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Gastric Bypass Surgery Success Story — Stephanie Ruby

Stephanie Ruby had a good family life and a fulfilling career teaching autistic children, but she did not like what she saw in the mirror.

“My entire life, I dealt with weight issues. I could only shop in plus-size stores and was on medication for depression.”

Time and again she lost and regained weight, despite trying commercial weight loss programs, low-calorie and low-fat diets, and support groups.

Her success was short-term and she always felt hungry, not just for food, but for a solution.

Stephanie's Bariatric Patient Story — A Life-Changing Solution

Stephanie heard good and bad things about bariatric surgery.

Her many concerns included hair loss, becoming malnourished, being sick, and excess skin after losing the weight.

She attended a bariatric surgery information session at UPMC St. Margaret where Pittsburgh Bariatrics’ Robert Quinlin, MD, answered questions about the procedures, risks, and what life would be like after the surgery.

Uncertainty gave way to understanding and optimism, and Stephanie made the decision to start the gastric bypass surgery process.

Throughout the process, Stephanie realized that what she was most worried about was “letting go of food as she knew it.” She used food to deal with emotions, both happy and sad.

Shaping behavior before gastric bypasssurgery is important, Stephanie says.

Taking the six-month presurgical nutrition requirement very seriously, she focused on the changes that could ensure her success after surgery.

Some of these changes included:

  • Cutting out carbonated and caffeinated beverages
  • Increasing exercise
  • Trying different protein sources and vitamins

Stephanie addressed the emotional challenges by:

  • Walking
  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Removing herself from areas with food

Dr. Quinlin, who Stephanie calls a "miracle worker," performed the gastric bypass surgery on Dec. 7, 2009.

Stephanie was hospitalized for five days — longer than most patients — due to some minor urinary issues after surgery. She was off work for 10 days and recalls feeling "'tired and weak.”

Facing Food, Family, and Emotions

Stephanie’s bariatric patient story included challenges. The first three months were not without hurdles.

As the holidays came, Stephanie faced food, family, and emotions.

There also were issues with hydration. She had to retrain herself how to sip and swallow and not gulp liquids.

Reflux and a stricture also became a problem that was quickly corrected after a referral to a gastroenterologist.

Stephanie advises bariatric surgery patients to contact their doctors if they feel something isn’t right.

“If you have issues, call the office right away. You know your body better than anyone. Don’t wait. The doctor and office staff are there to guide you.”

Winning Her Battle

The limitations of what she can eat keeps her on track. Now, a bite of a cookie satisfies her. Stephanie has learned what foods to eat and the importance of staying hydrated.

A year after surgery, she:

  • Has lost 131 pounds
  • No longer takes antidepressants
  • Says this is the best thing she’s ever done for herself, wishing she would have done it sooner

At age 32, Stephanie has more energy than ever and can be more physically active with the children she teaches. Shopping is now fun, as she shops in “normal” stores and even in the juniors section.

Stephanie says it was difficult to meet people when she was overweight. She is now dating and people notice her. She feels like her “outside matches the inside.”

Continuing the changes she committed to before her gastric bypass surgery, she exercises six days a week, doing cardio and body sculpting.

“I never thought I would be a runner. I now run a 5K weekly,” Stephanie says.

Another key to Stephanie’s success is her support system.

“Surround yourself with supportive people and let your closest friends know what you are going through,” she advises.

Attending a support group before and after surgery is important. Stephanie’s support group at UPMC St. Margaret enables her to meet new people who she can help.

“It is so easy to forget where you came from after you lose this much weight.”

She says the sessions keep her grounded, as she gets support from others who have had bariatric surgery.

Stephanie’s Tips for Success

  • Shape your behaviors prior to surgery
  • Keep a journal of what you eat and how you feel
  • Protein first
  • Exercise
  • Don’t drink with meals
  • Take your vitamins
  • Attend support groups before and after surgery
  • Don’t wait to call your doctor, even if you think your question is silly
  • Eat slowly, take small bites, and chew your food

Stephanie's final advice:

“Most of all, you must be patient. You will ‘mess up.’ But move on and take it one day at a time. It took me about four months to feel in control after gastric bypass surgery.”

Note: This patient's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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