Local woman undergoes procedure to lose 100 pounds

After years of following exercise and diet trends to no avail, Christie Peck, of Williamsport, underwent endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty to help her body lose weight just over a year ago — she has since lost over 100 pounds.

“It’s been a journey,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle change, not just an easy fix.”

The procedure entails using miniature sutures to sew the walls of the stomach together, shrinking it by about 70 percent, said Dr. Vivek Kumbhari, director of bariatric endoscopy for Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, who performed Peck’s procedure. The whole thing is done using an endoscope that enters the stomach through the mouth, so no cuts are made.

Kumbhari called the gastroplasty a “day procedure,” saying it takes only an hour or so and requires little recovery time.

“Go through the procedure on Friday, be back to work on Monday,” he said. “Not only is it technically simpler, it causes less disturbance to one’s life.”

Though the procedure itself isn’t as disruptive as other bariatric surgeries, it does require effort from the patient in order to see the best results. Eating right and exercising are the best ways to lose weight and keep it off, Kumbhari said.

The lifestyle change was difficult for Peck, who works in the outreach unit for Children and Youth Services and sometimes has little time to squeeze in a workout. Now she incorporates movement by walking her dogs instead of just tying them outside, going to trampoline classes at Fly World, doing yoga and going horseback riding.

“I still do not enjoy exercise,” she said, laughing. “So I wanted to find things that were fun and didn’t seem like exercise.”

The nutrition aspect has been a little easier for her due to the procedure helping her feel fuller more quickly and for longer periods of time, but it can still be tough, she said.

“So much socialization revolves around food and drinking,” Peck said. “I used to go out for lunch every day, which was a nice break from work.

Now I pack my lunches.”

The procedure comes with a tool that has helped Peck stay on top of her lifestyle changes and weightloss goals — a support system. Included in the price of the procedure is year-long access to nutritionists, exercise specialists, behavioral psychologists and more.

“We think it’s very important to maintain contact with our patients. To get long-term success, you need to have support to really make sure that all the weight you’ve lost you keep off,” Kumbhari said. “Keeping the weight off forever is in fact a very active and engaged process. We really cover all aspects needed for a good, longterm outcome.”

Coming in at a whopping $16,000, the procedure’s price tag tends to scare people off despite being all-inclusive, Kumbhari said.

To make matters worse, insurance coverage is not available despite the procedure not being considered cosmetic. He added that Johns Hopkins officials have been campaigning to get coverage, but he doesn’t foresee insurance companies complying anytime soon.

“One of the biggest frustrations — because we know it works, it’s very effective — is the fact it’s not covered by insurance,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, really, because there are a lot of people that could benefit from this procedure who aren’t able to because of its cost.”

Peck agreed, saying the process has been worthwhile despite the cost.

“Financially, it was a huge investment,” she said. “But it was a good pressure to have. I have so much more energy. I sleep better — that’s huge. I feel better about myself.”