Fearing severe complications from COVID-19, some people are seeking a surgical solution

BOSTON — From early in the pandemic, it quickly became clear that certain people would feel COVID-19′s wrath to a much higher degree than other people.

The elderly, cancer patients, and those with weakened immune systems all have suffered more than the general population.

Individuals who are obese or severely overweight also face harsher health consequences from COVID-19.

Now, more of them are heading into the operating room for bariatric surgery to reduce that risk.

“I feel amazing today,” said Miranda Slowey, a mother of three from Buzzards Bay. “I have a lot of self-confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever had.”

To date, Slowey has lost more that 100 lbs.

Part of her motivation to get the surgery came from a fear of COVID-19 and how it can devastate people who are overweight.

“It just kind of gave me a wake-up call,” explained Slowey. “Because it was a co-morbidity, and it was a big one!”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a COVID patient with a BMI of 30 or more is three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital twice as likely to experience respiratory failure.

“It is very clear that obesity is associated with increased morbidity and mortality with COVID,” added Dr. Madhu Siddeswarappa of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth who performed Slowey’s operation.

All this scared Slowey and made her think she had to do something for her kids – and something for herself.

“I needed help,” Slowey said. “I finally realized that the yo-yo dieting that I had tried on my own for years wasn’t working for me and I had to swallow my pride a bit and reach out for help.

Help came in the form of bariatric surgery. “You reduce the size of the stomach to narrower or smaller size,” explained Dr. Siddeswarappa. “You lose weight and also you will be able to keep that weight off for a long time, even the rest of your life.”

He’s not surprised more people are now seeking this procedure.

“It’s a no brainer. This has created more awareness amongst people. They have seen it with their own eyes, how bad COVID affected people with morbid obesity.”

Dr. Souheil Adra, medical director of the weight loss program at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, said there are additional benefits to losing weight.

“So, they’re interested because of COVID and the fear of COVID, but that will also help them manage their diabetes better. . . blood pressure, all these other conditions.”

Both doctors stressed the risk factors for the surgery are very low, especially when compared to the COVID risks associated with obesity.

“Sadly, we’ve had several patients that had some family members who were considering it that never got it and they succumbed to COVID,” Dr. Adra said.

Miranda Slowey feels like a new person and only wishes she had taken this step earlier.

“Do better for yourself. Your health matters. Your days on Earth matter and sometimes we overlook that and take things for granted, our health being one of them.”

Obesity is linked to higher rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer so both doctors said that’s another benefit of bariatric surgery.

To be eligible for this operation, a patient must have a BMI above 40 unless they have medical conditions that could be improved by weight loss like heart disease or diabetes.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW

Comments on this article