Weighing In Healthy
At close to 300 pounds, Heidi Crossman had trouble doing even the simplest things, like sitting down in a theater.
"I was at the movies one day, and I could barely fit into the seat," Heidi said, recalling the days she wore a size 24. “I was so embarrassed. I knew if I gained any additional weight I would not be able to go to the theater any more.”
Veronica Loza faced similar anguish when she used to wear a size 22.
“I never wanted to leave the house because I was really big,” said Veronica, who had battled obesity since childhood. I would only go out to go to work or to my boyfriend’s house, and then come straight home afterwards. I didn’t want to go anywhere else because I didn’t want anyone to see me.”
Embarrassment was just one of the problems Heidi and Veronica faced when they were severely overweight. Of greater concern was the threat of serious health issues — such as diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea and other ailments — that often accompany obesity.
Now, several years later, Heidi and Veronica have shed about 100 pounds each. Not only do they fit into average size clothes and theater seats, they enjoy improved health.
They are among the many patients who found help through the Cottage Center for Weight-loss Surgery at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Heidi Crossman has no anxiety about fitting into theater seats these days, after losing nearly 100 pounds.
Veronica Loza lost about 100 pounds after her surgery in 2007.
The bariatric surgery program at Cottage has recently earned the prestigious designation as a “Center of Excellence” by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. The designation recognizes surgical programs with a demonstrated track record of favorable outcomes in bariatric surgery.
In addition to the medical director of the bariatric surgery program, Dr. David Thoman, Dr. Farida Bounoua and Dr. Marc Zerey also perform the procedures. All three specialize in minimally invasive surgery and bariatric surgery, with the two most common weight-loss surgery options for patients being gastric bypass and lap band.
Gastric bypass is the most popular and most tested procedure. It involves making a thumb-size pouch out of the stomach and connecting it to the intestines. Less food is absorbed, which leads to weight loss.
A newer procedure is the adjustable gastric lap band, in which the surgeon places a plastic ring around the top of the stomach to limit the amount of food intake. The ring can be
adjusted over time. Although patients tend to lose weight more slowly with the lap band, the procedure is less invasive than the bypass option.
The surgeons use laparoscopic procedures, involving just a few small incisions. Minimally invasive surgery tends to reduce pain and to speed recovery. Most patients are back to their normal routines within two weeks.
A major advancement in minimally invasive surgery now enables Cottage surgeons to perform the lap band procedure with just a single incision.
“Very few hospitals are doing this, and it may be an important advance,” said Dr. Thoman.
Studies have shown that 80 percent of patients who shed the unhealthy pounds after bariatric surgery were cured of their diabetes and 90 percent no longer had sleep apnea.
“A person does not have to be trapped in a severely obese body,” said Dr. Bounoua. “Bariatric surgery is a tool that can help someone live a healthier and longer life.”
BY MARIA ZATE / PHOTOGRAPHS BY MONIE DEWITT