The surgeons at the Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery are well experienced, and all are certified through the American College of Surgeons, with specialization in bariatrics. That experience goes a long way in making patients feel secure about trusting the center for weight loss services.
But there’s another kind of experience you’ll find here. It’s life experience.
“The beauty of our program is that a lot of the people on staff have been bariatric patients themselves,” says program manager Kathy Romero. “We understand, because we have been there. We know exactly what it’s like.”
Romero, 67, has lost a total of about a hundred pounds over the course of several years. She underwent revisional surgery and had the most success after the gastric sleeve procedure in November 2014 performed by bariatric surgeon Mark Colquitt, MD. She doesn’t like to talk about how much she weighed at her heaviest, but the memories of what life used to be like with all that extra weight have made an indelible mark.
In short, she was miserable. Romero had many medical problems that were related to the obesity.“Sleep apnea, diabetes, I had to have an injection in my hip because I had hip pain, I remember seeing people in my age group walking around on walkers or with canes” says Romero.
“I realized there are two roads, and I could either go down the road that would make me healthier, or I could remain on the road I was on, continue to do what I was doing, and become that person on a walker.”
Today an energetic and vibrant Romero points patients down the road to better health, and walks with them along the way. She provides information, encouragement, and can even warn them about the pitfalls.
Romero explains that one such pitfall is replacement addiction. Having an unhealthy relationship with food can result in addictive behavior, and ending that relationship can leave a person vulnerable to other addictions. “I had an Ebay addiction,” Romero says. “I was replacing my love of food with internet shopping.” She realizes it may sound funny, but at the time it was no laughing matter. Romero couldn’t stop browsing, bidding and ordering. It became her favorite past time and stress reliever. It was everything that overeating had been to her before the surgery.
The addiction became so much of a problem that her mail carrier noticed it, and even asked Romero if an intervention was needed. It was an epiphany for Romero, and she immediately began curbing her habitual spending. Romero says food can be an addictive drug, and it’s easy for some patients to fall prey to other addictions like alcohol or gambling. Because Romero has a very personal understanding of how that happens, she’s able to walk patients through the transition.
This is just one example of how the staff at Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery can help patients in every phase of the weight loss process. “Patients who have struggled with obesity for a lifetime don’t relate as well to someone who hasn’t experienced what they’re living through,” Romero says. “We’ve got such a comprehensive program that patients should never feel that they don’t have support.”