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Lovin' the Spin She's In —

Abington mom makes weight loss surgery work

When playing make-believe, many preschoolers become super heroes or pop stars, go on safari, or travel to space. Eileen Denton’s two youngsters pretend they go to spin class. It is, after all, an activity their mom, 37, enjoys frequently, since losing 125 pounds in just 11 months. Eileen attributes her successful transformation to her rock-solid dedication to lifestyle changes, as well as a surgical weight loss procedure she underwent at Abington Memorial Hospital’s Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (IMBS).

Eileen Denton

Eileen is among a growing number of candidates for surgical weight loss choosing a procedure known as vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG). This procedure reduces the size of the stomach, but does not bypass the stomach or intestine like some of the other more frequently performed surgeries for long-term weight management. “Like Eileen, many patients find the sleeve to be an appealing option because we are not rearranging the anatomy or implanting medical devices, as we do with other bariatric surgeries,” says Gintas Antanavicius (Dr. G.), M.D., bariatric surgeon. Because the stomach continues to function normally after VSG, patients do not have a tendency to develop protein and vitamin deficiencies, anemia, or osteoporosis— conditions that may occur (but can be managed medically) after other bariatric procedures.

Eileen attended an information session at IMBS and, after discussing it at length with Dr. G. and thoroughly researching the procedure, decided VSG was right for her. In February 2011, Dr. G. performed Eileen’s VSG laparoscopically—operating through a few small incisions in the abdomen, using thin surgical instruments and a tiny telescope connected to a camera. Guided by the camera, which projects a magnified view of the structures inside the abdomen onto a video screen, Dr. G. divided Eileen’s stomach vertically and removed nearly 85 percent of it. With a significantly smaller banana-shaped stomach, Eileen cannot eat as much food, and therefore, consumes fewer calories. Vertical sleeve gastrectomy also removes the portion of the stomach that produces ghrelin—the hormone that stimulates hunger—so Eileen feels less hungry.

Like other surgical weight loss procedures, VSG helps to improve the patient’s health by reducing or eliminating obesity-related conditions, including high cholesterol and blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain and diabetes. Eileen knows that surgery alone will not keep the weight off.

“Before I underwent weight loss surgery, I was determined to make lifestyle changes and stick to them,” says Eileen. “I started with a commitment to exercise, which has replaced my habit of overeating.” When she began working out, at 280 pounds, Eileen could barely keep up with her step or spin classes at the gym. Within six months after her surgical procedure, Eileen found herself saying, “Yay! I can do more. Make it harder!”

Eileen had no complications following her procedure. She spent one night in the hospital and in three weeks was walking the treadmill at the gym. Today, the scale she steps on daily reflects Eileen’s high school weight. She attends a monthly support group at the hospital, sticks to a strict routine of exercise, five times a week, and continues to prepare low-fat, nutrient-rich meals for her family.

“I need to be healthy for myself and my family,” says Eileen, “but I also need to be a role model for my children.” Eileen is a natural when it comes to modeling a healthful lifestyle. Following her example, husband John has dropped 30 pounds himself. If their current habits are any indication, rather than fantasizing about going to the gym, some day Eileen’s children will be right by Mom’s side, spinning on machines of their own.

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