Weight-loss Surgery Offers A New Lease on Life

FOREST HILLS, NY -- With the start of a new year, many people make weight loss their No. 1 resolution. But for some, this is a goal that’s unattainable, despite their best efforts.

For Fernando Maldonado (photo at left), 42,  being overweight was a way of life. Looking at himself in family photographs horrified him. He tried exercising and diet programs, but nothing worked.

In July 2013, Mr. Maldonado’s was carrying an all-time high of 395 pounds on his 5-foot 9-inch frame. That scared him.

“I came to the realization that I needed to do something a little bit different,” said Mr. Maldonado, who was experiencing chronic back and knee pain, as well as sleep apnea.

Although his blood pressure was in check and he wasn’t diabetic, he worried that his excess weight would bring these conditions on.

In March, he had gastric bypass surgery done by Moises Tenembaum, MD, at Forest Hills Hospital. The hospital performs about 100 weight-loss surgeries each year.

Gastric bypass surgery involves dividing the stomach into two sections: a small upper pouch for food intake, which restricts how much food can be eaten, and a larger one below, which is no longer used. The smaller pouch is then surgically attached to the middle of the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine. By using less of the intestine, fewer nutrients are absorbed, and the patient loses weight.

Mr. Maldonado’s surgery, along with advice from a nutritionist and attendance at a monthly weight-loss support group at the hospital, helped him trim down to his current weight of 264 pounds.

“My eating habits have changed 180 degrees for the better,” said Mr. Maldonado. “Since the surgery, I haven’t set foot in any fast food restaurants. “

He’s also no longer shy about posing for photos.

“Despite the fact that they look better, this is not cosmetic surgery,” said Michael Drew, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Forest Hills. “This is to restore their health and that’s the major reason for doing it.”

Medical problems, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, often go into remission after weight-loss surgery, explained Dr. Drew. But the biggest boost for patients is longevity.

“Many of these patients, their life expectancy without the surgery is anywhere from 13 to 15 years shorter than their cohorts without morbid obesity,” said Dr. Drew.

Mr. Maldonado’s surgery is only one of several types of weight-loss surgeries performed at Forest Hills Hospital.

At 290 pounds, Santiago Vasquez, 56, was battling high blood pressure and high cholesterol. His most recent attempt to lose weight resulted in a loss of only five pounds despite six months dieting and exercising.

In April, he underwent gastric sleeve surgery done by Larry Gellman, MD, which removed about 60 percent of his stomach, creating a small, sleeve-shaped stomach about the size of a banana.

Shortly after his surgery, he saw a change for the better with his health and stamina.

“I was on three different medications for my blood pressure,” explained Mr. Vasquez. “Within a week, I was taken off two of them.”

Currently 215 pounds, he wants to trim down to 180 and is eager to get on the basketball court with his adult sons.


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