fibrosis and a great amount of scar tissue buildup, which was to be addressed during the gastric bypass surgery.
Cecilia had her surgery in August 2016. It was a remarkable success and her weight dropped from 117kg to 68kg. It was however not only thanks to the surgery. Before and after her surgery she worked with a team to help her with the psychological aspects of the procedure, as well as a nutritionist to help her with healthy food choices.
Seeing the success his wife had experienced with her gastric bypass surgery, Marthinus made an appointment to see Dr du Toit as well, hoping he could also benefit from the surgery.
Marthinus was suffering from joint issues – he began experiencing problems with one of his knees, and according to an orthopaedic surgeon he would need a knee replacement. He also suffered from obstructive sleep apnoea and needed to wear a device to help him breathe while sleeping.
Although he didn't suffer as much as Cecilia, he had similar problems with keeping food down.
Cecilia and Marthinus had to lose a certain amount of weight before going for their surgery. Because Cecilia's procedure was more of an emergency due to the problems she was experiencing, she couldn't lose much weight.
Marthinus, however, exceeded all expectations.
Cecilia said: "He was so motivated and he managed to lose more than the team expected. Losing weight is not easy, because there are distinct phases in the diet to prepare your body for the operation. He maintained his focus on the goal – being healthy and losing the weight."
Before his surgery in March, Marthinus weighed 143kg and has managed to lose 56kg since the gastric bypass surgery. He aims to lose an additional 15kg.
Minimally invasive procedure
Dr du Toit and his surgical partner, Dr Ivor Funnel, at St Augustine's Hospital in Durban, use a laparoscopic surgical technique to do the surgery.
"We use this method because it's minimally invasive and presents fewer risks, particularly for obese patients, than traditional open surgery. Through small ports, we can access the area where we need to work.
"We use special cameras which magnify the image so we are able to work with precision," explained Dr du Toit.
Those who are considering gastric bypass surgery are first assessed by a team of specialists, such as a physician or endocrinologist; a psychologist or psychiatrist; a biokineticist; a dietitian; and the surgeon, to establish if the surgery is a step in the right direction.
Even though their procedures took place months ago, Cecilia and Marthinus are still enjoying support and follow-up care.
"With our first operations, we had no additional support or follow-up care, other than going to the GP to check our stitches, but with this procedure, there is support from a whole team including a psychologist and a dietitian.
"We have a weight loss support group that we still attend every month, and this really helps to keep our motivation strong. Dr du Toit or his surgical partner, Dr Funnel, are usually at the support group meetings as well. There is usually a guest speaker, people who have had the surgery and people who are considering it.
"I find it extremely motivating to talk to these people who are struggling with their weight, and sharing my journey with them to show them what is possible," said Cecilia.
Cecilia and Marthinus own a mini skip removal company and are physically quite active in the daily running of the business. They have also discovered the joys of walking. After downloading a pedometer app on their smartphones, they found that together they are covering more than 120km per month.
She added that they are looking into joining a gym so they can train after work. "We like supporting each other. We motivate each other, which in turn keeps us going and improves our health," said Cecilia.