In Their Own Words: Patients Describe Their Transformations


Pre OpPost Op"For those of you who do not know me, my name is Stephanie and I had WLS eight days after my 42nd birthday on March 5, 2001. My surgery was performed by both Drs. Fischer and Bessler, (yes it IS all about me).

I can't begin to tell you how much my life has changed for the better after having this surgery. I look in the mirror and can't believe the person I see before me!

I use to walk with a cane. I would just go to work and come home. You can't keep me in the house these days! I have met the most incredible group of people on the web site who have become my family. Their support during good and bad times during my journey, I believe, is one of the keys to my success. The love and support of my parents and brothers during my times of fear at the beginning of my journey helped me not to give up. They let me know they were behind me, yet they gave me just enough space that I could make this decision on my own. And for the first time in my life of battling my weight I KNOW I am going to make it!

I have found a friend in food; I now have learned to eat for nourishment not for stress. Instead, I shop! I have also learned to not fear the scale. I use to have such anxiety whenever it was time to get weighed in the past. And did you know that you could eliminate sugar from your diet and not turn to sand? All kidding aside, I am so grateful for the chance to get my life back! I now go to they gym three times a week, who would have thought I could do that!

My total weight loss to date is 253.5lbs!

Whenever I welcome a new member to the group I always write my current weight loss and these infamous words ... 
I endeavor to make that so!"


Irina, Pre OpIrina, Post Op

"Last year, about one week after my 26th birthday, I had Gastric Bypass surgery. It was the scariest and most exciting decision I ever had to make. I say 'had to' because I could not go on living that way any longer. I had spent my entire life existing as an obese person and on the day of surgery I weighed in at a whopping 319 pounds, my heaviest ever. I was a slave to food and I was only getting bigger. I tried almost everything to gain control and lose the weight but was unsuccessful time after time. Finally, I gained the courage to admit that I couldn't fight this battle without some serious medical help.

Last week, I celebrated my 27th birthday. Unlike past years, I also celebrated my re-birth this year! I have lost about 140 pounds so far and have gained so much more than a scale could ever measure. I have a new body, a new outlook on life and a new confidence in myself. Words cannot explain the difference this procedure has made in my life. Medically, physically, emotionally and mentally, I am like a new woman! Thanks to the Columbia University Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery, Dr. Bessler, Lorraine, Nancy, their incredible staff and my courage, I have been given the gift of an amazing 'tool' with which I have finally succeeded!

I can sit here and type hundreds, if not thousands, of pages on my experiences as a morbidly obese person but I won't because all those who seriously consider obesity surgery already know the pain, hurt, shame, ridicule, anger and heartache first hand. However, I will say that if you are considering weight loss surgery, please know that the Columbia University Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery is the place to go for help. I cannot imagine having these kinds of results without the undying support and unsurpassed care I received, and continue to receive, at the Columbia University Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery. If you want the best for yourself, you have to go to the best to get it!

I wish you the best of luck in your journeys and please remember that it is possible!"

— Irina


...and afterBefore Lynda's surgery..."My weight never hindered me. I've always been heavy - it runs in my family. But when a dental patient complained about my weight, I consulted Dr. Aronne who referred me to Dr. Bessler.

I wanted to schedule surgery immediately after meeting with Dr. Bessler, but he told me to take the weekend to think about it. I appreciated the fact that he didn't push the surgery on me. I weighed nearly 400 pounds before the surgery and have lost over 160 pounds, and counting.

When I have a bad day, I'll call Nancy, Dr. Bessler's registered dietitian, who will help me ride it out. I can travel more – airplane seats aren't uncomfortable any more and I am excited about my new muscles and taking kickboxing and karate classes."

William R.

William R., Pre OpWilliam R., Post Op"My dreams for a better life started with the staff of the Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Although my case was anything but normal (I also had a tumor on my adrenal gland that was pressing up against my spleen), I decided to have both the adrenalectomy and gastric bypass surgeries at the same time.

I can not say enough about Dr. Eva Fischer, Nancy Restuccia and Lorraine Olivero. They have helped me every step of the way. I've lost 125 pounds so far, and I am ready to start a new chapter in my life. My thanks and love to them all."

— William R.


"Before, I was unable to do the things I wanted to do. Now, I can do things I never thought possible. 
Before, I was limited in what I could do. Now, I have accomplished what I never thought I would.
Before, I could get by. Now, I fly."
— Joey

Eric & Patricia

Pre OpPre OpPost Op

"My gastric banding experience has been one of the best decisions of my life. I would do it over and over again." 
— Eric

"I am so happy I had gastric banding surgery. It has given me back my life, and hope. I never thought I would look normal again. I love it."
— Patricia

Testimonial: WL

"What I would say to people considering this surgery is: DO IT! I was 60 years old and fighting 40 years of dieting. I was at 287 pounds and although I was successful at different diets I always regained the weight. At that time I was being treated for sleep apnea and high blood pressure. My cardiologist referred to me as "morbidly obese" in his report. This shook me to my roots. Then my grandson sent me a hand-made birthday card which said I had another half of my life to live. I knew I couldn't live the rest of my life as a morbidly obese person. I had been looking forward to early retirement and wanted to enjoy those years. The frustration of dieting and then regaining the weight was too much. I had to do something.

My daughter-in-law who is a nurse recommended that I see Dr. Bessler and she was with me when I had my first visit with him. She knew all the questions to ask. Dr. Bessler described very carefully the different procedures I could have done and left the choice up to me. I chose to have the gastric bypass and I did not have it done laparoscopically. I would have been on the table longer that way and, with my sleep apnea, I was worried about that. Dr. Bessler gave me the names and numbers of a few patients who had had the surgery and I spoke with a few of them. I became anxious the month before the surgery was scheduled because I had never undergone major surgery before. Speaking with other patients who had the surgery was reassuring and a tremendous help.

I experienced very little pain after the surgery. I was up and walking the same day. For the first 30 days at home I ate only pureed food. I have restricted the amount of sweet foods I eat but other than that I eat virtually everything I want to. My only complication was an infection in the skin next to the incision, which could have been avoided if I had called the doctor sooner. I was back to work within a month, and was up to full speed in every way within two. I never experienced any vomiting and the results have been great.

I've lost 85 pounds in 7 months. I no longer have sleep apnea. My blood pressure is normal. All the joint pain in my knees, hips and ankles is gone. My cholesterol is down, my triglycerides are down, and I feel great. My only regret is that I didn't have the operation sooner! Other than that, I wouldn't do anything differently. If you are considering having this surgery, speak with people who have had it done. This will help you get over your fears. I would be happy to share my experience with anyone who would like to find out more about what is involved in this surgery."

Testimonial: MC

"I had surgery last January and after only three months I have lost 46 pounds. I had been to see six surgeons before I met Dr. Bessler. All were so eager for me to have the surgery they didn't even ask me if I wanted it or not, they just started the scheduling process right away. This bothered me so a friend who works at Columbia University found Dr. Bessler's name for me. I am very happy I choose him as my surgeon. He is wonderful, answered all my questions completely, and did not push me into having the surgery. His staff and everyone at the hospital are all very helpful and nice.

I had high blood pressure and joint pain, which I don't anymore. I walk a mile a day. If I had it to do all over again, I'd have it done sooner. If I were to advise anyone thinking about the surgery, I'd tell them not to be scared and to be persistent in finding the right doctor. And in getting your insurance to pay for the surgery.

Patients who have had this surgery, like the ones quoted, are very enthusiastic about it. They are eager to spread the word and encourage others to have it too. All of them have volunteered to speak to anyone who is serious about having the surgery."

Testimonial: FL

"The first thing I want to say to all who are considering surgery for weight loss is: DIETS DON'T WORK! All my life I've been overweight. I've tried everything, every kind of diet you can imagine. I went to the gym and worked out, but my weight yo-yoed up and down. I could never keep it off. My local internist recommended I see Dr. Bessler for bypass surgery which was done in January of 1998. I was then 470 lbs. Fourteen months later I am down to 370 lbs. Having the surgery was the best decision I ever made.

I had a lot of problems related to my weight. I had sleep apnea, which is now totally resolved. My high blood pressure has come way down. I had pain in my legs and that has cleared up, and I now have more energy than I can ever remember.

In addition to the gastric bypass, Dr. Bessler removed my gallbladder because I had gallstones. I was up and walking around right after the surgery with little pain. I went back to work after two and a half weeks. I put myself on a sugar-free diet so I've had no problem with dumping. Once I ate a piece of beef that I hadn't cut up small enough and I had an uncomfortable feeling but that is the only food-related complication I've had.

The staff in the hospital couldn't have been nicer, and the nurses were terrific. I am thrilled I had it done and I would be happy to talk with anyone over the phone or by email who has any questions about having this surgery done."

Testimonial: LL

"I remember my first meeting with Dr. Bessler. It was August 4, 2000 and I looked like 9 months pregnant. Dr. Bessler described the procedure as he told me he could treat both my hiatal hernia and obesity. Before surgery, I weighed 264 pounds. 18 months after surgery, I was down to 170 pounds and am thrilled to buy size 10 clothes. I have had no stomach pain, no reflux, no heartburn since waking up from surgery.

My side business is making chocolates . I'll mold anything, but I was told that I cannot have sugar post-surgery. I haven't touched chocolate since the surgery. It doesn't even tempt me! But I walk around Manhattan on my lunch hour, and use a treadmill in bad weather. Socializing is not a problem. My favorite meal is pizza, and I have it once a week. I couldn't get up and down stairs before. Now I run up and down the subway steps. It's great!"


Pre OpPost Op"Every day since my surgery has brought a new level of energy and a desire to live my life to its fullest. I can't wait to get up in the morning and walk my two dogs. For the first time, I love the person in my body and I have a positive sense of self.

My respiratory problems are gone and I no longer have constant reflux or aspiration of food. I follow all dietary advice and by gradually building up my exercise to at least 1 hour daily, all my loose flesh has been re-absorbed—without surgery.

My one sadness is that I missed so much time feeling awful. But life is now and it doesn't help to look back. Happiness is a daily blessing. Thank you Dr. Bessler, for helping me become this happy person."


Pre OpPost Op"Two years ago on 8/22, I was sitting in the pre-op waiting area of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. My head was filled with thoughts of what life would be like if I didn't weigh 480 lbs. As Dr. Bessler came in to speak to me and my family, I knew in my heart it was the right decision. Many of us know all too well the silent death we die because we are treated like second class citizens, just because we are fat. The isolation, the depression that only causes us to eat more.

I have given myself two wonderful gifts in my life. The first was therapy, it gave me the ability to let go of all the self-doubt I felt, due to all the failures of losing weight and gaining it back. The surgery was easy, it was the emotional battle of war I had to get through to allow myself to be happy. The second gift was Dr. Bessler and the surgery.

I now weight 285 lbs and I work out at the gym 5 times a week, and it feels great. Instead of lying in bed with a bag of chips and dreaming of the life I always wanted, I am actually living it. My family and friends are so thrilled to see me actively participate and enjoy life. I have recommended the surgery to a lot of my friends and some have done it and others are in the process. I want people to have the same freedom and joy I am now experiencing.

Today I can say I am living the life I dreamed, and I am living a life I love. I can't even begin to express the difference and contribution Dr. Bessler and his staff has made in my life. He has given me the opportunity to take charge of my life and dare to live it to the fullest!

Thank You, Dr. Bessler, for your skilled mind, hands and your loving heart!"