Tuesday, April 4, 2017 12:00 AM

The woman who saves hundreds of babies turns to Fresno bariatric expert to save her life

Debbe Magnusen, founder of Project Cuddle, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to saving babies’ lives, turned to Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital to save her own life.
Magnusen’s Project Cuddle is well-known in Hollywood circles and among Oprah Winfrey show watchers for its work in preventing infant abandonment by helping pregnant women find shelter, medical care and families to adopt their babies. Her savior, as she calls him, Dr. Kelvin Higa, is just as well known among bariatric surgeons.


After Magnusen had her first bariatric surgery in 2004 a rare condition caused over-active scarring internally, which required multiple follow-up surgeries at UCLA Medical Center. But in January, Magnusen was back at UCLA doubled in pain. The scarring had taken over much of her stomach space, keeping her from eating and keeping her from her work helping babies find loving families.
Her UCLA Medical Center surgeon felt it was too risky to do more open surgery since it might cause her body to scar further. He sent Magnusen to an international expert in minimally-invasive bariatric revision surgery, Dr. Higa, medical director of Fresno Heart & Surgical’s Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program.
Dr. Higa and his partner, Dr. Keith Boone, pioneered the laparoscopic surgical technique most commonly used world-wide for gastric bypass or Roux-en-Y bariatric surgery. On any given day the physicians assisting and observing Dr. Higa in the operating room may be carrying passports from India, Mexico, Taiwan, Spain or Australia. In addition to teaching around the world, Dr. Higa is a clinical professor of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, and current president of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders.
Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at MedWatchToday@communitymedical.org