The Obesity Action Coalition sent a group (weight loss surgery post-ops, doctors, etc) to Washington DC spend the day on the Capitol Hill speaking with legislators about obesity related issues. One of the main messages we shared was about access, access to prevention and access to all treatments (behavioral, nutritional, pharmaceutical, psychosocial, and surgical) for those affected by obesity. That's one third of all Americans. We met with legislators, shared some great information, stories and hopefully are making some of them understand what it is like to be affected by obesity in America and how with prevention and treatment we can change the staggering fact that one out of every 8 deaths in America is caused by an illness directly related to obesity. It seems like a no-brainer to me to help prevent and treat obesity and improve the health of American's now or be faced with the growing costs related to not taking action.
It was a whirlwind trip... I left for Washington DC at 3 AM on Sunday and was back in California Monday night at 10 PM. We packed a lot into that day. We split up into groups and met with legislators from a bunch of states individually sharing our message, our group met with Senator Boxer (D-CA), Senator Cantwell (D-WA), Congressman Thompson (D-CA), Senator Feinstein (D-CA), and Congressman Issa's office (R-CA) and invited them to an awesome and powerful legislative briefing about the complexity of preventing and treating obesity, the barriers facing us and the harsh stigmas associated with being obese (common stigma: we all just need to put down the donuts and jog), hopefully blowing some of those stigmas out of the water. It was a great day and I got to utilize the under-used Political Science degree I have by taking part in a political process for a cause that is meaningful to me personally.
For those of you that aren't aware, I am an American citizen that was insured through my workplace, had a BMI of 54 (super morbidly obese) with several co-morbidities (severe GERD Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (my father died at 67 of sleep apnea related heart failure), High Blood Pressure, and a host of other issues related to obesity) all of which were being treated by my doctors and costing my insurance company and myself major bank BUT I was repeatedly denied any weight loss related treatments: no weight loss or fitness programs, nutrition classes, pharmaceuticals, nothing related to the treatment of weight loss was covered and I was denied weight loss surgery even though I was told by my doctors that many of the painful, debilitating, and life threatening conditions impacting my health would be potentially relieved and that having weight loss surgery was the best option.
As I got sicker and sicker, I worked through the hellacious insurance maze and also began to research the option of self paying for weight loss surgery. My research led me to some medical tourism options and I ultimately decided to self pay in Mexico for Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. My outcome was great I had a wonderful medical tourism experience. The weight loss I achieved and maintain resolved all my co-morbidities, I am off all 8 medications I was on before weight loss surgery, -158 lbs lighter, Size 28 to 4 I got my life back and now with continued commitment to healthy food choices, taking my vitamins, moving my body every day and working on the head stuff I hope to continue to live a healthy life BUT I should never have had to go out of my country or decimate my savings to get treatment.
It seemed only fitting and extremely meaningful to me that I was spreading the message to our government on June 20th, 2011 my 5 year anniversary of having weight loss surgery! Thanks to the OAC for inviting me.