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Spinal injury leaves doctor incapacitated as he clings to hope in Medical Tourism

Dr Fred Koskei has a strong audible voice and one would not tell he cannot move the rest of his body unaided. His voice oozes confidence and a promise for a better tomorrow. His memory too is razer-sharp and he remembers with clarity every date and detail as he narrates his story. Dr Koskei was admitted at the National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital in January this year and was confined to his bed for six months after sustaining a spinal injury that left him immobilised from the neck down. This has left him totally unable to do anything for himself and he relies heavily on others to help him even with the most basic of things that most people in good health take for granted. “I cannot brush my teeth or feed myself. I also struggle to hold my phone when I have to answer or respond to text messages as my grip is quite weak,” he explains.

This has not always been the case for the medical practitioner who has been treating patients for the last 17 years. “I graduated in 2003 from the University of Nairobi and have worked in various hospitals within Nairobi including Gertrude’s Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, Mater Hospital and Aga Khan,” narrates Dr Koskei. Life took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a motor-bike accident on 9th October, 2020. “I was admitted at TopHill Hospital in Eldoret for three and a half months,” he says. During that period, Dr Koskei underwent his first surgery where the doctors fixed a neck implant. It was also a challenging time for the doctor who had not come to terms with the aftermath of the accident, which had left him with a spinal injury and he had lost any sensation and functionality from the upper chest going down all the way to his entire lower body. At the time of the accident, Dr Koskei, 43, was working at Litein Mission Hospital in Kericho, where he had been practising since January 2016.

Lying in that hospital bed with little mobility left him nursing severe bedsores. He was in touch with his doctor colleagues, including Dr Theophillus Wangata, a former class-mate in medical school who kept encouraging him along the journey. Dr Wangata, the Senior Medical Consultant at Viva Serenity was of the opinion that Dr Koskei should seek specialised treatment abroad for stem-cell therapy. But he could not travel immediately as the bedsores were already too advanced. Dr Koskei left TopHill Hospital, Eldoret for Nairobi on 9th January this year and was committed to a home-care programme to treat his wounds. Unfortunately, due to their already advanced nature, it was necessary for him to be re-admitted to hospital. Meanwhile, the doctors discovered the neck implant has been displaced and needed to be redone. The corrective neck surgery was done at the Kenyatta National Hospital on March 24th, 2021.

About a month later on April 30th, plastic surgery, which was done at the National Spinal Injury Referral was deemed necessary for the bed sores to heal as dressing them was not helping in the healing process. It was a relief for Dr Koskei though it meant him being confined to bed for the entire month of May to allow healing. 

His stay at the National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital since his admission on the 26th January this year,  was marked with ups and downs but it was made easier by the friendly environment, he notes. He was confined to a hospital bed and needed assistance to get off the bed into his wheelchair whenever he needed to get out for some fresh air or to bask in the sun. He was on a catheter and adult diapers to relieve himself. His days at the hospital began quite early at 5am when the support staff came to the wards to give them their daily bed baths before being served with an early morning snack at 6am. The patients were served with their breakfast about two hours later and by around 8.30am, the physiotherapists came in for their therapy sessions, which were done from the comfort of their beds. Afterwards, they would be wheeled out to enjoy the sun as they awaited lunch to be served. After lunch one would go out for more sunshine before dinner time and then the same cycle would repeat itself the following day. Such was his life and it left him emotionally drained.

Dr Koskei remembers slipping into severe depression and could barely sleep or eat for the first two months after the accident. He also shut out the world and even changed his phone number to avoid those he knew. “I was in a bad emotional space. I could no longer work and could not, therefore, pay the bills or take care of my family. I now depended on others 100 percent,” he narrates. He remembers toying with the idea of asking his colleagues to administer euthanasia on him to end the pain he was going through. “The stress I was going through was made worse by the fact that I knew that what I was going through was taking a toll on my loved ones,” he says. He is currently on anti-depressants and drugs to modulate his nerves. His sleeping pattern is erratic and he still has trouble initiating sleep.

Over the last nine months, Dr Koskei has been healing emotionally and is much stronger. He is hopeful that stem-cell therapy, an expensive procedure that requires to be done in India will help to establish his original nervous system. “If only I can regain the use of both my hands,” he reminisces. At the moment, finances are his biggest hurdle as the family has already exhausted their funds during his long stay in hospital.

For most of the month of June, Dr Koskei was on a rehabilitation programme, which was targetted at training the patient to be the most independent version of himself. “The main objective is to help in bed transfers. It’s supposed to make it easier for me to move from the bed to the wheelchair and back again to the bed unaided. It should also help me re-learn some of the basics like brushing my teeth. However, I’m yet to attain the independence needed,” explains Dr Koskei. 

About three weeks before he was discharged from the hospital, he had an urinary tract infection (UTI) as a result of the continuous use of a catheter. The infection left him on intravenous (IV drip) fluids as he could not eat for a while. The anti-biotics were also administered intravenously.

He got discharged from the National Spinal Injury Referral on 4th August, 2021, and is recuperating at home in Bomet as he strategises on the next move – Medical Tourism. “I’m trying to settle in but it is tough,” says Dr Koskei. He hopes his trip to India can be sooner rather than later as that is what he hopes will give him back the use of his limbs. But until that medical miracle happens, he is still confined to the bed and will need help in bathing, feeding, combing his hair and moving from his bed to the wheelchair when he wants to move around or catch some sunshine.

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Khadija Iman’s story years after bariatric surgery

Khadija Iman texted to tell me she was running late for our lunch date at a restaurant of her choice. She had had bariatric surgery ***years back and I couldn’t wait to hear how she had been fairing since. From where I’m seated, I can see the cars drive in and I recognise her from the photos though I had not met her before. She is a friendly girl and we hit it off immediately. 

As we enjoy our lunch, it is evident she is a light eater and I end up eating most of what we had ordered. She is quick to explain to me that before she had the procedure that changed her life, she used to eat food for two people and would still be hungry two hours later. “I was always a big girl. Most of the women on my maternal side of the family are big-bodied,” explains Khadija, who weighed 100kg when she got married at 20.

“My 20s were very challenging for me as I was trying to balance marriage and manage endometriosis, a disease that left me totally drained both physically and psychologically. I dreaded my periods, which were extremely painful,” she explains. “My only escape from the pain and anguish was food. I sought solace in eating and totally depended on food to shut out the world,” she says. “I had undergone nine operations as a result of the endometriosis,” she says. I also suffered from hormonal imbalances and food was my comfort. With all that was going on, Khadija had difficulties conceiving despite trying in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

As she sank deeper into comfort eating, Khadija’s weight shot to 140kg. “Getting fashionable clothes was impossible as I could not get anything in my size and had resorted to having them tailored. I usually wore ‘vitenges’ as I had limited choices,” she says. “I also noticed I was attracting older men due to my big body. This bothered me despite the fact that by now my marriage had ended after nine years,” she explains. 30 was fast approaching and Khadija asked herself if that was the life she wanted for herself. “I wanted something new for myself; a new beginning. To be happy as Khadija,” she explains.

Going through divorce, however, was not easy for her as she found herself ostracised by her community. “My close friends abandoned me and the only solace I found was in family,” she says. “The blame is always placed on the woman and it can take a toll on you psychologically,” she explains. I still remember mum poking fun at me telling me that I could not be both fat and divorced. She had heard about Big Ted’s bariatric surgery and felt I needed the same to reclaim my life. My child, you have to chose a struggle, she said in jest. That was when I decided to go for bariatric surgery. 

“My weight oscillated a bit after surgery but it is now settled at 83kg, which I’m comfortable with and most importantly, I am happy with myself. No one can make me feel bad about myself. All the mocking, especially during my teen days is behind me. I like the new me,” she says.

“Unlike in the past when I needed affirmation, today I’m comfortable in my own skin. I do not need a cheering squad or crowd like I did before as I am comfortable on my own. My health has improved a great deal and the painful cramps I had as a result of the endometriosis are no more. And my periods are now regular,” narrates Khadija. 

She now no longer depends on food when overwhelmed but faces her issues head on. My weight loss came with many benefits and I now experience a beautiful sense of peace. I eat right and enjoy my life, she says.

“I can now get clothes in my size and no longer need to have them tailored. My body mass index (BMI) is great at 27 from an unhealthy 52 and I dropped from jean size 28 to size 14. For me the procedure has come with a wealth of benefits including improved energy levels. “I no longer suffer from sleep apnea so I sleep comfortably all night and do not wake up tired like I used to,” she concludes.

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Bariatric Surgery was my only option for weight loss – Stewart Heri Aaron

Stewart Heri Aaron would wake up exhausted and would even sleep behind the wheel if traffic stopped for a minute or two. “At times I would be startled by angry motorists hooting as I had dozed off due to exhaustion,” explains Stewart. As far as he could remember, he had always been a big kid but in his 30s, the weight was literally getting in his way of enjoying a quality life. Having been born with an above-average birth-weight of 4.8kg, Steward continued to be big throughout his childhood and adulthood, which gave him the name, ‘Big Poppa’ among his peers.

“I remember being teased by the other children, which really got to my nerves but I didn’t feel there was anything I would do about my weight so I just let it be. I, however, felt sad that I could not join my brothers playing football and all I could do was sit down and watch them play,” he reminisces.

Stewart confesses to taking soda every morning and could not get enough of junk food. He kept eating and had an insatiable desire for food. “Any time was eating time,” he says. Meanwhile, he kept getting bigger and bigger. His efforts to lose weight bore no fruit. I tried out everything from dieting to exercising but nothing worked for me, he says. 

At 216kg, Stewart was like a walking time bomb. “I had a doctor friend who always cautioned me about my weight. He kept telling me that I was courting hypertension and diabetes and if I did not change my lifestyle urgently, I would definitely get sick,” explains Stewart. “He was so sure that I would get sick that he told me he would quit his career if I did not!” says Stewart. When he got a wound on his leg that took an year to treat, his doctor friend suggested that he gets tested for diabetes. “And as sure as the sun rises from East and sets in the West, what the doctor kept warning me about came to pass,” explains Stewart. In his mid 30s, he was diagnosed with diabetes and had to inject himself with insulin shots on a daily basis.

Steward was beginning to get scared now. “Thoughts of dying and leaving my wife a young widow with a son to raise filled my mind. How would they carry on without me?” As fate would have it, his other leg also got a wound and his doctor friend cautioned him that if he did not make a drastic lifestyle change, both legs would be amputated. Around the same time, he was experiencing daily headaches, which turned out to be as a result of hypertension. 

“I was lucky to meet Big Ted, a friend and Khadija Iman who had gone through bariatric surgery to cut weight. I also met Dr Theophillus Wangata, who was very positive about the procedure,” he explains. “I figured that if this was going to be my saving grace, I would embrace it and started researching about bariatric surgery on the Internet. I also talked to about six people who had gone through the procedure. Six months later, I was wiser and well informed and I opted for the mini gastric bypass procedure, which was done in India. I was fortunate since Viva Serenity took away the headache of looking for doctors and a hospital to have the procedure done. They took care of all the necessary documentation and booking of flights.

Two months after I had bariatric surgery in India, the wounds on my legs dried up. I have not also used the insulin jab or hypertension medication since, he says. “Today at 42, I weigh 98kg and I go to the gym every day like clockwork. I also eat healthy and I quit alcohol. I have adapted a healthy lifestyle and I run 6km every day and 12km during the weekend. I would recommend bariatric surgery any time as it saved my life,” he says.

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Losing weight gave me back my self-confidence – Big Ted weight loss journey

Thomas Kwaka aka Big Ted had a pretty much normal life when growing up and was the big-eyed, tall boy. “I grew up in Eastlands and during my early schooling, I was a lean kid,” he narrates. However, towards the tail-end of primary school, Ted started gaining weight and by the time he joined Nairobi School, he was a bulky teen. 

Big Ted says he was not able to join in the activities that the other boys participated in as his weight was slowly becoming an issue, which was gradually eating into his confidence. “I had become the fat kid in the group and it was weighing on me socially and my self-esteem dipped,” he explains. “I watched as my peers dated the pretty girls, who preferred the boys with well-defined abs, since I did not have the confidence to approach the most beautiful girl in the group,” Big Ted narrates.

Today he is no longer that fat kid who could barely kick a ball as his description fits the tall, dark and handsome stranger and is a far cry of the obese teenage boy who struggled with weight into adulthood. As he joins us for this interview, it is clear he no longer has self-esteem issues as he confidently walks towards our direction, sure of his every step. It is hard to imagine this gentle giant who stands at 6 4′ struggled with self-esteem issues as a result of obesity. 

“When I was travelling by public means, no one wanted me to sit next to them in a matatu or on the plane. I was so big I always asked for an extra safety belt in the plane,” explains Ted who weighed 168kg at his heaviest. Having tried every diet he could lay his hands on, Big Ted, who says he added the word, ‘Big’ before his name to feel socially accepted, resigned to his fate as none of the diets worked for him. It was a big blow to him as he could not get the kind of clothes he would have loved to wear in his size. He recalls wearing a Size 68 suit at his heaviest, which he says was very humongous. “I could not go to coast and remove my shirt like all the other guys,” he remembers. But he continued to seek comfort in food and he confesses to eating two kilogrammes of meat and one kilogramme of ‘ugali’ alone in a sitting.

“When I first heard of bariatric surgery as a way of losing weight, I did not give it much thought since I had tried everything to lose weight in vain,” explains Ted. I had tried running and even starving myself but none of it had worked, he adds. Ted flew to India without telling anyone of his intentions to undergo bariatric surgery other than his fiancée as he was still undecided. “I knew that if I told people of my intentions before surgery, most would have talked me out of it,” says Ted. “I am very stubborn and I knew that if I did not like what I saw in India, I was done,” he explains.

Ted says the reception he received at the hospital reassured him as they run so many tests before the procedure that he felt they must know what they were doing. “To me it showed the thoughtfulness they had put into the procedure,” Ted says. “In addition, there were other people, some twice my weight who had come for the procedure and it felt safe. I chose laparoscopy,” he says. Despite the reassurance, Ted says he was scared of dying. “I remember the only question I asked the doctor before the procedure was if I was going to die,” he recalls.

Ted came to 45 minutes later with a tight feeling around his tummy and feeling thirsty. “When the anesthesia wore off, I just peeped to be sure I was still here on earth,” he narrates. “I recuperated in hospital for about three days and on the fifth day I was in a flight headed back home,” he says. “I could no longer eat the large amounts of food I ate before the procedure as my stomach gets full quicker. I’m also cautious about what I eat and have adapted a healthy lifestyle, which includes playing basketball once a week.

“Owing to my love for fashion and good dressing, I guess my proudest moment was when I fitted into a Size 56 suit at my designer’s shop. That was undeniably a defining moment for me not to mention the feeling of being socially accepted.  I feel brand new and my life has taken on a new trajectory. I lost 68kg! Lots of weight affects your self-esteem. I currently weigh between 100 – 103 kg, which is good considering I’m really tall. Socially, it feels nice to be noticed as the tall, dark and handsome guy as opposed to the overweight guy,” he says.

After getting used to being looked down by others, including I looking down on myself, it’s refreshing to be looked at differently; social acceptance is one thing that every human desires. It has also changed how I view and value myself and my confidence has grown to higher heights, which means I have to keep reminding myself on striking that healthy balance between humility and pride, he says.

Ted says he is glad with the role Viva Serenity played in his weight loss journey. “Viva Serenity is like your local mechanic,” he says. “If I feel any sort of discomfort, I just call them and someone answers me and helps me out. It is very consoling having them around and knowing that they are only a phone call away,” he says in conclusion.

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Zena Hassan Weight loss journey

Zena Hassan made a life-changing decision to have bariatric surgery in a record five days. This happened during one of her routine check-ups with the doctor. “My doctor was concerned that my health was deteriorating as a result of being obese, which came with a myriad of health issues,” says Zena. “I was hypertensive and had hyperacidity, both of which were not getting better with drugs. Besides, I also suffered from sleep apnea and needed an oxygen machine called a continuous positive airway pressure to help me breath while sleeping,” she explains.

Zena a mother of two and a caterer by profession wasn’t quite bothered by her weight and had resigned to her ‘fate’ like most people do when their efforts to shed off the extra kilos bears no fruit. “I had tried losing weight but it hadn’t worked for me. I had tried everything ranging from diet fads to exercise to injections to slimming pills in vain. When I was lucky, I would lose a few kilos only for them to come back with a vengeance,” explains Zena, who oscillated between 123kg to 130kg. Obesity is like a disease, we love food and we just keep eating, she says.

A visit to the doctor was the wake-up call that I needed, she says. “When the doctor told me I needed to do something urgently or else I would die, I chose life. I was tired of the endless hospital visits and all the pills I had to take to stay alive. And by the fifth day after our conversation, I was in India. I was lucky that I did not have to worry about the right medical centre that I needed to go to or worry about the doctors who would be attending to me as Viva Serenity took that burden off my shoulders. They booked my flights and it was seamless from beginning to end. The counselling session was the most important for me and the only thing I now needed to think about during the entire process was getting better after my procedure,” says a content Zena. 

“When I landed in India they received me so well. There were also many other people including children and senior citizens and I felt safe. The number of tests they do before the surgery are also reassuring,” explains Zena. “Theatre wasn’t a totally new experience for me as I had had two Caesarian Sections (CS) before,” she notes. When Zena came to, she found her husband by her side and assumed they had not carried out the procedure as she did not feel any pain. “Like my previous surgeries, I had expected to wake up in pain but this time was different. I did not have any pain,” explains Zena.

“I started losing the kilos immediately and by the time we left India, I was 15kg lighter!” she exclaimed. Her recovery was fast and in about two weeks after arriving back home, Zena was back to work. Her diet like those who undergo the procedure consisted of liquid foods. 

Zena says she feels more confident now. “I feel like people treat you better when you are smaller,” she says. “There are those from my Muslim faith who were against it and said that I had ‘corrected’ God, not knowing my story. Majority, however, are supportive and I  could not be happier,” says a happy Zena. “My health started looking up almost immediately and after about one and a half months after I came back, I would check my blood pressure every morning religiously and thankfully it kept getting better. The cardiologist got me off the hypertension drugs since my blood pressure had normalised,” explains Zena.

“I no longer needed the oxygen machine when sleeping. I also noticed my feet, which would swell when I was obese stopped swelling and the frequent headaches I experienced are now a thing of the past,” she says. “I have no regrets and the cost of bariatric surgery does not compare to the mental anguish and all the money I spent seeing doctor after doctor, the money I spent on drugs, not to mention all the different ways and methods I had to pay for in an attempt to lose weight,” she says. Two years after her procedure, at 83kg,  Zena has achieved her optimal weight.

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Understanding Medical Tourism

Viva Serenity offers you an end-to-end service that includes organising for visas to plane tickets to accommodation abroad to getting you to the right treatment centre. This ensures the patient is calm and relaxed and gives the patient peace of mind as they focus on getting better.  

Who is Viva Serenity?

Viva Serenity is an internationally trusted Medical Tourism Company that connects patients with the right treatment centres, hospitals, and medical specialists, both locally and abroad.

At Viva Serenity, we help you to identify the best hospital or treatment centre for your medical condition, irrespective of where you are located. The right treatment centre could either be available locally or abroad. 

Types of Medical Tourism

In the past, the term Medical Tourism was used to refer to patients who travelled from less-developed countries to major medical centres in highly developed countries for treatment, which was not available at home.

But in recent times, Medical Tourism has morphed to include travelling within the same country but to different cities or towns for treatment. At Viva Serenity, we offer three types of Medical Tourism:

Local Medical Tourism

Similarly to domestic tourism, Local Medical Tourism means travelling from one city or town to another city within the same country for medical treatment.

In-bound Medical Tourism

This refers to when people travel from another country to seek medical treatment in your country. For instance when a patient travels from Uganda to and comes to our country, Kenya.

Outbound Medical Tourism

It is when one leaves their country of residence and travels to another country abroad for medical treatment.

Personalised and tailor-made travel experience

Our travel experience is personalised and tailored to suit your needs. At Viva Serenity, we combine excellent world-class medical treatments with a flawless travel experience because we understand sickness can take a toll on you. We take care of all your travel logistics, which include where to go for treatment and how to get there. As a patient, this ensures that you focus on recovering from your illness as we communicate with you and your loved ones every step of the way.

An all-inclusive package

Our packages take care of all important matters including hotel accommodation, meals, premium VIP service, tours, private transportation and much more. We also give assistance in applying for passports, visas and airline bookings. We also provide wheelchairs, walkers, physical therapy and other combined services that ensure that you have a carefree medical tour… your options are unlimited.

Based on your preference, we can also arrange for you to spend a few days sightseeing and relaxing before your procedure. At Viva Serenity, wellness is the sole purpose.

Key areas of expertise

One of our key areas is weight management. We partner with world-class centres around the world that perform Bariatric Surgery of morbidly obese patients to help them walk a healthy weight loss journey.

Viva Serenity walks with you in making a positive lifestyle change that touches on diet and mindset, through signature treatments and weight management techniques. Based on the patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI), and health condition, we guide you through an effective weight loss programme, which helps you overcome barriers to achieving your optimal weight.

At Viva Serenity, we have experienced professionals who recommend the right exercises and activities that enhance weight loss and body toning. 

Your ideal wellness Partner

As a doctor, we are your wellness partner and you do not have to worry about where to take your patients for advanced treatment: This is because we already have partnerships with reputable and established treatment centres and hospitals for all types of treatments.

Strategic partners and networks

Some of the medical fields that we have strong networks in include; orthopedics treatments, hip and knee replacements, gynaecological treatments such as In vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments, gynaecological oncology treatments and surgeries, cancer treatment including cancer surgery, chemotherapy for both solid and blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, kidney transplants, bone marrow transplants, advanced cardiac procedures and cardiothoracic surgery. Our list also includes advanced neurosurgery, different types of robotic surgeries, bariatric surgery and much more.

Cosmetic surgery

We also assist patients in need of plastic surgery, which include  procedures like liposuction, tummy tucks, face lifts, butt lifts, dental makeovers, breast augmentation including breast reduction or breast enlargement and hair transplants.

We are global!

Viva Serenity has a global coverage that extends from Africa to Asia, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the USA, Canada, The Caribbean Islands, South America, Australia to the Pacific region.

How to access us

As your wellness partner, kindly reach out to us if you have a patient who requires advanced medical treatment. We keep expanding our panel of hospitals, consultants, surgeons, experienced physicians and other medical service providers globally. 

We partner with the best doctors and hospitals to offer you a wide range of treatments and professional advice for different medical conditions. We also go the extra mile to negotiate costs on behalf of our clients to get the most affordable cost for excellent world-class treatments. We work to be the best and most trusted medical tourism company: A wellness company that exceeds the expectation of our esteemed patients.

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A personal account on Wema Sepetu’s weight loss journey

Tipping the scales at a staggering 106kg up from 59kg, Wema decided to undergo bariatric surgery courtesy of Viva Serenity, a company that specialises in Medical Tourism. The former beauty queen shared her weight loss journey before leaving for India on losing her confidence, and hating the cameras due to her weighty problem 

“My name is Wema Isaac Sepetu, former Miss Tanzania 2006, CEO and actress. I struggled with weight loss for four years, which affected my life. I never thought that I would weigh over 100kg but I kept adding weight until I weighed 106kg! I tried working out and eating right but it wasn’t working well for me. For a long time, I lost passion for myself and lost confidence. I wasn’t happy for myself and this made me lose so much in life. This really affected me as a person and my life as a whole. All this changed when I met Viva Serenity. 

“Viva Serenity is my wellness partner and I also happen to be the Brand Ambassador. I came to Kenya courtesy of Viva Serenity and was hosted at the Ole Sereni Hotel in their Presidential Suite. As I weighed myself on the weighing scales in the hotel, I screamed in shock. Why do I keep on adding weight, I asked. I never thought I would be over 80kg but here I was, weighing 106kg! Something has to be done pronto! I told the doctor form Viva Serenity as he took my vitals and proceeded to carry out other tests ahead of my bariatric surgery in India.

“One hundred and six kilogrammes is too much for a lady, isn’t it, I asked the doctor who agreed with me and went ahead to calculate my Body Mass Index (BMI). At 34.8, my BMI was quite high and was above the obese range that starts at 30, the doctor advised me. Obesity is not a good thing and I never imagined myself there. During our conversation with the doctor, I told him that I once weighed 59kg and would like to get somewhere close to that weight. Let’s leave for India now,  I urged the doctor. What are we waiting for? I could not wait to go for the procedure. I can’t wait. I said as I signed the contract and officially became Viva Serenity’s Brand Ambassador for bariatric surgery; a role which entailed being the company’s voice in matters bariatric surgery.

“I would recommend Viva Serenity to anyone. They are the best. Viva Serenity fully sponsored my trip to India and the procedure and accorded me VIP treatment. I thank Viva Serenity for giving me such an opportunity. I’m not nervous at all and I’m looking forward to the procedure because I know the aftermath is going to be really nice. Excitement is an understatement. After the procedure I’m hoping to achieve a better Wema. I’m hoping to look good, feel good about myself and gain back my confidence. I’m looking forward to a more active Wema… I’m looking forward to more projects in my career and to embracing my beauty and reach my goals. I see Wema going international now and I see a more focused Wema. I did not like the cameras anymore because I did not like the person I look like in front of the cameras.

“I chose Viva Serenity as my wellness partner because first, I felt very safe with them as this journey is very personal for me and I wanted to work with people I could trust and people who were willing to walk the journey with me. I just trust them as a Company.

Editor’s note: Viva Serenity hosted a dinner in honour of Wema Sepetu at the Ole Sereni Hotel, which had various guests among them Big Ted who had previously undergone a mini gastric bypass procedure in India.  A month later after her procedure the Viva Serenity team flew to Tanzania to check on Wema’s progress, who was doing pretty well.

Doctor’s Notes

Dr Theo Wangata answers our questions on the procedure Wema Sepetu went through:

Viva Serenity: Doc, what is Bariatric Surgery?

Dr Theo: In layman’s language, bariatric can loosely be translated to mean, ‘weight loss’. So Bariatric Surgery in essence is when we bring the surgical angle in weight loss. 

There are different techniques used in Bariatric Surgery, which are tailor-made Viva Serenity: according to the individual needs of the client based on their desired weight. The most common one is the mini gastric bypass, which most of our clients, including Wema Sepetu have undergone.

Viva Serenity: What does the mini gastric bypass involve?

Dr Theo: It involves*****

Viva Serenity: Is Bariatric Surgery cosmetic surgery or plastic surgery?

Dr Theo:  Bariatric Surgery is a procedure used to correct medical conditions resulting in an improved general health to the client, including help them manage lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes where present while on the other hand, Plastic Surgery is purely cosmetic and are used to enhance the physical body/beauty of the client and does not necessarily have any medical benefits. 

Procedures that fall under Plastic Surgery include: Liposuction, Breast Augmentation, Butt Lift, Labiaplasty… the list is endless depending on which part of the body the client wants altered/enhanced.

Viva Serenity: Who is eligible for Bariatric Surgery?

Dr Theo: Ideally the doctor will run tests on the client before advising on the most appropriate weight loss solution for them. In some cases a diet change will suffice while in other cases Bariatric Surgery is inevitable. For clients with a BMI above 35 it would be recommendable to undergo the procedure. In most instances, these clients are also way above 100kg.

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Breaking down bariatric surgery

Often times, most people mistakenly associate Bariatric Surgery with plastic surgery. However, this could not be further from the truth because unlike plastic or cosmetic surgery which involves various procedures that enhance the body for cosmetic reasons, Bariatric Surgery is purely done for health reasons.

Take for instance an obese person who’s tried losing weight using different diets, exercise, slimming pills and sometimes even injections but has not managed to lose weight. Or when they are lucky to lose a few kilos, it all comes back so you feel like giving up and never wanting to see the inside of a gym again. “Hitting the gym can be a tall order when you weigh over 120kg as the body can barely sustain the strenuous work-outs due to exhaustion,” explains Dr Theophilus Wangata, The Senior Medical Consultant at Viva Serenity. “The extra weight also causes the body to tire fast due to exhaustion and breathing is also labourious,” he adds. 

Most people who are obese (the obese range starts from 30), usually resign to their fate as they get tired of trying other methods of losing weight.  Unfortunately, most continue to seek solace in food, which only serves to pile the kilos. “The stomach continues to crave for more food as it grows with your body size, which explains the insatiable desire for more food,” notes Dr Wangata. At this point, the body has re-adjusted to this new norm and can only be corrected through surgery, says Dr Wangata. In addition, obesity is linked to various medical conditions the common ones being; diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, gastric reflux and certain cancers like breast and prostate and gastric reflux among others. Obese people, Dr Wangata says are also more likely to have fertility issues as a result of hormonal imbalances.

“When a person exceeds a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 35, they become a candidate for Bariatric Surgery. In some cases where the BMI is slightly lower than 35 but the person has obesity-related health problems, we also advise them to have the procedure,” explains Dr Wangata. Bariatrics is the branch of medicine, which deals with the causes of obesity, its prevention and how to treat obesity. Bariatric Surgery, therefore, is introducing the surgical angle in weight loss. “Bariatric Surgery has various procedures, which include among others, the gastric sleeve and gastric balloon. The most prevalent procedure though is the mini gastric bypass, which involves reducing the size of the stomach and bypassing a part of the small intestines,” explains Dr Wangata.

Due to the decreased stomach size, the patient naturally eats less food, which also means that less food is absorbed in the body. But what risks are involved in Bariatric Surgery one wonders. “Just like every other medical procedure, there is always a risk involved. However, the risk in Bariatric Surgery has been greatly minimised as the surgeries are done with small incisions using minimally invasive key hole surgical techniques (laparoscopic and robotic surgery),” Dr Wangata explains. Further, besides healing faster, the small incisions reduce the risk of losing too much blood, he adds. 

Does the weight loss occur immediately after the procedure, one wonders. “No it does not,” says Dr Wangata. “Weight loss after surgery occurs in phases, where after the first month, an individual losses about 10 percent of their total weight. The weight loss is then gradual over a period of roughly one to one and a half years to attain the desired weight, he says.

Weight loss comes with a wealth of advantages among them a general sense of well-being. Also, since most obese people are anti-social due to low self-esteem and lack of body confidence, losing weight makes them more confident and they can now comfortably chase their dreams. Their social lives are transformed as they can now interact with their peers without the fear of rejection or being the target of mean jokes. Depression, which plagues a good number of obese people also lifts with time when they lose weight. In addition, they also reduce their chances of dying from a heart attack or the risk of strokes and other lifestyle diseases and can now sleep better without sleep apnea, which dogs most obese people.