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All in the Family

The Tomeo family, of Holland, PA, love eating meals together. But it’s likely that Sabatino (Sam), 58, his wife Lisa, 56, and daughter Juliann, 20, might share an entrée, rather than fill each of their plates. And they’ll be more than satisfied.

Tomeo Family

Juliann (left), Sabatino (Sam) and Lisa

All three Tomeos have had vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), one of the many bariatric surgery procedures performed laparoscopically by Fernando B. Bonanni, Jr., MD, at Abington Memorial Hospital’s Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. This procedure significantly reduces the size of the stomach and removes the portion that produces the hormone that stimulates hunger.

Tomeo Family before surgery

The Tomeos Before Surgery

Sam, who has severe kidney disease and will eventually require a kidney transplant, was the first to consider bariatric surgery after doctors told him that, at 306 pounds, he was too overweight to have the transplant.

“We went to two information sessions at other hospitals, but the team at Abington really made us feel that they would take care of us – and they did, every step of the way,” he says. “And we needed that support, because having this surgery requires a complete lifestyle change.”

Sam had VSG in January 2012 and immediately began losing weight. His success convinced Juliann, then a college freshman, to undergo the procedure as well.

“Despite being active, I had struggled with my weight and related medical problems for years,” she says. “And I was tired of people telling me, ‘You have such a pretty face,’ implying that the rest of me wasn’t beautiful.” She had the surgery in July 2012, and by the time she returned to campus for her sophomore year, she had lost 40 pounds.

“Everyone was telling me how great I looked, and at first, I didn’t tell them that I’d had surgery,” she says. “But eventually I decided to be open about it. I wanted people to know that this wasn’t the easy way out. The surgery is a tool, not a solution.”

Lisa decided to have the procedure in February 2013 after learning that she is a potential kidney donor for Sam. “I knew I’d need to lose weight and be as healthy as possible in order to donate, and after seeing my husband and daughter through their operations, I knew what to expect.”

What she didn’t expect was how much more energetic she felt after the pounds started coming off. “My back, knees, and feet all feel much better,” she says. “It’s amazing how much the extra weight affected every joint.”

All three Tomeos attribute their success to supporting each other and following the directions of Dr. Bonanni and the Institute staff to the letter. “We do everything by the book,” Lisa says. “We also find the support group sessions to be very informative and inspirational.”

They are committed to educating others and helping to dispel fears about bariatric surgery. “I’d tell people considering surgery to put their long-term health and happiness first,” Juliann says. “Adults who’ve had it say they got their life back, and as a young person, I know that I now have a beautiful life ahead of me.”

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