As a Registered Nurse, a full-time Professor of Nursing and having just earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, Deb knows what she is talking about. These days, she’s talking about teaching, continuing her research and publishing her dissertation. And traveling, enjoying her life and feeling good about her health and her body.
But it wasn’t that long ago Deb was concerned about not being around to see her grown children get married or have kids of their own.Most seriously overweight people feel they’re headed for early death or disability. I feared I was headed for diabetes or worse.Deb was morbidly obese, a term applied to those who are 100 pounds or more overweight.
Deb had what’s known as Roux-en-Y weight loss surgery at a Sacramento hospital three and a half years ago. The Roux-en-Y procedure, one of the most frequently-performed types of bariatric surgery, creates a small stomach pouch while stapling the rest of the stomach closed and removing part of the intestine. It has a good record for facilitating dramatic and lasting weight loss. Deb’s case is no exception. She shed 120 pounds after surgery and has kept the weight off ever since.
The Fast Track to Obesity
Like many adults who find themselves classified as morbidly obese, Deb was heavy as a child. The scenario is common. I ate to fill emotional needs and the pattern became set. It wasn’t long before I had completely lost control over my eating habits.
What’s so great about gastric bypass, according to Deb, is it gives control back. It’s a tool to help you reset your patterns. She paused and added, It’s important to view the surgery as just that, a tool, and to take a holistic approach. I know others who haven’t complied with dietary and exercise recommendations and ultimately haven’t been successful. Deb advocates a program of exercise, counseling, and support from family and friends.
The Slow Track to Plastic Surgery
As a nurse, Deb was aware that she would have excess skin after losing weight. Even so, she said, I never planned to have plastic surgery. I wanted to lose weight to live, not to look better. For me, looking better was a kind of byproduct of weight loss.
But a funny thing happened as the pounds dropped away, something many post-bariatric patients experience, according to Deb. All of a sudden we start to feel healthy. We’re living our lives more fully. Our self-esteem changes. Then, we start to think about our appearance; about what we can do to improve it.
When Deb talks about herself, you just know this is a woman who doesn’t have a frivolous bone in her body; someone who doesn’t place excessive importance on appearances. It’s a little hard to say it, she said,but for the first time I would look in the mirror and think, ‘This outfit looks cute (as opposed to hiding my body); I look cute.’ She laughed. But I had all this excess belly and buttock skin. I could literally pull it out of my pants. She wasn’t thrilled with the look of her abdomen, but Deb’s main frustration was her thighs. I could find clothes to cover up the skin around my torso, but wearing shorts was another issue. Her droopy thighs bothered her enough that Deb started considering plastic surgery.
Tracking Down a Post-Weight Loss Plastic Surgeon
Deb discussed post-weight loss plastic surgery in Sacramento with a physician there but found the experience discouraging. He told me there wasn’t much he could do to improve my thighs, she recalled. Deb put her idea of having surgery on the shelf and threw her energies into completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Focusing her DNP studies on quality of life after bariatric surgery, Deb discovered other plastic surgeons including Dr. David Kaufman through www.afterobesity.com, a popular resource for the weight loss community. Deb decided to do what comes naturally to her: research, research, research. She began by scrutinizing the websites of about 20 physicians, just the ones with before and after photos of post-bariatric surgery patients. I’ve seen a lot of plastic surgery, Deb said, and I wanted to see the results the surgeons were getting. Dr. Kaufman’s work really stood out.
When she met Dr. Kaufman, Deb felt impressed with him personally. She found him to be a good listener with a positive attitude, and she noticed none of the subtle bias she says people in the medical field often feel toward obese individuals.Though you may be smaller after bariatric surgery, you can still tell it if it’s there, she said.
Deb was just as impressed with the skill and experience of the Sacramento plastic surgeon’s post-weight loss work with patients from the area and beyond. He demonstrated a thorough understanding of the complexities of surgery for people with a bigger body mass. Deb explained, You have more blood vessels, a larger lymph system to drain, different skin texture, and so on.Dr. Kaufman also showed that he routinely evaluated and handled challenges related to nutrition, heart and lung function and more.
Deb noted that now that more insurance companies are covering bariatric surgery, more people are having it and more plastic surgeons are adding body contouring to their menu of services. But, she cautioned, just because a plastic surgeon offers body contouring after weight loss, it doesn’t mean they have the special knowledge base or experience required to produce great results.
On Track with Dr. Kaufman
Though Deb still has thigh lift surgery in her sights, she and Dr. Kaufman decided to start her body contouring with torsoplasty. It involves an incision completely around the torso, allowing the surgeon to remove excess skin and fat, perform liposuction and tighten the abdominal wall. Surgeons often start post-weight loss plastic surgery with the midsection, as abdominal procedures affect the shape of other parts of the body.
With this first surgery, Deb discovered another thing she appreciated about Dr. Kaufman: his honesty.He told me it would be six weeks until I was feeling completely normal, and he was right,she said. The first two weeks were a challenge as it was difficult to find a way to be comfortable resting. But Deb felt well prepared and well cared for by her loved ones and her surgeon, and said overall her recovery went just as she expected.
About five weeks post-op, Deb saw Dr. Kaufman for a milestone visit. Her recovery was almost complete and she and her husband were leaving for an extended trip to the British Isles. As soon as she entered the exam room,Deb shed her clothes and showed Dr. Kaufman her new body. I told him,’This is the best work I have ever seen.’Deb added, Even the scar is not bad,and it’s a lot better looking than saggy skin.
Deb is proud of her accomplishment and happy with her new body so far, yet she’s still eagerly anticipating her thigh lift — and shopping for some new shorts. She summarized her feelings about her surgeon this way: It may sound schmaltzy, but Dr. Kaufman is truly gifted. Pleased to participate in Deb’s transformation, Dr. Kaufman looks forward to reaching the next milestone with her.