Growing pains

One woman's struggle with weight and the choices she made

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff
jlassiter@starhq.com  

  After trying diets, exercise programs and weight loss medication, Doris Odom, 40, of Elizabethton, decided to commit to gastric bypass surgery, and the lifestyle changes that are needed for success on May 31, 2003, but not without doing her homework first.
  As a child, around the age of 6 or 7, Odom was always tiny, until she had her tonsils removed. "I just kept growing from there, and my weight became a problem," said Odom.
  Odom lost weight as a teenager because of some extensive dental work, but gained the weight back when she had her braces removed.
  "After two children I couldn't lose the baby weight. I tried Weight Watchers; all the diet programs. I even bought a gym membership," Odom said.
  Two years prior to her surgery, Odom began researching gastric bypass surgery. "I started looking on the Internet, and asking other people who had had the surgery done."
  Most importantly Odom checked the credentials of the doctor, finding out their success rate versus their years of experience with gastric bypass surgery.
  "I knew it was time when my oldest child was picking out her class ring. I realized my children are getting older and will be getting married soon. I want to be able to shop 'til I drop for the wedding," said Odom.
  After finding the right doctor, Dr. Glenn Birkitt of Bristol, and consulting Odom's practicing physician, they concurred that gastric bypass surgery was a good route for her to take.
  Odom's surgery was completely covered by her insurance company, Aeta Insurance. Insurance companies are beginning to recognize obesity as a disease and treatment for patients will help reduce other chronic conditions later, according to Odom.
  Preparing for surgery was an extensive process, not to be taken lightly. Odom was given both a physical and mental evaluation including an ultrasound, psychiatric evaluation, colonoscopy, nutritional classes and a consultation on lifestyle changes just to name a few.
  According to Odom, these are steps that anyone seeking this type of surgery should do in preparation to assure they are a good candidate for the surgery.
  There are several types of restrictive operations to promote weight loss by shrinking the stomach. Reducing the amount of calories, nutrients in the body and food intake is the primary goal of the surgery. Odom's surgery is the most common form, although there are several different types.
  A small pouch about the size of an egg is created in the upper portion of the stomach. A section of the small intestine is attached to the stomach to allow food to pass through the lower section of the stomach.
  "I have a high threshold for pain, but I did have 31 staples in my stomach, so yes, it did hurt. But I knew I had to get up and get through it."
  The first couple of weeks after the surgery only clear liquids are allowed, about every hour, slowly introducing solids back into the diet, only at a much smaller portion.
  Today Odom can eat any food she wishes, only smaller portions. It takes time to train your hand to scoop only one serving, and that is part of the lifestyle changes, according to Odom.
  The success or failure of the surgery, according to Odom, depends on the individual. "You have to make the surgery work," she said.
  There are risks and side effects of the surgery, as with any surgery. It is a personal choice that includes lifestyle changes. Nausea, which Odom experienced, is expected for at least five to six months. There are risks of developing a hernia, gall stones and/or nutritional deficiencies.
  Today, 14 months later and 140 pounds lighter, Odom can help her husband with his work in landscaping, and can also walk to and from her parents house just two doors down on S. Roan Street, things she couldn't do before her surgery. Odom can even share clothes with her daughter.
  My daughters, Amber, 17, and Denise, 15, feel more comfortable buying me clothes. Before they were afraid they would buy the wrong size.
  "I feel wonderful. I am a success story all the way around," said Odom.