Lost & Found

Four Monmouth medical center bariatric surgery patients enjoy freedom from chronic diseases after losing weight.
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FOR MANY, WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT JUST A means to look good at a reunion or fit into a favorite pair of jeans. For the nearly one in  four New Jerseyans who are obese, it is a  matter of life or death.

Obesity is influenced by physical, environmental, social, economic and  psychological factors and puts people at high risk for serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint damage and even certain cancers. To address this complexity, Monmouth Medical  Center (MMC) created the New Jersey Bariatric & Metabolic Institute and Weight Loss Surgery Center, where a team of experienced medical experts offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss.

Because weight loss is a journey, not a destination, the teams at MMC include nutritionists, clinical psychologists and bariatric coordinators. They also run support groups to emotionally assist patients. Thanks to this comprehensive approach, MMC has been the site of life changing procedures that not only helped countless patients look and feel better, but helped them live longer, happier, less complicated lives.

LYNNETTE AND MICHAEL MARTIN Lynnette and Michael Martin of Middletown knew that getting healthy again would be an uphill battle, but with the help of weight-loss surgery, they faced the challenge together.

When the couple married nearly 30 years ago, Lynnette, an administrative coordinator for a local engineering firm, weighed 100 pounds. But after having two children, the life of a busy working parent often meant eating on the go and little time for exercise.

By 2017, Lynnette, now age 54, was 5’1” and weighed 262 pounds with a body mass index (BMI) of 48. She suffered from sleep apnea and hypertension. Lynnette’s 6-foot-tall husband Michael, now age 51 and working in telecommunications, weighed 420 pounds with a BMI of 57. He also had sleep apnea.

In addition to the obesity-related medical conditions, the extra pounds interfered with the Martins’ lifestyle. The couple enjoyed traveling with their two children—Jessica, 23, and Michael, 21—but they were having an increasingly difficult time keeping up with them. “We do an annual pilgrimage to Disney, and on our last two trips I had to rent a Rascal (mobility scooter),” Lynnette says. “It was the only way I could get around. I felt awful, so it was time to say this can’t continue. Michael and I were both at the point where we saw all the limitations of the weight gain.”

The Martins began to research weight-loss surgery, and in January 2017, they attended one of MMC’s new patient lectures, where they met Frank J. Borao, M.D. Dr. Borao is board certified and fellowship trained and has been the director of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Bariatric Surgery at MMC since 2001. “We see patients coming in who are morbidly obese with diabetes and high blood pressure, taking multiple medications and having issues with vision and losing sensation in their extremities,” says Dr. Borao. “By performing a procedure that can remedy these issues, we can change their lives and give them more longevity. Most patients live 15 to 20 years longer.”

“When we met Dr. Borao, we immediately felt at ease,” Michael recalls. “He embraced us as a couple. Dr. Borao is very thorough and patient. We felt very informed and well prepared for our surgeries.”

Dr. Borao was frank with the Martins, particularly with Michael. “Dr. Borao said to me, ‘how many 425-pound 65-year-old men do you see walking around?’ And that clicked.”

In July 2017, Lynnette underwent sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure that creates  a vertical “sleeve” of the stomach that is about the size of a banana. The rest of the stomach is removed. Three months after surgery, Lynnette had lost 50 pounds and her BMI was reduced to 40. 

Two weeks after his wife’s surgery, Mi-chael’s sleeve gastrectomy was performed. At his three-month follow-up visit, his weight was down by 85 pounds. The surgeries were done laparoscopically through four puncture holes the size of mosquito bites and a one-inch incision. The surgery typically requires an overnight hospital stay, and patients are expected to be totally back to their normal routines in about four weeks.

To date, Michael has lost 125 pounds and Lynnette lost 77 pounds. “We lost  a combined weight of more than 200 pounds—that’s like losing a whole other large person!” Michael says.

Dr. Borao says every patient at the MMC Bariatric & Metabolic Institute and Weight Loss Surgery Center is treated like family and they only make recommendations they would to their own families. “When a patient first comes to see us, we spend quite a bit of time going over the actual problem and looking at the best option to maximize a good outcome,” Dr. Borao says. “This is not just a one-time encounter [with the patient] and then the operation. It’s a multi-disciplinary approach. Many members of this team are going to be a part of the patient’s care—the operating room team, the floor nurses and ancillary services. Over the years, we’ve established an excellent team at MMC.”

Weight-loss work continues for the Mar-tins. They have flipped the script on how they approach food, from living to eat to eating to live. They also continue follow-up visits with their medical team, attend sup-port groups and meet with nutritionists to ensure their long-term success. 

“Doing this surgery together was lifesaving,” Michael says. “Doors are opening to things we were restricted from doing for 20 years. I feel like I am getting to be the person that’s always been inside me.”

About two years ago, Middletown grandmother and hairstylist Luanne Trpisovsky was taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She had been suffering from lupus since 2011 and battled breast cancer in 2015. At 62, Luanne was 5 foot tall, weighed 221 pounds, and her BMI was 43.

“I finished my last radiation treatment for breast cancer in June 2016, and decided I wanted to change my life,” she says. “I was tired of being fat and unhealthy.” Trpisovsky’s best friend had weight-loss surgery, and she was inspired to explore that option for herself. She attended a new patient lecture at MMC and met Steven J. Binenbaum, M.D. “Dr. Binenbaum was fantastic,” she recalls. “He discussed my lupus and told me that gastric bypass was the better weight-loss surgery option for me because of that illness.”

“The bariatric weight loss surgery [a patient] will end up with can be a difficult decision,” Dr. Binenbaum says. “Patients can expect total honesty from me on what I think is the best option. We discuss, come to an agreement and get on the same page about what option will give the patient a prolonged life.”

Dr. Binenbaum is board certified and fellow-ship trained. He started his career with MMC during his general surgery residency in 2007. Here, he went on to serve as chief surgical resident and earn the Dr. Cyril S. Arvanitis Memorial Award, given to the surgical resident who epitomizes the important virtues of dependability, efficiency and promptness in the conduct of his work.

Gastric bypass surgery reduces the stomach’s functional volume and response to food, dividing it into a smaller, upper pouch and a larger, lower portion. Both sections are then connected to the small intestine.  One year and 100 pounds after her surgery, Trpisovsky no longer needs to take any medication related to high blood pressure and cholesterol. What’s more is that her lupus is in remission. Now, Trpisovsky is working to maintain her weight loss. “I eat everything in moderation—cottage cheese, yogurt and protein shakes—and I make sure I take my vitamins,” she says.

Trpisovsky is enjoying life with her husband, Charles, and their children and says she wishes she had the surgery sooner.

At 53 years old and weighing 336 pounds, Phillip Tsambazis of Toms River was facing a health crisis. The 6-foot-1 father of three adult sons suffered from sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), atrial fibrillation (AFib) and edema in his legs. He was on multiple blood pres-sure pharmaceuticals and a high dosage of cholesterol medication. Tsambazis also worked a high-pressure job as a supervisory officer with the Department of Homeland Security. Tsambazis’ cardiologist, pulmonologist and primary care physician all were concerned that if he didn’t lose weight, the outcome could be fatal. His doctors advised that he explore bariatric surgery and recommended he meet with surgeon Steven J. Binenbaum, M.D.

“The circumstances were so difficult to comprehend,” Tsambazis says. “Right up until the surgery, I couldn’t believe I was actually going to do it. I was afraid I’d never wake up and was very concerned about my parents and children if something went wrong during surgery.”

Tsambazis took comfort in Dr. Binen-baum’s care. “He was phenomenal,” says Tsambazis. “Dr. Binenbaum has the best bedside manner and goes the extra yard to make sure everything was explained to me properly. I trusted him so much that I came back to have him fix my hernia. The staff at MMC was outstanding. It is the most courteous, kindest and professional staff on the planet.”

Not only did Tsambazis survive, he is now thriving. After the surgery, Tsambazis lost 130 pounds and hasn’t been at his current weight since he was in high school in 1979. And his health has significantly improved. Tsambazis no longer has sleep apnea, COPD or edema and was able to come off of his prescription medications.

 “The most rewarding part [of what I do] is that I get to have an immediate impact on someone’s disease,” Dr. Binenbaum says. “I get to see patients getting better right in front of my eyes instead of continuing to treat them on a chronic basis with medication. Patients walk out of the hospital not needing their medication and that is the biggest reward.”


Categories: Hospital Features, Hospital Top Stories, Monmouth Health & Life