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Bariatric Surgery Allows Abington Hospital Employee to Be More Active at Work and Home

John GallagherJohn Gallagher’s weight was making many aspects of his everyday life increasingly difficult. At the age of 54, he weighed 330 pounds and decided it was time to take his health off the backburner. John turned to Abington – Jefferson Health’s Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (IMBS) for the help he needed to get his life back.

When he was younger, John was athletic and involved in many activities. However, as he became older and busier, he became less and less active and gained a lot of weight. “My life was just very busy. Exercise was put on the back seat,” John explained. “And, obesity runs in my family, so that didn’t help.”

His weight was limiting John’s life. As a respiratory therapist at Abington Hospital, his job was physically demanding and it was a struggle to get around the units and buildings where he worked. At home, he was unable to participate in activities with his adult children, grandchildren and especially his youngest son, Tommy. John and his wife adopted Tommy after working with him as a patient in a facility for medically fragile children. When they first met Tommy, doctors said that he would not live past his first birthday. However, today, Tommy is 10 years old and thriving. John realized that he needed to focus on his own health so that he could continue to enjoy time with and take care of Tommy, whose loving nature and continued progress has really inspired and motivated him.

John tried several diets over the years but wasn’t able to find long-term success in his weight loss journey. “I didn’t feel good about myself, but nothing was working. I even tried hypnosis,” John says.

The onset of obesity-related health problems are what urged John to take the next step towards getting his health back and living a healthier life. “All the excess weight put a lot of strain and wear and tear on my feet and back,” John admits. John was also diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and required a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to sleep at night.

John’s co-workers ultimately led him to IMBS. John saw first-hand the impact the IMBS program had on a few of his co-workers. “They looked and felt marvelous. After seeing their success I felt that it would be irresponsible and a disservice to me and my family to not have bariatric surgery.” When John initially inquired about bariatric surgery with IMBS, he weighed 330 pounds. In the time leading up to his surgery, the IMBS team helped John get his weight down to 297 pounds. In February 2014, John had a laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) performed by Kristin M. Noonan, MD.

VSG is a restrictive operation that limits the amount of food that can be eaten, which in turn, generates weight loss. During this surgery, a patient’s stomach is significantly reduced in size, without bypassing the intestines, which reduces the chance of obstruction, anemia, osteoporosis, protein deficiency and vitamin deficiency. Generally, patients who undergo VSG experience the loss of 60 to 80 percent of their excess weight.

“Our goal at IMBS is to choose the correct operation for each patient based on their medical problems and goals. The mission is to improve quality of life and reduce obesity related medical problems. The vertical sleeve gastrectomy, by reducing stomach size and hormones of hunger, is an excellent option as a weight loss tool,” Dr. Noonan says.

Two weeks post-surgery, John lost another 20 pounds and continued to gradually lose even more weight. Today, two and one-half years post-surgery, John is 101 pounds lighter and has more energy and endurance than ever before. His obesity-related health issues are resolving as well. John’s feet and back pain have improved since losing the excess weight and, while he still sleeps with his CPAP machine, the settings are much lower.

John also says that he is much happier today and has a more positive outlook on life. “My surgery was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I put my health first,” John exclaims. “At work I can now move faster, I’m happier and I’m not struggling to keep up with my demanding job.” John is able to be more active with his son, Tommy, and his grandchildren. “My life will be longer, better lived and more connected to everyone I meet because my health, self-respect and outlook on life has changed so much,” John proudly says.

John couldn’t be more satisfied with his experience with IMBS. “The entire team was terrific. I have so much confidence in their work that I have encouraged friends and family to go to them too,” John says. His IMBS team supported him through his entire weight loss journey, which included making sure that he understood the fact that bariatric surgery is simply a tool. He learned that ultimately, it’s up to patients to make the necessary lifelong fundamental lifestyle changes in order to succeed long-term. “You are responsible for your success,” John says. “Bariatric surgery changed my life and it can change yours too. Seriously consider it if you are struggling to lose weight and diets haven’t been working for you. Talk to your doctor, meet with IMBS and don’t look back.”