A 27st woman who lived on McDonald’s and corned beef pasties from Greggs before having a gastric bypass says the surgery has ruined her life.
Cleaner Amanda Jones, 39, from Sunderland, waited nine years for the NHS surgery after ballooning to a size 28 and eating a large McChicken Sandwich meal for lunch every day.
On a normal day she would also scoff six packets of crisps, a family-size bag of Haribos, her favourite Greggs pasties, along with a Chinese takeaway or a fish and chips supper washed down with three litres of cola.
In a bid to cut down her wait she underwent surgery which left her in agony, caused her to suffer nerve damage and she was eventually diagnosed with kidney stones and hypoglycaemia – low blood sugar.
Since the operation she has lost 10st but has been rushed to hospital 120 times – at an estimated cost to the NHS of £50,000 – after constantly vomiting and passing out because she is unable to eat more than a few spoons of yoghurt, some grapes and two strawberries per day.
It comes after Boris Johnson has promised greater availability of bariatric surgery on the NHS to tackle the country’s obesity crisis, but Amanda
‘I wish I’d never had the surgery,’ a distraught Amanda said. ‘Everyone thinks it’s a quick fix and easier than going on a diet but it’s ruined my life.
‘I wanted to be happier and healthier and I’m miserable and in the worse shape ever. I lost 10st because I basically can’t eat and I’m in constant pain.
‘But I’ve put 3st back on so I’m still fat and too self-conscious to go out. I’m in agony every day and depressed because I can’t work at all or even walk some days so it wasn’t worth it.
‘I should have just gone on a strict diet and tried harder. I needed to find some old-fashioned will power rather than be given surgery on the NHS.’
Amanda is speaking out after Boris Johnson told Brits to lose their lockdown love handles and ordered ministers to tackle obesity to help the NHS save money as it battles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
New measures from the Prime Minister’s initiative include bans on junk food advertising before 9pm, stopping the sale of crisps, sweets and chocolate at supermarket checkouts and displaying calories on menus in restaurants and pubs.
But Amanda says Boris’ anti-obesity campaign to save the NHS money is a ‘joke’ and that her health has been destroyed by the surgery which hasn’t worked as she still weighs 20st and has cost the health service a small fortune.
Research shows a single trip to A&E costs £419 without any specialist treatment and that goes up to £722 per night if patients are admitted.
The minimum Amanda’s treatment has cost is £50,280 and could be as much as double that amount.
‘It’s a total waste of money,’ Amanda said. ‘I’m still the same fat person who is too self-conscious to go out in case people stare, point or make barbed comments,’ she said.
‘The only difference is that now I’m in pain and can’t eat anything without being sick.
‘I can’t even have the surgery reversed as it would cause even more problems so I’m stuck like this forever – in pain and still obese.
‘Instead of surgery, the government should give out free gym memberships and vouchers for slimming clubs.
‘Anyone who is obese should be given counselling as there’s always an emotional reason for over-eating, and if you tackle that you can cure a person’s weight problem.’
Amanda was offered the mini loop bypass – where the stomach is divided, leaving just a small pouch – after her weight rocketed.
‘I was always a normal size as a child,’ she said, ‘but when I went to senior school, my weight ballooned. I was more independent and could buy what food I wanted and I ate and ate.
‘I was called fatty and fat legs, but I didn’t care as I was very self-confident. My weight really got out of control when my father died of lung cancer in 2002.
‘I was very upset and turned to food to comfort me. I put on a stone a month from then on until I weighed 27 stone.
‘It affected my love life. Before, I’d been confident. I’d met my boyfriend, David, when I was a size 22 and he loved my curves.
‘I wasn’t self-conscious at all, but as I got bigger I began to hide under the covers and would only have sex with the lights off.
‘He tried to reassure me that I was still sexy and beautiful but I just saw an ugly, fat woman in the mirror.
‘Eventually my depression and self-loathing ruined our relationship after 10 years and we broke up.
‘I became very depressed about that and the way I looked and when my mum passed away, I realised I had to do something drastic.’
Amanda, who is only 5ft 2ins, has tried every diet going over the years, including slimming clubs, shakes, diet pills and even hired a personal trainer three times a week but couldn’t keep the weight off.
‘I would lose a couple of stone at the beginning but then something would happen and I’d reach for my comfort food and I’d pile it all back on again,’ Amanda said.
The cleaner was then diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and an underactive thyroid, which both make sufferers gain weight.
She was given medication to treat both problems, but when they failed to make any difference, Amanda was referred to a psychologist and eventually offered the gastric mini loop surgery.
In 2016 she had to have a gastric balloon fitted which she had to swallow while awake.
It was then filled up and tied to reduce the size of her stomach so she couldn’t eat as much.
‘It only took 15 minutes to fit and afterwards I felt full,’ Amanda said. ‘I could only eat puree for the first few days and then tiny amounts of chopped up solid food.
‘I lost 3st in the first four months so I thought it was great but then I started vomiting and couldn’t keep any food down.’
Amanda was so sick she became dehydrated and needed to be rushed to hospital. She underwent numerous tests to find out what was wrong with the balloon and doctors eventually discovered she had E. coli –bacteria that can cause serious infections.
She was put on antibiotics, and was in and out of hospital until the balloon was finally removed in April 2017.
Three months later, she had to go on a 10-day diet of just yoghurt and fruit to prepare her body for the gastric surgery.
She then underwent the four-hour mini loop operation via keyhole surgery at Sunderland Royal Hospital where doctors created a smaller stomach by dividing it and making a tiny pouch, which is then joined to a loop of bowel.
Food now passes straight into the small bowel meaning that as well as being able to eat less, fewer calories are absorbed.
‘I could only eat slop, like baby food and lost a stone in the first 10 days,’ Amanda said. ‘I thought this was going to be the answer to my weight problems.
‘But I began to get urine tract infections and was sick whenever I ate anything. I had a terrible pain in my back and tummy was agony but my consultant said it was my body adjusting to the surgery and change in food.
‘But the pain got worse and worse. Some days I could hardly walk and had to take time off work.
‘I couldn’t eat – I couldn’t do anything. I was in agony and spent all my time going to my doctor or back to hospital. I didn’t have a life.’
Eventually, in January 2018, doctors performed more surgery and realised Amanda’s stomach had moved, which was causing the pain.
‘They sewed it back into place and removed all the adhesions they found in my stomach along with a hernia,’ she said. ‘I thought I would be fine but I was soon screaming in agony again.’
She had suffered nerve damage in her back, her consultant told her, and she had stones in both her kidneys. ‘I had stents fitted in both kidneys to get rid of the stones but they couldn’t remove the ones in my right kidney,’ she said.
‘The pain was so bad I thought I was going to die.’
In all, Amanda said she has been in hospital 120 times in the last four years for up to a fortnight at a time, costing the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than saving them money as the Prime Minister is aiming to do with his anti-obesity drive.
She has now put on three stone, so weighs 20st, even though she can eat little more than a few tiny bits of fruit per day.
‘I’m still fat. I’m still in pain. I’m worse off now than before,’ Amanda said. ‘I can’t eat without being sick. I can’t go to the loo for up to 15 days at a time as I get so constipated and then can’t get off the loo. Nothing is normal anymore.
‘I thought by having this done I would be happier and healthier but I don’t have a life anymore. I broke up with the love of my life because I was so self-conscious about my weight but I will never meet anyone else as I’m too embarrassed – and ill – to go out.
‘Having gastric surgery was the worst decision of my life and I’m speaking out to stop others going through the same thing. Don’t listen to Boris. Surgery isn’t the answer.
‘Exercise and traditional dieting is the only way to safely shift weight. He should be given out gym memberships and vouchers for slimming clubs to obese people.
‘It’s very simple. Eat less and exercise more then you’ll lose weight.
‘This isn’t the miracle cure to obesity everyone thinks it is. This just leads to medical problems and a lifetime of misery. Take it from me, I would do anything to turn the clock back and not have the operation.’