Deborah Salkeld weighed more than 500 pounds (approximately 228 kg) in 2012, at the age of 43, and her weight was making her life almost impossible. She was no longer able to leave her home on her own, and even had difficulty getting around her home as she lived in a high-rise apartment building and had several falls down the stairs, once breaking her ankle.
Deborah started gaining weight 13 years earlier after one of her brothers committed suicide in 1999 when she was 18. Unable to cope with the loss, she tried to ease her pain by eating.
“When my brother went to heaven, it was very difficult to cope mentally. I became a true hermit. I just sat at home and ate. I didn’t want to see anyone. I ate all the time; it was the only thing that made me feel a little bit better. When I got lonely and sad, I would order a kebab or a pizza and I would not leave any of it, I would eat it all at once,” she recalls.
She has struggled with her weight for more than 10 years, and although she had previously inquired about gastric surgery, doctors always turned her down because she never managed to lose the required 10 pounds that everyone aims for before surgery.
But Deborah never weighed herself, and even when she was weighed in hospital, she was never interested in the numbers; every time, she only asked whether she had achieved her target. This, and the lack of a well-planned diet, made it difficult to lose weight.
But eventually she realized how much she needed the surgery. “I need this surgery to have a life. The one I have now is not a real life,” she admitted.
After 13 years, when her situation became truly unbearable and she needed help with almost everything, she managed to lose almost 10 pounds and the doctors finally agreed to the surgery, which was designed to reduce the volume of Deborah’s stomach. The procedure used in Deborah’s case is called laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.
A gastric sleeve involves the removal of a significant part of the stomach, at least half, using a stapling machine. The idea of the sleeve procedure is to remove the part of the stomach where the hormone responsible for hunger is produced, so that food intake is restricted.
The operation was a success and in the first two months she managed to lose around 75 pounds, which was a huge achievement in itself. But Deborah still had problems climbing stairs, and feared that if she fell again the staples holding her stomach in place might break, so she had to find another place to live.
Deborah continued to lose weight steadily over the next few months, and managed to find a new ground-floor house where she could move around more easily. Her mobility has also improved considerably and she has finally been able to participate again in various family activities that she had previously been forced to miss. By the sixth month after the operation, she had lost 100 pounds and her medication was reduced.
“Why didn’t I do this years ago? I don’t know, but so much had changed in my thinking that I said to myself, this can’t go on for the rest of my life,” said Deborah.