More patients seek weight loss surgery due to COVID-19 health risks

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Obesity is a big risk factor for bad outcomes with COVID-19. Local surgeons report the number of people seeking bariatric weight loss surgery is surging.

As soon as the pandemic hit a horde of potential patients began knocking on Dr. Anthony Terracina‘s door. The Bon Secours Bariatric Surgery Center saw a 40% increase in consultations in just one month.

“The interest seemed to come to a head at the end of the summer and there’s really no end in sight right now,” he told WAVY.com.

Dana and Damien Burgess of Yorktown were already working with Dr. Terracina when the pandemic hit. Like 40% of Americans, the Burgesses’ ballooning weight had created real health issues.

“I’m a prime example. I had diabetes for 11 years and I was on two different kinds of insulin and an oral medication and medication for hypertension,” Dana said.

Dana’s operation happened two days before elective surgeries shut down. Damien was one of the first on the table in June when they restarted.

“I feel more confident; I feel like I did when I was a young man,” Damien said.

While COVID-19 concerns have kept some from having other types of elective surgeries, the Burgesses were not concerned and Dr. Terracina said, “We have yet had a patient who cancelled, because I think our patients understand that this is their chance to get healthy.”

Together, Dana and Damien have dropped 200 pounds.

“Now we can put our arms all the way around each other,” Dana giggled.

She went on to say that both have cured their diabetes and cut their risk of death from COVID-19. “It’s been great to be able to do this journey together just like we’ve done everything else in life together.”

There are several types of bariatric surgeries, with gastric bypass being probably the most well known.

It takes about six months from consultation to operation because there’s a lot of hard work and education involved. Doctors are now doing virtual and in-person appointments. Not all insurance covers it.


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