man playing guitar with granddaughter

Can a balloon change your life?

May 10, 2016 | Patricia Harriman
Registered dietitian Amber Isenhart and patient Kathy Paxton

Registered dietitian Amber Isenhart and patient Cathy Paxton.

Cathy Paxton is one of the first patients in Orange County whose life has been changed by balloons. Not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill balloons, but specially designed dual gastric balloons that have helped her finally lose weight in a healthy, controlled way.

Overweight most of her adult life, the 5-foot 8-inch, 66-year-old decided it was time to make a change to improve her health and quality of life when she topped out at 265 pounds a few years ago. Paxton started out by working with a trainer, and lost 80 pounds, but when she started to regain weight, she realized she needed to take a more aggressive approach.

“My BMI was never high enough to qualify for traditional bariatric surgery, and the alteration of my digestive system was too extreme for me,” she says. “I had heard about a new type of noninvasive bariatric procedure involving balloons. I did some research and decided that the dual gastric balloon treatment was right for me."   

New generation of treatment options

Dual gastric balloons are one of a new generation of non-invasive treatments designed to help the obese lose weight and improve related health conditions. Last summer, the FDA approved the ReShape™ Integrated Dual Balloon and ORBERA® single balloon for use in obese patients.

"New treatment options are being studied and approved for the treatment of obesity, which is good news for our patients and the healthcare professionals involved in their treatment, said Dr. Ninh Nguyen, chief of gastrointestinal surgery for UCI Health. “For many struggling with their weight, gastric balloons are an intervention option that bridges the gap between weight-loss drugs and surgery.”

Committing to lifestyle changes

Nguyen performed the endoscopic procedure on Nov. 30, 2015.

He inserted two uninflated balloons attached to the end of a flexible tube called an endoscope, into Paxton’s stomach through her mouth and esophagus. After insertion, the balloons were inflated with saline, and will remain in her stomach for six months. At that time, they will be endoscopically drained and removed through her mouth.

While the balloons are in her stomach and for six months after removal, Paxton attends monthly in-office coaching sessions with Nguyen, nutritionist Amber Isenhart and social worker Janet Ramirez. The coaching sessions are part of the treatment, helping her to learn healthy eating and exercise habits, as well as to recognize and manage her feelings about food.

“Losing weight doesn’t mean you lose the underlying personal issues along with it. They don’t go away,” Paxton says. “You have to work. You have to change your life.”

Feeling better goes a long way

The first four days after she had the balloons inserted were a little rough. Paxton says she felt like she had a bad case of the flu, but was prepared. Nguyen and his team had advised her of possible reactions.  

In five months, she has lost nearly 30 pounds. Although she’d hoped to have lost more weight by now, Paxton says that making it through the holidays and a few family birthday celebrations without gaining weight is a significant accomplishment. She’s well on her way to reaching her goal weight.

"The way you look and the health benefits are great incentives,” she says with a big smile.

“Not only have I lost weight, but I’ve been able to stop taking two medications I was on, one for diabetes and the other for bladder control. Add to that the emotional journey, which is amazing. I feel good. This is the new me, not the old me, and I can be comfortable being a smaller size. That’s part of the journey. That this slim, healthy person is me.”

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Lindzee Lane-Bracho
December 11, 2016

Interested in participating in case studies for balloon

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