More than two years ago, after an appointment with his pulmonologist, Samer Alkhuja, MD, with LVPG Pulmonology–Pocono, Vinny Donovan received an unexpected call: “Hi Mr. Donovan. We heard you’re interested in learning more about bariatric surgery.”
Alkhuja had discussed benefits of bariatric surgery at the visit, and Donovan left considering the treatment but wasn’t sure if it was right for him. Then he got the call.
“When I realized that my doctor was concerned enough to call the bariatrics program himself, that really got me over the hump,” he says.
History of weight gain
Donovan grew up as a heavy kid. As an adult, he worked hard to lose 100 pounds, but a traumatic brain injury left him with post-concussion syndrome. It made many simple everyday tasks difficult, from remembering a phone number to driving a car or exercising. The weight came back, and at his heaviest, Donovan weighed 330 pounds.
Changing his weight story
In August 2017, Donovan, then 61 years old, had gastric sleeve weight-loss surgery. It’s a minimally invasive procedure that removes about 75 percent of the stomach, including a part called the fundus. “Surgery restricts calorie intake by reducing how much you can eat during meals,” says Nicolas Teleo, MD, bariatric surgeon with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery–Plaza Court in East Stroudsburg. “The fundus contains cells that secrete an appetite-stimulating hormone known as ghrelin.”
As a complement to surgery, Donovan was counseled on implementing a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthier foods, like
lean protein, vegetables and fruits, and increasing his activity helped him to not only lose weight but more importantly, keep it off.
Adding years to life
Donovan is down 145 pounds and went from a size 52-inch waist to 34-inch. In the summer, he went to a public pool and swam without a shirt. It was the first time he could remember feeling that level of comfort with his body. “You don’t realize how much the weight affects you psychologically until you lose it,” he says.
As for his doctors, Donovan says they’re thrilled. “My health has improved so much, the sky is the limit,” Donovan says. “I probably added 20 years to my life. You’re never too old for this surgery.”
Ready for adventure
Today, Donovan lives without limits. “If I want to do something, I don’t have any second thoughts. My next adventure is to go cross country in an RV,” says Donovan. “I don’t have to worry about health issues or doctor appointments now. There’s no reason I can’t do it.”