HW4 Gerald Cahill_web
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Be Well 2020: Bariatric surgery can reduce dieting struggles and obesity

Editor’s note: This article is the fourth in a series of stories that originally were published in the Chronicle’s March 1 health and wellness supplement sponsored by Franciscan Health. 

When you’re dieting shows little or no long-term success, bariatric surgery can be the best next step, said Dr. Gerald Cahill, medical director at the Bariatric Surgical Center at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields.

Being overweight “can be a big problem in terms of your health, lifestyle and longevity,” he explained, and can also exacerbate other health problems, such as diabetes.

Dr. Gerald Cahill

Since Cahill started doing bariatric surgery in 1998, he has done more than 8,000 procedures. He said today Franciscan Health Olympia Fields has one of the most experienced programs in the Chicago area, “and clearly we have the most experienced program in the south Chicago area.” 

According to Cahill, “Most patients come because they’ve struggled with obesity all their lives. And many patients seek surgery because they’ve developed problems related to their weight.”

“Many people 40, 50 or older will come because they want to have a knee replacement or hip replacement but they can’t have it because their weight is too high. They need to do something to get their weight down so they can walk again.” 

Cahill said bariatric surgery restricts the size of the stomach. 

It is one of several surgical options available and Cahill believes it offers “a far greater success and durability over time” than dieting or medical weight loss, which tends to be successful for a very small percentage of patients. 

“Most people tend to regain weight, so there’s no durability of that type of weight reduction,” he said.

Sheree Boyd is one of the Bariatric Surgical Center’s success stories. She was 236 pounds when she had gastric bypass surgery in July 2018. Her goal was to hit 145 as an ideal weight. She currently is 135 pounds and feels good.

“I always called myself Oprah Winfrey, up and down, up and down” with various diets. Her average weight was 175, and when she hit 236 pounds in 2008, she had lap band surgery that helped shrink the size of her stomach.

But over time, the band stretched and wasn’t functioning correctly and Boyd developed acid reflux and a heart murmur. Cahill removed the band and did gastric bypass surgery for Boyd.

“I’m definitely an advocate,” said Boyd, director of operations at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields. Not long ago, she passed by a bariatric class being led by a dietitian, and “I poked my head in and I told them I was one of Dr. Cahill’s success stories, which I’m happy to say. It was successful for me.”

To learn more about bariatric surgery, visit FranciscanHealth.org/NewLife.

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