Is Getting Surgery With Your Significant Other A Good Idea?

VVartanian on 27 Aug 2013 at 9:00am

Dr. Stoker explains the pros and cons of getting surgery with your sweetheart.

While watching last week's episode of Extreme Weight Loss, we couldn't help being struck by strength of the bond between high-school sweethearts, Ashley and Jason Hylton. After losing their daughter, Ava, born prematurely -- the grieving couple slides further into unhealthy living. Ashley (who carries guilt Ava was early because of her mother's obesity) weighs 325 pounds when she joins trainer Chris Powell for a year of diet and exercise. And, Jason, who weighs 398, suddenly decides to join her on her journey.

So, after a year of sweat and tears on the treadmill (and a uphill hike to the Peruvian ruins of Machu Pichu), the couple collectively loses 307 pounds and both qualify for skin removal surgery with LA plastic surgeon, Dr. David Stoker. Which got us thinking -- how often do couples seek surgery together and is it a good thing? We got Dr. Stoker on speed dial to find out.

RealSelf: Do you see husband and wife teams frequently?

Dr Stoker: I do see husband and wife teams frequently, for many types of procedures. In my experience, the case is often that woman goes first -- and the husband later decides to do it himself.

RealSelf: What are benefits to tackling surgery as a team?

Dr. Stoker: If it's related to weight loss -- surrounding yourself with supportive people is one of the most important things. With Jason and Ashley, they fed off each other, making sacrifices and doing hard work.

I think knowing they had [a future] opportunity for a physical transformation with surgery, raised the stakes and kept them going with diet and exercise.

RealSelf: Are there any downsides to a couple getting simultaneous surgeries?

Dr. Stoker: It can be overwhelming for some – if they don’t have help at home and they have children. It’s great if you have family or close friends that are willing to help during the first week or two of recovery -- which is most difficult time.

Most spouses will stagger their surgery somewhat so it’s not necessary to have as much help at home. I definitely have done it – but it’s not as common when you have young kids. 

RealSelf: At what point in a couple's life do you commonly see them seeking surgery as a pair?

Dr. Stoker: I see "duos" coming in two major stages. One group is successful couples before they have kids. They are taking care of themselves, working out frequently and are frustrated by their inability to maintain or achieve the shapes they are looking for.

The second time it's common for me to do surgery is as a couple enters later stages in their life... in the "empty nest" stage or when they are approaching retirement. Especially when it comes to retirement, it’s a new beginning for both, as individuals and as a couple.

RealSelf:  Who presents more of a surgical challenge? The husband or wife?

Dr. Stoker: In general, it's more difficult operating on the husband than the wife. Guys are bigger, heavier, more vascular, their tissue is more fibrous and sometimes, they are hairy. They have more blood vessels that need to be tied off (or cauterized) so there is increased risk of bleeding, fibrous tissue is difficult to separate and the [sheer] weight and density of tissue is greater. All of those things can cause the surgery to take longer or be more challenging.

Guys must have evolved in a way where that was advantageous, perhaps in battle… but it is a bigger challenge for me in the OR, that’s for sure.

RealSelf: So, can we assume that the weight of what you’re removing and handing in a body lift takes some physical strength on your end?

Dr. Stoker: That’s right. Although I am ambidextrous, and use both my left and right sides in a balanced way to avoid injuring myself during long physically demanding operations -- when I'm doing a case following massive weight loss, I usually skip going to the gym.

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