With warmer weather around the corner, spring is the time of year when many people seek ways to shed those extra pounds. By committing to healthier eating and more physical activity, most of us can successfully lose five, 10 or even 20 pounds. But what about those who are very overweight and do not have the energy, know-how or motivation to accomplish this task alone?

The Bariatric Surgery Program at Shawnee Mission Health – Prairie Star in Lenexa, Kansas has been helping patients take off the weight since 2006. In 2015, surgeons performed 1,514 bariatric procedures, the most in program history and significantly more than any other bariatric program in the Kansas City area.

According to SMH Bariatric Program coordinator Chris Bovos, research shows that only five percent of bariatric patients who lose weight through diet and exercise successfully keep it off. Many people need additional support and turn to SMH’s Bariatric Surgery Program in an effort to regain their lives.

“Patients who present to our program have been overweight for many years,” said Bovos. “They are frustrated and depressed, and some are experiencing weight-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, painful joints and liver disease.”

Bovos recalled one patient who rode an electric scooter because he needed hip, knee and shoulder replacements. He sought help from the program because he had to lose weight before doctors could perform the joint replacements.

“When we saw him in the hospital for bariatric surgery, he had hope for the first time in years,” said Bovos. “Two years later, he was a completely different person—outgoing and jovial, and had lost more than 175 pounds, completed all joint replacements and began traveling again with his family.”

One reason why patients experience success is the support they receive from the program’s surgeons and associates, who consider a patient to be a patient for life and continually offer emotional and spiritual support.

Dr. Robert Aragon is one of three surgeons in the program and feels that his strong beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist positively influence how he cares for patients.

“I believe that faith plays an important role in whole-person health,” said Aragon. “Many bariatric patients suffer from deep emotional issues related to their struggle with obesity. Undergoing this surgery is a major life change and many patients are nervous. I try to connect with patients and truly understand their hopes and calm their fears by listening to them, praying with them before surgery and following their incredible progress for years after the initial surgery. This is truly a privilege and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be their surgeon.”

The program also offers support groups featuring speakers and cooking events for bariatric patients as well as a clothing exchange because the need for new clothes at different points throughout the weight loss journey can get very expensive.

Bovos has the opportunity to be involved with all facets of the program and says there is nothing more rewarding than witnessing patient transformations first hand.

“Not everyone has the privilege of seeing people’s journey to happier, healthier lives,” said Bovos. “It’s inspiring, often brings tears to my eyes and teaches me so much about life.”

Learn more about SMH’s Bariatric Surgery Program

Jackie Wood writes for Shawnee Mission Health.