Chiara Gravell is about to compete in her fourth triathlon. While it's an achievement in itself, it’s an even greater achievement because just two years ago, Chiara weighed nearly 300 pounds.
“I had always been heavy, and up and down on the scale for most of my life,” says the Delaware resident. “Even though I was always athletic, I could not lose weight and maintain my loss.”
Determined to succeed, Chiara made an appointment with Penn weight-loss surgeon, Noel Williams, MD.
"I was committed to make this work, and we decided the sleeve gastrectomy, or gastric sleeve surgery, was the right procedure for me,” says Chiara.
During a sleeve gastrectomy, a sleeve-shaped tube is created from a small portion of the stomach and the majority of the stomach is removed. Food passes through the new stomach tube directly into the intestines. Nutrients and calories are absorbed from food normally, but patients feel full sooner and longer.
Sleeve gastrectomy can be a permanent surgical solution to manage weight. A second operation may be required, however, if significant weight loss is required to improve the patient's health.
But before she could have the surgery, Chiara would have to go through routine medical testing that included a sleep study, cardiovascular exam, and a physical exam.
“Fortunately, there were no issues yet,” says Chiara. “I was a pretty healthy 300-pound woman."
Big Changes, Healthier Life Ahead
Sleeve gastrectomy is performed laparoscopically and, as was Chiara’s case, can be performed via robotic surgery.
Chiara had the surgery in September, 2011.
“Nine weeks after the surgery, my husband and I flew to Europe for a vacation,” says Chiara. “It was the first time in a long time I could fly and buckle my seat belt without an extender.”
Chiara and her husband spend three weeks in Europe. As you can imagine, they did a lot of walking… and eating.
“The first thing I noticed during our vacation was that I could walk for hours without my feet hurting,” she remembers. “I thought everyone’s feet were supposed to hurt, but it was my weight that made walking so difficult for me in the past.”
Chiara also learned how to travel and eat out with her new nutrition requirements.
“I ate what I would normally eat while not on vacation, but just had much smaller portions,” she remembers. “I would only eat about a fourth of what was given to me.”
Chiara lost weight on that trip, and continued to lose weight. She soon discovered running and began to compete first in 5k races, then a 10k, half-marathons and now, triathlons.
“I connected with other people who have had weight-loss surgery and compete in races through Facebook, and we all support each other,” says Chiara. “Racing keeps me motivated to keep working out.”
Today, having lost 150 pounds, Chiara is literally half her size, and she continues to lose weight.
“Surgery is a weight-loss tool,” says Chiara. “Go to an information session, learn all of your options, and stay committed to a healthier lifestyle.”
If you're interested in losing weight through bariatric surgery, register for a free information session.