Anthony Damodio, 30, remembers what life was like life, topping the scales at more than 450 pounds.
“I couldn’t buy clothes at a normal store or do activities without feeling sore or tired,” the 6-foot-tall Barnegat resident, an EMT, said. “On the job, I was going on calls looking worse than my patients, and everyone had something negative to say to me. I was depressed all the time.”
Following the 2009 removal of his gall bladder, his doctor discussed the option of gastric band surgery.
“I was borderline diabetic and realized that if I didn’t do something, I might die before I was 35,” said Damodio, who elected to undergo the procedure in April 2010.
A pause mechanism
The procedure was recently brought to the forefront by Gov. Chris Christie, who revealed on May 7 that he’d secretly had the surgery performed in February to enhance his long-term health.
Gastric band — also known as the trademarked LAP-BAND — surgery is one of three major procedures done for those struggling with excessive weight and body mass indexes of 35 or higher, said Dr. Jonathan Reich, a board-certified surgeon specializing in laparoscopic and bariatric procedures at Southern Ocean Medical Center in Stafford.
“Though it can drive the fastest weight loss, the gastric bypass is considered the most invasive in that it involves stomach stapling combined with a rerouting of the intestines and is irreversible,” he said.
Less invasive though still irreversible, “a gastric sleeve procedure uses stapling devices to remove the outer three-quarters of the stomach and works by reducing the stomach’s volume, causing it to empty more slowly, keep you fuller longer, and reduce the levels of appetite hormones like ghrelin,” he said.
Finally, gastric band surgery, the least invasive of the procedures, involves the placement of a band around the upper portion of the stomach to reduce volume and limit the appetite, usually to 4- to 6-ounce portions at a time. “Like an hourglass,” Reich explained, “a lap band causes food to both trickle through and digest more slowly, which keeps you fuller longer. It acts like a funnel and a pause mechanism.”
“I think the governor made a great choice for his health,” Reich said of Christie’s decision. “He was at a difficult spot with his weight and was at an age where medical problems like high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes can set in.”
After the 45-minute gastric band procedure, done laparoscopically using small incisions, patients may feel fullness or discomfort if they eat too much or too quickly at a sitting. But the procedure typically reduces a patient’s excess body weight by 50 percent within a year and getting them to or near their ideal weight within 1½ to 2 years after the procedure, he said.
“As you lose weight, however, your stomach loses weight, too, so you need to tighten the band to maintain the pressure and sense of fullness,” Reich said. “This is done through the addition of fluid to the band system every six weeks for the first year, then once every three months until you’re in range of your ideal weight.”
Now down to 226 pounds — half of his previous size — Damodio raves about being “reborn” following his gastric band surgery three years ago. “I have so much energy now and love looking in the mirror; my confidence is through the roof.” he said.
Damodio’s success was so inspiring that his wife, Ashley, 27, a police dispatcher, also elected to have the procedure done, in 2011. Down 90 pounds so far and looking forward to starting their family in the near future, “it’s definitely been worth it, and has made my life easier, happier and healthier.”