June 23, 2021

New Jersey Woman Experiences Great Success after Bariatric Surgery Despite COVID-19 Obstacles

Some people who have had bariatric surgery are uncomfortable discussing it, but Melissa Flores, 27, feels differently. After losing over 100 pounds since she underwent gastric sleeve surgery in June 2020, Melissa has become an advocate for this option, sharing her experience with anyone who is interested in her weight loss journey.

Although Melissa did not have any health issues associated with her weight, she knew she was on a negative trajectory. She had difficulty holding conversations while doing her nursing rounds at Mountainside Medical Center and often felt uncomfortable with public speaking due to her appearance. In February 2020, she found a new primary care provider, Shalini Mali, M.D. and began to consider the surgery.

“I was always reluctant because I thought it was taking the easy way out,” Melissa said. “It had been on my radar for about a year, but after talking with Dr. Mali, I was finally convinced it made sense for me.”

Melissa wanted to feel better about herself and build confidence, and after an appointment with Karl Strom, M.D., and Toni Pettinato, RN at the Center for Advanced Bariatric Surgery at Mountainside Medical Center, she believed bariatric surgery could give those to her.

In preparation for her surgery, she met with a gastroenterologist,  S. Charles Oh, M.D.; a psychologist; and a nutritionist.

“The whole process of deciding on the surgery was easy and seamless,” Melissa said. “The Center was thorough, and I received a lot of information about how to prepare for the surgery, like what foods I could eat, acceptable protein shakes and beneficial vitamins. I also learned how to keep a food and hydration log, which was critical for the first few weeks after surgery.”

Melissa’s surgery went well; she experienced very little pain and an excellent recovery. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all post-surgery care was handled via telemedicine, but Melissa felt confident she could continue on her weight loss journey despite certain challenges virtual care presented because of all the prep work she and her doctors did together on the front end.

“Post-surgery I feel so energized,” Melissa said. “Everyone at Mountainside was great. The staff was so respectful. I was so well taken care of, even in my short stay. Although we were in the midst of COVID-19 at the time I received my surgery, I felt incredibly safe with the protocols the hospital had in place.”

Despite the unusual circumstances of her recovery, Melissa has been doing exceptionally well on her continued weight loss journey.

“Looking forward, I want to lose a little bit more and then just maintain my weight,” Melissa said. “My lifestyle has changed. I eat better and go for walks. My husband and I just got a Great Dane, who weighs over 100 pounds now, and we’re able to go on walks without any issues.”

Melissa is so passionate about the surgery that she hopes to inspire others to consider how bariatric surgery might benefit them and their families, as well.

“My advice to anyone would be to do it,” Melissa said. “Don’t be embarrassed to seek the help you need and just go for it. Initially, I was hesitant about telling people that I had weight loss surgery, but after this experience and my outcome, I realized that it was a good thing that should be shared. I want everyone to know there’s hope, that this option exists, and it’s a wonderful option.”

If you’re interested in learning more about bariatric surgery and to find out if you’re a candidate, visit www.mountainsidehosp.com/weightloss or give us a call at 973-429-6500.

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