Jennifer Newland of Roseto, Pa., considers herself blessed to be alive and healthy. Thanks to expert medical treatment at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), she beat stage 4 colon cancer in 2015 and lost nearly 150 pounds through gastric-sleeve bariatric surgery in 2018. So last year when Newland developed a hernia and began experiencing problems from excess abdominal skin and fatty tissue that remained hanging after her weight loss (called pannus), she knew just where to turn.
“The hernia was painful, and the 5 pounds of excess skin created rashes from chafing and smells due to trapped moisture, plus it was uncomfortable and hurt my back,” she says. “Here, I was down from 315 pounds to 165 and couldn’t wear tighter clothes to show it off because you could see the hanging skin. I knew LVHN could help me again.”
Transformative plastic surgery
Last spring, Newland, 48, met with plastic surgeon Marshall Miles, DO, with LVPG Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He recommended hernia repair, as well as an abdominal lipectomy (or panniculectomy) to remove the extra skin. Both would be performed during a single surgery via a team collaboration between him and bariatric surgeon Richard Boorse, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery, who had performed Newland’s earlier gastric-sleeve procedure.
On surgery day in June 2020, Miles made a horizontal incision across Newland’s abdomen from hipbone to hipbone, followed by a vertical cut extending to her pubic bone. “Once I removed the excess tissue, Dr. Boorse repaired the underlying hernia,” he says. “Afterward, I pulled the remaining skin together and closed the incision to create a smoother, slimmer abdominal contour, along with a new belly button. The entire procedure took about four hours.”
Personalized recovery care
Newland remained in the hospital a few days longer than normal because of the additional hernia surgery (an abdominal lipectomy alone typically requires only an overnight stay) and was impressed by the staff’s individualized approach to care, and their compassion and accessibility.
“While I was in the hospital, Dr. Miles took time to call me personally on his cellphone to say he had to travel out of town and that his very capable partners and clinical team would continue providing great care,” she says. “That was truly above and beyond.”
Perhaps most impressive was the seamless care she received in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Never once did the doctors or nurses seem stressed or scared,” she says. “They were able to leave behind their concerns and treat me like COVID didn’t exist. It’s those little touches that take LVHN from being a big corporation to a small-town community hospital. Everything is done with incredible excellence.”
The following month in July, Newland treated herself to a vacation, which included an “exhilarating” 10-mile hike. She even bought a bikini to show off her new slimmed-down shape.
“Jennifer feels like she has a new lease on life,” Miles says. “She’s been unbelievably positive throughout her many procedures over the years and remains an amazing role model for other patients.”
Newland is grateful her medical treatment is mostly behind her, but she continues to take advantage of LVHN’s expansive range of services. Currently, she’s receiving counseling at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute to help find closure after her long, emotionally draining medical journey.
“After five years of treatments and multiple surgeries, I’m finally taking time to deal with everything I’ve been through,” she says. “LVHN continues to provide all the services I need right here in my own backyard. I can’t thank my grand team of doctors enough for giving me a new life. I won’t go anywhere else.”