SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The journey of weight loss is very different for every person.
“We know that obesity can be a difficult disease to live with and a frustrating problem to treat,” said surgeon Jeannine Giovanni, director of bariatric surgery at Care New England.
Care New England’s Center for Surgical Weight Loss wanted to provide patients in South County with easier access to consultation and treatment. After more than a year that goal became reality Tuesday, when the center opened a new location at 49 South County Commons Way to patients.
“We’re here and we’re ready to help anyone struggling with weight issues take back their power to live their best life,” Giovanni said. “Obesity affects all kinds of people. It’s not uncommon that we see entire families that are affected.”
The center complements its flagship location in Warwick, offering complete and comprehensive bariatrics services to patients. Surgeries are performed at Kent Hospital in Warwick.
“We’re bringing everything here that’s up there, minus the actual operating room,” Giovanni said.
Located within a second-floor suite of medical offices at South County Commons, the center offers private exam rooms for the doctors to consult with their patients.
“Patients also have to do a series of follow-ups, up to five years. We have the ability to do all that follow-up in a patient’s own neighborhood,” Giovanni said. The center also has an on-site lab and works with the monthly nutrition group at South County Hospital.
“There’s no other program in southern Rhode Island,” said surgeon Lindsay Tse, who works with Giovanni in the South County location, which is open on the first Tuesday of every month, for now.
“We talk with patients about the surgery about what to expect after the surgery, the risks and benefits, and what to do pre-operatively and what you can expect post operatively as well,” Tse said. “We’re hoping to expand into the southern part of the state and have more patients that maybe wouldn’t have access to bariatric surgery come and see us.”
The surgery itself has evolved over many years, and become safer than when initially developed, they said. Five small incisions are typically all it takes, Tse said. Patients are usually up and moving around right after the surgery, with most going home within 24 hours, she said.
Surgery, though, is just one small piece of the whole procedure and treatment of the disease.
“What we find more challenging for patients is just the amount of follow-up,” Giovanni said. “What we’ve tried to do is streamline it and keep it all in one location, to try to make it one-stop shopping.”
The doctors hope that once COVID-19 wanes, they’ll be able to offer live, in-person seminars to the patients.
“I think it’s a nice opportunity for the patients to get comfortable with us, to ask questions and to really understand what it’s about,” Giovanni said.
Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat, the doctors point out. It’s a medical problem that increases one’s risk of other diseases and health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the state of Rhode Island alone, between 25 to 30 percent of people fall into the category of being obese.
Giovanni said anyone with a body mass index of greater than 40, or greater than 35 with other weight-related factors such as diabetes, sleep apnea or high blood pressure should consider weight loss surgery.
“And additionally anybody that’s struggled for a while with weight. They’ve tried diet, they’ve tried exercise and they feel it’s just not helping enough.”
One such bariatric patient, featured in a video of Center for Surgical Weight Loss success stories, is Richard Corso. He had experienced teasing and mocking about his weight from the time he was a child on the school bus.
At his heaviest, Corso weighed 423 lbs., and simple things such as walking were difficult.
“I hated flying. I had always wanted to do zip lining,” he said.
Research and word of mouth led Corso to the Center for Surgical Weight Loss and to Giovanni.
“She was so easy to talk to, and that’s really important,” he said. “One of the things that stuck out to me that she said was that willpower doesn’t work.”
Prior to the surgery, Corso and other patients had to attend a free webinar before setting up an in-person consultation, and undergo routine testing before surgery and commit to a healthier lifestyle.
After surgery, Corso weighed 230 lbs., and his outlook had changed.
“Things are so much better now,” said Corso. “I’ve done zip lining, I don’t fear flying anymore. I don’t even fear going back to the doctor.”