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One man undergoes surgery to lose weight, save his life

Lap band

Michael Hortenstine nearly lost his life to his uphill battle with weight. His doctors told him he had 24 months to live. After reviewing his options, his family settled on the Lap Band system. (WRDW-TV / July 25, 2011)

News 12 This Morning / Monday, July 25th, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Alarming statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 30 percent of Georgians are obese, which is up from 27 percent in 2010.

Michael Hortenstine is a part of that 30 percent.

The Augusta man has nearly lost his life to his uphill battle with weight.

"I've been on diets. Lost almost 100 pounds before. I was right back up to where I was plus 25 pounds," Hortenstine said.

Eventually that weight crept up to a whopping 390 pounds. At his heaviest, Hortenstine had to use a wheelchair and a cane to get around.

"I was mostly bedridden spending 18 hours sleeping," Hortenstine said.

His doctors told him he had 24 months to live.

"The way I felt physically -- that the end was coming. I was willing to just accept that," he said.

However, his 7-year-old granddaughter didn't accept it.

"Was looking at picture on the desk that has my wife's wedding picture and my daughter's wedding picture. She asked me please to be there long enough to have her picture, too," he said.

After reviewing his options, his family settled on the Lap Band system. Dr. Christopher Gates, the bariatrics program medical director at Doctors Hospital, said the procedure involves placing a small band around the top of the stomach, which creates a small pouch.

It decreases the amount of food you can eat and slows down the food moving from stomach to the intestine without losing nutrients.

"When you hit a point, you know you're full. I have never been able to walk away and leave plate full of food on the table," Hortenstine said.

Surgeons at Doctors Hospital say they turn to the procedure when diets and exercise fail.

"It is well known if your BMI is over 30, you are a person who is likely to suffer health consequences related to your obesity." Gates said. "Obesity is robbing the health and the lives of citizens of the United States."

Now weighing in at under 270, the surgery has given Hortenstine a second chance at life.

"I'm active with my family in church. Things I have written off, figured I'd never do again," he said.

Hortenstine has to monitor what he eats very carefully. If he eats too much food, it can cause complications. Other complications include slippage of the band and infections which doctors will look for during checkups after the surgery. Hortenstine is still on track to lose another 60 pounds by working out three to four times week.

The FDA has also loosened the criteria of who is eligible for Lap Band surgery this year. Previously, candidates with a body mass index or BMI of 35 to 40 were eligible. That number has dropped.

Now, patients with a BMI of 30 and 35 are eligible for the surgery. Doctors say this is because they've shown the surgery is safe. They also say since more people are gaining tremendous amounts of weight, this is another way to fight back against the problem.


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