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Carrie’s Story: 156 Pounds Lighter After Bariatric Surgery

Contributor Dmytro M. Havaleshko, MD, FACS, DABS-FPMBS, FASMBS
9 minute read
Patient Carrie Feyler: May 2022 (before) and May 2023 (after)

Carrie Feyler first learned of the Wentworth-Douglass Hospital Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery from a coworker who completed the program. Soon after, she signed up for one of the center’s information sessions, which she says “changed her way of thinking about being overweight.” It was an inflection point for the 47-year-old mother of 2, who joined Weight Watchers at age 13 and had struggled constantly with her weight for 3 decades.

Prior to entering the program, Carrie had experimented with multiple other weight loss strategies, but had found little success.

“You name it, I tried it,” she says with a laugh. “Six or 7 years ago, I even lost a little over a 100 pounds but gained it all back and then some.”

Dmytro M. Havaleshko, MD, FACS, DABS-FPMBS, FASMBS, Carrie’s surgeon, started the Wentworth-Douglass Hospital Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery 5 years ago for people like her who’ve faced these repeated failures. Dr. Havaleshko projects a confident coach’s mentality, somewhere between a friendly drill sergeant and a Jedi Master, with perhaps a bit of cheerleader thrown in. He stresses that he can be quite demanding of his patients, but also that the high bar is necessary to adjust attitudes and give a patient their best chance at achieving what they want.

Educating bariatric surgery patients to optimize success

“I can tell you, ‘relatively successful’ is not my standard,” he says. “I tell them they need to be successful. They have no choice, right? Everyone has to understand everything that we do,” he explains, referring to the educational and behavior modification classes that are part of the initial preparation period. “It's like an army. You have to complete this step to go to the next one, because that's how it works.” He acknowledges that the program is fairly rigorous in its requirements leading up to the surgery, from an educational standpoint.

“It takes about 4 to 5 months to prepare yourself for bariatric surgery. There’s a psychological evaluation by a psychologist, behavioral modification classes, and classes to learn what to do after surgery, how to be successful, how to stay successful. The surgery is really important, but it’s also critical to have the support afterward, the knowledge of what to do with it. It makes a big difference.”

Carrie is unquestionably a patient who’s risen to the challenge. She describes her new exercise regimen as “a crazy amount,” and says that for whatever reason it’s just become fun, and that her body craves it now. Over the last year since her surgery she’s lost 156 pounds, and has kept it off; in fact, she’s still losing weight. She describes the process as “life-changing.”

“[Before this year] I couldn't go on roller coasters with my kids, couldn't go down water slides at the water park. I was afraid to go to a place with big crowds where you might have to sit between people.”

My son and I ran a 5K together a few weeks ago. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do that. I mean, I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs a year ago.

Carrie Feyler
Weight loss surgery patient

Setting a good example with active lifestyle choices

“I've started doing karate with my oldest son, two 90-minute classes a week. I do yoga on Sundays and then I walk or run every single day. My son and I ran a 5K together a few weeks ago,” she recalls, noting how much her life has changed over the last year. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do that. I mean, I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs a year ago.”

“I've got to live a better life for [my kids]. I can't be sedentary; I can't be letting life pass me by while I’m standing on the sidelines. I need to do it for me, but for them too. And it's fun, you know? I do karate now with a bunch of teenagers,” she says with a laugh, “and it's awesome and I love it. And I’m a good role model, setting a good example.”

Weight loss before surgery encouraged but not required

Despite his program’s reputation for strictness, Dr. Havaleshko points out that it isn’t constrained by requirements for pre-surgical weight loss, which many programs demand of patients to enroll.

“There is no data that supports a need for losing weight prior to surgery. We ask them not to gain weight — it shows that they are taking it seriously and following our recommendations, but there's no data to support such a requirement. Some programs say ‘you have to lose 10% of your weight before surgery,’ but that just delays the surgery, delays your help to those patients who need it the most.”

Dr. Havaleshko says that all of his patients succeed to an amazing degree.

“From what I’ve seen in my patients — and I've done about 1,500 robotic surgeries in the last 4.5 to 5 years… they all become healthier and lose weight. Patients usually lose between 60 to 97% of their excess body weight. Ms. Feyler is a perfect example of our success.”

Accessing the online support group for ongoing weight management

“That program and his team, they're amazing,” says Carrie. “The way that they take care of their patients, the way that they follow you through the bariatric surgery program. If I have a question and I get a message in, I have an answer almost immediately. Doctor's offices usually take about 48 hours to 72 hours to respond. I’ll get a response from the program team within a half an hour. They care about us. They really, truly do care about us as people and not just patients.”

Carrie has also been a big part of the center’s online Facebook community, as an initiate, a mentor and generally a group-minded supporter who has come to deeply enjoy ongoing challenges and mutually encouraging relationships that she’s developed over the past 18 months.

“The vulnerability and the honesty, people sharing on there is just amazing,” she says.

“Everybody's learning from each other, everybody's supporting each other. Another patient posted an exercise challenge to people for December and March, and then I said to her — and I didn't know her besides being on these challenges — I said, ‘let me take April.’ So, I ran a challenge through April, made daily posts and managed everyone posting back and forth. And now she and I have become very good friends.”

Dmytro M. Havaleshko, MD, FACS, DABS-FPMBS, FASMBS