Team effort: Husband and wife undergo weight-loss surgery

WINDBER — Matt and Julie Horton of Roaring Spring knew they should trim down.

Like many overweight people, they had tried diet and exercise routines, but couldn’t keep the weight off.

“I have been overweight my whole life,” Matt Horton said. “We tried all the fad diets. Nothing seemed to work.”

Matthew, 33, and Julie, 30, wanted to be better examples for their two young children, 3-year-old Lucas and 1-year-old Aubrey.

“That was the reason,” Julie Horton said, looking back on the couple’s decision to undergo weight-loss surgery together.

A baseball umpire and stay-at-home dad, Matt Horton said his enthusiasm for sports helped start the conversation.

“I was watching ‘Sports Center’ and (New York) Jets Coach Rex Ryan came on,” Matt Horton recalled. “He had lost 100 pounds. He had Lap- Band surgery. I called her in. We couldn’t believe how much weight he had lost.”

Julie started some research and the two decided Lap-Band surgery was their preferred option. A friend’s recommendation brought them to Dr. Kim Marley at Windber Medical Center.

“It’s the least invasive,” Matt Horton said. “We wanted the minimal surgery we could get.”

Marley offers three weight-loss surgery options, nurse practitioner Nate Sann said.

• Lap-Band surgery introduces an inflatable band that squeezes the stomach into a small upper pouch and a larger lower section. Although still connected, the small opening between the two sections effectively restricts the amount of food that can be consumed at a meal. It also helps reduce the feeling of hunger, Sann said.

“They can eat a small portion of good quality food and feel satisfied,” Sann said. “The band provides stimulus to the nerve endings up there in the stomach. We don’t fully understand it, but we know there are nerves that help control the hunger.”

• Sleeve gastrectomy is growing in popularity, Sann said, explaining that the option removes a large section of the stomach, leaving a slender, banana-shaped tube.

• Gastric bypass may be the best-known option. The surgery involves dividing the stomach and routing food past part of the small intestine.

“It is a combination of restriction and malabsorption,” Sann said. “We get a weight loss with two components with that.

Marley’s team counsels each patient about the pros and cons of each option.

“There are unique advantages and disadvantages to each one,” Sann said. “It depends on what the patient wants to get out of it.”

Regardless of which option is selected, Marley stressed, the surgery is just part of the program.

“They are all tools,” Marley said. “You have to work with them. They have to be willing and able to do the follow-up.”

Follow-up finds both Julie and Matt Horton at the gym nearly every day, as they work toward their personal weight-loss goals: 100 pounds each.

The results are encouraging in their first five months after surgery. Julie Horton is down 35 pounds and her husband has dropped 50 pounds.

“I had sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and I took a stomach pill every day,” Matt Horton said. “I am off all medication except a blood pressure pill. I think another 15 pounds and they will take another look at that.”

“Our energy level has changed,” Julie Horton said. “I think we are happier and healthier.”

A strong, medically based support system is vital to long-term success, Marley said, adding that his Windber program has been recognized as a center of excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

“We have people sent to us from all over to learn how to do follow up programs for Lap- Band surgery,” Marley said. “They come to us to see how to do it and learn how it’s done right.”


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