Summary: James Bowen found the UM Center for Weight Management and Wellness through an Internet search. He was impressed with the information on the Web site so he registered for one of our free weight loss surgery seminars. He attended a seminar in May 2007 and had his surgery that August. After his surgery, he learned that his surgeon was going to be leaving the University of Maryland, but he decided to stay here to be followed. He says the decision was easy. “This team had already done so much for me and I truly valued their involvement in my care. I let the staff know that I wanted to stay in the University of Maryland’s program and that I was happy to have my care take over by Dr. Kligman,” said James. Read more about his experience below.
Before the Surgery
Teamwork, organization, cohesiveness, supportive—what is the importance of these words? These are all words that describe the team in the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and why I decided to remain in their weight loss surgery program. I had dealt with obesity for the bulk of my life. You name the diet or exercise program and I tried it with little or no success at all. I knew that I would become a “statistic” if I did not explore other options to help with my morbid obesity, but also with the other health conditions that I was experiencing — hypertension, and osteoarthritis of the back and both knees.
I went on the Internet and found the Bariatric Surgery Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I was very impressed with the information on the site and quickly registered for one of the weight loss surgery seminars. I attended the seminar in May 2007 and had my initial office visit in June 2007. I knew that this was the right thing for me, so much so that after the seminar I already scheduled some of the various consultations—psychiatry, pulmonary, cardiology—that were required in order to get approval for the weightloss surgery. Even though the approval process was a challenge, I have to say that the staff in the bariatrics program never gave up on me, particularly Janice Bryant who is the program’s coordinator. Janice jumped through a lot of hoops in order to the insurance approval for the surgery.
So that brings me to August 24, 2007—the date of my surgery. The heaviest that I ever weighed was 428 pounds. On the day of my surgery, I was 381 pounds. The office staff knew that I was really nervous and I asked them to come and see me—they said that they would, but I never really expected them to do that. I just thought that they were just saying that they would in order to ease my pre-surgical jitters — boy was I wrong. When I woke up later in the recovery room, one of the first people that I saw was Kelly Jackson, who works on the administrative team within the Bariatrics program. I was shocked to see her, but honestly impressed that the staff kept their word. While I knew that everyone could not just leave their desks to come and see, it was amazing to at least see someone from the staff that I had already developed a bond with for the past six months by being a part of the weight loss surgery program.
I have to also say that the staff in the hospital were great too. The people in the operating room area as well as the floor that I was admitted to were extremely friendly and they followed every one of my physician’s orders; I was also very impressed with the rooms that bariatrics surgery patients stay in after surgery.
James Bowen with his family
After my surgery, I had two post-op visits with my surgery, but I also had continued interaction with Mary Beth Sodus, LD/RD, who is the program’s dietician. Both of these individuals had already done so much for me during the pre-operative period, and their continued nutritional support and counseling was even more evident (and needed) during the post-operative period. After my two post-operative visits, I was still in touch with the staff because there were and still are various nutritional questions that come up or you just need to talk to someone who can provide you with some extra motivation or support.
During one of these conversations, I learned that my surgeon was going to be leaving the program so I had a dilemma to face—do I follow the surgeon to his new hospital or do I stay with people that got to me where I was at that point? The decision was easy for me—I wanted to stay with THIS TEAM! This team had already done so much for me and I truly valued their involvement in my care.
I also was aware of the program’s unofficial motto as stated by Dr. Mark Kligman, head of bariatric surgery and the director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness — you are a patient for life! Well the staff had already proven to me that this motto might as well have been the official motto of the program because of all of their support during the pre-operative period and then into the post-operative period. I let the staff know that I wanted to stay in the University of Maryland’s program and that I was happy to have my care take over by Dr. Kligman.
James Bowen with his daughter
So where does this leave me now? Well I am now two years post surgery and just had my two-year follow up appointment with Dr. Kligman and his team. I now weigh 190 pounds! During this visit, I continued my work with Mary Beth, as well as met the team’s new nurse practitioner, Noel Stevens, CRNP. Even with a new addition, the team continued to work in a cohesive manner, and I look forward to continuing to rely on them for continued support and guidance over this next year.
My experience with the bariatrics team can be summed up with one word: INCREDIBLE! When I first started in the program, I lived in Southern Maryland and was making a 1-hour plus commute each time that I had an appointment at the Medical Center—this drive was well worth it. Now, I live in Northern Virginia and while the commute could be longer, it is still worth it in order to be cared for by such a great team.
This program really shows that the administrative work that the staff does for the patients is just as equally important as the clinical work. If people did not jump through the hoops for me to get the insurance approval two years ago, I would not be sharing this story with you today. I will sum up my feelings on the importance of the bariatrics program team by saying this: ‘When a bird leaves the flock, you don’t abandon the nest’. To the team, I say a big ‘Thank You!’