Life After Gastric Bypass Surgery

One Patient's Story

By Angela Generoso and Laura Lee Bloor
Staff Writers,

Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

As of July 14, 2008, Mara Owens has lost 132 pounds.

"I feel amazing; I feel really good about what I've done. It takes a while for you to wrap your head around not being as big [anymore]. I still think I won't fit into that airline seat or [I'll] take up too much room. But that will come," she says.

At 5-foot-5, 272 pounds, Owens underwent gastric bypass surgery, a procedure in which part of her stomach was stapled down to create a small pouch, limiting the amount of food she can eat. A Y-shaped part of the small intestine was attached to the pouch, which lets food bypass the first part of the small intestine and a section of the second part. This results in fewer calories and nutrients taken in altogether. Her stomach, once the size of a football, is now the size of an egg.

Owens says her decision to undergo weight-loss surgery stemmed from years of research after countless failed diets and exercise programs. She felt she had tried everything that was reasonable in an effort to bring her weight down.

"I didn't have high blood pressure yet," she says. "I didn't have diabetes yet. But if I didn't do something soon, I would have it."

On July 24, 2006, Owens uneasily anticipated her gastric bypass surgery. With her husband and mother by her side, she tried to relax as she anticipated what was next.

"I was so nervous, there's no getting around it," she says. "I asked my friends to send me jokes so I could think of them while I was there. I was trying to think of jokes and actually started joking with the staff there, which helped me out a lot."

After her weight-loss surgery, a contrast test was performed to ensure that the staple line was holding.

"I had to drink this nasty stuff while they took pictures," she explains. "They won't let you start eating until they've assured that the line is holding back any food. Once the test is over and it comes out fine, they'll clear you to have stuff to drink."

Owens says she didn't start eating ice chips until the day after her surgery. She then moved on to water, and then Jell-O.

After leaving the hospital, a strict gastric-bypass-surgery diet of protein drinks and pudding was enforced for Owens for about four weeks, until she could start eating solid foods such as tuna, chicken and beans.

"The strange thing about all this is that for a few months you're not hungry," Owens says. "You have to make yourself eat, and you have to chew your food 20 or 30 times because you can't allow it to get stuck in that pouch."