Tonawanda News

Features

September 16, 2013

Year-old bariatric surgery program at Falls medical center is changing lives

Tonawanda News — Lisa Mueller wishes she would have had the weight-loss surgery years ago. 

Nine months after his surgery, Bill Burkett of North Tonawanda says “I feel like a million dollars.”

And Jessica Campbell-Lewis, an nurse supervisor at Summit Family Health in Niagara Falls, is planning to have the surgery as soon as possible. She’s living on milkshakes due to a hiatal hernia which causes severe acid reflux and is looking forward to being able to eat regular food, when her hernia is fixed during her gastric sleeve surgery.

She’s also looking forward to a more normal life. 

“I’m hoping to be able to start to enjoy my children a little bit more, and being able to ride a roller coaster again. I don’t fit in the seats.”

The three are clients in a new year-old program at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and all report the weight-loss procedures have put them on a life-changing path to a healthier, more satisfying life.

The program has helped more than 40 patients, who received one of three laser surgeries available, including gastric bypass, gastric bands and gastric sleeves. 

Dr. Bala Thatigotla, known as “Dr. Bala” who runs the program with Dr. Dang Tuan Pham, said the life-changing nature of the surgery — which typically also reduces symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea — is why its his favorite medical procedure.

“I do a wide range of surgeries,” said Thatigotla, who is among the first in the region to perform such complex surgeries by laser with the hospital’s new robotic surgery system, called the most comprehensive of its type in Western New York. He said the gastric weight-loss surgery “touches his heart,” because it changes lives so dramatically. 

“No other surgery can bring this kind of drastic change in personality and quality of life. They have been struggling for 15-20 years and all of a sudden they have a new lease on life,” Thatigotla said of his patients.

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