The right time for bariatric surgery


Individuals who are overweight often refer to reaching "that point" — a specific number of pounds, a level of frustration or a moment when they knew it was time to take control of their health. Donald Baum's knees were bothering him, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to do his job. As his daughter, Sarah Baum, steadily gained weight, she looked into the future and saw medical problems. Things improved for both of them when they had bariatric surgery at the Emerson Hospital Center for Weight Loss in Concord, Mass.

Although Ms. Baum kept her thoughts about bariatric surgery to herself, she was doing research on the subject. "Emerson's program seemed holistic," says the Medford, Mass., resident, who is 30. "There is an entire team that works with you."

Something else convinced her to consider Emerson: the outcomes achieved by David Lautz, MD, medical director and a bariatric surgeon. "Dr. Lautz's statistics are impressive," says Ms. Baum, "and his office is filled with awards, including for the compassionate care he provides."

When she told her parents she planned to attend an information session, her father surprised her by asking if he could come along. "I knew it was time to do something," says Mr. Baum. "I had three different doctors telling me I needed to lose weight — because of my knees, my sleep apnea, my blood pressure, and because I was headed for diabetes."

Moreover, at age 62, he was slowing down — and not happy about it. "I said to myself, 'I'm too young to slow down.'"

Two different surgeries, followed by steady weight loss

Heading to an information session in June 2014, the Baums had a few things in common: both father and daughter had been heavy since childhood, they had some success losing weight with Weight Watchers, and both have jobs that are physically demanding. Mr. Baum works for the Department of Public Works in Bolton, Mass., which keeps him active. Ms. Baum teaches second-graders in Chelsea, Mass. "I'm on my feet all day," she says.

Both appreciated the straight talk about bariatric surgery that Dr. Lautz provided at the information session. "He laid all the facts out as to what you'll need to do," says Mr. Baum.

Ms. Baum says she left the session feeling sure about her next step. "I weighed 297 pounds, and it was just a matter of which surgery," she says, noting that she decided to have a gastric bypass, which creates a much smaller stomach pouch. "Throughout the assessment, the surgery and since then, I have felt so supported by the Emerson Hospital staff. They set me up to be successful."

Her surgery was performed in October 2014; six months later, her father headed to Emerson for a sleeve gastrectomy, which removes about two-thirds of the stomach to limit food intake. "I expected to need ibuprofen for my knees and was told I'd be able to take it after a sleeve gastrectomy," Mr. Baum explains. He went on the required liquid diet in advance of the procedure.

The surgery went well. "I had far less pain and discomfort than I anticipated," he says. "I liked everything about my stay at Emerson. It's my hospital of choice now."

Selective dining and "little wins"

They have each made steady progress since having bariatric surgery. Mr. Baum formerly weighed 270 pounds; he now weighs 180 pounds. Ms. Baum has lost about 100 pounds. Both agree that life after bariatric surgery is a series of adjustments.

"I had a hard time accepting the fact that I can't have carbonated drinks anymore," says Ms. Baum, adding that the resulting gas bubbles can cause indigestion. "But I've had little wins along the way. For example, I wanted to be able to cross my legs. I set that as a goal so I wouldn't be ruled by the scale."

She turns to Marie Bauer, RD, one of the center's dietitians, when she needs help. "We talk about my food intake and troubleshoot things that come up," she says. Ms. Baum has tapped into a community of individuals who have had bariatric surgery and follow each other on Instagram. "I set up a separate Instagram account, and it's been extremely helpful to me."

Post-surgery, her father says he has no problem socializing. "If I go to a party, I don't stand there and nibble," he says. "I have something to eat and move along. I still enjoy myself — more than I have in years. If we go out to eat, I select my meal carefully, eat what I want and take a doggy bag home."

His health has improved markedly. "I'm off my blood pressure medication, my sinus problems are gone, and I don't snore anymore," he notes.

"Having bariatric surgery is life-changing," says Mr. Baum. "Both Sarah and I have so much more energy now. I'd go through it all over again."

For more information, visit