Nova Scotia

Woman pens own obit waiting for weight loss surgery

A Lower Sackville, N.S., woman has taken the unusual step of writing her own obituary to encourage a reduction in wait times for weight loss surgeries.

A Lower Sackville, N.S., woman took the unusual step of writing her own obituary and posting it online to press for changes that would reduce wait times for weight loss surgeries.

Lillian Coakley, 42, recently discovered there is a 10-year wait for bariatric surgery — operations that remove a large part of the stomach. The procedure helps to improve the lives of people who are obese.

Lillian Coakley wrote her own obituary and posted it online to draw attention to the 10-year wait for weight loss surgery in Nova Scotia. (CBC)

"I penned my own obituary to spread awareness. It took me about three or four hours. I cried my eyes out non-stop as my son sat at the kitchen table playing a game. It was extremely hard. I'm a single parent, and there is nobody for them but me."

Coakley weighs 372 pounds and said she has always been obese. She has sleep apnea and worries about developing diabetes, which runs on both sides of her family.

She said she's tried dieting and exercising but has never been able to keep her weight under control.

Her doctor has written numerous referrals for the surgery, which is covered in Nova Scotia by the provincial health plan if a patient meets strict requirements.

Her fake obituary has been posted on the website weightymatters.ca. Part of it reads, "She died at a young age due to complications with obesity that she fought for years to overcome. She leaves behind her two sons, who both lived at home. Her entire life was lived for her boys, who she loved immensely and were her pride and joy."

"I don't think I will make 10 years, that's the whole thing. I mean two to four years is pushing it for some people, but 10 years? I don't know, to me that's just uncalled for," Coakley said.

Between 60 and 80 weight loss surgeries are performed each year in Halifax. The waiting list is now 2,000 people long.

One doctor said more surgeons and support staff are needed to make a significant difference in people's lives.

"The impact is profound. One of the best things about doing weight loss surgery is seeing the changes you're making in those people's lives," said James Ellsmere, surgical director of the obesity network at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax.

Nova Scotia has the second-highest rate of morbid obesity in Canada.

"It's going to be a challenge in terms of how we address this. Obesity is an epidemic," Ellsmere said.

Coakley said if improvements aren't made to the wait list times, it will be her real obituary that's published.

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