Mum died after gastric bypass surgery went wrong – story in WOMAN’S OWN magazine…
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My mum starved to death…
By Alison Smith-Squire
Chantel Graf’s mum, 42, simply longed to be slim. But she paid a terrible price. Here, Chantel, 19, tells her tragic story…
The delicious smell of a Sunday roast wafted through the house. Yet one of my last memories of my mum Angela Jones, 42 is her shaking her head as I begged her to try a small dinner.
Days later and weighing a pitiful 5 stones she died. Ironically, she’d once weighed 26 stones. But after undergoing a gastric bypass operation to slim, she was left unable to eat and shockingly starved to death.
Today I am telling her tragic story as a warning to others who choose to have gastric bypass.
Because had mum known weight loss surgery would kill her, she never would have had it done.
As a little girl I can’t remember a time when mum wasn’t overweight.
Born with hip problems, she developed arthritis in her early teens that made exercise difficult.
Aged 19 she met my dad Bryan and went on to have my sister, Melissa and I.
Yet although she was often confined to a chair, she was always smiling. She rarely complained and when we went on family outings she still managed to come with us, walking with a stick.
But she adored food. A perfect night for my mum was watching TV with a Chinese takeaway balanced on her lap.
Consequently her weight soared. At her heaviest she weighed 26 stones and from the age of eight, my sister and I were her official carers – helping make tea and doing errands.
Of course she desperately wanted to slim. Throughout my childhood she tried every diet going – from shakes to Weight Watchers. She even won a Slimmer of the Year award – I can remember she proudly stuck it on the fridge door.
But she simply couldn’t maintain the weight loss – whenever she lost a stone, she’d put it all back on again and more.
Then at the age of 37 mum said had something to tell Melissa and I. By now we were in our teens and mum often said how much she longed to accompany us on shopping trips and buy clothes from High St shops.
Her had weight peaked and at 4ft9” she had a BMI of 79. Her hips got more painful and she’d developed diabetes. She’d seen her GP who’d referred her to a consultant at Spire Southampton.
“Doctors think I should have a weight loss operation,” she said.
Melissa and I were horrified, especially when mum explained she would have to have a general anaesthetic.
Dad was really worried. Melissa and I heard them talking about the risks. As there was a chance she could die under on the operating table, she would have to lose two stones before she even had it done.
“I don’t want you to have it,” I told her tearfully. Melissa said the same. We all worried something could go wrong.
But mum was adamant it was best. “I”ll be fine,” she’d say, “the doctors say if I don’t have it I could die. The doctors think it’s best and I trust them.”
On the day of the op, we were all anxious. So when mum came through the operation and we went to hospital to see her sat up in bed, we were all incredibly relieved.
Doctors explained mum had undergone a bypass. A bypass works by surgically removing part of the digestive system so it takes less food and makes the patient feel fuller faster. Unlike a gastric band, it is not reversible. But it is often preferred for very obese patients because it gives better weight loss results.
With doctors saying surgery was a success, we believed mum was through the worst.
How wrong we were.
Within days the first signs of the nightmare to come began when mum kept being sick.
We’d been warned mum’s food would have to be liquidised at first – but she couldn’t keep anything down at all.
Nevertheless doctors reassured us the sickness would soon settle and after two weeks she came home to Portsmouth.
But despite being prescribed anti-nausea drugs the sickness continued.
Weeks went on. We expected mum would be able to eat more solid food but all her meals had to be made into drinks.
It was so upsetting to see her struggling to consume those.
Unsurprisingly within three months she weighed 18 stones.
“Look at how slim I am,” she’d say. She was thrilled with her new figure. However over the next six months she continued to lose weight at an alarming rate.
Tests showed she was suffering from pancreatitis, a common side effect of gastric surgery where the pancreas becomes inflamed.
Finally in March 2011 she was rushed back to hospital. In a year she’d lost 20 stones and now she’d collapsed, weighing only 4stones.
Doctors urgently inserted a tube to the side of her stomach to feed her nutrients. A few days later she underwent surgery at Spires to reverse the op.
But a bypass is irreversible and it didn’t work.
She spent two months in hospital being tube fed. When she came home she still had to be hooked up to the feeding machine for ten hours a day. It was no life.
Dad couldn’t cope and moved out.
Meanwhile I’d sit with mum begging her to eat, spoon-feeding her like a baby. By now she’d developed a fear of food.
I’d cook her favourites but she’d cry, “I just can’t manage it.” It broke our hearts.
By 2011 she’d collapsed again and was back in hospital.
The news was terrible. Due to the lack of food mum’s organs were slowly shutting down.
Over the next 18 months she was in and out of hospital on a drip. She’d get slightly better only to slip back again. She was so weak I had to bath her and even help her to the toilet.
By December 2013 I was expecting my first baby with my partner Phil Overthrow. Mum adored being gran to Melissa’s two sons and I couldn’t wait until I made her a gran too.
Sadly it was not to be.
In March 2014 I woke to find mum passed out on the sofa. Ambulance blaring she was rushed to A & E at Portsmouth Queen Alexandra hospital. Three days later she died.
We were so angry when we read the post mortem. It found mum’s problems began when she had the bypass. A lack of food led to her losing too much weight leading to multi organ failure. She was so frail she couldn’t fight off any infection and finally died of pneumonia she’d picked up during a hospital stay.
The bypass starved mum to death. She went through hell. This operation was presented to mum as the answer to all of her problems. She was frightened by doctors into going head.
Devastatingly she never lived to see my daughter Ruby-Mae born in August 2014. It’s too late for mum – but I just hope telling her story makes anyone considering having a bypass think twice. If it stops just one person going through a nightmare as we’ve done, it will be worth it.”
Spire Southampton hospital declined to comment.