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Ellen’s Lifesaving Choice

Ellen Garfield has struggled all her life with being overweight. “I tried so many diets, but got nowhere.”

By age 37, the Bensalem woman topped the scale at 379 pounds. “I realized I was too young to be so tired all the time,” Ellen recalls. “There wasn’t a part of my body that didn’t hurt. I’m in sales and I always made excuses not to fly because I couldn’t fit into an airplane seat.”Ellen also knew she wanted to be around for her 13-year-old son Matthew and her husband, Michael. She had developed diabetes and hypertension from the excess weight, placing great strain on her heart. Studies show that individuals who are more than 100 pounds over their ideal weight (if diagnosed before age 45) will lose approximately 20 years of their life to obesity-related complications.

Ellen GarfieldEllen adds, “I knew I couldn’t lose all of this weight without help. I started looking online at hospital programs for gastric bypass surgery – the only kind of weight loss surgery I’d heard about.” She found Abington Memorial Hospital’s highly regarded Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (IMBS) – and several options that many hospitals don’t offer.

A delicious recipe pictured in the photo

Lox Bites

3 oz. nova lox, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon milk
1/3 cup tomatoes
1 Tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
5 eggs, beaten
a few twists of pepper mill of fresh black pepper
Saute onions till golden. Set aside to cool. Mix cream cheese and milk together till fluffy. When veggies are cool mix all ingredients together. Spoon into greased mini muffin tins (I use Pam) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

After meeting with the IMBS team, Ellen learned that the best procedure for her would be a “laparoscopic duodenal switch.” Abington has the only program in Pennsylvania that offers the procedure laparoscopically. It presents significant technical challenges and requires a dedicated, experienced surgical team. The procedure involves making small incisions in the abdomen and manipulating the surgical instruments through these portals.

Guided by magnified video images, IMBS surgical specialists alter the gastrointestinal tract by creating a “Sleeve Stomach” that offers normal stomach function at a reduced size. They bypass the intestine to change food absorption and influence blood sugar control. The procedure offers an 85% excess body weight loss, over 95% cure of Type 2 Diabetes, and a very low weight regain rate.

Further, the laparoscopic approach results in a short hospital stay of one to two days, less pain, fewer wound complications, and an earlier return to normal activities.

Ellen had the surgery at Abington in September 2010. “As soon as I woke up, my diabetes was gone and my hypertension was gone,” she marvels. “I can’t say enough about Dr. Fernando B. Bonanni, Jr., director, Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and the whole IMBS team, who helped educate me before and after the surgery. They’re so caring and compassionate.”

Today, at 170 pounds, Ellen enjoys her renewed energy. She went from taking eight different prescriptions to one, for allergies. “If I have to go on sales trips, I make sure I have what I need for my protein intake and other nutritional needs. I’ve also developed a whole network of friends through the support Abington’s program offers. I make sure I never miss a chance to participate in follow-up.”

She continues, “I can shop in any store I like because the clothes fit now. But I didn’t go into this to look good on the beach. I chose to live a healthier lifestyle, and my family has been so supportive of me.

“My son and I were walking in New York City recently, and he said, ‘Before, you would have had to sit down every few minutes. Mom, I’m really proud of you.’”

That’s another reason Ellen’s heart is lighter these days. “My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.”

Ellen Garfield and her son Matthew before her surgery