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Healthwatch 16: Considering Bariatric Surgery

TAYLOR — A woman from Lackawanna County says she did not want to be on the sidelines. She was overweight and sick and said she’d had enough, and she...

TAYLOR -- A woman from Lackawanna County says she did not want to be on the sidelines. She was overweight and sick and said she'd had enough, and she decided on bariatric surgery to help.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers more than one-third of adults in the United States -- nearly 37 percent -- obese.

That is leading to a higher incidence of obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.

But for 43-year-old Lorena Perry of Taylor, it was thinking of the years ahead with her husband and kids that convinced her to change her life.

"I don't want to be one of those people on the sidelines, on the bench. I want to be one of those people engaged, active in my life," Perry said.

Lorena says she never had a problem with her weight until after she had kids. That was about 20 years ago, and she says after that, she became the classic yo-yo dieter, 250 pounds at her highest, at 5 foot 1.

She had high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and acid reflux.

"My knees, my joints started going, my back pain," she said. "I was just done."

"It is a life-changing procedure," said Dr. Jila Kaberi Otarod.

Lorena was treated by Dr. Jila Kaberi Otarod, who specializes in nutrition and bariatric medicine in the Geisinger Health System.

Dr. Kaberi Otarod says there are four common types of bariatric surgery, the most common of which is called a gastric bypass.

She points out not all patients she sees are good candidates for surgery. Patients first undergo a comprehensive evaluation; doctors look into their medical history, eating habits, even a psychological study.

"The surgery itself does not replace or eliminate the need for lifestyle and diet changes. Those need to be lifelong," said Dr. Kaberi Otarod.

Lorena was determined to be a good candidate and had bariatric surgery about seven months ago. She is down 100 pounds so far and still losing.

She was wearing size 18 jeans and now she's wearing size 8.

"I donated all my clothes. I literally got rid of everything."

But she insists it's not about her size. And bariatric surgeon Dr. Ryan Horsley says that's why Lorena has been so successful -- her motivation to be healthy. He says others shouldn't be afraid of doing the same, even if they don't take quite the same path.

"We don't just offer surgery. You can talk to our medical specialists, we do medically-managed weight loss as well," said Dr. Horsley.

If you think bariatric surgery might be the right choice for you, or if you even just want the help of a nutritionist to kick off your own weight loss journey or get some advice, talk to your own doctor for some recommendations.