Slimline Jasmin's a star

By John Maslin

When Jasmin Sciascia stands on the bathroom scales these days, her weight shows up as 89kg, which in normal circumstances is not that special.

But this young Wanganui woman's weight loss journey is nothing short of astounding, given that a little under two years ago she weighed 220kg.

Which means Jasmin's lost the equivalent of 262 packs of butter or 131 one-kilo blocks of cheese - and all as the result of stomach surgery she had in South Korea.

Doctors told her that without losing weight she would probably not live longer than five years. She was unable to get the surgery done locally but her Chronicle story was picked up in South Korea - which markets medical "tourism" - and she was given an expenses-paid trip to Seoul for the operation.

That first lot of surgery - in February last year - effectively reduced the size of her stomach and the results were almost immediate, with her weight plummeting to 121kg to 99kg.

Two months ago, Jasmin was back in the Seoul hospital and under the knife of the same surgeon.

He removed 8kg of excess skin from her stomach area and 2kg from each arm. She needed 395 stitches and staples.

This latest trip has seen Jasmin emerge as a star of South Korea's burgeoning medical tourism industry, featuring in a book as well as being made an honorary "ambassador".

"This trip was amazing. I was treated like absolute royalty. I was a VIP from the second I boarded my flight," she said.

She had her own guide and limousine for her stay, all paid for by the Korean Tourism Organisation.

"It was so much fun. I went to theme parks, traditional villages and similar places. I had an absolute ball," she said.

But before her skin-removal operation, Jasmin was guest speaker at a medical tourism conference held in the giant Kintex Exhibition Centre.

"When we arrived, we were given a big bag of gifts and one of them was a big book of all the medical care Korea offered. I was wondering why people were staring at me until I realised I was in the book," she said.

"I met up with the surgeon who did my first operation. He was so surprised and couldn't believe the difference in me. He said he'd seen the photos but said seeing me in person was just unbelievable."

Jasmin said standing in front of the several hundred in the audience was a daunting moment but also emotional.

"My surgeon, Dr Kim, was on stage with me, and I had an overwhelming feeling of love and respect for the man who had saved my life," she said.

After her speech, both she and Dr Kim were awarded plaques and Jasmin was made an honorary ambassador of Korea's medical tourism industry.

Specialists told Jasmin she was the only person in the world to have lost more than 100kg through the type of surgery she had because it was usually used as a pre-surgery to help "super" obese patients lose weight before having a bypass operation.

"After our speeches, we had a lot of interviews and people from all around the world wanting to have their picture taken with me," she said. "It was very weird to be the centre of attention, specially as I am usually one to shy away from that sort of thing."

The day after the conference she was in hospital for the skin removal operation.

"I was meant to have the excess skin removed from my arms, legs and tummy but they said they did not realise just how much skin I had and it would have to be done in two operations. I'm going back next year to have the rest of my tummy and my legs done, and I can't wait."

Jasmin said the latest surgery was "very painful" and had kept her out of action for two months.

"I still have swelling in my tummy, and there's some fluid there that needs to be drained, and I'm getting that fixed at Palmerston North hospital next month," she said.

A lot of her after-care has been done there, because she can stay with her mother and an aunt who live in that city.

Then she'll be in the job market.

As to her future weight goals, Jasmin said at her last weigh-in she was 89kg.

"I have a goal of 80kg in mind," she said. "As my original goal was 100kg I'm super pleased with 89kg. But I would be happy if I didn't lose any more."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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