FEATURE | Posted Feb. 14, 2017

Couple celebrates renewed health following weight-loss surgery

Together, they are 200 pounds lighter

Dan and Monica Costello were, until two years ago, successful in all aspects of their lives except one: their weight.

“We accomplished a lot as a couple, in our family and with our careers, but the pounds consistently crept up,” Dan said.

Part of the problem was that their jobs with IT companies involved a lot of brain work but not a lot of physical activity.

“We tried most of the major diets and lost weight, but appetite returned and we still ended up gaining,” Dan said.

In 2015, they both had gastric bypass surgery at UC Davis Health. Now, a combined 200 pounds lighter, they can add “health” to their list of accomplishments.

‘Never a skinny person’

Monica, who had surgery first, said she was “never a skinny person.” She became worried about her weight, however, when routine tests showed it was starting to affect her heart.

Dan and Monica receiving their roses

“I needed to do something before it got any worse,” she said.

After seeing how well weight-loss surgery worked for family friend, Monica asked her doctor about it. Right away, she was referred to the bariatric surgery program at UC Davis.

“I knew I was in the right place,” she said. “The team didn’t judge or question. We just got to work.”

UC Davis Health recommends that everyone who suffers from obesity be evaluated for the potential of having weight-loss surgery.

“It a very effective treatment option in achieving sustained weight loss and reducing the risks of heart disease, diabetes and stroke,” said surgeon Mohamed Ali, director of the program.

The most common procedure, and the one the Costellos had, restructures the upper digestive system by creating a small pouch toward the top of the stomach and then connecting the small intestine to that pouch. Ali is a national leader in performing the procedure using a robotic system, which requires just a few, small incisions and less time in the hospital than traditional surgery.

“It was easier to recover from and less painful than my C-sections,” Monica said.

No longer chasing cravings

Monica is now more satisfied more quickly with smaller, balanced meals. One post-surgery surprise is that she is also not fighting thoughts of hunger all day.

“I used to eat breakfast, then countdown the minutes to lunch, then countdown the minutes to dinner,” she said. “Now I sometimes have to remind myself to eat. That trigger in my brain that says ‘you are hungry’ all the time is gone.”

The UC Davis Bariatric Surgery Program holds free information sessions each month for those who have questions about surgical weight-loss options. No referral or RSVP is necessary. The sessions are at 5 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month in the ACSU conference room on the lower level of UC Davis Medical Center. For information, call 916-734-2680.

About six months later, with Monica well on her way to goal weight and walking 10,000 steps each day, it was Dan’s turn. The process for him was much the same. In addition to counseling and classes, however, he participated in a pre-surgical weight loss program required by some insurers.

“It was hard to wait, but it did give me a chance to jump-start the weight loss,” Dan said

The changes he notices most are in his stamina. He referees high school football games, and during the most recent season found he could make it through entire games without feeling exhausted. He has also been able to quit taking most of his medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and soon expects to no longer need a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine for sleep apnea.

The couple now spends more time planning vacations and visits with their daughter, son and grandchildren. Their advice to others who are obese and want to lose weight is to look into surgery as a possibility. Then, if you are certain it can help, advocate for it.

“Nothing is going to change without your participation,” Dan said.

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