Nearly two years after bariatric surgery to reduce the size of his stomach, Ron Dale of Dover Township has lost almost 200 pounds.
Nearly two years after bariatric surgery to reduce the size of his stomach, Ron Dale of Dover Township has lost almost 200 pounds. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

Dr. John Monk, the WellSpan surgeon who performed Dover resident Ron Dale's surgery, also conducted the first-ever gastric bypass surgery at WellSpan in 1993.

WellSpan is a nationally accredited Center of Excellence for its weight loss surgery program.

There have been three deaths in the 2,500 surgeries done at WellSpan -- one of the lowest mortality rates for the surgery in the country.

About 20 percent of people who have the surgery have a significant weight regain, but 80 percent keep more than half the extra weight off, Monk said.

"Everyone seems to know someone who didn't do well, but look at the large proportion who did well," said Monk.

After the surgery, people are limited to three meals a day with no grazing in between.

Who qualifies? It is an option for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, which signifies morbid obesity, but can also be done for someone with a BMI of 35 or above if they have a condition like heart disease or diabetes.

The surgery's ability to clear up Type II diabetes is one of the greatest benefits, said Monk. A person's sugar levels will come down almost immediately, he said.

Diabetes affects a person's eyes, heart, kidneys and vascular system.

"To change that, in essence to cure it, feels like a miracle," Monk said.

People tend to think all you need to do is "push away from the table," Monk said, but just about every patient he sees has tried everything to lose weight.

Before anyone has weight loss surgery at WellSpan, they meet with educational consultants, including a psychiatrist, dietitian and pulmonologist, for several months.

If someone is not good at following directions or is prone to addictive behaviors, weight loss surgery is not the best solution for them, Monk said.

-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or cshank@yorkdispatch.com