Patient loses 70 lbs. after bariatric surgery

When Dianna Plaza took her 13-year-old grandson to the Grand Canyon, he had to urge her to please slow down.

Along with a newfound "ridiculous amount of energy," she no longer has sleep apnea or asthma. She takes less medication for her high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression and insomnia. With continued weight loss, she expects to be off most of her medications.

"I went from helpless to hopeful. Losing weight was no longer someone else's dream."

Dianna Plaza

Just a year ago, no one was telling the 62-year-old Seaton, Ill., woman to slow down. She had reached her all-time high of 310 pounds. She had accumulated a list of obesity-related medical problems, and her weight threatened to complicate her mild case of multiple sclerosis. She was tired and a tad defeated.

Emotionally, she had resigned herself to being overweight forever.

"My story was very typical. I could always lose the weight but could never keep it off," Plaza says. "At that point in my life, I had given up on ever being successful at losing the weight."

Today, she has lost 70 pounds with the help of the Genesis Center for Weight Management and the adjustable gastric banding procedure she had last June.

It was during an appointment in October 2010 that Dianna Plaza's family doctor suggested she consider bariatric surgery. A couple of weeks later, she went to her first informational meeting at the Genesis Center for Weight Management in Davenport.

"I went from helpless to hopeful," Plaza says. "After that first meeting and my initial exam, my whole perception changed. Losing weight was no longer someone else's dream. I finally felt, 'It's going to be OK now.'"

4 weight-loss options

The Genesis Center for Weight Management offers three surgical weight-loss options: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and Lap-Band®. 

Plaza opted for the Lap-Band procedure after researching the options and talking with her surgeon, Dr. Matthew Christophersen of Davenport Surgical Group. An alternative to gastric bypass, the Lap-Band system doesn't require cutting or stapling the stomach or re-routing the intestine.

"I was really hesitant about Roux-en-Y surgery and liked that Lap-Band was less-invasive," she says. "With multiple sclerosis, vitamin deficiency is a big deal so Lap-Band was the better option for me. It has been life-changing."

The Lap-Band system involves the laparoscopic placement of an inflatable silicone band around the upper part of the stomach to create a small pouch that limits food intake, reduces appetite and slows digestion.

"The band is adjusted through a small port just under the skin that we can access through a small needle. It can be tightened by adding more saline or loosened by removing saline depending on the patient's feeling of restriction," says Dr. Christophersen,  the center's medical director. "When food enters the upper stomach, patients feel full, they eat less, consume fewer calories, and lose weight slowly over time."

Plaza is the first to admit, however, that surgery is only a tool for weight loss; patients need to actively pursue a lifetime of post-surgical compliance.

That's one reason why patients who want weight loss surgery at Genesis must first go through a rigorous process before qualifying for surgery. Patients undergo several months of education and have consultations with the surgeon, nursing staff, dietitian, physical therapist, pharmacist and recreational therapist. Psychological evaluations are done through Genesis Psychology Associates. Only patients who follow the pre-surgery requirements are scheduled for surgery.

"At first, I remember feeling frustrated. I was like 'Get me scheduled for surgery right away,' " Plaza recalls. "But looking back, I'm glad I had to go through the months-long process. Once you reach your surgery, you feel like it's something you've earned."

She remembers her first reaction to a sign in the center's waiting room that said, "Once you enter, you're part of our family." She says, "I initially thought, 'OK, whatever.' But I soon found it to be absolutely true. All the center's staff are compassionate and knowledgeable."

For her, attending the support groups has made all the difference. "The support groups have been amazing, and Sandi Hinz who leads the groups has been an anchor...a real godsend to me," she says.

"Dr. Christophersen is not only an amazing surgeon, but an amazing person. When you're going through the bariatric surgery process, it's more than physical. They are psychological and emotional issues, too, and it helps to be able to relate to your surgeon."

Although she lives about 45 miles away from the Quad Cities, she chose the Genesis Center for Weight Management because it is recognized by as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

"I'm so sold on the place, I asked if I could volunteer to do clerical work there," she concludes. "It's an amazing place, and they do wonderful things for people. I wanted to be a part of so many success stories."

Find Out More

For more information about weight-loss surgery options or the new Optifast Program, call 563-421-8361.

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