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Michalyn’s Story: Bariatric Surgery Heads Off Health Problems

Contributor: Hany Takla, MD, FACS, FASMBS
8 minute read
Patient Michalyn Soliman: May 2022 (Before); May 2023 (After)

At 30 years old, Michalyn Soliman now finds herself 50 pounds lighter than she’s been for the last decade, and no longer needs the frequent rest breaks she used to take to get through a workout or a walk. Going up stairs is no longer a labor where she becomes winded and starts to feel pain in her knees. She feels better emotionally, too. In the past, she was frustrated because she thought she was doing all the right things: eating right, exercising a healthy amount, trying to limit calories. But she struggled to lose weight.

A contract specialist at a company that helps facilitate clinical trials, Michalyn was familiar with the hopeful potential of trying new things. She had already participated in medication-based weight loss programs for years before opting into the Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery at Wentworth-Douglass. But when these efforts began to seem like patchwork solutions that were ultimately ineffectual, she decided that she was more attracted to the holistic approach.

“Here [at Wentworth-Douglass] you're getting all the support upfront, you're getting the nutrition classes, you’re getting a booklet, and you're really well-informed and aware of what you're getting yourself into [prior to surgery]. And then you have that support continuously. They even have an exercise program if people want to join that as well. It's very nice to know you have everything that you need all in one place.”

Healthy weight management and bariatric surgery

Hany Takla, MD, FACS, FASMBS, a Mass General Brigham bariatric surgeon who performed Michalyn’s weight loss surgery, was glad that she found her way to their program.

Dr. Takla knows that joining the program is not an easy thing to do. He often reminds patients that the surgery isn’t “just like an on/off switch.” The commitment required to maintain diet and exercise beyond surgery is significant. He also notes that there are pre-surgical requirements for psychological evaluation to make sure a person is prepared mentally and emotionally to proceed with the surgery and post-surgical regimen. Still, he emphasizes that the breadth of health benefits that losing a lot of weight can bring is a huge win if you are dedicated and willing to stay the course.

“A lot of people think weight loss surgery is just to lose weight, but that's only half of the benefit. The other half—that's more important—is that they reduce their risk for developing medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and even things like endometrial cancer.”

Dr. Takla also says that more than 90% of his patients wish they had not waited so long to have the surgery.

“They say ‘I wish I would've done this sooner or when I was younger.’ So, for somebody like Michalyn, it makes me happy that I was able to help her before she developed these other issues. And then seeing these patients later on, enjoying what they like to do, in her case, boxing, it’s like night and day,” he says with a smile.

You just have to remind yourself that you did all this work, and you should be proud of where you are… I’m still 20 pounds from where I want to be, but I’m a lot better than where I was.

Michalyn Soliman
Weight Loss Surgery Patient

Online support groups for bariatric surgery patients

Michalyn is also a big fan of the Facebook support group (which is moderated by the Center), whose members now number more than 1,200. These include both people who have completed the program and those looking for guidance and inspiration as they consider weight loss surgery.

“It’s been great knowing that there are other people [to help you get through things]. Right when I had the surgery I was sick and nauseous and I couldn't even keep water down. I was kind of nervous and scared. But people in the group reassured me and it was nice to have that. These are people who went through the same thing, and who can say to you ‘you're gonna be fine. It's all gonna be okay.’”

Michalyn notes that there are also smaller, monthly support groups that take place over Zoom. And she says that the worst of her post-surgical woes did in fact pass relatively quickly.

“The first month after the surgery was hard, just adjusting to eating and trying not to get sick, but after that it was pretty smooth sailing. Sometimes it's tough when you hit a stall where your body plateaus and [your weight] just doesn't want to go down,” she says with a laugh. “But you just have to remind yourself that you did all this work, and you should be proud of where you are, and that it will continue to go down. I’m still 20 pounds from where I want to be, but I’m a lot better than where I was.”

“One thing I’d highly suggest to people who are interested in getting the surgery: Take all of the ‘before’ pictures,” she recommends. “Because you'll look back at them and you'll see how far you've come, and you’ll realize it really is something to be proud of.”

Headshot of Hany Takla, MD, FACS, FASMBS


Bariatric and General Surgeon