Bariatric surgery helps Melissa look and feel her best

As a hairdresser, Melissa Laschanzky’s job is to help other people look and feel their best.

In May 2015, she decided it was her turn.

For most of her adult life, Melissa, 33, had struggled with obesity. She’d try crash diets and exercise, and these efforts worked—but only for a while.

“I just wouldn’t eat, which is not the best way to lose weight,” she says. “I’d lose like 50 pounds, but then I’d gain back 60.”

Melissa’s weight had reached nearly 370 pounds, putting her at a dangerously high risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Following the advice of a friend who’d had success with weight-loss surgery, Melissa researched her options. Ultimately, she chose the Bariatric Surgery Clinic at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

“I looked into other programs, but they just didn’t feel right,” says Melissa, who lives in Rock Island, Illinois, and works in nearby Davenport, Iowa. “At the University of Iowa, you could tell right away that they really cared about you as a person.”

One of the first steps in Melissa’s treatment program involved learning about the importance of diet and discipline. For six months, she kept a log of everything she ate and followed a nutrition plan developed by dieticians with the UI bariatric surgery program. In those six months, Melissa lost 94 pounds.

“That was one of the best things they did—helping me change my diet,” she says. “I still use the diet plan. It helps me keep track of what, and how much, I eat.”

As part of the UI bariatric program, Melissa also received counseling to help her prepare for the physical changes and emotional challenges she would face.

“They explained how it’s a lifelong commitment, and surgery is not the end,” she says. “It’s also about eating right and being healthy every day moving forward.”

In late December 2015, Melissa underwent Roux-en Y gastric bypass surgery. A laparoscopic (minimally invasive) procedure, this type of weight-loss surgery reduces a patient’s upper stomach to a small pouch, which limits the amount of food the patient can eat before feeling full. The surgical team then connects the pouch to an area of the small intestine known as the Roux limb, bypassing the rest of the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. This minimizes the number of calories that can be absorbed from the food.

Melissa’s surgery team was led by UI bariatric surgeon Jessica Smith, MD. The Roux-en Y procedure was a success, and Melissa was able to go home the next day. Within a week of her surgery, she was back to work.

“Melissa’s story is a perfect example of how bariatric surgery can be the additional tool so many patients need to be successful with long-term weight loss,” Smith says. “Diet and exercise alone for patients who have more than 100 pounds of extra weight to lose is successful in only about 3 percent of people. Patients who undergo bariatric surgery are able to lose significant amounts of weight and keep it off long-term in 65 to 75 percent of cases.”

By adding bariatric surgery to the hard work she had already put in to lose weight, Melissa gave herself far better chances of success, Smith notes.

“Melissa is an amazing person whose energy and outlook have always been positive, and have been a major factor in her success,” Smith says. “It’s so great to be part of the journey with her.”

Today, Melissa feels great. She spends at least a half-hour each day exercising at home or walking in her neighborhood. She follows a healthful diet. She has more energy, and her knees and feet don’t hurt like they used to from standing all day at the barber shop.

And she’s taking part in activities she hasn’t enjoyed in years—like the annual Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport.

“I went to the fair this year, and I could actually fit into the rides. That probably doesn’t seem like much, but for me that was a big accomplishment. Also, just being able to walk up the stairs without feeling like I’d just run a marathon was really nice.”

For Melissa, having the support of friends, colleagues, and family was key to her successful journey to a healthier future.

“I know I would have never been as successful as I have been if it hadn’t been for my father,” she says.

Melissa would recommend the UI Bariatric Surgery Clinic to anyone who’s serious about weight-loss surgery and the commitment that comes both before and after the procedure.

“I’ve been very pleased,” she says. “The University of Iowa team knew exactly what needed to be done, they explained the process and my options, and they made it all very easy.”

Many of Melissa’s customers still marvel at her transformation.

“I had clients who hadn’t been in for a while ask me, ‘Is Melissa here? I used to have this bigger girl cut my hair.’ And I’d say ‘Yes, that’s me. Or better yet, that was me.’”