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Kiwi women denied surgery in NZ but offered freebie in Korea

Published: 9:10PM Monday February 07, 2011 Source: ONE News

  • Lynda Sim (Source: Close Up)
    Lynda Sim - Source: Close Up

Two Kiwi women have been given a second chance at life with surgery in Korea, after the New Zealand health system denied them the life saving procedure here.

Last year, morbidly obese women Lynda Sim from Wellington and Jasmin Sciascia from Wanganui issued a desperate plea for life after they were denied a gastric bypass by the New Zealand District Health Board.

After suffering emotionally and physically because of their weight for several years, both women believed they had been handed a death sentence when they were refused the surgery.

Twenty-six-year-old Sciascia weighs 197kg, and at 163 kg, 45-year-old Sim has diabetes, sleep apnoea, depression and a thyroid condition.

Sim said she feared her health deteriorating because she would become totally reliant on her husband and son.

"They won't say it but I feel I am a burden on them for the way I am," she said.

But Sim and Sciascia have been given a second chance at life with an offer of an all expenses paid gastric bypass surgery in Korea.

Both are able to take one support person whose flights and accommodation will also be paid for. And in return, Sim and Sciascia will keep a video diary and provide photos.

Their free surgery is part of a marketing campaign by the Korean Tourism Organisation who hopes to lure morbidly obese Kiwis and Australians to Korea.

The offer seemed too good to be true, with surgery in New Zealand costing between $17,000 and $35,000.

But in Korea surgery is much cheaper costing approximately $10,000 including flights.

Sim said she sees the offer as a "gift" that could give her life back.

"It will mean when I look down I can see my toes, it will mean I can take a bath," she said.

Sciascia said the surgery means she will also have another chance at life.

"It's the second chance just to have a life to be able to do things I wasn't able to do fun and be able to go to a theme park," she said.

However there are risks involved with travelling to Korea for the surgery.

Dr Clive Solomon was the women's advocate when they voiced their plea last year on TV ONE's Close Up, but now he is disturbed about the risks involved with the long flight.

"They're not healthy women, they weigh double and triple their expected body weight. International travel is not easy for anyone and frankly I think this is madness to travel to the other side of the world to have this surgery done," he said.

Solomon said the trip should be stopped and surgery funded in New Zealand as promised.

"I think poor outcomes have to some extent rest on the heads of the bureaucrats who have denied these ladies life saving surgery," he said.

The women and their families are aware of the risks but are willing to take them.

"There are a lot of risks but there are a lot of risks in not doing anything, not doing anything doesn't change anything," Sim's husband Jono said.

And Sim said her chance for a better life lies with the operation in Korea.

"I can't even say what it means, it's going to absolutely change my life," she said.

Sim's son Zac said he hopes the operation will allow him to do "the simple things in life" with his mum.