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Take Charge of Your Health With Bariatric Surgery

It’s not an end-all, be-all solution for weight loss, but it offers numerous health benefits.

by Jaymee Barra, UnityPoint Health |
Vickie Maher, pictured before and after bariatric surgery, says she feels better mentally than she has in decades.

People in central Illinois are taking charge of their health and their lives by choosing to undergo bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery is known for its health benefits, including less risk and reversal of health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and blood clots. Dr. Jay Salimath, bariatric surgeon for UnityPoint Health, says there are many more improvements: a decrease in healthcare costs, improvement in fertility and fewer cases of depression.

UnityPoint Health offers three bariatric surgery options for patients: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RNYGB), lap-band and sleeve gastrectomy. “We will recommend which procedure we feel works best based on your health conditions,” Dr. Salimath explains. “Ultimately, you are in control of deciding which surgery you want to pursue.”

Bariatric surgery is not an end-all, be-all solution for weight loss, Salimath stresses. Before surgery, patients need to make a serious commitment to changing their lifestyle. “Weight loss surgery is a treatment tool. Together we will identify your barriers, and our team will give you the tools to overcome them. However, your success depends on your commitment and support system.”

Ease of Recovery
Vickie Maher started noticing extreme weight gain when she turned 40 and was going through menopause. “I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself,” she recalls. At her heaviest weight, Maher experienced pain all over and everyday activities were a struggle. 

After trying fad diets without success, she consulted with Dr. Salimath and her loved ones about her options. In January 2018, she had a sleeve gastrectomy procedure. “I was surprised at how easy it was to physically recover,” Maher explains. “I had my surgery Tuesday, went home Thursday, and was back to work Friday.” 

Today, she says she feels better mentally than she has in decades. She credits her success to her support system: her husband, counselor, Dr. Salimath and the bariatric support group. “Having access to the support group made the process easy,” Maher notes. “It helps with all the unknown: questions, remedies, best practices and information. This is an important part of the journey.” 

Vickie Maher, pictured before and after bariatric surgery, says she feels better mentally than she has in decades.

Overcoming Limitations
Another patient, Debra Inman, chose bariatric surgery to improve several health conditions that were limiting her daily. “I had difficulty breathing, felt fatigued and had a lot of knee pain,” Inman says. “I had arthritis in my joints and had to take a narcotic daily to manage the pain.” 

The pain made it difficult for her to get exercise, and she had a complicated relationship with food. “Food made me feel better until after I ate, then it depressed me,” she explains. With the help of her daughter, Dr. Salimath and support groups, Inman had a sleeve gastrectomy procedure in January 2019. She says she’s 75 percent of the way to meeting her weight loss goal and is now more mindful of what she puts in her body. 

“Losing weight has helped me tremendously with pain,” Inman says. ‘It’s also helped build my confidence back up. I am able to go shopping and do things around the house and yard that were too difficult for me with the extra weight.”

A Smooth Process
Both patients say having their procedures at UnityPoint Health was a smooth process, and they appreciate the resources available through staff and support groups. “I can now do more, enjoy more, experience more,” says Maher. “I would do this again in a heartbeat. Dr. Salimath and his team are wonderful.” 

“I’ve always felt comfortable and safe because of the excellent staff there,” Inman adds. “The staff was very helpful and kind, monitoring me very closely every step of the way.” PM

Before you can receive bariatric surgery at UnityPoint Health, you must attend a mandatory weight loss seminar, available online at