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Weight Lifted

Bariatric surgery helps Willow Grove man lose unhealthy conditions

Matthew Sullivan, 51, is half the man he used to be.

And proud of it. The Willow Grove resident lost 188 pounds in one year and five months through Abington Memorial Hospital’s Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (IMBS). The diseases and conditions caused by his extra weight have also been resolved: he no longer has diabetes, high cholesterol, reflux, arthritis pain, shortness of breath or sleep apnea.

Matthew Sullivan

Matthew Sullivan

Matthew estimates he’s been significantly overweight since his mid-30’s, when his weight reached 390 pounds. Says the investment services firm administrator, “Everyone in my family is large-framed, and perhaps genetically predisposed to carry a bit more weight on their bodies.“

“But when I turned 50, I realized I was heading down the same path as my grandfather, who died at 55 after his fourth heart attack. I attended an information session about Abington’s program. From then on I just ‘exploded’ into research about the surgery.” Matthew met with Fernando B. Bonanni, M.D., director of IMBS. “There’s a perception that all weight loss surgery is gastric bypass,” Dr. Bonanni explains. “However, Abington Memorial offers many options, focusing on modifications of the stomach, intestines or both.

“I felt Matthew would be a good candidate for a ‘laparoscopic biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch.’ We change the normal process of digestion by making the stomach smaller and allowing food to bypass part of the small intestine. So the individual absorbs fewer calories. The remaining part of the stomach is still attached to the duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine).”

After the surgery, Matthew was amazed at how it felt not to be hungry. “Even two months after the procedure, I was so glad to be eating to reach my protein requirements and not because I was starving.”

As his weight began to decrease, Matthew found his energy increasing. “At work, I began going to see people a few aisles away instead of calling them on the phone. Everything began changing in a good way. My tastes and sense of smell – the foods I would have chosen before didn’t appeal to me anymore.”

And when he runs into people he hasn’t seen in a while? “It’s a great feeling! I sometimes don’t recognize myself for a few seconds if I pass by a mirror,” he says. Best of all, his wife, Kathie and sons Graham and Matthew are enjoying his good health along with him. He’s down to only one hypertension pill; before he took 11 different medications daily. He’s playing basketball with his sons and hitting the tennis court, too.

Matthew’s had such great success that eight of his family members (he’s one of 12 siblings) have chosen to have the procedure at AMH as well. “A number of my relatives have already completed the surgery.”

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Matthew says. “Dr. Bonanni is so professional and has a genuine empathy for his patients. He’s just awesome.

“When I visited him last, I felt like hugging him,” Matthew says. “He saved my life.”

The Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Abington Memorial Hospital offers free information sessions at a variety of locations throughout the year. For more information, call 215-441-6800.

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