During the annual Weight-loss Surgery Program reunion held recently at South Miami Hospital, patients who have had lifechanging bariatric surgery celebrated their new lives and new looks with family, friends and the hospital’s physicians, nurses and staff.
The theme of the reunion was “Back to the ’80s,” but for the 40 weight-loss surgery patients in attendance who have lost a combined 3,000 pounds, there is no looking back.
“Our weight-loss surgery patients are presented with a memento inscribed with their surgery date,” said Maria Fuego, RN, bariatric nurse coordinator. “For many, this date signifies a second ‘birthday.’ It’s the beginning of their new life as a healthier and happier person.”
Some 120 people attended the reunion, which featured a “bariatric-friendly” buffet and an award ceremony recognizing patients and hospital staff members.
Patient Steve Bonwit, 48, hasn’t missed a reunion since his weight-loss surgery eight years ago, when he weighed in at 585 pounds. He’s lost a remarkable 385 pounds. To say his weight-loss journey has been life changing is an understatement.
Bonwit has opened a fitness center and is a personal trainer specializing in coaching other bariatric surgery patients. He runs and exercises daily. He scuba dives — something he would never be able to do before. And, he faithfully attends the hospital’s monthly Weight-loss Surgery Program support meetings, serving as a mentor to the 40-50 people who attend.
“These meetings are important, and have become a part of my healthy lifestyle,” Bonwisaid t. “They keep me in check and on track by reminding me of what I’ve been through to get to this point.”
The personal experiences Bonwit shares also inspire and help others.
“Steve has so much knowledge to share with other patients,” Fuego said. “The ongoing post-surgical support these meetings provide helps produce the greatest level of success for patients in their life after bariatric surgery.”
Bonwit will attest that it’s important for weight-loss surgery patients to surround themselves with people who support their goals. In his case, it’s all in the family.
At age14, his daughter, Amber, was the youngest patient to have weight-loss surgery at South Miami Hospital. She now is 20 years old and 82 pounds lighter.
Bonwit met his wife, Cheryl, four years ago, when she attended her first support group meeting prior to having weight-loss surgery. With newfound good health came newfound love, and the happy couple wed last October.
“Our doctors have given us a tool to help us make this change,” Bonwit said. “Now, it’s up to us to change our mindset and lifestyle.”
Started in 1998, the Weight-loss Surgery Program is approved as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. Three bariatric surgery options are performed by highly skilled surgeons Anthony Gonzalez, MD; Jorge Rabaza, MD; Enrique Whitwell, MD; Charan Donkor, MD, and Rupa Seetharamaiah, MD, who are supported by a specially trained, multidisciplinary team.
South Miami Hospital offers both pre- and postoperative support programs to help patients through their transformations. Weight-loss surgery support group meetings are held the fourth Thursday of the month, 7-9 p.m., at the Victor E. Clarke Education Center Auditorium, located on the hospital campus. The public is welcome to attend these free meetings to hear informative and inspiring presentations from surgeons, nurses, psychologists, dietitians, personal trainers and patients like Bonwit.
For information, call 786-662-8745 or visit www.SouthMiamiWeightloss.com