After decades spent battling obesity, Diana Howard knew she needed to step outside the weight-loss efforts that hadn’t worked for her. When Diana’s general surgeon, David C. Mullins, M.D., informed her that unless she lost 50 pounds, she would likely experience serious health problems in the future, it was a wake-up call. “I really credit Dr. Mullins for being the reason I considered bariatric surgery in the first place,” Diana says. “If he hadn’t continually pushed me to take better care of myself, I wouldn’t be healthy right now. He pointed me in the right direction.
The Way Toward Weight Loss
That direction was to John J. Gonzalez Jr., M.D., bariatric surgeon with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Alamo Heights, and his team. “Patients who come to see us have already tried everything in terms of weight-loss efforts, and they’re highly motivated,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “I like that, because it tells me they’re serious — they’re willing to undergo surgery to make this life change.” Bariatric surgery typically is not the first option. Patients who reach the point where they are considering a bariatric procedure have already tried diet and exercise plans, and occasionally even weight-loss medications.
“One of our criteria is that we must be able to see that patients have made significant weight-loss efforts on their own,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “This is a last resort treatment.” With proper follow-up and adherence to the diet and exercise plan prescribed by their surgeon, patients have seen improvement in coexisting conditions such as:
- type 2 diabetes
- gastroesophageal reflux
- disease (GERD)
- asthma, sleep apnea and other breathing disorders connected to obesity
A Different Kind of Sleeve
“In Diana’s case, she elected to have the gastric sleeve, which is the most popular bariatric procedure we’re doing right now at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Alamo Heights,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “It’s my favorite as well, because it’s a happy medium: it’s more aggressive than the gastric band — the band only decreases the size of the stomach opening, whereas the sleeve decreases the size of the stomach itself — but it’s not as invasive as the gastric bypass.”
The gastric sleeve procedure, also known as a sleeve gastrectomy, removes the part of the stomach that stretches to accommodate food. This leaves the stomach looking a bit like a banana, and with much less room to hold food.
“Diana’s procedure didn’t alter the anatomy of her stomach, so she doesn’t have to worry about the side effects that come with a gastric bypass such as ‘dumping syndrome,’ and there is much less concern for vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “She also doesn’t have to worry about maintenance like she would have with the gastric band.” As with any bariatric surgery, Diana had a strict diet plan to follow after her procedure, and Dr. Gonzalez and his team worked with her to ensure she understood the entire process.
“He was great at walking me through each step,” Diana says. “Not only that; he helped me understand the cause and effect behind why I had to eat what I did, and exercise when I did. It was a blessing that he and his team looked after me. They’re the reason I’m on a healthy path now.”
You Can Make the Change
Diana attributes her weight-loss success to having such a supportive team of medical professionals to work with. “Dr. Gonzalez and his team are very straightforward when discussing procedure options,” Diana says. “They don’t sugarcoat anything — they tell you truthfully how things are going to go, and they’re great about walking you through expectations. My surgical process went so much more smoothly because they made sure I was prepared.” Research has shown that more than 90 percent of people who undergo bariatric surgery are able to lose — and keep off long-term —
up to 50 percent of excess body weight. However, it takes investment on the part of the patient. “Bariatric surgery is a tool, not magic,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “It’s a life changing commitment. If you use this tool correctly; however, under our guidance you can have fantastic results and dramatically improve your overall health and quality of life.”