When Ellen Wells decided to explore bariatric surgery to lose weight, her primary goal wasn’t to look good or fit into a smaller pair of jeans. Rather, she wanted to put an end to her diabetes, which had been controlling her life since her diagnosis more than 20 years earlier.
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 30 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes, a chronic medical condition that increases a person’s risk for a whole host of other serious health problems. Being overweight is a major contributing factor for developing diabetes.
“I was taking six shots of insulin every day,” says Wells. “I weighed 245 pounds and could hardly stand or walk, so I had to stop working. And my family and social life was hampered because I didn’t feel good about myself. Being that heavy literally disabled my body, mind, and spirit.”
At the recommendation of her primary care physician, Wells registered for a free bariatric education seminar at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center. It was here that she first met Christopher You, MD, one of the region’s most reputable bariatric surgeons and co-medical director of the Robotic Surgery program at the hospital. He spoke at length about the various surgical options available, including gastric bypass surgery, which has proven to be effective in helping to improve diabetes. She also learned that Dr. You performs all of his surgeries using robotic technology.
“I didn’t know much about robotic surgery at all until I heard Dr. You speak,” Wells says. “He explained the technology and all of the benefits that came along with it. I was willing to do whatever it would take to get my life back, and I left feeling very comfortable and confident that this was the right path for me.”
The benefits of robotic surgery are many and include smaller incisions, less blood loss, less pain, less risk for post-surgical complications, a shorter hospital stay, and a quicker recovery. These benefits, combined with data that proves significantly better patient outcomes, have inspired Dr. You to use the da Vinci® Surgical System for every surgery he performs.
“We participate in the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement program, which allows us to review actual patient data in order to more fully understand the impact of robotic technology,” explains Dr. You. “We are always looking at how our outcomes compare with surgeries performed using the more traditional open or minimally invasive techniques. And what has become very clear over time is that patients who have bariatric procedures robotically have a better experience overall.”
One common misperception is that the robotic technology replaces the surgeon in the operating room. In fact, this is one of the most common concerns Dr. You and other robotic specialists at MedStar Franklin Square hear from prospective patients.
“The robot is a powerful tool that is fully controlled by the surgeon throughout the procedure,” says Dr. You, who performs an average of 275 bariatric surgeries each year. “It gives me superior visualization and range of motion. In some cases, I can reach areas of the body with extreme precision that I wouldn’t be able to get to with my hands. It extends my capabilities as a surgeon.”
Today, a little over two years since Wells had gastric bypass surgery, every single aspect of her life is different and better. She’s lost nearly 100 pounds. She’s running, bicycling, and taking part in fun activities with her daughter. And she no longer travels with a bag of insulin shots in tow.
“My diabetes is gone,” says Wells, age 58. “It’s hard to put into words how good it feels to put that behind me. I continue to monitor my blood sugar levels, and the numbers couldn’t be more perfect. I’m a new person, and I feel great!”
Ironically, the place where Wells spends a good portion of her time these days is in the kitchen. With a lifelong passion and talent for baking, inherited from her mother, she is building a new career as a pastry chef. She completed her associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts at Stratford University, and now she has the physical energy and endurance it takes to do the work she loves.
“Before my surgery, I couldn’t stay on my feet long enough to bake. There is no time for sitting in a bakery, so I gave up,” Wells notes. “Now, I can move around the kitchen with ease, pick up and work with ingredients, and stand all day if I need to.”
As she works toward the establishment of her own home-based dessert business as “The Pound Cake Lady,” Wells is perfecting her trade by baking for a good cause. She donates her homemade baked goods to fundraisers sponsored by her church.
And while she indulges with a few bites of her tasty treats here and there, Wells remains focused on the important lifestyle changes that have gotten her to where she is today.
“I think some people believe if they have surgery to lose weight, they need to completely cut out all of the foods they enjoy in order to be successful. And that is not true,” Wells adds. “It’s about making good choices and eating in moderation. It’s about choosing good health and the life that comes with it. I am in such a good place. I am finally happy.”
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
White Square Building
9105 Franklin Square Drive
Suites 305 and 307
Baltimore, MD 21237
MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus
12 MedStar Blvd.
Bel Air, MD 21015
Learn more about our education seminar.
DID YOU KNOW?
The patient outcomes at the Bariatric Center at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center are so positive that we are designated as an Epi-Center for robotic surgery. This means that physicians from other hospitals across the country who want to learn how to perform and perfect robotic surgical techniques can come here to shadow and train with Dr. You. We are proud to have the opportunity to train aspiring robotic surgeons who will help advance the profession of medicine in the years to come.