Joan Salt, a school bus driver, has been overweight most of her life. Weighing more than 450
lbs., she couldn't walk stairs without stopping
nor drive certain buses. Home with an inflammation of her blood vessels, she found inspiration
from a TV show profiling Al Roker's dramatic
weight loss, and knew she had a choice.
"Every time I was a little successful, something would happen to set me back," she
explained. "I thought bariatric surgery was worth
her daughter and
backed her every
step of the way.
Salt (right) and her
sister, Karla, at a family
the option for several
months, she got "the good,
the bad and the ugly"
and found others in
the same boat. She
then discussed surgery with her doctor and husband, who were behind her 100 percent. In the
fall of 2003, she was referred to WinthropUniversity Hospital to meet with bariatric
surgeon, Siva Vithiananthan.
"He told me 'I am not telling you to do this
surgery, but I do know that if you don't do something soon, you won't live long,'" she explained. "I hit a point of no return."
At 42, Mrs. Salt felt she'd spent too much time
not doing what she wanted in life. "I was really
ready, and I knew this is what I wanted to do."
In early 2004, Dr. Vithiananthan performed
gastric bypass on Mrs. Salt. A minimally invasive
procedure, it reduces stomach size and restructures the intestinal tract to restrict appetite,
limiting the calories absorbed.
"A week later, everything was heavenly," she
explained. "I lost more than 20 pounds in a few
weeks. I made a schedule to exercise 3-4 times a
week and followed it to a 'T' because I was not
That summer, after losing more than 100
pounds, she attended her high school's 25th
reunion, participated in a four-mile march and
went to an amusement park where she was able
to walk around and ride roller coasters and
Today, at 240 lbs., she's amazed at how
strange it is to feel full. And, she no longer suffers from sleep apnea and asthma, a long-life
battle she has fought until now.
"I believe that if I had the choice today, I
would make the same decision," she explained.
"I am enjoying my life, I'm a kid again."
Anthony LaFerrera, a volunteer firefighter,
watched his weight balloon. Standing five-foot four, his waist inched past size 68. When other
weight-loss options failed him, Mr. LaFerrera
began researching gastric bypass, which his
friend had found to be successful. However, his
family was dead set against it. When his weight
edged to 400 in 2002, he knew his
health was suffering.
Mr. LaFerrera, a volunteer firefighter, also found hope when he
met Dr. Vithiananthan. After losing nearly 200 lbs., he no longer
has high-blood pressure and he's down to a size 44 waist.
"I was diagnosed with borderline
hypertension and showed the beginning stages of diabetes, and I was very
inactive," he explained. "The weight
kept piling on. The only thing I had
going for me was that my cholesterol
Mr. LaFerrera's general practitioner
referred him to Dr. Vithiananthan, and
in January of 2003, he too found hope.
"Dr. Vithiananthan gave me
options and told me the pros and
cons," he explained. "It was great that
he met with my family to make sure they
were all on board."
In February, after
he concluded all the
Mr. LaFerrera went in
for the six-hour procedure. Discharged
after three days, he
was urged to walk
every day. By April,
he was a new person.
"What a change!
I am not carrying an extra 180
pounds," he said. "I can travel more
now. I can get on a plane and use the
seat belt. I can drive without my
stomach hitting the steering wheel.
And most importantly, I no longer
have high-blood pressure. The only
pills I take are vitamins."
Three years since his operation,
he's down to a size 44. It was a gradual
change supported by a strict threeday-per-week gym regimen. His eating
habits also have drastically changed.
Before the surgery, eating an entire
steak was satisfying. Today, he eats
one-fourth of the steak and he's full.
"Dr. Vithiananthan does the surgery, and his staff supports you, but you
have to do your part. He only gives you
the jumpstart. If you believe in him, you
will have no problem losing weight."
The Bariatric Surgery Program's support group is a valued resource. Participants learn
from each other and help each other psychologically. Dr. Vithiananthan (front row, left)
and his staff attend every session.
For more information about
Winthrop's Bariatric Surgery Program,
call Karen Norowski at (516) 663-3300.
Bariatric Surgery Procedure »