Diane Hawk Surgery Project
Buffalo Walking Woman
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This site is now a historical record of Diane Hawk's extraordinary journey toward health. As you read the pages be aware that Diane Hawk is now alive, healthy, and living a life of purpose and productivity. Follow the steps of her journey . . .
At left: Diane Hawk rests with grandson
Robbie after a Cheyenne ceremony.
Diane Hawk's Cheyenne name is Esevonene'ehne'e (Buffalo Walking Woman) and she is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. As a diabetic, weighing over 400 pounds, Diane sought for over two years to have a surgical procedure done that would change her life: the roux-en-y gastric bypass. To her disappointment, insurance refused to pay due to an exclusion clause in the policy. After almost giving up hope, she was asked to participate in a special study to determine the effects of gastric bypass surgery on morbidly obese diabetic Native American women. An anonymous donor agreed to cover the cost of the surgeon ($5,000) to enable her to participate in this study, which would benefit Native Americans everywhere.
Diane needed to raise $20,000 more for hospitalization, anesthetic, pulmonary studies, specialized intensive care, and special therapies needed before and after the surgery. Fund raisers and donations brought her close enough to her goal for Dr. Henry Pearce to schedule the surgery at Edmond Medical Center. Dr. Pearce and Diane share the hope that this surgery will draw attention to the need for U.S. Indian Health funding of the gastric bypass procedure for morbidly obese diabetic Native Americans.
What is this surgery?
The operation is “The Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery” (pronounced “Roo N Y”), a major surgery during which the stomach is transformed into a small pouch with an opening that bypasses part of the small intestines. It is a permanent procedure that changes the way food is digested and handled in the body. Only small amounts of food can be eaten at a time - and eating habits are changed forever.
The surgery is not cosmetic and Diane's decision to have the surgery was not made lightly - in fact, her physicians recommended it as medically necessary. Diane suffered from being obese for a long time, and attempted various forms of dieting and medicines to reduce weight. Nothing worked. Because of her lack of mobility, the exercise she needed in order to reduce was almost impossible. So, in spite of almost constant dieting and even some exercise through water aerobics, Diane had been unable to lose enough weight to improve her health in a significant way.
The wear and tear caused by carrying so much weight damaged Diane’s ability to function in every day activities. Her knee cartilage disintegrated, and her diabetes worsened and was difficult to control. Diane was often hospitalized, sometimes with heart failure. She had to use a machine to pump oxygen into her while sleeping, and she used a wheelchair to get around.
Now that Diane has had the surgery, she should experience a dramatic loss of weight in a short amount of time. In most cases, diabetes disappears after this surgery, and she likely will not need forced oxygen while sleeping. She will be able to live a much more active life and stop taking a great deal of her medicines, which were costing $450 per month! She plans to follow a healthy eating regimen, exercise, increase her mobility and stamina, and become a contributing member of the community once again! Please see information updates.
Why is Diane Hawk's surgery important to all Native Americans?
Diane hopes the surgery will cure her of diabetes, congestive heart failure, and joint disintegration. Although her doctors agree that the surgery is a medical necessity for her and for other morbidly obese and diabetic Native Americans, Indian Health will not fund this type of surgery. $150 million in funds earmarked for Diabetes Wellness for Native Americans have been approved by Congress, but so far none are directed toward the gastric bypass. Her doctors hope this will change when public awareness is raised through Diane Hawk's efforts. More information.
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