Rosie O’Donnell’s Battle of the Bulge and Life Saving Surgery

Susanna Sisson's picture
Rosie O'Donnell

Rosie O’Donnell has joined the ranks of other celebrities who have gone under the knife to lose weight and has reportedly lost 64 pounds. The 53 year old comedian, actress, author, activist, and talk show host had struggled with weight her whole life and at times was the victim of humiliation and body shaming.


In 2012, O’Donnell suffered a heart attack while at home and although she suspected she might be having a heart attack and took an aspirin, she fell asleep and didn’t go to the emergency room or call 911. Later she did undergo a heart catheterization which revealed 99% blockage of her coronary artery, and had stent placement.

O'Donnell’s behavior is not at all uncommon. Fifty percent of women, while having heart attacks and suspecting they're having heart attacks, do not call 911. O’Donnell admits, "It was the stupidest decision I ever made in my life. I’m lucky to be alive.”

At that time her physician told her she needed to lose 50 pounds because she was also suffering from high blood pressure and cholesterol and was pre-diabetic, so she began trying to eat better by cutting down on sugar, carbs, and red meat. Her then wife, Michelle Rounds was very supportive and the couple also began a walking program. But as anyone who has struggled to lose weight knows, it is often difficult and the weight was slow to come off. After a year, she sought the help of a bariatric surgeon. Her decision to have the surgery did not come lightly, but was a life-saving measure that in hindsight she “wished had done a long time ago”.


The surgery that O’Donnell had done in 2013, is called a vertical gastric sleeve. Gastric sleeve surgery is a major operation which carried the same risks as any other major surgical procedure. The purpose is to remove a portion of the stomach, creating a sense of satiety sooner. As a result, you’ll eat less, which will make it easier for you to lose weight. Gastric sleeve surgery is non-reversible since it involves removing part of the actual stomach tissue.

Not only is the surgery effective at suppressing the appetite, it may help improve health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure and requires a shorter hospital stay than many other weight loss procedures.

While the surgery does help with weight loss and Improves one’s quality of life, O’Donnell stresses it is not a panacea. “The surgery is just a tool but it forces you to eat differently.”
Because of her experience, the sometimes controversial entertainer actively advocates for women’s health via her blog, and has spoken at American Heart Association “Go Red” events to encourage women to take better care of themselves, and to educate them to seek help if they suspect they are having a heart attack.


Image source: Wikipedia