Chambersburg medical facilities offer gastric bypass procedure

July 29, 2005|BY DON AINES


One day Penny Stoner hopes someone will come up to her husband, Jim, and ask "when did you get remarried?"

Not that there is anything wrong with the marriage. Rather, Stoner plans on being the new woman in his life.

Three weeks ago, Stoner underwent gastric bypass surgery in Harrisburg, Pa., and in 21 days has lost 26 pounds.

"Before, food yelled at me. Screamed at me. Now it just whispers," said Stoner, a legislative aide in state Rep. Rob Kauffman's Chambersburg office. "I can eat about three bites of broiled fish and I'm filled up like I had a turkey dinner."

The procedure is now available through Summit Bariatric Services at Chambersburg Hospital and Dr. Richard Gorman of South Central Surgical Associates. The first procedure at Chambersburg Hospital was scheduled this month, he said recently.


"It can be done as an open procedure or as a laparoscopic procedure" where the surgery is performed through a small incision, said Gorman, who trained to perform the surgery at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center.

Gastric bypass involves dividing the stomach with surgical staples to create a small pouch that is connected to the small intestine. Part of the small intestine also is bypassed, he said.

"Nothing gets taken out, it's a matter of rerouting things," Gorman said.

By creating the small stomach pouch and bypassing part of the intestine, the patient has a greatly reduced ability to ingest or absorb food, he said.

The surgery takes two to three hours and a patient can expect to remain in the hospital two to four days.

While a normal-size stomach can contain 1 to 2 liters of food or liquid, the pouch, initially, can hold about 1 or 2 ounces, according to Gorman. Over time, the capacity will increase to about 1 cup of food.

"They don't have a lot of appetite, particularly in the first three to six months of rapid weight loss," Gorman said.

Complications can include post-operative leaking and strictures at the connections as they heal, Gorman said. The surgery is performed about 140,000 times a year and the vast majority of patients are women.

Stoner said she ate only ice chips the first three days before graduating to clear liquids and then plain fluids, including gelatins and pudding. She has progressed to the point where she can now eat "safe, bland foods."

Gorman said the surgery is not for everyone. He said National Institutes of Health guidelines call for a person to have a body mass index of 40 or higher, or 35 if they have serious health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

Deb Heckman, the nurse coordinator for Summit Bariatric Services, said the potential patients are evaluated and meet with nurses, dietitians and counselors to prepare them for the surgery and the dietary and lifestyle changes they will have to make.

Stoner said she was reasonably healthy, but with a high BMI she knew serious health problems associated with her weight were in her future.

She looks forward now to buying clothes in regular stores and participating in activities with her family. In her case, she researched the procedure for about a year and spent another year in evaluations and counseling before surgery.

Mary Ellen Moore of Chambersburg had her surgery two years ago in Reading, Pa., and has lost 165 pounds.

"I'm not a size 10, but I'm happy to be a size 16," she said. No longer does she have to look for the closest parking space to a store, or lean on a shopping cart for support.

"My health has been tremendous," said Moore, who now eats just about anything she wants, except in small quantities.

Whenever she goes to a restaurant, there is another benefit from the surgery, said Moore.

"I always have a take home box," she said.

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