Mandie Davis’s route to a better life began with a chance meeting with bariatric surgeon Dr. Louise Bacon.
Having emergency surgery to remove an inflamed gallbladder wouldn’t usually be considered a blessing, but for Mandie Davis, 39, it was. Davis liked her Providence Mission Hospital surgeon, Louise Bacon, MD, immediately, and that encounter in May 2021 gave her the impetus she’d been waiting for to explore weight-loss surgery.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve already had one successful surgery with Dr. Bacon,’ ” Davis recalls, “ ‘so I want to have my bariatric surgery done by her.’ She was a big factor in why I did it.” At her heaviest, Davis weighed 296 pounds, and when she consulted with Dr. Bacon she was just over 270 pounds, which meant a body mass index of 40. (A BMI of 30 or more is typically considered “obese.”) That qualified Davis as a candidate for weight-loss surgery.
Davis wasn’t overweight as a child but started gaining weight when she was in college and later went through a tough divorce, which caused her to do some stress eating and gain more weight. She was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that makes someone more prone to add and hold on to extra pounds.
NO QUICK FIX
Although Davis was a good candidate for weight-loss surgery, Dr. Bacon explained that the process would involve many steps before the actual surgery took place. “We want to make sure we’re giving patients the tools they need to be successful,” the doctor says. These include a psychological assessment and group sessions to talk about eating habits, motivations and alternative coping strategies. Davis also met with a dietitian to learn how to improve her food choices.
“Everybody in Dr. Bacon’s program is so supportive,” she says. From Dr. Bacon’s point of view,“ Mandie is a dream bariatric patient. She took the process seriously— she wasn’t looking for a quick fix. She put the work in up front and she really did change her life. It’s so rewarding for me to see that.”
Dr. Bacon, who practices general surgery, performed a gastric sleeve procedure, aka sleeve gastrectomy, removing about 80% of Davis’s stomach permanently.
AN OMG MOMENT
Davis is now about one year out from her surgery and has lost 105 pounds. The biggest change for her, she says, is how being at a healthy weight has opened up the world and allowed her to share experiences with her 16-year-old daughter that she had been missing. “In the past, we’d go to theme parks together and I’d be too big for the rides,” Davis recalls. “Just to be able to go to the theater with my daughter and be able to sit comfortably in a seat at the Segerstrom [Center for the Arts] was an ‘Oh my gosh!’ moment.”
Another big surprise for her has been how much the surgery changed her food preferences for the better. Dr. Bacon explains that because the stomach produces the “hunger hormone” ghrelin in its inner lining, removing most of the stomach means less ghrelin and therefore less hunger. “There were a lot of foods that I didn’t like before that I’ll eat now, like green and red peppers,” says Davis. “And I used to be a huge sweets fan, but after the surgery I took a bite of a candy bar and said, ‘This is gross!’”
The weight loss has also improved Davis’s overall health. Her high cholesterol and restless sleep are gone, and her knee pain has let up enough for her to walk three or four miles a day, often with her dad. “I’m enjoying the quality time I get with him now,” she says.
She’s back in school, preparing to seek a nursing degree. “The surgery has been so life-changing that I have this pull to help others,” she explains. “I’m just so thankful.”
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