CHESAPEAKE--Going under the knife to eliminate Type 2 Diabetes is nothing new in the world of bariatric surgery.
Dr. Eric Yancey, Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, says his patients have had success through gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy for years.
"I've been doing bariatric surgery for over a decade now and we've always had at least an 85 to 90 percent cure rate for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and now, I'm just happy to see that mainstream media is becoming aware," says Dr. Yancey.
He's talking about two studies recently published online by the New England Journal of Medicine. The new research shows weight loss surgery can reverse and possibly cure diabetes. Both studies found that surgery helped more patients achieve normal blood-sugar levels than medicines alone.
Patients with Type 2 Diabetes brought on by obesity can't make enough insulin or use what they do make to process sugar from food.
That was the case for Rickie Baldivia of Chesapeake. At age 55, his weight had reached 323 pounds, he was on an insulin pump, medication for cholesterol and high blood pressure and saw his health steadily failing. After living with Type 2 Diabetes for nearly a decade, when his endocrinologist suggested Gastric Bypass Surgery, he went for it.
"Well, the weight loss of course is great and I came off my insulin pump the Monday after surgery and I haven't had any insulin or any meds since," explains Baldivia.
He had the surgery in early November 2011 and in the months since has lost 95 pounds and no longer shows any signs of Type 2 Diabetes.
Dr. Yancey says it's one of many success cases after bariatric surgery.
"It's very important that this is happening because, as you well know, we do have a definite obesity epidemic in this country and part of that epidemic is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, so now we have a tool that will cure it," he says.
And, with millions of Americans dealing with the disease, Dr. Yancey says now it's up to the insurance companies to take notice and become part of the philosophy that we now have a documented cure for the Type 2 diabetic.
"They're covering it, but only for diabetic patients who are also morbidly obese. The population we hope that they will embrace is that population with a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is not in the morbidly obese category, but these people do have Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus," explains Dr. Yancey.
While the insurance companies sort out who will and who won't be covered, hospitals like Chesapeake Regional offer "weight loss self-pay" programs to make the procedure more affordable.
Baldivia says he feels great, adding that he's looking forward to being around for a very long time.
"That's the main reason I did this surgery, besides the weight loss. I mean, that's a great incentive, but I wanted to be around. My grandson is seven-years-old and I want to be here. I don't want to miss that part of my life anymore."