Three years ago, Vestal resident Carolyn Almy decided she was done sitting off to the side, unable to enjoy much of life due to obesity and weight-related health problems. “I was only 53, but because I was carrying around 282 pounds, I had high blood pressure, I was pre-diabetic, I had a bad back … and I was headed for disaster,” Ms. Almy recalls. “It was time to get proactive. So I went to UHS, and made a commitment to their weight management program. I attended support groups, talked to the weight management team and learned everything I could about my choices.”
That was 2013. Today, after Roux-En-Y gastric bypass surgery, Ms. Almy is down to 126 pounds — a healthy weight for her petite 5’3″ frame. As she lost weight, she regained her health and vigor, which spun her right out onto the dance floor. “I’ve always wanted to swing-dance, but never imagined it possible. Not for me.”
After losing 156 pounds, Ms. Almy is right in step with Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” — from her high-energy style to her dresses with their cinched waists and full skirts.
THE PATH TO SUCCESS
Ms. Almy’s journey toward a healthy life began by partnering with the UHS Comprehensive Weight Management Program team. The program takes a comprehensive, two-pronged approach to healthy, long-term weight loss, partnering surgical options with essential education and support.
The non-surgical portion of the program prepares patients mentally and physically for life before, immediately following and long after surgery. Program participants learn how to make proactive lifestyle changes focused on portion control, nutritious food selections and daily physical activity. They receive one-to-one consults with a licensed clinical social worker, a registered dietitian, nurses and other support staff. There are also pre-surgical group counseling sessions, weekly day and evening support groups, and family education classes.
“For many of our patients, weight management is a lifelong challenge, so our education and support system begins long before and continues long after surgery,” explains the program’s coordinator, Mickey McCabe, LCSW-R, ACSW.
Weight loss surgery can help patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 40 — or patients with a BMI of 35–39 along with a related health condition — lose weight and resolve or improve conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and severe arthritis. Dedicated experts Christian Tvetenstrand, MD; Peter Ojo, MD; and Anishur Rahman, DO, FASMBS, perform bariatric surgery at UHS Wilson Medical Center.
The UHS Comprehensive Weight Management Program offers three surgical options. It’s essential to select the right surgical choice for your specific needs and goals.
UHS offers a variety of classes and seminars focused on weight management, including:
IN JOHNSON CITY
The Adult Wellness Program offered at the UHS Stay Healthy Center at the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City can help you gain greater knowledge about why and how to improve your health and wellness. The free program offers monthly seminars, held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 6 to 7 p.m. An optional group discussion follows. Presentations examine a range of topics, with most leaning toward weight management. For example, sessions have discussed complications associated with obesity, healthy food choices and portion sizes, and the importance of staying active. For more information, contact the UHS Stay Healthy Center at 763-5555.
UHS Delaware Valley Hospital offers the Lifesteps Weight Management program, a unique 10-week class tailored to the needs of each participant. The key to Lifesteps is helping participants change behaviors that have gotten in the way of losing or maintaining a healthy weight in the past. It recognizes that each participant comes to the program with different habits, goals, schedules and lifestyles. The class meets for one hour each week, where participants share their experiences in addition to learning about weight management. For more information, call Cathy McLachlan, certified dietician-nutritionist, at 865-2159.
Laparoscopic Gastric Banding involves placing a band around the stomach to reduce the stomach’s size. The process produces a gradual, 1- to 2-pound per week weight loss, so it’s typically not the recommended surgery if the patient’s BMI is over 50 and co-morbidities need to be resolved quickly. It is also not recommended for patients with acid reflux. However, the procedure is a less invasive choice and does not affect digestion. In addition, patients can have the band adjusted should they begin to regain weight.
Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve is also a restrictive surgery, with part of the stomach removed in order to make it much smaller. Like the band, the sleeve restricts food intake without affecting the normal digestion process, so this procedure also produces a gradual weight loss. There is, however, no option to adjust stomach size over time.
Laparoscopic Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass is a combination surgery, which involves making the stomach smaller and also altering the digestion process by bypassing some of the intestine. Often called the gold standard among weight loss surgeries, gastric bypass has been successfully performed for the longest period of time. It results in quick weight loss, with some patients losing up to 60 pounds in the first two to three months post-surgery. This element of speed may be essential for patients suffering severe comorbidities.
Another essential element of the program centers on the patient’s dedication, Dr. Ojo emphasizes. “Commitment is everything. You have to be ready for major lifestyle changes or the surgery can fail,” he says.
Maintaining that level of commitment isn’t always easy, Ms. Almy insists, but she knows where to turn for encouragement. “It’s been three years since my surgery, and I still attend UHS support groups at least twice a week.”
From its inception, the UHS Comprehensive Weight Management Program stood apart in its commitment to patients. “We’re here to help patients change their lives for the better,” Ms. McCabe says. “And no matter how many people we help, it never gets old. Every patient is unique, with their own battles to conquer and their own success stories.”
WEIGHT NO MORE
For more information about the UHS Comprehensive Weight Management Program, call Mickey McCabe at 763-8008.