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A New Life Takes Shape: Read Christine's Story
Gastric sleeve surgery delivers weight-loss success
Date: 2/1/2012

Like so many Americans today, Christine Stefanko has spent much of her life fighting an ongoing battle with weight gain. But Christine decided to get the upper hand.


After plenty of research and meeting with a surgeon who left her feeling uncertain, Christine remained on the fence about weight loss surgery for a year. Once she met Lisa Dobruskin, MD, a board-certified bariatric surgeon practicing in Christine’s hometown of Hamilton, she knew she was ready. They reviewed the surgical options available to help her meet her goal of a 100-pound weight loss:

Gastric bypass – The most complicated, gastric bypass involves surgery to remove portions of both the stomach and the small intestine.

Gastric banding surgery – A far less risky surgery, gastric banding is an adjustable and potentially reversible procedure in which the capacity of the stomach is restricted with the use of a silicone belt that goes around the upper region of the stomach.

Gastric sleeve surgery The newest addition to the menu of options, this procedure removes a portion of the stomach – about 75-85% – changing it from the size of a football to roughly the size of a banana.

For Christine, a thorough explanation of the procedures combined with her level of comfort with Dr. Dobruskin made all the difference.

“As soon as I met with Dr. Dobruskin, I felt comfortable. As she explained my options for surgery, we determined the gastric sleeve surgery was
probably the best choice for me,” says Christine.

There are two reasons why gastric sleeve surgery is so successful:

A smaller stomach – The anatomy change that takes place leaves the actual size so small, there’s just no room for seconds.

Hormonal changes – Gastric sleeve surgery causes a drop in the hormone ghrelin immediately. This little-known hormone has been found to have a direct impact on appetite, causing the person to be less hungry.

Gastric sleeve surgery has become a clear middle ground between gastric bypass and gastric banding. Although similar to gastric bypass, the sleeve does not involve the small intestine and patients who choose it do not experience the same level of side effects as those who opt for gastric bypass.

While Christine had made her decision, it was merely the beginning of a lifechanging journey for her that started well before the surgery.

“This surgery is not a magic bullet and it is no guarantee. Its success is completely hinged upon the patient’s commitment to making a lifestyle change,” says Dr. Dobruskin.

To prepare, Dr. Dobruskin requires her patients to go through a transitional program that includes extensive nutritional counseling, adopting new eating habits and attending a support group.

“Patients must be prepared for a radical change in their eating habits because once they have the surgery, their bodies will force them,” Dr. Dobruskin explains. She also requires clearance from specialists, including a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a gastroenterologist”

For Christine, these preoperative measures made the experience all-themore pleasant. She has continued her journey of self-discovery well after the surgery and maintains her food journal daily.

“I saw it this way: Dr. Dobruskin could fix my stomach, but I had to fix my head. You have to learn to eat for the right reasons, and begin to understand why you eat for the wrong ones. The support group really helps me with that,” Christine says.

At a fall meeting, Christine brought a pair of pants she’d hung on to from her pre-surgery days. “I held them up to me in the meeting and you could fit two of me in there. That was really a pivotal moment for me,” she says.

By the end of 2011, Christine was down about 80 pounds, and counting. “I am proud of myself for taking this step and making the commitment to getting the surgery, and for the work I’ve done to get myself here.”

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