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In losing, they gain

Posted by Ralph Ranalli September 23, 2007 10:48 AM

obeseblog.jpg
Tina Fisher holds a picture of herself, pre-surgery. (That's her on the right. Honest.)
(Globe staff photo by David Kamerman)

NEWTON/WELLESLEY/REGION

The findings - released last month from long-term studies of 20,000 dangerously overweight people in Utah and Sweden - were stunning.

Obese patients who had undergone stomach reduction surgery were up to 40 percent more likely to live longer, 56 percent less likely to die of heart disease, and 92 percent less likely to die from diabetes than those who tried diet and exercise alone.

Yet for Tina Fisher, program coordinator for the new Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, the studies only confirmed what she already knew. In the six years since her own gastric bypass surgery, the 30-year-old nurse practitioner has lost 137 pounds. She exercises four times a week, can fit into a standard movie theater seat, and sometimes forgets what her old life was like, staff writer and web producer Ralph Ranalli reports in today's Globe West.

A roller-coaster enthusiast, Fisher used to watch her husband ride alone because she was worried whether the seat belt or safety bar would fit around her 297-pound frame. She also suffered from the litany of health woes common to the very overweight diabetes, joint problems, and sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person literally stops breathing repeatedly during sleep.

"Patients come back and tell me about their experiences, like the first time they didn't have to go into a plus-size clothing store," she said. "And I think, 'Oh yeah, I remember that.' "

Thanks to stories like Fisher's, officials at Newton-Wellesley said they were convinced that gastric bypass operations represent a sound medical option and were aggressively expanding their weight loss surgery practice even before the new findings were released. Last year, the hospital's bariatric surgery program was accredited to operate on even the most severely obese patients, and in June, the program was elevated to a full-fledged department and renamed the Center for Weight Loss Surgery.

As it turns out, the timing of the hospital's push could not have been better, officials said.

Read more about how bariatric surgery is changing lives in the online edition of today's Globe West. While you're there, you can also view an audio slide show about Tina Fisher's experience with the surgery and losing 137 pounds.

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