When Colquitt Regional CEO Jim Matney heard about a new non-surgical weight-loss procedure seeking FDA approval he began his research. “There was strong data that backed up the Orbera procedure because worldwide it has been used for over a decade,” says Matney. “There was plenty of research that proved it was safe and very effective. I knew early on that this was something we wanted to bring to Colquitt Regional. We watched it closely so that we would be ready when it was made available.”
Matney had enough faith in the procedure that he signed up to be the first patient to receive an Orbera balloon at Colquitt Regional in November of 2015. Bariatric trained physician Dr. Howard Melton performed the procedure on Matney in a room full of other physicians who were interested in exactly what the Orbera Intra-Gastric Balloon was all about. Matney was in and out of the Endoscopy Suites at Colquitt Regional in less than twenty minutes and was home recovering later that morning.
“Initially there is a little discomfort, your body is adjusting to the balloon being in your stomach, but after a couple days I was feeling great. Within two weeks I was eating a normal diet again just in smaller portions. Then I incorporated exercise into my daily routine. Walking is something I do every day. I’m now down 40 pounds and the main issue I’m having with Orbera is that I’ve had to buy a new clothes!”
Matney was the first person to have the Orbera procedure at Colquitt Regional but now over 40 others have followed his lead. Dr. Howard Melton, a Board Certified general surgeon at the hospital was the first to perform the procedure at Colquitt Regional but was quickly joined by Dr. Amber Holt and Dr. Justin Baker. Holt is one of Melton’s partners at Colquitt Regional Surgery and Baker is a family medicine physician at the Kirk Clinic and he also performs endoscopy procedures. These three physicians and Blake Williams, the Health and Wellness Coordinator at Colquitt Regional, make up the Orbera team.
The endoscopic procedure itself is fairly simple. A physician inserts a deflated silicone balloon into the stomach and then inflates it with saline through a self-sealing valve. The balloon stays in place for 6-8 months and is then removed in the same manner.
If there is any question about the safety of the balloon Matney has a great answer for patients. “So far we have placed an Orbera balloon in 3 of our own physicians and 1 one of those docs is Dr. Howard Melton. When the physician who performs the procedure signs up to have it himself….that speaks volumes. All three of these docs know the side-effects, they know about the effectiveness of the procedure and they have all done very well. And since having it, they have referred others, even family members.”
Dr. Gary Swartzentruber, known around Moultrie as the team physician for the Colquitt County Packers, has lost 30 pounds with Orbera. “I knew I needed to lose some weight and everything I had heard about Orbera led me to believe it would be a good fit for me,” says Swartzentruber. “I’ve been very pleased and have recommended it to a number of my patients who have struggled with weight loss.”
While physician referrals are certainly accepted they are not required. Patients who are interested in learning more about the Orbera procedure call and schedule a free consultation with Blake Williams whose office is conveniently located close to the main entrance of Colquitt Regional. Williams explains the process and makes sure they have a clear understanding of the procedure. He also emphasizes that patients must commit to doing their part. “The Orbera balloon alone is not going to result in long-term sustainable weight-loss,” says Williams. “I want all of our patients to understand that for Orbera to be successful they have to make lifestyle changes. The balloon is just a tool to help you make those changes. With the balloon you are going to reduce your food intake without battling the constant feeling of hunger that many experience with a traditional “diet.””
While some patients experience minor side-effects, they generally only last a couple days. Marie Brown has lost 22 pounds with the Orbera balloon and while she had a feeling of nausea initially, she said she would do it again with no reservation. “As an adult I’ve always tried to lose weight and would have some success but Orbera has been different. The balloon allowed me to reset my body and my own perceptions about food. I’m really listening to my body now and eating when I need to without battling a constant hunger,” says Brown. “Knowing that the balloon is only temporary also gives me that added incentive to stay focused and on track. I have changed everything about my eating habits and I’m exercising, so to say I’m a fan of Orbera is an understatement.”
Colquitt Regional has taken a unique approach with the Orbera procedure. When a patient is approved for the balloon they also have access to Williams for a full year. “I’m going to check-in on that patient everyday initially and then once a week after that,” says Williams. “Everybody is different so my job is to help each patient by customizing a meal plan and exercise regimen that works for their lifestyle.” Williams also tracks their progress each week. “Accountability is a big factor for a lot of patients and they know that I’m going to follow-up with them and encourage them to keep going.”
While Orbera has been new to Colquitt Regional, bariatric procedures are not. Dr. Melton is bariatric trained and has performed over 300 Lap-Band surgeries since 2007. “I still do a number of Lap-Band surgeries each month and I believe in that procedure as well. But the Orbera balloon has proven to be another great option and it’s a better tool for those who need to lose weight but don’t want something quite as invasive as a surgery. The ideal Orbera patient has a BMI of 30-40. If your BMI is much higher than that, you could be a better candidate for the Lap-Band,” says Melton.
Colquitt Regional is currently the only hospital in the region that is offering the Orbera balloon. Says CEO Jim Matney, “We are getting calls from all over with people interested in Orbera. Some have slowly gained weight for years and just need that jump-start to get it off, for others it’s a special event on the horizon. They may be preparing for a wedding or high school reunion and with Orbera you do tend to lose 20 pounds just in the first few weeks so that’s appealing to a lot of people.” Whatever the reason the team at Colquitt Regional is available and ready to help. For more information on the Orbera balloon call 229-502-9725 or visit them online at http://www.colquittregional.com