An acquaintance traveled to Los Angeles recently and saw the ubiquitous 1-800-GET-THIN billboards. "It was like, 'Welcome to LA ... You're fat!'" said Jennifer Yendes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took note of the notorious billboards in early December. Regulators officially told marketing company 1-800-GET-THIN (and the eight clinics that take patient referrals from the ad campaign) that their ads do not adequately warn people about the risks of lap band surgery. They also found the billboards' existing warnings too small to be legible.
This is the same FDA that in February approved use of the gastric girdle (aka lap band) at lower weights, making major surgery available to people whose clothing tags carry more than one X rating.
The promoters of stomach cinching (aka lap band) were given 15 days to respond or face monetary penalties and possible inventory seizure. The legal representative of 1-800-GET-THIN (who's been cited in news reports as saying he is also president and CEO of the company) has said the ads will change, and one news report says a new warning has been placed on the company's website.
The very idea of surgery of this nature reminds me of the bureaucrat's mother in Terry Gilliam's brilliant movie, Brazil. She pursues increasingly grotesque surgeries for her looks while increasingly menacing conduit tubes snake through the scenery. See a clip of one of her gruesome procedures below.
Is this really how we pursue health and beauty in our lives and in our landscapes?
Amid what seems like black comedy, I don't want us to forget the five people who drove past 1-800-GET-THIN billboards in the LA area, underwent lap band surgery, and died.
Willie Brooks was a 35-year-old substitute school custodian. He was 5'6" and weighed about 300 pounds. According to Los Angeles Times reports, he hoped that if he lost weight, he could get a permanent position. He went on a fishing trip with his wife, Okema, and their six children (then ages 14 to 20) the day before his June 5, 2009, lap band surgery. He died from peritonitis three days after the surgery.
Ana Renteria was a 33-year-old office worker who weighed 240 pounds. She was in constant pain after having lap band surgery in February, 2010, according to Los Angeles Times reports. Her surgeon told her that was how it would feel, her sister Noemi Luna recalled. Ten days post-surgery, she was dead from infection.
Laura Faitro was 50 years old, the primary caretaker for her blind husband living with chronic illnesses. She died five days after having lap band surgery on July 21, 2010. Doctors who treated her after the surgery found she had sepsis. "Faitro's death certificate lists heart failure as the cause of death, with liver laceration and morbid obesity as contributing factors," the Los Angeles Times reports.
Tamara Walter wanted to lose 50 pounds. She was a 52-year-old grocery store supervisor and a new grandmother. She had just bought a new house and had plans for travel and a new car. She had lap band surgery in late December, 2010, and entered cardiorespiratory arrest on the operating table. Her family discontinuled life support the day after Christmas, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Paula Rojeski was 55 when she had lap band surgery on Sept. 8, 2011. Surgery clinic workers called 911 and paramedics found her unconscious, not breathing, and with no pulse. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, according to the Los Angeles Times report. It quotes her best friend Marni Rader, who said, "She was never married. She never had kids. Her dogs were her kids. That was her happiest moment, in the park with her dogs. She loved her dogs as much as she loved her family and friends." Rojeski's driver's license listed her height as 5'5" and Rader estimated she weighed 180 pounds.
I'm no medical authority, but if you're looking for something fabulous to do for yourself in 2012, here are five suggestions that don't involve risking death with lap band surgery, things I bet Willie, Ana, Laura, Tamara, and Paula would have liked to do a bit longer.
1. Go fishing. Take a friend or some family members along.
2. Go shopping. And have a leisurely lunch with your sister or your BFF.
3. Spend some time with someone who's ill. They would appreciate the company.
4. Take your dog for a walk. Play fetch in the park. (No pets? Join a
friend when they walk their dog.)
5. Babysit your grandchild. Or plan an adventurous family outing.
Marilyn Wann has created something fabulous to do for yourself that
doesn't involve lap band surgery -- the 2012 FAT!SO? Dayplanner.