July 08, 2024

Nurse turns to bariatric surgery to live healthily, inspire others

As COVID-19 spread across the U.S., it became clear to Christy Knott that her excessive weight may cause her serious health issues.

The Westwood, N.J. resident was in her early 30s and working as an emergency department assistant nurse manager for a nearby community hospital.

A person before and after surgeryDescription automatically generated“When the pandemic hit, I had difficulty breathing while wearing the required N-95 mask,” she recalled. “Not only was I obese, but I was also a borderline diabetic and had borderline high cholesterol. After I caught COVID-19, things got worse and I was hospitalized for seven days.”

During that time, Knott knew she needed to make some changes. “I thought, ‘How am I supposed to inspire people to live a healthy life when I weighed 240 pounds?’”

Knott had worked hard, often meeting with a personal trainer. “I tried to stay active, but my knees didn't appreciate it, especially after running three Spartan races,” she recalled. “I wore down all the cartilage in my knees and had three different surgeries to fix them. My joints couldn’t handle the added wear and tear from the extra weight.”

Knott began to research bariatric surgery and met with three different doctors to discuss what she would face. She decided to work with Sarah Wong, M.D., a Hackensack Meridian Pascack Valley Medical Center bariatric surgeon.

“Dr. Wong was phenomenal,” said Knott. “I was especially pleased with how she explained the procedures to Robert, my boyfriend at the time and now my husband. She sat and explained everything that would happen during and after the surgery. He is my support system, so knowing that he understood everything was important.”

Knott also met with the team that supports Dr. Wong to prepare for the surgery.

“I met with the surgical coordinator who told me what I needed to do leading up to surgery,” she said. “The scheduler took care of all my appointments and the nutritionist gave me lots of information about meal planning for and after the surgery.

A diagram of a stomachDescription automatically generatedGastric Sleeve Surgery

Knotts’ gastric sleeve surgery involved the removal of a large portion of her stomach. Dr. Wong kept the stomach at the same length but with a much slimmer width, like a shirt sleeve. Unlike bypass surgery, no changes were made to Knott’s intestines.

Bariatric surgery at Pascack Valley Medical Center is performed with minimally invasive techniques. That means small instruments are used through small incisions and a camera for visualization. This leads to less pain, shorter recovery, and better outcomes for the patients.

With a sleeve gastrectomy, approximately 80% of the volume of the stomach is removed, including the portion of the stomach that produces most of the “hunger hormone.” Afterward, sleeve surgery patients will eat much smaller meals and have fewer cravings than before surgery.

Knott’s surgery was successful without any difficulties or surprises. “Dr. Wong’s bedside manner was wonderful,” she said. “Robert said I was groggy for a while, but Dr. Wong came in and explained everything that happened.  Her calm demeanor was very soothing to both of us.”

Watch a video about the bariatric surgery program at Pascack Valley Medical Center.

New Road to a Healthier Life

After surgery that created a much smaller stomach, Knott’s journey to a healthier life began slowly. During the first two weeks, she could only consume clear liquids, such as water, broth, plain tea and coffee, popsicles, juices without pulp, sodas, and sports drinks.

Two weeks of full liquids followed, such as protein shakes, fruit juices with pulp, plain ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, pudding and strained cream soups with no solids.

Once Knott could digest the above foods without difficulties, she started on two weeks of soft food, such as low-fiber dry or cooked cereals, pasta made with white flour, well-cooked or canned vegetables without seeds or skin, and meats like chicken, turkey, fish and tender cuts of beef and pork.

After those weeks, she slowly introduced normal food into her diet, focusing on high protein, low carbohydrate, and low sugar foods.

The hardest food for Knott to do without was pizza. “We live in the New York tri-state area, so pizza is amazing here. Robert could eat normal foods, so he’d bring pizza home but hide while he ate it,” she said. “That was hard because pepperoni pizza is my favorite!”

Her health improved as she restarted exercising with a more normal diet.

“Once I began regular sessions with my trainer and eating real food, I felt a lot better,” she said. “Robert and I enjoy evening walks to the downtown area; it’s about a mile and a half roundtrip. We also like going to the beach on the Jersey Shore. We are traveling to Jamaica in a few months.”

Since her heaviest weight, Knott has lost 85 pounds and is losing more every month. “My overall quality of life has improved drastically,” she said. “I can now do more hobbies and outdoor activities without feeling exhausted all the time.”

Her breathing is much better and she is no longer borderline diabetic or high cholesterol.

“I owe it all to Dr. Wong and her team,” said Knott. “Their communication was just great. They were very forthcoming and open with everything that needed to be done before and after surgery. I absolutely recommend them to others considering bariatric surgery.”

Knott also said she plans to return to Pascack Valley Medical Center for future health needs.

“When my husband and I start a family, I plan on delivering my children there because it's a good community hospital. They make you feel like a member of their family.”

Pascack Valley Medical Center has received the Healthgrades Bariatric Surgery Excellence Award™ along with a five-star rating in Overall Bariatric Surgery, the only hospital in Bergen County to receive this recognition. The hospital is ranked by Healthgrades as among the top 10% for bariatric surgery.

To learn more about weight loss surgery at Pascack Valley Medical Center, visit our web page.

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