Torrance Memorial Medical Center's
Surgical Weight Loss program has transformed weight-reduction procedures to life-changing events. The
hospital's holistic approach embraces much more than the surgical
tools so famous for quick weight loss. In fact, bariatric patients at
Torrance Memorial, a certified Center of Excellence, must see nutritionists
and psychologists and attend support groups-as well as undergo rigorous
medical testing and monitoring months
before and after surgery.
Individuals who wish to have bariatric surgery learn there is a lot of
work to be done before they can even get approved for a procedure-this
process isn't just a quick fix. Physicians realize that quick fixes
can typically be undermined by ingrained bad habits. To have long-term
success, each patient must embrace a new way of living-from the inside out.
Just ask Carmi Standish-a 56-year-old woman from Long Beach who lost 125
pounds by having gastric bypass surgery a year ago, with the help of the
Torrance Memorial Medical Center team. The surgery instantly eradicated
her diabetes. "This was life-changing," she says. "I did
a lot of research and talked with a lot of people [around the country]
who had this [gastric bypass surgery] done, and they didn't go through
the same rigorous process as I did with Torrance Memorial. But that's
The Road To Transformation
So what does this rigorous process involve? According to Standish and
Aileen M. Takahashi, MD, FACS, medical director of the Torrance Memorial Bariatric Surgery Program,
a recognized Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic
and Bariatric Surgery, Standish needed to lose some weight on her own
and go through medical and psychological testing before surgery.
This makes complete sense, as some people may have psychological issues
or eating disorders that require counseling. Takahashi-also a surgeon
with the Association of South Bay Surgeons-says she doesn't want to
schedule a patient for surgery if, ultimately, they will regain the weight
down the road. Even so, the thorough process can be initially daunting.
"I was writing down all the information during the first consultation
with Dr. Takahashi and was barely able to keep up. I was required to lose
10% of my overall weight, or 27 pounds, before surgery. Then I was told
I needed a psych evaluation, blood tests, a meeting with nutritionists,
a chest X-ray, ultrasound of legs for clotting issues, a CAT scan, and
to attend support groups pre-op and post-op. I was overloaded, thinking,
'Are you kidding me?'" she laughs. In retrospect, Standish
is now thankful.
Gastric bypass surgery is not a simple medical procedure, and Torrance
Memorial Medical Center strives to ensure complete safety-hence all the
testing and monitoring. During gastric bypass surgery, the stomach is
divided into two parts, with the smaller pouch preventing large food intakes.
This new stomach is then attached to the lower portion of the small intestine,
so the rest of the stomach is "bypassed" during digestion.
"Gastric bypass (surgery) is a very powerful tool. There are many
benefits, but the biggest is for those with severe diabetes. With the
bypass, people have better control over their diabetes before they leave
the hospital," Takahashi explains.
In addition, this procedure is the oldest of the bariatric tools with more
scientific research conducted about it. It can, however, leave patients
with vitamin deficiencies afterwards if they do not keep up with maintaining
good nutrition and taking their vitamins. To ensure safe outcomes, Torrance
Memorial Medical Center always conducts multiple blood tests and studies.
To better ensure that no blood clots will develop during their healing
period, bariatric patients are asked to drop some weight before surgery-helping
them walk immediately afterwards, she added. All of these safe guards
by the talented physicians at Torrance Memorial are the reason why
bariatric surgery is so phenomenally successful there.
And Standish is a shining example of how bariatric surgery can transform
lives. I met her in early December at a coffee shop in Torrance.
She was wearing an elegant, royal blue blouse with black dress pants.
Her short, dark hair, peppered with gray, was cut stylishly, her makeup
flawless. She smiled at me energetically, and I realized even before our
interview began that this woman possessed a zest for life. It was hard
for me to believe that just a year earlier she was 100 pounds heavier
and on the verge of battling debilitating diabetes.
"My diabetes is gone," she says. "I was on three different
meds the day I entered the hospital. The day I left the hospital I was
taken off two of the medications. One week later, they took me off the
final one. It's amazing. I did it [gastric bypass] for that reason,
and losing the weight was a bonus."
As we chat about all the things Standish had to do to get qualified for
surgery, it became abundantly clear that those who fare the best with
gastric bypass surgery-or any other type of bariatric surgery (see sidebar)-are those who look at the procedure as just one tool on their road toward
better health. "We tell our patients that they have to start lifestyle
changes now, before surgery. We emphasize to emotional eaters to enter
therapy first and to garner appropriate expectations [for the surgery],"
"Most patients have to lose weight before we schedule them as well,
for health reasons. It also gives us a period of time-three months or
longer-for us to evaluate whether they were able to make healthier choices
and changes. They work with a nutritionist and go to support groups while
we also conduct medical testing to ensure the surgery will be safe for
them. If, during this period of time, they don't lose weight, or actually
gain weight, then we must explore why or else those unresolved issues
continue to plague the patient after surgery and limit their success," she says.
This is a thorough process that helps people examine some choices
that may be holding them back. For instance, Standish says her stumbling
blocks are fairly simple. She "likes to cook, entertain and eat."
Luckily, she isn't a binge eater, and she doesn't have other emotional
eating issues. When it came time to lose weight before surgery, she says
she took a practical approach and decided to cut most carbohydrates out
of her diet. Between July and December 2009, she lost 31 pounds on
her own before surgery. She also attended support groups with other people
who were either trying to lose weight to have surgery or to keep the weight
A year after her gastric bypass, Standish still attends support groups.
Why? The support helps her stay on track, and she knows how to help people
overcome and/or discover their own stumbling blocks. How the procurement
representative for Raytheon has time to help others and attend regular
meetings is amazing, but she is clearly passionate about helping others
"Some people just don't realize some of their habits," she
says. "I was at a support group, and one person just couldn't
lose the weight [necessary to get approved for surgery]. So I asked him
to describe his diet to me. I realized he was eating red meat nearly every
day. I suggested that he reduce red meat to two nights a week and
have smaller portions of steak. The other nights had to be fish or chicken
With the excess weight lost, she no longer has knee issues and certainly
has more energy. While never a big exerciser, she enjoys hiking with her
partner, Sue, and riding bikes. The two are actively planning their next
trip in 2012, including traveling to the Galapagos Islands and hiking
the last seven miles of the Inca Trail with a guide to the Sun Gate of
Six to 12 months after surgery, when patients have lost most of their
weight, many desire plastic surgery to eradicate loose skin. Standish went to
Charles Spenler, MD, who helped her get rid of 12 pounds of excess skin.
"We talk about what areas bother them the most, and often times it's
the tummy area. For others, it's the neck, arms or breasts,"
explained Spenler. This type of plastic surgery can be life-changing as
well, since an excess amount of skin can cause irritations and infections
even after bariatric surgery. These areas are completely healed by the
The renowned plastic surgeon gave an example of a patient who was a bus
driver, with a massive rash on his back due to loose skin rubbing the
seat where he sat for long periods of time. After surgery, it was completely
gone. For others, the biggest perk to plastic surgery is the ability to
wear a belt or jeans, as the additional skin around the waist makes this
Today Standish is enjoying life to the fullest and hopes to inspire others
to get there too.