Medical Tourism: Oklahoma Man Says It Wasn't Worth The Savings

Tuesday, February 28th 2012, 9:48 pm
By: News 9

Jan Neufeld lost close to 200 pounds after traveling to India for gastric bypass surgery, a journey she says saved her.

"It's given me my life back," Neufeld said.

2/13/2012 Related Story: Medical Tourism: Oklahoma Woman Travels Overseas For Inexpensive Surgery

Tony Lippe's medical trip didn't have the same story book ending. Wanting to lose weight, Lippe decided to have a lap band procedure in Tijuana, Mexico.

"The price was probably 1/5th what it was here in America," Tony Lippe said.

Lippe did his homework, after all he's a nurse. He researched the hospital, talked to former patients, and the surgery went even better than expected.

"I woke up and didn't realize I even had the surgery until I saw the incisions on the abdomen" Lippe said.

It wasn't until Lippe returned home to Oklahoma that he ran into a big problem.

"They wouldn't work on me because I had no paperwork," Lippe said. "I had no medical records where the surgery had actually been done."

Follow up care is imperative for a lap band to work. Doctors must periodically refill the saline used to tighten the band. Leave it alone and the lap band doesn't do its job.

Local doctors told Lippe the only way they'd treat him is if he paid around $3000 in upfront costs, offsetting the money he saved by going to Mexico. That's something he isn't ready to do.

Lippe's dilemma doesn't surprise local bariatric surgeon Dr. Russell Gornichec.

"The most serious part is having a complication and not wanting to go see a local specialist because of fear of added cost," Dr. Russell Gornichec said.

Lippe lost about 40 pounds shortly after the surgery. But hasn't shed any since. He hopes that will change.

"I still hope to find a doctor," Lippe said. "Somebody will come in and say, 'we'll accept you.'"

Doctor Gornichec says there are three things you can do before considering a trip for surgery.

  •  Make sure you get support from a primary care physician at home.
  •  Understand the risks.
  •  And know the names of and costs for local specialists who will see you for after-care if needed.