Bheki Mbanjwa
3 minute read
3 Oct 2008

Boy’s bold battle of the bulge

Bheki Mbanjwa

Weight loss: City teen is SA’s youngest to undergo gastric banding procedure. For as long as he can remember, Blaine Coetzer (16) was bigger and heavier than his mates, and even though he was active, he couldn’t get rid of the tyre around his waist.

For as long as he can remember, Blaine Coetzer (16) was bigger and heavier than his mates, and even though he was active, he couldn’t get rid of the tyre around his waist.

But in the future, things will be looking up for Blaine: he has already lost four kilograms since mid-September, when he became the youngest boy in the country to undergo a gastric banding procedure. This is a surgical procedure in which the stomach is bound so that the patient feels satiated more quickly than normal and so eats less and loses weight.

Blaine, who weighs 130 kg, is the third member of his family to have undergone the procedure, after his mother and aunt.

Diane Coetzer, Blaine’s mother, who underwent a similar procedure about a year ago, has already started reaping the rewards having lost about 32 kg from 110 kg.

The Coetzers have tried almost every other conservative weight-loss programme, but nothing seemed to work. “It is not really easy for us to lose weight as we come from a family of large people. I think it is in our genes,” Coetzer said.

She said that while she would recommend the procedure for any obese person, she at first tried to dissuade her son from taking the same route. “I thought he was too young and tried to dissuade him at first. I even took him to our support group where he could hear stories from people who had undergone the procedure.”

However, the teenager seemed more determined than ever to undergo the procedure, although he admits that he was “a bit” scared at times.

Apart from being teased by his peers and called names such as Mafutha (fatboy), the Maritzburg College boy says his drive was mainly a concern for his health. He was already suffering from conditions associated with obesity, which included back problems and recurring headaches.

Coetzer, a nurse by profession, had already undergone two back operations before the procedure and had been suffering from high blood pressure.

Both mother and son are quick to point out that the gastric banding procedure is not an easy way out.

They say the procedure requires determination as it takes a lot of adjusting to a new way of life.

“You have to learn a new way of eating. For instance, you cannot eat too fast, but have to chew food thoroughly and eat very slowly. Otherwise you feel very uncomfortable,” Blaine said.

Coetzer also says the challenge after the procedure is to continue going to the gym so as to get rid of sagging skin.

“I know people who have had to undergo plastic surgery after the procedure.”

Blaine says he has already started shedding some weight and is eating about a third of what he used to eat before the procedure. “I hope losing weight will make me fitter,” says Blaine, who plays cricket, rugby and squash.

Dr Dick Brombacher, the specialist bariatric surgeon at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital, who performed Blaine’s procedure, said: “Having a gastric band inserted is actually not an invasive procedure, which means it is a ‘scalpel-free’ operation. It is also completely reversible and it has a very high success rate — one could lose between half and two thirds of one’s body weight.”

How does it work?

Gastric banding is a type of weight loss surgery where the size of the stomach is reduced using a band so that only small meals can be eaten and you feel fuller soon.

The procedure involves placing an adjustable band around the upper part of the stomach to create a pouch. The pouch fills up quickly and the food passes slowly through a gap formed by the band into the rest of the stomach. The food then passes normally through the rest of the digestive system.

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