Dena’s Story

Dena Zucker - afterWhen I was 39 years young, I was in desperate need of new knees. I had arthritis in both of them and the 350 pounds of body weight I carried just wore them down, bone on bone. My orthopedist refused to replace them until I lost a substantial amount of weight. He suggested that I see Dr. Brolin and have Gastric Bypass Surgery. It would offer me the quickest way to lose the weight and then I could get my new knees.

At that time, I had to wait quite a while for my consultation so I took the opportunity to join a weight loss program. I could have used all that time waiting by eating myself into oblivion, but I chose to do the opposite. I also joined NJ Bariatrics’ support group. I met some incredible people, some of whom have become lifelong friends. I also made a promise to myself to give back when the time was right. I managed to lose 30 pounds before my consult and miraculously maintained that weight until my big day.

My surgery took place July 5th of 2001, my new Independence Day! That’s the day that I crossed over to the “lighter side” and my new life had begun. I had lost enough weight by December that same year and I finally received my new knees.

Life was beautiful!

Dena Zucker - beforeI never felt better and I could walk all day long. I could go into regular women’s stores and purchase regular size clothing. Plus-size was a thing of the past! I was able to sit comfortably in an airline seat without needing a seatbelt extender. I could sit at a booth in a restaurant and I was finally able to enjoy lots of extra room. My sleep apnea was gone and I had an endless amount of energy.

All and all, I lost a total of 150 pounds.

The time had come for me to give back. I volunteered to help run the NJ Bariatrics support group meetings. I was asked to “angel” many patients and it was always my pleasure. An angel is someone who spends the day with the patient and their family at the hospital the day of their surgery. They also report the progress of the “newbie” post-op to the support group members and continue to follow-up during their recuperation once home. I myself had the honor of having a wonderful angel.

In time, a friend and post-op patient by the name of Deb D’Angelo stepped up to help me run the support group. She also worked tirelessly to put together a newsletter for our support group each and every month. Eventually we passed the group along to other volunteers who also wanted to give something back.

On a sad note, Deb passed away in May of 2010. As Dr. Brolin said when he consoled me, “She had 10 more years of life than she would have had without her surgery.” When she came to him, she had numerous medical problems and she was extremely morbidly obese. She had already lost one leg to diabetes before the surgery. While the severity of her diabetes continued to be a problem, she managed to lose an unbelievable amount of weight.

After Deb’s surgery, she was never happier. She had been wheelchair-bound when I met her and one of her biggest joys was the day she was able to walk again. Despite all of her health issues, she was probably the most upbeat person I was blessed to have ever known. She is missed by so many whose lives she’s touched.

Deb inspired me to end my posts and emails with the following:
“When you live with a heart of compassion you have the heart of an angel. When you fill your life with deeds of compassion you do the work of an angel.”

Dr. Brolin has been one such angel to endless amounts of people over the course of his career, including myself.

Dena Zucker

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