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Moments That Matter: Mary's Story

Moments That Matter: Mary's Story

Bariatric surgery gave her the tools she needed to succeed.

"I Never Thought My Life Could Be This Good"

Mary R., of Independence, NJ, has staffed the registration desk at Hackettstown Medical Center for the past five years. But incoming patients and her team mates are seeing a lot less of her these days – since she’s lost nearly 90 pounds after having gastric sleeve bariatric surgery in November 2020. 

Being overweight all of her adult life Mary, 39, was conditioned to saying “I’m fine” anytime someone asked how she was doing. In reality, she suffered from high blood pressure from the age of 17 on, a reproductive condition that could lead to cancer and infertility, and severe sleep apnea. Her back ached, and she felt tired all the time. 

Mary and her husband have two daughters, ages 10 and 12, whom she credits with her decision to have the surgery after many dieting attempts failed and led to more weight gain. “One afternoon, my kids were trying to figure out how to play Chinese Checkers. I was half asleep in a chair and I forced myself up and asked them, ‘Why don’t you ask for help?’ And they replied, ‘We just knew you’d be too tired.’ And I was – I was always too tired for everything.”

After attending a webinar led by Ajay Goyal, MD, director of Bariatric Surgery at Overlook Medical Center and director of New Jersey Bariatric Center, who explained all the different surgeries available, Mary and her husband were very impressed. 

“My husband did not like the idea of me having bariatric surgery at first,” Mary revealed. “He didn’t see how it would change anything. But he went to the webinar with me and it completely changed both of our minds. He’s actually considering having the surgery himself, because it’s been such a positive experience for me.”

Before she could have the surgery, Mary had 10 visits with a nutritionist from New Jersey Bariatric Center. She gave Mary lots of tips, like eating the protein portion of her meal first, and helped her lose 30 pounds even before surgery. 

Mary did her pre-admission testing in Hackettstown but scheduled her surgery at Overlook Medical Center due to the timing. James Buwen, DO, a board-certified surgeon with New Jersey Bariatric Center, performed her surgery.  

“I opted for the gastric sleeve, and it worked. I feel like I’m 20 years old. I don’t think I've ever felt like this in my entire adult life. I feel amazing,” Mary enthused.

Mary said she had a great experience at Overlook. In particular she acknowledged her OR nurse Grace who let her know about a time delay, her pre-op nurse Kathleen, who kept her calm and patient, and her anesthesiologist Michael who reassured her she would be fine even with apnea. In recovery, “my nurse Jolene made sure I knew she was there and that I wasn't alone. Two of my nurses upstairs were really wonderful, too.” That night, Mary kept getting up and walking because she was told it would relieve the gas pain from the surgery. Her nurse Chloe made sure she had what she needed to be comfortable and get some rest. 

Mary now has a varied diet and says she can even ignore birthday cake. “With the sleeve surgery because things weren’t rerouted, I can eat absolutely anything I want. I’m only restricted in quantity and I eat a lot of protein. And, because so much weight came off so quickly and I feel so fantastic, it’s easy to make that decision now.”

Looking Back on Her Medical Conditions

“In my most recent years I was on the highest dose you could take of the blood pressure medication I was on, and even with that I would still have a spike where I couldn’t control my blood pressure. I would have to go to the ER.” 

She also had reproductive issues due to a combination of her weight and a medical condition called endometrial hyperplasia. “When I lost weight, I was able to conceive. But as the years went by, I packed on more weight. Then, when I wanted to have more kids, I couldn’t. I had two miscarriages and two ectopic pregnancies.” 

Mary’s sleep apnea was very bad, but she could not handle a BiPAP or CPAP machine. So, she said “I just never slept. I would wake up gasping for air and thinking I’m going to have a heart attack in the middle of the night.”

Following her surgery, and subsequent weight loss, Mary’s blood pressure is now in the normal range. Her medical issue related to estrogen production has resolved, she no longer needs the medication she was on, and she gets her period regularly. “And now I sleep all night. It’s wonderful,” she said. She takes no more medication of any kind.

Following up with Mary

At her three-month checkup following surgery, Dr. Buwen acknowledged how well she was doing and said, “Things must be easier for you now.” Mary replied: “Tying my shoes is easier. Every single thing I do is easier.”

“I love playing basketball with the kids now, I don't think I’ve ever played basketball with them before,” Mary exclaimed. “And I work out at least four days a week now for an hour. I would have never in my life thought I would do that.”

Mary says: “I never thought my life could be this good. I put it off for years and years. I thought that I should be able to do it on my own. I shouldn’t need surgery. I thought so many different things and they were just all wrong. This isn’t giving up. This isn’t letting someone else do something for you. I’m still doing work every single day. Every single day, I decide to eat the right thing. Every day that I decide to go to the gym. I'm still doing the work, but Dr. Buwen gave me the tool that I needed to make it successful.”


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