All thanks to heaven and PSE&G because I just got my power back after hurricane Sandy gave us quite a beating. You may have heard my wife’s shouts of joy if you live within a three mile radius of our house. All that time without the buzz of electricity allowed me some time to think about some of the recent things I’ve seen around the hospital that have reinforced the importance of the fight against obesity. Seeing as Halloween was cancelled on the streets in the neighborhoods around here, I figured I’d give you a bit of a real-life horror show to help motivate you to lose weight. I’ll relate just a few of the many stories of the horrors of obesity in the hospital.
Patient 1: TS. TS passed away a few weeks ago. She was a lovely lady in her forties who had the misfortune of breaking her hip in a fall. She had a loving husband who was always by her side and a son in the military. For most victims of hip fractures, there’s usually a surgery, a few days in bed, and a few weeks of rehab before getting back on their feet. For TS, her weight complicated things. After the surgery, she wasn’t able to move around in the bed adequately. Because of her weight, the staff was unable to help move her either. She developed a severe decubitus ulcer (aka pressure or bed sores). These occur because the pressure on the backside cuts off blood flow which leads to skin breakdown. Bacteria run loose and inhibit healing because the decreased blood flow keeps the immune system from getting to the area to fight the infection and help healing. Most people don’t get these sores because they are able to shift their weight or be moved by nursing staff. Obese patients have a much more difficult time moving or being moved. Their added weight also puts more pressure on their backside. TS’s sore was so bad that a hole developed in her lower back all the way to the bone. It created a festering cavity the size of a small melon. It just wouldn’t heal. If she had weighed less, the vicious cycle would likely not have started and she’d be home with her family today.
Patient 2: TH. TH is a young man in his 30s who is very obese. The excess weight in his legs and pelvis has led to compression of the blood return in the veins of his legs. This has over time caused break down of the veins, terrible swelling, and a chronic rash that makes the skin prone to breakdown and infection. Similar to TS this leads to a situation where the immune system is unable to adequately patrol the area. He has developed chronic draining wounds that won’t heal. He is confined to a nursing home because he requires 24 hour assistance with his daily activities and wound care.
Patient 3: VS. VS had the misfortune of requiring emergent surgery for a ruptured large bowel. She made it through the surgery but a few days after the operation, she developed an abscess at the bottom of the surgical wound. An abscess is a pocket of pus. She developed this because her belly was so large that the lower parts of her abdomen folded under creating an area that couldn’t stay dry or clean. She had to have the wound opened, drained, and packed with gauze. She will now require a great deal of wound care in a nursing home to allow the wound to heal.
These are just a few of the terrible things I see as a result of obesity. As I sit with these poor patients or try to comfort their grieving families, I so greatly wish there was a way that I could go back in time and do whatever was in my power to convince them to lose weight before calamity struck. Unfortunately with them it may be too late; with you it’s not. If you’re overweight these stories may be your future. I am imploring you to change your lifestyle before I or another physician is forced to shake our heads and wonder what could have been if only…