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Years After Weight Loss Surgery, Support Never Stops

Peg PalmerIn November 2008, when she was 60 years old, Peggy Palmer of Willow Grove had gastric bypass surgery. Today, she is 130 pounds lighter and much healthier and happier.

But she doesn’t attribute her success to the surgery alone. Rather, it’s the consistent support of Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health’s Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (IMBS) that has kept her on track for all these years.

Peggy started learning about weight loss surgery in 2005. “I’d been heavy all my life, and I had a lot of medical issues, including Type 2 diabetes and pulmonary hypertension,” she says. Encouraged by her pulmonologist, Richard Snyder, MD, she attended a weight loss surgery seminar at Abington Hospital and subsequently met with Bariatric Surgeon Fernando Bonanni, Jr., MD, director of the IMBS.

“Dr. Bonanni was so professional, and he took the time to answer all of my questions,” she says. Most importantly, he helped her understand that the surgery was anything but a quick fix, and that she’d have to commit to a complete lifestyle change before and after the procedure.

“The most successful patients are those who understand that obesity has multiple causes, and surgery is just one part of the solution,” Dr. Bonanni says. “Patients need to take on the responsibility for maintaining their weight loss, but they don’t do it alone. At Abington, we’ve built a community, including physicians, nurses, nutritionists, and fellow patients, who support patients for the rest of their lives.

”Peggy prepared for her surgery for more than a year by attending classes and support groups at Abington Hospital. She also changed her diet and exercised. “I worked out even when I had to take an oxygen tank to the gym,” she says. By the time she had her procedure in November 2008, she was fully committed, educated and ready for her life to change.

And change it did. Today, eight years after her surgery, Peggy has dropped from her pre-surgery weight of 305 pounds to 178. The other changes to her health are just as dramatic: She no longer has Type 2 diabetes, her pulmonary hypertension and acid reflux symptoms have disappeared, and she takes very few medications.

But the changes haven’t come without sustained effort on Peggy’s part. She maintains a strict diet and exercises several times a week, taking water aerobics classes and walking everywhere. “I never stop moving, and I feel like I have energy to spare,” she says.

A key part of her success is her regular attendance at monthly IMBS support group meetings. “It helps keep me focused,” she says. It also gives her a chance to encourage others, especially people considering weightloss surgery.

“I know people are fearful about having surgery,” she says. “So I tell them, come to the support groups, and bring your family. Learn everything you can. Give yourself a chance to overcome your fears and change your life.”

To sign up for a free information session about bariatric surgical options, visit Jefferson.edu/AbingtonBariatrics or call 215-481-2204.