From puberty onward, Tracy Weiss was always a “bigger girl.” Despite multiple diets, her weight crept up over the years. Still, she managed to stay active with family and friends and thrived in her job as a senior customer service representative.
But in 2012, everything came crashing down after Weiss of Wind Gap, Pa., was hospitalized for 15 days with life-threatening multilobar pneumonia. “At that point, I weighed nearly 400 pounds, both knees were in constant pain from carrying extra weight, and I had diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” she says. “I was a poster child for obesity.”
Once home, Weiss found she was barely able to walk or care for herself. Only 43, she gave up her job and moved in with her disabled mother so they could receive in-home care together. Meanwhile, her weight continued climbing, ultimately reaching 460 pounds.
“I lost the next few years of my life,” she says. “I was on 340 units of insulin a day, couldn’t fit behind a steering wheel, barely left the house, and slept in a recliner because of arthritis and back pain.”
Something had to give, and in 2016, Weiss attended a free weight-loss surgery information session at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), led by bariatric surgeon Richard Boorse, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery. She was impressed by his expertise treating extremely obese patients and his personal weight-loss story.
“For the first time in years I felt there might be hope,” she says. Shortly afterward, Weiss enrolled in a six-month pre-surgery education program at LVHN’s Weight Management Center.
In January 2017, she underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery with Boorse. The procedure involves creating a small gastric pouch at the top of the stomach and attaching it directly to the small intestine to bypass the main stomach and restrict food intake.
“When patients reach 400 to 600 pounds their surgery and weight-loss journeys are more complex,” Boorse says. “We have extensive experience with patients like Tracy, offering ongoing support to ensure success.”
In April 2018, after losing nearly 200 pounds, Weiss had bilateral knee replacement surgery with orthopedic surgeon Eric Lebby, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “Tracy did this the right way by addressing her weight first, and today her new knees are doing great,” he says. “Studies show that patients who are overweight when they undergo joint replacement surgery experience more complications and higher failure rates.”
Afterward, Weiss had 16 weeks of physical therapy at Rehabilitation Services– Bangor with physical therapist Wade Groff.
In January 2019, she underwent skin removal surgery with plastic surgeon Randolph Wojcik Jr., MD, with LVPG Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He removed 17 pounds of excess, deflated skin from around her waist and plans additional surgeries to remove sagging skin from her thighs and breasts. “Body-contouring surgery after weight loss helps patients achieve the sculpted body shape they’ve envisioned,” Wojcik says. “I’m happy for Tracy and privileged to help her reach her goals.”
Weiss’ weight has now dipped below 200 pounds.
Her cholesterol is normal, she’s off hypertension and diabetes medications, and knee pain is a thing of the past since having successful joint replacement surgery. She’s also shrunk from size 7X clothing to size 14 thanks to a combination of weight-loss surgery and body-contouring surgery. Tracy’s energy levels are “phenomenal,” and her confidence keeps rising.
Especially exciting are the “small victories” – like buying clothes off the rack instead of special ordering online, fitting into restaurant booths, and going out to movies. (The last film she saw in theaters was “Titanic” in 1997.) Next on her bucket list: bicycling and horseback riding. Best of all, Weiss, now 50, has found love. Her partner, who also struggles with weight, is currently considering bariatric surgery after witnessing Weiss’ life-altering results.
“Weight-loss surgery is only a tool, not a quick fix,” Weiss says. “You have to make permanent changes in your diet and lifestyle to be successful. I wanted it badly enough, and between me and my care team, we made it happen.”