Nfld. & Labrador

Woman asking N.L. premier to weigh in on skin surgery

A Conception Bay South woman who has lost almost half her body weight - and consequently stopped needing medication to control her diabetes – is the latest person calling on the province to pay for surgery to remove pounds of loose skin from her body.
Pamela Sheaves holds up the pants she used to wear when she weighed more than 300 pounds. ((Mark Quinn/ CBC))
A Conception Bay South woman who has lost almost half her body weight  - and consequently stopped needing medication to control her diabetes – is the latest person calling on the province to pay for surgery to remove pounds of loose skin from her body.

Pamela Sheaves lost more than 160 pounds through exercise and dieting.

Now she’s asking another woman who has recently made dramatic, healthy changes to her lifestyle to help her.

"I would ask Premier Kathy Dunderdale what her view is, is this surgery the continuation of a process of becoming more healthy? Or does she consider it to be a cosmetic, vanity issue?" asked Sheaves.

With referrals from her family doctor, Sheaves has seen a local plastic surgeon three times to try to have the province’s medical insurance plan pay for surgery to remove the skin.

"We had hoped it would be covered because of the extent of my weight loss and lifestyle changes. The response we got was that the surgery would be cosmetic but in my mind it is part of my medical recovery," she said.

Pamela Sheaves when she weighed more than 300 pounds. ((Courtesy Pamela Sheaves))
"I will never be as healthy as I can be as long as I have this skin on. It’s not a reward for taking off weight. It’s the final step in a process. It’s a necessary part of the process."

"I didn’t use drugs or surgery. I was approximately 330 pounds. Now I’m about 187 but I have about 30 pounds of extra skin."

She believes the surgery she wants is medically necessary.

"It’s a continuation of the problem before. This excess skin is a constant extra weight on my body and it’s a health issue. I have to be very careful to keep myself from developing infections. It’s like moving around with a bag of water hanging from your body."

Sheaves said she can’t afford to pay for the surgery, which would cost about $7,000 plus travel costs. 

Sheaves - a type 2 diabetic - says the money she has saved the health care system since coming off medications to treat her condition would have paid for the surgery at least once.

"I’m saving the government thousands of dollars and I’m asking for the finalization of my treatment," said Sheaves.

Sheaves is the third person CBC News has spoken with who is calling on the province to cover the cost of removing excess skin after they lost a lot of weight.

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