The his 'n' hers gastric bands: Husband and wife lost 41 STONE between them after bypass surgeryTakeaway-addicted pair lost 17 stone between them and now eat healthilyDave Brassell was 21 stone and Debra Brassell was 20 stoneShe suffered from sleep apnoea and his back ached when he walked
16:00 GMT, 24 May 2012
Married couples usually buy matching wedding rings – but this husband and wife chose to share gastric bands instead.
Both have now shed almost half their bodyweight after having the radical surgery within months of each other.
Dave Brassell, 44, and wife Debra, 37, weighed 21 stone and 20 stone respectively and both began to suffer health problems as a result of being overweight.
My other half: Dave and Debra Brassell, pictured left in 2009 and right today, lost 17 stone between them
The couple, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, have now become one of only a handful of couples to go under the knife together, and have lost 17 stone between them.
Mrs Brassell, who works in Asda, lost eight stone following her gastric bypass in November last year, going from a size 26 to a 14.
Mr Brassell, who works at an aircraft paint factory, lost nine stone after having a gastric sleeve implant in January, where surgeons removed a portion of his stomach and re-attached it to form a sleeve shape, permanently reducing the size of his stomach by about 75 per cent.
Mrs Brassell, a mother of one, had previously suffered sleep apnoea as a result of being overweight.
She said: 'Now, I have so much energy and just really enjoy life. I believe having the surgery has prolonged my life.'
The couple and daughter Rebecca, 26, used to live on takeaway food most nights but now eat healthy meals in small portions.
They both began considering surgery after a holiday in the Dominican Republic last year.
Mrs Brassell said: 'We got talking to another holidaymaker who had recently had weightloss surgery and was very pleased with the results and that set me off thinking.
'When we got home, I said to David that I’d been considering looking into having surgery and he actually said he’s been thinking the same thing.'
Lifestyle change: Mrs Brassell, who works for Asda, used to eat takeaway meals every night with her family, but now has small healthy dishes
In September last year, the couple went to see their GP.
Mrs Brassell was referred to the Bariatric surgery centre in Darlington and Mr Brassell was advised to try medication first.
She added: 'I think the hardest thing was walking into the seminar for patients who are thinking about having surgery.
'There were a lot of people there who were even bigger than me. It made me think, “I am not alone”.
'David came along to support me at the seminar but we both felt even more strongly after the meeting and after receiving all the information, surgery was the best option for both of us.
'You have to be really committed to change, I had to lose 5kg before the surgery and meet with a dietician to discuss the lifestyle changes you have to make after the operation.
'Since the operation I have lost 8st and I feel fantastic. I’ve gone from a size 26 to a 14.
'I used to eat sweets, takeaways, snacks and cakes, but now I have cereal in the morning and healthy meals.
'It is the best thing I have ever done, I feel like it’s a new lease of life and I’ve started doing exercise, going to the gym, swimming and circuits.'
Mr Brassell said: 'It’s the simple things like being able to bend down to fasten your shoelaces and not having an aching back when you walk.'
He admitted that when he and his wife were overweight, he even had to help his wife put her bra on, joking: 'I must have been the only husband who spent more time putting his wife’s bra on rather than taking it off.'
The couple urged anyone who is struggling with obesity to talk to their GP about a possible referral for surgery on the NHS. The Darlington bariatric surgery centre has operated on 30 patients since it opened in September and many more are being prepared for surgery.
Spending on NHS weightloss surgery in the North-East has soared in recent years and the region has the highest rate of of hospital admissions for patients with obesity problems at 40 per 100,000 people.
In 2008-09, 1.7m was spent on weight-loss surgery in the region, but that more than doubled to 3.6m in 2009-10 and rose again to 4.6m in 2010-11.
The Brassells' surgeon Akeil Samier said: 'It is very pleasing to hear the success stories of our patients and to see the difference the surgery has made to the quality of their lives.
'Debra and David know patients need to work hard to achieve the weightloss results that they want, but it does work and provides a long-term solution.'
Before undergoing gastric surgery for weightloss, patients need to have a body mass index of more than 40, or more than 35 if they have other medical problems such as high blood pressure.
Mr Samier added: 'These patients will have tried everything beforehand and will have failed with conservative methods. They must be committed to the follow up and to changing their lifestyle and eating habits after the operation, just as David and Debra were.'