I was already dead in my fat body: Seuua Karuaihe

Seuua Karuaihe, who owns Garlic and Flower Restaurant in Windhoek, used to tip the scales at a staggering 170kgs but now she is down to 100kg.

“I was fat my whole life. I was tired of carrying the weight of more than one person. I carried three people’s weight,” she says.

Karuaihe’s saviour is Windhoek based Dr Jeremy Nel who did a gastric bypass operation on her. She was 45 and weighing 420 kg when Dr. Nel operated her three years ago.

Gastric bypass is an operation that makes the stomach smaller and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine.
(See fig: 1a - e)

The operation makes one feel full thereby reducing the amount of food one eats. This leads to a reduced amount of calories absorbed and ultimately to weight loss.

To be eligible for gastric bypass surgery one needs to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more, or a BMI of 35 to 40 with obesity related illnesses.

“I personally do not operate on my patients when they are over 60 and younger than 12 years,” says Nel.

According to Dr Nell, in any surgery there are potential risks and Gastric bypass is no exception. The complications vary from wound infection to leaks.

Today, he says, the possibilities of these risks have been reduced because of laparoscope surgery.

“Laparoscopic procedures consist of multiple small instruments which are used to perform the surgery through small holes in the stomach.

“Once the patient is asleep, we give them a harmless gas through the abdomen so that the stomach is blown up like a balloon. The organs will move and the surgeon can see when a tiny camera (a laparoscope) is inserted into one incision through a narrow tube. (see fig: 3a and b)

“The reason why I prefer the laparoscopic approach for Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) is because of the quicker recovery period and the shorter hospital stay. There are also reduced risks of wound infection, as we do not open the patient’s stomach but do everything from outside through cameras. My patients report less pain and quicker return to normal activity,” explains Nel.

Nel does not operate on people suffering from manic depression, alcoholics, drug addicts and mentally unstable people because of the great risks involved. It was a tough decision for Karuaihe.

One of her sisters discouraged her from taking the operation after researching on the risks involved.

Since the businesswoman felt like she was already dead in her fat body, she went ahead.

“Before the surgery, the doctor told me I should lose 10 percent on my own. It was tough and it took me a year. I was put on an exercise programme,” she explains adding, “The doctor monitored me for six months after the surgery, and during those months, I didn’t really eat much.

“I used to eat a lot. Depending on fluids alone is a big shock for your body but your mind has to be prepared for the big adjustment.’’

She recalls how she used to be an active person at school playing netball and doing different sports until she became fat.

“I stopped the exercises and became very inactive,” she recalls and her self-esteem fell.
But now, she has become a new person, and people’s attitude towards her has also changed.

“I feel great. I am now very active and it’s all thanks to the Biokinectics where I was training with professional trainers. They teach you the basics of fitness,” she says.

“I feel young, energetic and I socialize more and people around me are more appreciative. I feel like am in a whole new world and I am very happy and physically stronger.

Nel says: “It has always been a wonder for me to see how patients change their whole lives and personalities as a result of permanent weight loss.

“Most people know about the surgery in Namibia is just they are too sceptical about Gastric Bypass Surgery,” he continues, saying 90% of obese related diseases are cured because people go for GBS.

Both do admit, the increase in Genetically Modified Food (GMO) in Namibia, is resulting in increase in obesity especially among women, and as a result, losing weight should equally be regarded as part of lifestyle. PF