Press Centre

Weight Loss Ward

  • Episode: 

    2 of 3

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 14 Jan 2014
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    8.00pm - 9.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 03 2014 : Sat 11 Jan - Fri 17 Jan
  • Channel: 

The information contained herein is embargoed from press use, commercial and non-commercial reproduction and sharing - in the public domain - until Tuesday 7 January 2014.
“The most difficult bit is choosing the right people for this operation – you can't fix everyone with an operation. They must change their lifestyle otherwise it’s not going to work in the long term, they will just put their weight back on.” - Neil Jennings,  consultant surgeon
This three-part documentary series returns to Sunderland’s Royal Hospital, where its specialist ward for the morbidly obese treats patients who are seeking surgery to battle their weight gain.
Focusing on the busiest NHS obesity unit in the UK, Weight Loss Ward follows the personal stories of the patients, their journeys to losing weight, possible reasons behind their weight gain, the reality of gastric surgery and its consequences.
The series also gives a unique insight into the challenges faced by the ward’s 50 specialist hospital staff in getting patients to lose weight, to keep it off, and the tasks they face in performing surgery on them.
Tonight we meet 56-year-old Doreen Thomas, who is 4 ft 11in and 31 stone. She turned to the Weight Loss Ward for help because even leaving her house is a problem and she’s been living and sleeping downstairs for ten months. Doreen's got her date to go to the weight loss ward for a week's observation so the team can assess her eating patterns. She talks about the cause of her weight gain: “My mum died and then that’s when my weight really began to balloon in earnest and it went from 18 stone to 20 stone gradually up to 31 stone. It was mostly because I missed my mum.”
Bariatric specialist nurse Arun Sekhar explains the concerns of staff at the hospital about Doreen - that if they don’t intervene, she might die: “I saw Doreen not so long ago and it was quite clear straight away it was quite a special case. She doesn’t have a social life, she’s pretty much a recluse and this compounds her problems even further. She’s tried losing weight in the past but it’s never really succeeded. If we don't do something now I don't think we will have an opportunity to do anything because she probably will be dead.”
Doreen has an obesity related illness called sleep apnoea which stops her breathing in her sleep. This must be treated with a special machine before she can be considered for surgery - and taken onto the ward for a controlled diet. But before she goes into hospital, she’s making the most of her freedom to consume. She says: “I love Liquorice Allsorts but these are mint flavoured so it gives you a little bit more for your money. It’s just like a Tardis taking me back in time. These are my favourites from childhood, and childhood’s a nice place to go every now and then, and a free lollipop. I hope it’s watermelon.”
Laura Lamb, 29, has failed to get on the surgical list twice by not losing enough weight. This time she has three days to lose two kilogrammes - or her operation will be cancelled. When she meets her target weight and is taken in for her new gastric loop, she starts to worry - she’s never had a general anaesthetic. She says: “Now I just want to cry. All I’m frightened of is for my kids. If I could get that out of my head I would be fine. I think, ‘Oh yeah I’m going to be fine’ but it isn’t just that, I think if I could just be fat but forever be healthy, but I don’t have that option, I have a higher risk of diabetes with it being in my family.”
As the pounds drop off after her operation, it's a reminder of how quickly she put them on after the birth of her son. She says: “This picture here, I was 16 and eight stone, the bottom picture here I’d just given birth to Ben, I was 14 stone and the picture on the right here I was 22 and nearly 22 stone. In six years that’s 14 stone. That’s like two people.”
She faces new challenges after her operation - but the fact her stomach is now a tenth of its previous size does have benefits, she says: “How do I eat when I’m not hungry, how do I do that?  On the plus side I’m a proper cheap date, you don’t even have to feed me now, cup of tea and I’m sold.”
Taxi driver Sara Porritt, who at her heaviest topped 25 stone, was filmed in the first series when she had a gastric bypass operation. After losing ten stone in two years she’s much thinner - but is still struggling with addiction, though this time not to food. She says: “I look totally different, when I walk past the mirror I have to give myself a second look. I had a s---ty childhood and I’ve had to battle with that throughout my life. I took away the crutch of my food and then I was left with me and the raw me. I may look good on the outside but I’ve still got a lot of work to do on the inside.
“I’m really really struggling. I’ve just started to abuse painkillers. Which has now got me into a sticky situation and before I knew it I’m addicted.”
Sara's addictive behaviour has put a strain on her relationship with her wife Carol, who says: “I like to think we’ve got a future but I couldn’t guarantee that, although I do hang on in there and when I’ve come to the end of my tether which has been I can’t count on fingers and toes how many times that’s been this year she pulls it back. I want it to work.”
She manages to get off the codeine tablets, but an old addiction begins to surface. She says: “During the codeine withdrawal my food has increased unfortunately and it’s not really the healthy salad type food. I’m just like a little squirrel, I have my stash. Not that I’m hiding it or anything like that but it’s just under there and it’s out of the way. On a typical day shift I’ll have those items and I feel a little bit sick. I’d wait until it passes and I thought ‘Oooh, I’ll have a couple more’.”