Uncle Limbani needs gastric bypass surgery!
A few weeks ago, we shared a story of how comedian Henry BJ Phiri, alias Uncle Limbani, was promised fans that he would lose 30 kgs. I wish I was here to report that he was half way to meeting this target or some ‘ice cream and rainbows’ news like that, but I am not, well, not exactly. He actually suffered a stroke less than a week after that article was published. If you are active on social media, you might have noticed that he was admitted to Maina Soko Hospital and he even managed to shoot some short videos, making light of his situation, to his followers’ amusement. Now, while many of us watched those videos, laughed and carried on with our day like nothing happened, his reality is different.
Phiri’s quest for weight loss is no longer just a peripheral project to keep his word to his fans, reality has now caught up with him that he NEEDS to do it to preserve his life. I caught up with him after he was discharged from the hospital and he reflected on how his lifestyle had led him to where he is today – needing to undergo a gastric bypass surgery. I must state from the onset that I love his honesty and vulnerability; it is not an easy conversation to have but he opened up because he wants to ensure others don’t suffer the same fate due to lack of knowledge.
So, how did he pack on all of those kilos? He admits that he used to excessively eat and drink, thinking he was living a good life.
“I used to eat excessively Mukosha I will tell you, we love eating here to an extent where we don’t buy meat from the butchery, no, we go to the farm and pick a whole c0w. We go to the farm and pick a whole p!g and we thought ‘ah, ti kudya bwino’ kanshi ti zi paya (we are eating well, not knowing we are k!lling ourselves). There’s a family chef who cooks and I love cooking myself so he would cook for me nshima in the morning, nshima pa lunch and nshima in the evening,” he admitted.
“In a week, you find different friends come at home and we drink through and through. And as we are drinking, we don’t drink on empty stomachs, ninshi ti shoka (we’d be roasting some meat). And the weight just keeps piling.”
One thing I know is that habits like heavy drinking are sometimes symptomatic of some undealt stress or depression. Now, I am sure some of you are going, what the actual heck is this lady going on about? Henry BJ Phiri is one of the happiest people I know. So, I will ask you a question; is he happy though? But I will do you one better and tell you, I actually asked him whether he is ever happy like most people assume, and he told me:
“One of the things which people need to understand about us so called comedians is that if anyone is listening carefully, when you see comedians doing stuff on social media or even embarking on a tour, if you look at it critically, there is something which is causing them to do that. We do all this comedy to self-heal and if the audiences get to laugh along, that is good but otherwise, it is self-healing. Thank God for social media because there, you crack a joke and you see the reaction by likes and you feel a bit healed but when you go to perform in a hall and people leave, you go back and feel extremely lonely. People think ‘oh, he is a happy guy’, not knowing you are burning inside, you are crumbling inside, you are gone.”
Prior to suffering a stroke, Phiri underwent some personal turmoil which made him resuscitate a terrible habit he had managed to nip in the bud back on 2012, sm0king. He admits to sm0king about two or three packs of cigarettes a day.
“I developed a bad habit, I was smoking excessively, where you light a cigarette with the one that you are about to put off,” he recalled.
“Some doctors in India, after doing their own analysis, have diagnosed me with m0rbid 0besity grade 3 which is very dangerous for my health and so I have been recommended for an operation in India this month end. The whole operation is going to cost about $5,200 but for me to travel with an accompanying bed sider, I will need an extra $2,000 plus. I would appreciate any support towards this.”
As he continues mobilising resources for surgery, Phiri has quit sm0king and drinking. Of the two habits, he says sm0king is the harder one to kick, but he is holding strong and he has so far lost 10 kgs!
“I used to have trouble sleeping because sometimes I couldn’t find a comfortable spot on the pillow. Sometimes I would just use my hand because my breathing would be affected but now with the excess weight going off, I am enjoying my sleep,” he said.
“I am happy, I am on the mend and the beauty is that I am not doing it for anyone else but for myself.”
He has also gone a step further to establish an organisation aimed at sensitising people on how to avoid obesity at all costs.
“We have established the Watatu Foundation and it will have an obesity prevention component, this one is going to be talking out our lifestyles, our eating habits and just increase the awareness on obesity and non-communicable diseases like BP and so on because there is a lot that I have noticed people don’t know about 0besity, people don’t know about BP and so on. So using the talent that God has bestowed upon us and the platforms that we have, we are going to do more sensitisation through radio dramas, TV, community based campaigns and many other platforms like social media that are available to us to disseminate information,” Phiri said.
“When we spoke to some doctors, they said they were able to do this procedure here in Zambia but there was just one component which was missing and it was costing about $25,000 and as Watatu Foundation, we are going to fundraise to buy that component so that this facility can be accessed here. I am not discouraging others that are losing weight by adjusting their lifestyles but my challenge is that personally, when I start dieting, once in a while when I have a relapse, the weight comes back three-fold which becomes dangerous. But with the surgery, once it’s successful, I’ll still have to abide by the guidelines and it is a new lifestyle but I know it will work better.”
Watatu is also working with one of the local hospitals to bring an 0besity expert from India to Zambia.
“This expert in India has about 25 obesity patients here in Zambia who travelled to India at those col0ssal amounts I have mentioned. And we have had a discussion with some hospitals here in Zambia and there’s a likelihood this man will be stationed here in Zambia to save more people from 0besity and these lifestyle d!seases, that could be exciting to you as well Mukosha. Already, the hospital has been identified and we’re just in the process of closing all the procedural requirements, due diligence to him coming to work here; immigration and all these other procedures. We hope the powers that be will be very flexible to accommodate this specialist,” said Phiri.
Watatu’s motto? “Mind over matter”. I like it. When I am day dreaming about that moist chocolate cake, or when you are craving that ice-cold beer or whatever it is you’re hooked on, this motto is a reminder that we can manage to resist those temptations by controlling our minds.
Now, Phiri will shoot me if I close this article without giving the following shout outs to the people who helped him when he was down:
- Deputy Airforce Commander Major General Oscar Nyoni,
Commandant at Mina Soko Military and all the staff
- A doctor at South Point, sorry, he forgot your name but he is very grateful to you and all the staff at that hospital.
- Stephen Mikalile for the financial support and free gym services, and maybe this is me being a snitch, but he said he’d be more grateful if you extended the free services to Mika Meats!
- Mr Zunaid Adams of Ayub and Brothers, for introducing him to the experts in India and finally,
- His friends and family for their love and financial support and of course, God, for preserving his life.
I know a number of us want to go and Google “what is a gastric byp@ss surgery”, but let me save you some bundles, “it is a type of weight loss surgery that involves making changes to your st0mach and small intest!ne. The procedure works by reducing the size of your st0mach and rerouting your d!gestive syst£m. During the surgery, a small pouch is created at the top of your st0mach, which will hold your f00d. This pouch is much smaller than your original st0mach, which means you’ll feel full much faster. Next, a section of your small intest!ne is cut and attached to the new st0mach pouch. This reroutes your f00d so that it bypasses the rest of your st0mach and goes directly into your small intest!ne. By reducing the size of your st0mach and rerouting your d!gestive system, gastr!c bypass surg£ry can help you lose weight by limiting the amount of f00d you can eat and reducing the amount of cal0ries your body absorbs.” In short, it is a drastic measure for controlling over eating, it’s sounding like a very attractive idea right about now.
I’ll close with some questions to all of us – how is your diet and how often do you eat? 20 years from now, will you thank your younger self for adopting healthy habits? What can you do today to feel better tomorrow? If your answers are unsatisfactory, I hope you are trying, at least.
By Mukosha Funga
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