Surgical Weight Loss – Patient Education and Resources
Patient education and support are key components of long-term surgical weight loss success. The surgical weight loss team is committed to providing patients with the resources needed.
For questions about patient support resources, please call
Support and encouragement
Learn about support groups and classes, and hear what patients have to say about their experiences.
View our surgical weight loss information session to help determine if surgical weight-loss surgery is right for you.
Penn State Surgical Weight Loss Information Seminar
New Dimensions Support Group
As a benefit to patients in the program and as a service to the community, the Penn State Surgical Weight Loss program hosts a monthly support group.
The group generally meets on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Surgical Weight Loss program clinic, 3100 Schoolhouse Road in Middletown. All pre-op and post-op patients, friends and family are welcome.
Registration and session dates
Please call 717-531-7260 to register and receive information on upcoming sessions.
Adult and pediatric weight management classes
Looking to slim down? Or get a refresher on healthy eating and exercising to get back on track? The dieticians offer individualized counseling for children (age 14 or older) and adults. For more information, call 717-531-7260.
We’re proud to share testimonials from our patients.
"My journey through surgical weight loss has had its challenges but I would never go back and change my decision. For the first time in almost 12 years I feel AWESOME! Now.... I'm turning peoples' heads and feeling beautiful! I am finally able to enjoy everyday activities that many take for granted. I'm not short of breathe, tired, or just not feeling good. I have no need for my high blood pressure or diabetes medications anymore. I enjoy getting into a bathing suit, doing my daily work-out and actually completing it, and shopping at all those stores I would have never... nor could I have ever shopped at before. For the first time in 12 years I was able to go sledding with my kids. I was even able to share a sled with my son and daughter and not be completely embarrassed due to being overweight. My daughter hugged me the other day and I won't ever forget what she said... "Mom, I can put my arms all the way around you now!" This really touched me! My family means the world to me and through my weight loss surgical journey I have seen this love and devotion that my family has had for me. I couldn't have done this without their love and support!"
"I cannot say enough about Dr. Ann Rogers and her team. I had 14 different diseases before surgery. The 14th one Dr. Rogers found during my surgery; my liver was in the beginning stages of cirrhosis because of all the medication I was on. I came through the surgery with no complications and I was even asked the day after surgery by one of the team members, "Do you want to go home"? I was up walking the day of the surgery not far, but walking and this I would highly suggest. I feel the sooner you get up and moving, the better.
I came home from Hershey Hospital in May 2011 and out of the 14 different medications I was on, I am now on two, one for my thyroid, which the doctor did decrease the amount and I take a 1 mg pill to help me sleep.
I am a firm believer in prayer, gastric bypass and Dr. Ann Rogers; all three have saved my life!
One suggestion I have to anyone considering the gastric bypass surgery is you need to really listened and followed instructions of Dr. Ann Rogers and her team before and after the surgery; you will be glad you did!!!!
At my one year check up; I had lost 98 pounds!!!! I am continuing to watch what I eat and I exercise for a half hour at least five days a week.
Thank you Dr. Rogers!!!!"
"The patient is morbidly obese."
"She was depressed and irritable, often becoming very angry. She had difficulty sleeping and was more tearful than usual, less sociable, and was experiencing suicidal thoughts."
"She is in a vicious cycle tailspin whereby the more she eats and the more she weighs the more depressed she is."
Who could they be talking about?
My name is Amy McKelvey. The quotes above are actual statements from my medical records. I underwent gastric bypass surgery on March 23, 2001. I was 28 years old and weighed in at 353 lbs. I had numerous health problems including: Diabetes, High Cholesterol, Urinary Incontinence, Edema, PCOS and Clinical Depression. Routine daily tasks were impossible for me to perform. I could not tie my own shoes, fasten the seatbelt in my car or clean myself after using the toilet. I was taking 43 pills a day and 75 units of insulin.
It has been over two and a half years since my surgery and I'm doing wonderful. I've gone from a size 32W to a 12 and dropped an amazing 170lbs.! My diabetes is gone as are all of my other health problems. I feel as if I have been given a "second chance." Life is great! Thank you everyone at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for giving me the tool I needed to succeed.
I just wanted to share my FABULOUS news/milestone with you. As of this morning, I am 100 pounds down from my highest weight. There were tears and I got on the scale about 5 times, just to be sure the numbers weren't a hallucination. If anyone had told me when I was wheeled into the OR on December 14, 2011 that not even 6 months later I would be 100 pounds lighter, I'm not sure I would have believed them. But here I am, 10 days shy of the 6 month anniversary, and 100 pounds gone. I realize I still have a way to go, but I feel incredible and am constantly amazed at the increase in energy level and the activities I can do that once seemed impossible. When I started my pre-op exercise program with Mike Zehner, I was lucky if I could stay on the treadmill for 15 minutes at a time (and that made me feel like I was going to die!). Last weekend I hiked a little over 4 miles with my brother and only needed to stop for a rest once. It's crazy! Words cannot express how grateful I am to all of you in the Hershey Surgical Weight Loss program. Thank you all so very much! I feel like a whole new person.
It is certainly not the easy way out as some people believe, but I really feel like your program prepared me thoroughly for the life I was choosing for myself. I'm looking forward to my 6 month lab appointment with Dr. Bird in a few weeks--he actually high fived me for doing so well in March and I'm sure when I come in on the 22nd 100+ pounds down, he'll be thrilled! I could shout from the rooftops what a great program you have!
Thank you, again, for giving me this new chance at life!
"My name is Jenn, and I'm 27 years old. In March of 2009 I reached my all-time highest weight of 331 lbs, and made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery, as I had struggled for the last five years to lose weight and wasn't getting anywhere. After six months of visits with a nutritionist, logging my food intake and learning healthier eating habits, I had gastric bypass surgery on November 18th, 2009, performed by Ann Rogers at Penn State Hershey.
I'm now almost two years post-op and have lost 165 lbs. I am happier, but most importantly I am healthier. Surgical weight loss is by no means the easy way out, but for people who have struggled unsuccessfully to lose weight via traditional means of weight loss, surgical weight loss is a tool that is worth investing. I may have to spend the rest of my life carefully monitoring my nutritional habits to make sure that I am taking in enough protein, vitamins, and minerals via supplements, but being healthy and happy is well worth it! Ann Rogers and the entire surgical weight loss team at Penn State Hershey have forever changed my life for the better. Thank you!"
"February 18, 2009 . . . this date altered my life forever. This was the date of my surgery and the date that my new outlook on life began. Since my surgery I have lost 140 pounds and I feel amazing. I do need to tell you that it is definitely not a fix all. This is a tool that was given to me to assist with my weight loss journey. I can tell you that I personally have not had any issues with my surgery, but I strictly follow the Surgical Teams recommendations. I also must tell you that it is not the surgery alone that has brought these results; it is also a lifestyle change. I am now very focused on eating healthy, exercising and having an overall wellness balance. I need to tell you I feel . . . AWESOME! If you are willing to make this commitment in your life, this tool will be the start of something extraordinary!"
I was in my own little world. I was very dependent on my husband for everything. I was just sitting around and sleeping and getting bigger, but not knowing it, because stretch clothes stretch. I still can't believe I let myself go. How did it happen? Where was I? I was living in a bubble. Then I saw some pictures and I couldn't believe that the person I was looking at was me. I was some kind of freak. How could my husband love me? How could anyone love me? I cried all the time. The more I cried the more I ate. I felt so low. I felt I was going to die soon if I didn't do something and that made me eat more. I'm a food addict. Plain and simple, I will never be able to eat normal. I have to make a life style change. That change will start April 30, 2001.
The worst things about being overweight:
- Not being able to clean yourself
- Not being able to play on the floor with your only baby girl
- Not being able to make love to my husband
- Not being able to fit behind a steering wheel of a car, or sit in a booth
- Not being able to tie your shoes
- Not being able to shop because of the pain in your hips and your back. Wondering what the public thinks of you.
- Not being able to work because no one would hire you (and do you blame them?)
- Not being able to play softball
- Not being able to go clothing shopping.
- Being a captive in your own home because you know it's a safe place to be, and you won't be caught off guard or be embarrassed by someone or something.
When I saw Carney Wilson on TV, I was taking in all the information, and storing it in my sub-conscience. Later on when my husband and I were fighting about me not contributing around the house and with our daughter, I told him I physically could not do anything. The next day I sat him down and told him that I wanted to have gastric bypass surgery. He was really surprised that I would go to such an extreme approach. I felt this was my last shot of having a life. I still don't think surgery is extreme. It may only seem extreme to people who don't understand or who are normal eaters.
I was scared to death, but I kept thinking positively. I kept thinking how my life was going to get better, and that's what got me through. I thought what's going to happen if I don't have this operation? I had an uncle who died last year. We were never close, but I cried for days because I could relate to his pain. You see, that could’ve been me in that bed dying. He was only 48 and died of morbid obesity.
My husband was very supportive through the whole process. My mom, who is very active with overeaters anonymous, was very scared of the risks of surgery. She knew that surgery was not a cure, and that mentally, my cravings would still be there. She was concerned that if the cravings were still there, then how was I going to deal with them? I felt the same way. This surgery is a tool we are given to guide use through are weight loss goals. Once I understood that I would have to mentally deal with my cravings even after surgery, my mom became very supportive. Other people didn’t understand, and it hurt! To be honest, my husband, mom, cousin, and best friend were all the positive support I needed. They were there for me and that's what counted most!
Meeting the Surgery Team
I felt like a child every time I was sick or in the hospital. I look up to doctors as authority figures and feel vulnerable when I am around them. I needed a doctor who could be gentle and not make me feel like a child who has done something wrong. I also wanted a doctor that knew what they were doing.
I didn’t feel judged and wasn’t ashamed. His staff was very helpful. I live 2 hours away, and have been going to the support groups that started just a few months before my first appointment. I was willing to follow up on their aftercare no matter how far I had to drive. I saw the nutritionist regularly before surgery and knew I would have to follow up after surgery as well. They were very well informed on what was to follow. I felt comfortable with them. I felt that they addressed the risks very well. As an overall opinion of the teaching hospital, the doctor and nutritionist, I was very impressed. I would rate them very high. The only problem I had was with the psych evaluation. I felt that they weren't educated about food addicts.
Well it is know a little over a year, and I am planning on getting pregnant, I have a GREAT job, a fantastic relationship with my husband and relatives. I feel like the energizer bunny. I still have 60lbs more to lose and am averaging 5 lbs loss a month now, and I am thrilled!
My life changed for better or for worse on November 17, 1998. Most people remember specific dates like weddings, anniversaries or birthdays. My special day will always be the day of my surgery. The reason I say for better or for worse is because for each person this type of surgery brings different results, both good and bad. I can tell you I am now, as I'm writing this, 215 pounds lighter than I was before that day. I am healthier, stronger, and more confident in my abilities to do anything I want. The confidence does not come from simply being thinner as I'm sure you might think. It comes from recovering from the most difficult thing I've ever done.
Gastric by-pass, stomach stapling in layman's terms, is not to be considered lightly. I can honestly tell you I've experienced more physical pain than I ever wish to again. I've been more nauseous and sicker than ever before. And I've had to deal with emotional issues I never expected. But I can also tell you that some wonderful things have happened since the surgery. I can walk, run, bike, dance, and just go through a day without the physical and emotional struggle of dragging 215 extra pounds with me. My critical medical conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic back and knee pain, sleep apnea, and pseudo-tumor cerebral, have all been erased. And people actually smile at me instead of looking away, trying to pretend I'm not there. It's amazing to me that now that there is "visually" less of me, there is now "conceptually" more of me. I am more here than ever before, both for others and for myself. I'm not sure I can explain that in more detail and have it become any clearer. It may be one of those things that need to be experienced to be fully understood.
The most important point I'd like to stress is that it is not the operation that brings about these changes. It is my commitment to the procedure, the process and the continuing improvement of my health that brought about these changes. My life is now not focused on dieting, loosing weight, becoming thin. It is now my goal every day to be healthy; physically, emotionally, spiritually healthy. To have wellness as my lifestyle. The pounds coming off is simply a side effect of that effort. Gastric by-pass is not a magic wand, a miracle pill, an answer in itself by any means. But if you are willing to make the changes necessary to have it help you become more healthy, it can be the beginning of something wonderful! I'd like to take this extra chance to thank all the nurses, doctors, surgeons and nutritionists at Hershey Medical Center for helping me towards this goal.
My actual birth date is August 7, 1963, but I am now also celebrating July 9,2001 as my new birth date. That was the day I had an open Roux-N-Y gastric bypass by Dr Robert Cooney. My life has changed so much in the past year. All for the better.
I have been overweight my whole life. The only time I remember not being overweight was when I had a growth spurt at age 12. At 5’7" I was 150 pounds and I thought I was heavy at that weight. Within a few short years I hit 200 plus pounds and would yo yo up and down for the next 20 years. I had been on every diet imaginable. Losing the weight was not the problem it was keeping it off. I figure I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years.
I first heard of gastric bypass surgery in 1998 when one of my friends had it done. At first I was very skeptical of this type of surgery. I talked to her about the surgery over the next 2 years. I saw what a difference it made in her life and that led me to start researching the surgery and to pursue having it done.
By the middle of 2000 I had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my spine, hips, knees and ankles due to the wear and tear on my joints from my excess weight. I also was diagnosed with sleep apnea which is another problem associated with being obese. Both of my parents have diabetes and I realized that at the rate I was going, it would only be a matter of time before diabetes caught up with me.
I was married with two teenagers and I was scared that if I didn’t do something right then and there to lose weight, then I would not live long enough to see my future grandchildren.
In February 2001 I had my first consult with the dietitian, Janelle McLeod. I weighed 302 lbs and had a BMI of 47. By April, my insurance company had given approval and my surgery was scheduled for July 9th.
I was blessed that the surgery was uneventful and I was back to work in 6 weeks. As of today, July 9,2002 I have lost 140 pounds. I used to wear size 26-28 clothes and I now wear size 10-12’s. My sleep apnea has completely disappeared and my joints are thanking me everyday.
This surgery is not for everyone. It is a tool and you can abuse it and gain your weight back. The surgery and nutrition plan are a life long commitment and only you can decide if this is a commitment you are willing to stick to. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
My name is Jennifer, I am 32, and I weigh 168 pounds right now. To many people that may not be something special, but it is incredible to me. See 19 months ago I weighed 429 pounds. That’s right, 429 pounds. I had Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the list goes on and on.
I tried everything, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, you name it, I tried it. I was a regular sized baby, a chunky kid, a fat teenager, and a morbidly obese adult, according to my doctor’s chart. It was so hurtful, picking up my own doctor’s file and seeing those 2 words, “morbidly obese.”
Well, after many years of contemplating, and dieting and gaining, and dieting and gaining, and loosing money, I became severely depressed, and turned to drugs. I became an addict of many drugs. But by the grace of God, I overcame my addiction, and have been off drugs for 8 1/2 years.
Than in January of 2003 I decided to take the final step in making myself healthy. I went to an information session on open RNY gastric bypass surgery, and did everything my insurance called for. June 2, 2003 I had an open RNY performed by Dr. Robert Cooney at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. He is an amazing doctor and Hershey Medical is an amazing hospital. I had great care!
In October of 2004, I had my panniculectomy and hernia repair done, and as of this morning, I weigh 168 pounds. I no longer have diabetes, or high blood pressure. I have never been so happy or so healthy. If I had to do this all over again, I would do it in a minute!!
I had no complications from surgery, and I have the best support in the world, between my fiancee, my mother, and my support group "New Dimensions" from Hershey Medical Center. They are the best feet I can get when I need that extra kick in the butt!!
Also, I want to take a moment to thank Barbara Thompson. Your book and your newsletters are a HUGE inspiration!! All, I want to say is thank you to God for keeping me healthy, my fiancee for standing by me through rough times and my mom for being my "Angel." And to New Dimensions from Hershey Pa, “You guys are the best!”
“Before weight loss surgery, working, eating, and sleeping took up all of my energy. Walking—and even standing—for any period of time were two of my biggest challenges. Today I have my life back, and am enjoying all of the things I wasn’t able to before, like swimming, bike riding, running, and even tying my shoes.”
I grew up in an Italian-American family. I don’t know about other families, but it seems that mine had many pre-conceived notions. One very important factor in my road to obesity and what led me on this weight loss surgery journey was that my family was most definitely dysfunctional. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have an easy childhood, but it made me who I am and I’m getting to like that person more and more each day. As children we were not allowed to leave the table if we didn’t clean our plates. We were constantly told about the starving children in China and how it wasn’t fair to them if we didn’t finish our food. I could never figure out how us eating over here in America was going to do those kids in China any good. Having an Italian background also meant that food was pretty much an answer to everything.
I was unhappy as a child, I learned to make food the answer for me. I would sneak into the refrigerator for food all of the time. That went on for a while until my Dad figured it out and started to sabotage the food. That wasn’t going to stop me. I began to find other crafty ways to hoard food. For every problem, mood-swing or depression, food was the solution, comfort and friend. I would tell myself that I don’t really eat that much, but there was the (secret) eating. I binged, and then guilt hit me so I purged! I didn’t realize that anything was wrong. I didn’t realize that I was hurting myself. I also didn’t care.
In 1997 I had an accident and injured several discs in my back and neck which left me pretty immobile. I had to leave work and go on Social Security disability. I weighed around 320 pounds by this time. I couldn’t walk very well and was using a cane. I began my withdrawal from the world. I gained even more weight and I was disgusted with myself. In 1998 my husband and I relocated to Lancaster, PA from Brooklyn, NY so that I would be able to get better medical care. I was mostly getting around in a wheelchair, which was such a burden on my husband. I became afraid to live. I was so big I was always worried about what people thought of me. I was afraid of falling again too. I got into an excellent day program for eating disorders and that was the beginning of my salvation. I learned so much about myself and why I had the problems I did, and I began to heal emotionally. Thank you so much Jennifer, Angie and Susan!
Unfortunately, I still had all the physical problems to deal with. I was taking many medications. I hated living this way but I had no idea what to do. I felt helpless! One day I picked up a magazine and it had Carnie Wilson on the cover. The inside story told about her having RNY Gastric Bypass surgery. Although I was terrified of the thought of surgery, I was intrigued with the idea that surgery could change her life so drastically and wondered if it could do the same for me. I talked about it with my husband and as always he was supportive, so I started to do the research. I had herniated discs in my back and neck, osteo-arthritis, my knees were shot, and I was in pain all of the time. I couldn’t lose weight because I couldn’t really move around and I was so depressed with my current situation that I really didn’t want to live this way any longer. My doctor suggested that I check out the surgical weight loss program at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
I began to go through all of the procedures that Penn State Hershey program requires of you. I remember sitting there in my wheelchair feeling like it was all a dream. Was this really me? Was I really going to go through with this? The day I met Dr. Ku, I was really sure I was doing the right thing. He made me feel very comfortable and I felt completely safe in his hands. (also, I threatened to come back and haunt him if I died!)
I had my surgery on October 3, 2001. Surgery went pretty smoothly for me. I didn’t have any serious complications, however, I did have to stay in the hospital a bit longer. I weighed 378 lbs the day of my surgery. I lost over 117lbs in 8 months and am still dropping. I can’t believe it! I never thought it would be possible for me. I no longer need a wheelchair I AM WALKING! I’m not going to say that it has been easy for me. There are days when the pain is still unbearable, but I know that I will get through it and tomorrow will be better. My quality of life has improved dramatically! I have started going to school. My husband and I are even considering starting a family.
The most important thing, is not what I can do right now, but the hope of what I can accomplish in the future. I never had that hope before. I never thought there would be a future for me. I am so grateful for the chance that I have been given through the grace of God, the skillful hands of my surgeon, Dr. Ku, the expertise and the genuine concern of the Dietitians, Janelle and Heather.
I also want to thank my husband, Rob. You are the one that made this all possible for me. We stood by each other during the hardest times in our lives and we never gave up on each other. I never will! I love you.
If I were to give any advice and I am no expert by any means, I would have to tell anyone who is interested in having this surgery that you have to really want it, in the deepest part of your heart and soul you have to know that it’s the right thing for you. You have to be prepared to work, and I mean work hard, everyday is a struggle, this is no magic cure, it’s a very special.
“Weight loss surgery changed my life. I’ve lost 165 pounds, and no longer need medication to control my blood pressure and cholesterol. I have more self-confidence than ever before. I don’t feel that people look at me as someone who was obese; instead, they look at me for who I am.”
“The best things that have happened to me since my surgery are the little things: being able to fit into chairs, not having to turn sideways to squeeze through certain places, not sweating all of the time, and being able to breathe normally when climbing a flight of stairs.”
“I will never forget the smile on my son’s face when I was able to get on the amusement park rides with him for the very first time. Now I can finally enjoy life, and go out in public without worrying about what other people are thinking.”