172kg woman 'near death' before op

LEANER:  Christchurch woman Felicity Dagg, now, believes she would not be alive if she had not had weight-loss surgery two years ago
LEANER: Christchurch woman Felicity Dagg, now, believes she would not be alive if she had not had weight-loss surgery two years ago

Weight-loss surgery for morbidly obese patients will eventually be available at Christchurch Hospital.

Bariatric surgery, which shrinks the stomach, was offered elsewhere in Christchurch for the first time last year after the Government committed $8 million in 2010 to fund an extra 300 weight-loss operations.

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) planning and funding general manager Carolyn Gullery said the five South Island district health boards had pooled their elective funding to offer 42 surgeries to the most eligible patients, regardless of where they lived.

BEFORE:  Felicity Dagg before her surgery.
BEFORE: Felicity Dagg before her surgery.

Canterbury had been allocated 13 surgeries in the 2011-12 year, 14 for 2012-13 and 14 for 2013-14. The surgery was available for severely obese patients aged 18 to 65 who would benefit the most from weight-loss surgery.

Gullery said previous operations performed in Christchurch had been done through a local private provider outside Christchurch because of limited capacity caused by the February 2011 earthquake.

Christchurch's hospital redevelopment plan would allow for bariatric surgeries to be done on-site, she said.

The $600m plan was approved in September and would involve building operating theatres at Christchurch Hospital, an expanded intensive care unit and emergency department, and a purpose-designed space for children.

Christchurch Hospital always had the capability to carry out the procedures in Christchurch, but the CDHB had not allocated them to it previously because the number of publicly funded operations available was small, Gullery said.

"It was a better use of resource for those operations to be performed at Dunedin Hospital."

The Health Ministry had not indicated whether more funding would become available for bariatric surgery after the $8m was spent, Gullery said.

Richard Flint, one of three surgeons carrying out bariatric surgery in Christchurch, said about 200 operations were done in the city each year, and their popularity was growing.

The cost of the operation was the main obstacle to more people having the surgery, and he believed more operations needed to be funded publicly.


Felicity Dagg believes she would be dead if she had not had weight-loss surgery two years ago.

At her heaviest, the Christchurch woman, 52, tipped the scales at 172 kilograms.

She was suffering from respiratory problems and was on a sickness benefit, unable to work.

"It was like lugging around an extra adult man. Men can be a burden enough as it is without carrying one around on my back."

Dagg had tried "pretty much every diet" and would lose some weight, only to see it back on soon after.

She found herself with some spare cash after selling her home following a marriage breakup and decided to invest it in her health.

She opted for a private sleeve gastrectomy because she did not believe she would live long enough to make it to the top of the waiting list for a publicly funded operation.

"I believe I would be dead if I'd stayed the way I was," she said.

The operation, which was performed in May 2010, removed a large part of her stomach, turning the remainder into a narrow tube.

Over the next 18 months, Dagg went from a size 30 to a size 14 and now weighs about 90kg.

She enjoyed being able to buy clothes off the rack.

"I can walk into a dress shop and not get that feeling of being looked at like 'what are you doing here?' "

She encouraged anyone thinking about weight-loss surgery to "go for it".

"It does change your life."


GASTRIC BANDING: Involves placing a band, commonly known as a lap band, around the stomach to turn a two-litre pouch into a 30-millilitre pouch. The band can be adjusted for each person and the procedure is reversible. Lap-band surgeries make up about half of the weight-loss surgeries performed privately in Christchurch. Cost: $18,000 to $22,000.

GASTRIC BYPASS: The stomach is stapled to create a small pouch, with the surgeon carrying out some "innovative plumbing" to bring the small intestine up to the new stomach. Gastric bypass surgery makes up 10 per cent of bariatric surgeries performed privately in Christchurch. Cost: $25,000.

SLEEVE GASTRECTOMY: The newest of the three surgeries available in Christchurch, but increasingly popular. In a sleeve gastrectomy, part of the stomach is removed to turn it into a narrow tube. The procedure makes up about 40 per cent of bariatric surgeries performed privately in Christchurch. Cost: $22,000.

The Press