July 10, 2012
Combatting Obesity Through the UPMC Hamot Bariatric Surgery Center
“It’s like being let out of prison.”
Since his surgery in 2008, Mr. Petrarca, now 60, has successfully lost – and kept off – 232 pounds.
“I have a new lease on life,” he says.
Struggling with Obesity
Mr. Petrarca was always overweight. Throughout the years, his weight would follow a “seesaw” pattern, with his highest weight creeping up to 427 pounds.
“People don’t realize what being this overweight can do to your life,” he said. “Because of my size, I hadn’t been to a movie in five or six years. I couldn’t sit in a booth at a restaurant. I love Jerry Seinfeld, but when he came to town, I couldn’t go see him. It was humiliating.”
In 2007, Mr. Petrarca, a teacher at a local school, was speaking with one of his students who said his father had just had bariatric surgery, also known as weight-loss surgery.
The type of procedure he had was gastric bypass, a surgery where the stomach is divided into a small upper part and a large lower part. According to the American Society for Metabolic Bariatric Surgery, gastric bypass is the most commonly performed operation for morbid obesity in the United States.
Mr. Petrarca decided to explore gastric bypass as an option.
“I knew I wanted to look into it,” Mr. Petrarca said. “My philosophy was, there’s nothing else to try.”
Bariatric Surgery at UPMC Hamot
When considering bariatric surgery at UPMC Hamot, patients first attend a free seminar presented by one of the board-certified bariatric surgeons, Rodolfo Arreola, MD, or Amjad Ali, MD. Patients then meet with one of the surgeons and go through an extensive medical workup to ensure they meet the qualifications associated with the weight-loss process.
The big day arrived for Mr. Petrarca on Nov. 20, 2008. He says his surgery went well and that before he knew it, the weight started to “fly off.”
“The entire process was challenging at times,” Mr. Petrarca said, “but I would go through all of it again. For the first time in a long time, I could live again.”
Mr. Petrarca, like most patients, followed a liquid diet for a number of weeks following the surgery, then transitioned to soft foods, and then finally to “normal” foods – with Christmas Eve being his first real meal.
In March 2009, Mr. Petrarca reached his first milestone – seeing a number below 300 on the scale. And then in February 2010, he celebrated his biggest milestone yet – reaching his goal weight of 195. And he’s maintained that weight ever since.
Living Life Again
The weight loss has not only changed his physical appearance, but his emotional state, as well. “People still don’t recognize me; in fact, I had to announce during church that I had just had bariatric surgery because there were so many rumors.”
As far as eating, Mr. Petrarca says he makes healthy choices and stays away from foods like pizza, chips, bread, and pasta. He also walks a half hour a day and visits a local gym six days a week.
Mr. Petrarca says he couldn’t have done this without the support of his family, including his wife, Gretchen.
“I have so much energy,” he said.