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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Bariatric surgery cures 71 year old of diabetes and high blood pressure

The mother of three lost 28kg, dropped from a dress size 26 to an 18 and is no longer in need of knee surgery

Alya Al Meheri, 71, lost 28kg after undergoing bariatric surgery. Khushnum Bhandari/ The National
Alya Al Meheri, 71, lost 28kg after undergoing bariatric surgery. Khushnum Bhandari/ The National

Proving you are never too old for bariatric surgery, 71-year-old Alya Al Muheiri, who weighed over 100kg, underwent the procedure last year and now weighs 72kg and has dropped from a dress size 26 to an 18.

“I now advise everyone who is overweight to have bariatric surgery,” she said, adding that one of the happiest moments was finally being able to find clothes her size at Marks & Spencer.

The Emirati mother of three did not only weigh 100kg before the operation, she had diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, knee problems and no control over her bladder.

She spent years trying to lose weight, but could not. “The weight just wouldn’t go away no matter how much I starved myself,” she said.

Exercise was also not an option since the extra weight was bearing down on her knees, causing excruciating pain. At one point, she said, doctors recommended that she have knee replacement surgery because she couldn’t go up the stairs. For her, the most embarrassing and distressing symptom, however, was that she had no control over her bladder. “That was the worst for me,” Mrs Al Muheiri said.

Having been obese for more than ten years, she decided to have bariatric surgery to improve her health. “The doctors told me to inform [my children] so I did – they agreed with me that it was a good idea."

Mrs Al Muheiri said that her life changed drastically after surgery. Apart from finding clothes her size, Al Muheiri's high sugar and cholesterol levels went down. “Even my knees are better,” she said, “and the doctors who told me a year ago that I needed to have surgery said that I don’t need it anymore. I showed them my previous X-Rays and they were shocked.”

Today, Mrs Al Muheiri weighs 72kg and is gradually losing more weight.

Dr Mohammed Al Hadad, consultant bariatric surgeon and head of the bariatric and metabolic surgery centre at Healthpoint, said: “We are very cautious when it comes to patients who are above the age of 60.”

“We don’t encourage everybody to seek bariatric surgery and especially elderly patents – we are very careful with them,” says Dr Al Hadad, who made sure Mrs Al Muheiri went through a number of health checks before she was cleared for surgery. “We have to outweigh the benefits versus the risk.”

“Mrs Al Muheiri’s BMI was 45 before the surgery. Now it is 34. We did the surgery because she had diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and asthma.”

“We don’t advise surgery for everyone, but obesity is a disease that has gone beyond a point of a no return, so it has to be treated. You have to prevent it in children, but once it becomes a disease, you have to treat it with surgery because there is nothing else that works right now, especially when the BMI is over 40."

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Read more:

Drastic weight loss can reverse diabetes, study shows

New diabetes 'reversal' procedure available in the UAE from 2018

'BMI blindness' means parents are failing to spot childhood obesity warning signs, study finds

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Dr Al Hadad said that people who comment on a woman in her 70s undergoing bariatric surgery are not aware that this woman now no longer suffers from health problems.

Doctors are satisfied with Mrs Al Muheiri progress – “The younger the patient, the faster the wright loss. But Mrs Al Muheri’s diabetes is gone, her high cholesterol has gone, her high blood pressure has gone and she no longer has problems controlling her urine. We are extremely happy and what we want now is to maintain this.”

Mrs Al Muheiri’s only concern today is the excess skin she now has after surgery. Currently, the only way to get rid of it is to have plastic surgery. “It isn’t about wanting to be attractive, but rot develops under all this skin and it smells very bad. You must always lift the skin, clean it and spray a lot of perfume. It is putrid,” she said.

Her insurance refuses to cover the procedure since it is not deemed a medical necessity. “I’m old and not asking to do my thighs or legs. I just want to get rid of this skin.”

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