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CherriTISHOMINGO, Miss.-A nurse for 21 years, Cherri Southward Cox of Tishomingo knew excess weight was the culprit behind her blood pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea.

Cox was working on a medical/surgical unit at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo when surgeon Terry Pinson, M.D., started laying the groundwork for a Bariatric Center. She transferred to her new position in January 2007, and the center opened that September.

Heavy all her life, Cox was missing out on her son’s activities. “I was so tired all of the time,” she said. “All I wanted to do was sleep-I had no energy whatsoever.”

At 300 pounds, she wondered if patients would even listen to her advice. “I was afraid my patients would look at me and say ‘she needs to practice what she preaches,'” she said.

Dr. Pinson performs three types of bariatric procedures at NMMC-gastric bypass, laparoscopic adjustable gastric band and laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy.

Gastric bypass creates a very small upper stomach pouch-less than one ounce-by transecting the stomach. Because it doesn’t take much food or liquid to fill the new, small pouch, the person enjoys eating a lot less. In addition, food is not absorbed as well as it once was, contributing to rapid weight loss.

Laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery consists of placing a silicone band around the upper part of the stomach and filling it with saline. This creates a new, smaller stomach pouch that can hold only a small amount of food. Gastric band surgery is the least invasive of the three procedures, as it does not require stomach cutting and stapling or gastrointestinal re-routing to bypass normal digestion.

Laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy generates weight loss by restricting the amount of food that may be consumed without bypassing the stomach or a portion of the small intestine. A portion of the stomach is removed and a new stomach pouch is formed. This procedure helps to reduce the sensation of hunger by possibly eliminating some of the gastrointestinal hormones responsible for the hunger pains. While, the stomach is reduced in volume, it functions normally so most food items can be consumed but in smaller portions.

After talking with Dr. Pinson, Cox underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery in December 2007. Since then she has since lost 160 pounds, and her health issues have all resolved. Now she works out regularly, runs 5Ks and keeps up with her son’s school activities and sports, even serving as vice president of his football league. She has learned to shoot a rifle and fishes with her son often. She joined the church choir and coordinates children’s activities on Wednesday nights.

“I am much more active and will try almost anything once,” she said. “We are always on the go and I’m ready for more, bring it on!”

Cox studied to become a Certified Bariatric Nurse, so she has specialized training to complement her years of nursing practice and firsthand experience. In addition to meeting with patients one-on-one, she often speaks at educational seminars and Weight Loss Support Group meetings. Because she has traveled the same journey, others feel comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns.

“Being around for my son and sharing life with him is the main reason I had my surgery, and for that alone I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have no regrets,” Cox said. “Bariatric surgery gave me life. I am healthier and happier than I have ever been, and I only see my life getting better and better.”

Why Weight?

Dr. Pinson and his staff present a free Bariatric Educational Seminar at noon the first Thursday of each month and at 6 p.m. the third Thursday of each month. Both seminars are held at NMMC’s Wellness Center in Tupelo.

Topics include weight loss surgery’s health benefits and risks; different types of weight loss surgery; who is a good candidate; questions to ask a physician; what to expect before, during and after surgery; advanced techniques and technologies; and insurance coverage. To learn more, visit www.nmhs.net/bariatric_center. Because of limited space, seminar pre-registration is required by calling 1-866-908-9465.

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