Patients, Staff Reunite to Celebrate Success
By Christie Roy
It is a unique bond shared by bariatric patients and the clinicians who have treated and continue to care for them in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; a bond that turns the typical doctor-patient relationship into more of a friendship. After all, as many bariatric patients acknowledge, their lives have been changed, improved, and even saved by the work and support of these surgeons, nurses, and staff members.
Thus it was sense of genuine camaraderie and gratefulness that filled Longwood Hall at the Inn at Longwood Medical recently for BIDMC’s annual Weight Loss Surgery Reunion, a celebration of life-changing success. Among the Center’s staff and patients, the flowing conversations lent themselves more to jokes and talk of hobbies, leading up to a few no-holds barred speeches from patients who were willing to share their personal experiences.
As they chatted, everyone in attendance enjoyed the yummy food selections for the evening (approved, of course, by bariatric dietitians Michelle Davis, RD, LDN, and Kate Otto, RD, LDN): a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables and several delectable passed hors d’oeuvres, including bruschetta and watermelon cubes topped with feta cheese.
After congratulatory and encouraging words from members of the bariatric team, and wishes for continued success from BIDMC’s Chief Operating Officer Nancy Formella, several patients bravely — and proudly — took to the microphone.
Jessica Catturini (left), an administrator in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at BIDMC, was first. Her surgery was performed about six years ago by Dr. Benjamin Schneider, and she is very glad to be leading a healthier lifestyle.
“This reunion is a reminder of my hard work and why I did it,” Jessica explained of her decision to speak out to others. “It’s my way of giving back, saying thank you to Dr. Schneider and the rest of the staff, and I hope to inspire others to be healthy.”
Another patient, Cecilia Roberts, noted that while she has dropped 10 dress sizes and is much healthier since her surgery four years ago, she wanted to speak for everyone who continued to make healthy choices but were still “heavy.”
“Even if you can’t lose every single pound,” she stressed, “it’s okay.”
Laura Fritz, a personal trainer and dance instructor, spoke with exuberance about her transformation after undergoing lap band surgery approximately a year and a half ago.
“My clients have seen me go from big to small,” she said. “Dr. Jones will always be my hero!”
One of Dr. Daniel Jones’ first bariatric patients also spoke to the group. Nancy Del Prato, known simply as “Del,” (right) had lap band surgery nearly 10 years ago at BIDMC. At the time, she hardly told anyone what she had decided to do; now, she's ready to inspire others.
“People make judgments,” was her matter-of-fact reason for initially staying quiet. “This is not an easy way out. I weighed more than 350 pounds and with the way I was going, if I hadn’t had this surgery, I would either be dead or I’d have severe health issues.”
Del, who has lost around 178 pounds overall and kept it off, said her feelings of hunger disappeared the second she woke up from the procedure and haven’t come back. She recalled sitting in her living room in those first weeks after surgery, carefully measuring everything she ate and waiting to see what would happen.
“I didn’t care about the numbers really,” she said. “I cared about the process and believed in the process.”
Attending support group meetings were helpful in that process, Del added, and it was the “little things” that continuously put a smile on her face: the first time she could see the seat between her thighs in the car, the first time she didn’t need an airplane seatbelt extender, the first time she walked into a store and the clerk looked directly at her, not through her.
“I don’t know how someone can look through you when you weigh 350 pounds, but they did!” Del quipped, bringing about cheers, laughter, and encouraging words from fellow patients as they all recalled similar moments.
George Blackburn, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine at BIDMC and a pioneering force of bariatric surgery in New England, was pleased by the reunion’s turnout and noted that such gatherings carry many advantages for patients.
“The more you come to our support groups and activities, the more successful you’re going to be with your health,” he said. “A group allows you to ‘show and tell’ your life activities and hear from others. It makes you more mindful of what you’re doing to be and stay healthy. Those patients who are the most mindful are the most successful.”
Dr. Schneider ended the evening with brief, yet thoughtful, remarks to this extraordinary group of people who have achieved so much since their first visit to the Weight Loss Surgery Center.
“It is a privilege,” he told them, “to take care of you.”
Above content provided by the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted October 2013