, Salem, MA


March 25, 2011

A weighty decision

Salem Hospital marks 10-year anniversary of weight loss surgery program

After half a lifetime of trying and failing to lose weight, Nancy Kerins knew surgery was the only option.

"I just couldn't get myself to eat less," said Kerins, of Salem.

Hitting bottom was when she put on pounds after delivering her baby, and found herself weighing more than at the peak of her pregnancy.

"For a woman, weighing more than your ninth month weight is a big deal," she recalled.

Kerins, 36, weighed 321 pounds when she went in for Lap Band (laparoscopic adjustable gastric band) surgery at Salem Hospital on Nov. 1 last year.

The procedure, which uses an elastic band to shrink the stomach to a fraction of its normal size, is one of three kinds of bariatric surgery the hospital performs.

Kerins, who works at Salem Hospital as a patient safety specialist, has gotten down to 276 pounds so far. And as happy as she is with the results, she acknowledges that having surgery was a difficult decision.

"I discussed it heavily in therapy for a full year," she explained.

Around 1,000 people have made the same decision as Kerins and gone to Salem Hospital for weight-loss surgery since it started offering bariatric procedures 10 years ago.

"Generally speaking, these patients have tried calorie restriction, exercises, hypnosis," said Ann Stanton, a nurse practitioner who, along with dietician Melinda Vaturro, reviews each patient's weight, diet and psychological history prior to surgery.

As important as the consultations are with patients prior to surgery, Stanton said, the exercise, support groups and counseling that follow in a 12-week post-operative program at the hospital are also key.

"Change is always hard," she said. "We do let them know they can have lapses."

Weight loss surgery addresses the physical aspect of weight problems, but doesn't fix people's emotional issues that may be at the root of their obesity.

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