“Nothing stops me…now”

Life-changing bariatric surgery leads to steady weight loss

Tanya Sasala, a married mother of three, finally put herself first.

After struggling all her life with her weight, the 38-year-old took control of her future by attending Weight Loss Solutions, a presentation by Bariatric Surgeon Craig Eyman, DO, at UH Parma Medical Center, who showed her the options available for obese patients seeking dramatic weight loss.

“My kids come first,” says the Brunswick woman, who waited until a few months before surgery to tell her family so they wouldn’t talk her out of it. “This is the first time in my life I came first. But it was in order for my children to benefit.”

The transformation that begins with a physician answering your questions takes patients through six months of nutritional counseling and behavior modification to prepare them for life-changing surgery. A well-attended support group provides continuous morale boosting before and after surgery. And a partnership with the Ridgewood YMCA Express, where the joiner’s fee is waived for UH Parma Medical Center’s bariatric patients, gives patients a place to burn more calories.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery designated Parma Hospital’s program as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. Sasala was impressed and made comfortable by a personable and knowledgeable staff that scheduled her promptly and answered all her questions. Her family was comforted that the program spends several months preparing patients physically and emotionally for a complete overhaul of body and mindset.

“How can you get yourself ready to do something like that without time?” Sasala said.

“I know it’s a waiting game, but you’ve waited your whole life, so what’s a few more months?”

Tanya Sasala

Co-morbidities: a mixed bag

Obesity often comes with other medical conditions, or co-morbidities. Hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea are the three most common co-morbidities seen in Parma Hospital’s bariatric program, says Bariatric Program Coordinator Christine Miceli, PA-C.

A remarkable 85 percent of patients find improvement or complete resolution of co-morbidities after bariatric surgery. Those with high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar typically leave the hospital no longer needing medication. Those who suffered from obstructive sleep apnea are now free to get a good night’s rest unencumbered by a machine that helps them breathe.

Other co-morbid conditions related to obesity are:

  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Acid reflux/GERD
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis and joint pain
  • Stress urinary incontinence
  • Depression

Forever changed lives

Susan Gagliardi, like Sasala, opted for laparoscopicbariatric surgery last year. Both women, with only five small scars following minimally invasive surgery, speak confidently now at the New Perspectives support group about the many ways in which this experience has forever changed their lives.

“The support they give you is fabulous,” says Gagliardi, who began her journey at 273 pounds and shed 110 pounds over 13 months. “When you feel good about yourself, you can’t believe the difference it makes.”

The support network reaches out to patients from their first visit. A dietitian counsels patients on proper nutrition and ways to increase physical activity safely as they prepare for surgery. Gagliardi dropped 10 pounds in the first two weeks simply by not eating past 7 p.m. She also began exercising at the Ridgewood YMCA Express to supplement her five-mile walks in the park.

Now, rather than staying home and perpetuating a cycle of eating, gaining weight and feeling reluctant to go out, Gagliardi can hardly sit still. A fan of the theatre, she joined the red-coated volunteers at Playhouse Square and took a trip to Broadway in New York, where she relished going out on the town, shopping and trekking 15 miles on foot around Manhattan.

“I’m out there now,” declared the Parma woman, who celebrated her 50th birthday with a trip to Florida. “Now I look for things to do, and nothing stops me. Shopping is so much more fun, and you wouldn’t believe how much you save on groceries.”

With fans like Miceli, who cheers on each patient throughout their transformation, she’s unstoppable.

“Losing weight fuels major changes in your life,” says Miceli. “We provide patients with the tools to succeed. We’re here to support, counsel and hold hands. But the patients still must take control.

“Tanya and Susan took control and really changed their lives.”

Susan Gagliardi

Weight Loss Solutions is presented each month UH Parma Medical Center’s bariatric program. Call (440) 743-2900 for more information and to register.