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Bariatric Surgery Helping Patients Create a Brighter Future for Themselves

“Bariatric surgery has opened so many doors for me that were closed for so long,” said Kim Cardwell, 41, of Prince Frederick. “Sometimes, I still can’t believe this is my life now. I feel 20 years younger. Every aspect of my life has been made easier.”

Today, Kim at 5’ is down from 241 pounds to 148 after having gastric sleeve surgery on Dec. 27, 2022. “I’ve lost almost 100 pounds and it’s amazing. It feels surreal,” said the busy mom of four who works from home. “It’s like a monkey off my back. I don’t think people realize when you are that obese it just follows you around every day.”

“This has been the best year of my life.”

She sat down with us shortly before her one-year anniversary to share how her life has changed since having bariatric surgery. “This time last year, I was second guessing myself: am I making the right decision? But I am so glad I did. That burden is no longer hindering me. Honestly, this has been the best year of my life.”

Kim said being put on medication for high blood pressure was the last straw. “That was a big wake-up call. I had struggled with weight my whole life. I tried a lot of diets … Atkins, Paleo, Keto, Body for Life, Weight Watchers® … multiple times. The problem was I was starving … I was hungry all the time.”

After seeing a billboard on Route 4, she decided to join a Zoom webinar to learn more about CalvertHealth’s Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program, which is headed by leading weight loss authority Dr. Ramzi Alami. Fellowship trained in the latest minimally invasive techniques, Dr. Alami has performed more than 2,000 bariatric surgeries in the last 16 years.

“That personal touch really meant a lot.”

“A lot of people see obesity as a moral failing … but Dr. Alami explained at my first appointment a lot of this has to do with hormones and things that are outside your control,” said Kim. “The first thing he said is: ‘This is not your fault. We can help you.’ He really takes the time to get to know his patients. He truly cares about them. That personal touch really meant a lot to me.”

Having the program close to her home was a major deciding factor. “I didn’t want to drive an hour and 15 minutes to go somewhere in DC … by choosing CalvertHealth, I didn’t have to take off work or have someone watch the kids every time I had an appointment.”

Dr. Alami underscores this point, as well. “The key to successful outcomes with bariatric surgery is the short- and long-term follow-up,” he said. “That’s why a local program is so important because these patients need a lot of support.”

Dr. Alami went on to add, “We know that all patients are going to lose weight after bariatric surgery … but how much they lose and whether they are able to maintain that loss will depend on their eating habits and level of physical activity.”

This is where the short- and long-term follow up comes into play. There are regularly scheduled visits in the weeks and months after bariatric surgery to monitor how well the patient is adapting to their personalized diet and exercise plan and to make adjustments.

“I still have to eat right. I still have to exercise,” said Kim. “I can have that bowl of ice cream but you have to be mindful all the time. I didn’t want to join a gym so I tried doing kettle balls and exercise bands at home and found I really liked it. My newest hobby is collecting shark’s teeth. I walk about two to three miles along the beach near the Bay several times a week … you’re bending down and squatting.”

LaShawn took the first step and asked her primary doctor for a referral to CalvertHealth’s Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program. “When I found it was covered by insurance, I was scared and happy,” she said. Tony grabbed her hand and smiled at his wife of 10 years as he talked about their decision to have bariatric surgery.

“I didn’t want her doing this life-changing thing alone,” he said. “I was in the same boat as her and she was committed to doing something about it. I was with her during the entire process. We did everything together.” And together, they lost more than 200 pounds.

“Now, I’m able to go and do things,” said the 44-year-old father of four. Today, at 5’ 11 ½” he is down to 235 pounds from 315 after having gastric sleeve surgery on Sept. 27, 2022. “I feel great … no regrets! I can tie my shoes again … that sounds like a small victory but it was huge for my mental outlook. It was one of the first changes I noticed after surgery. I was so happy, it made me feel as if more changes were coming.”

LaShawn at 5’5” is down to 138 pounds from 267 after having gastric bypass surgery on May 25, 2022. “I feel great … this is the best I have felt in a long time. It allows me to do more. I have more endurance. I’ve started doing Pilates two to three times a week.”

“It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change.”

Dr. Alami emphasizes that bariatric surgery is not a “quick fix” but instead a tool for lifelong weight management. “Surgery is just the beginning of the journey. For long-term success, patients need to understand that surgery is only one-third of the equation. Nutrition, lifestyle and exercise make up two-thirds.” He also stressed the impact patient education has in ensuring patients are prepared. “Patients really need to know what they’re getting into and they need to understand it to be able to commit to it.”

Tony said having bariatric surgery changed his entire relationship with food. “Before, I didn’t understand how my food choices were affecting my health. I was an emotional eater. You learn what a healthy plate looks like. Now, every bite counts. I make more thoughtful choices about what I put in my body.” He has also added regular workouts at the gym.

LaShawn said being able to listen to her body was the single most important benefit she gained. “Being aware of what your body needs to function is very different from what your bad habits have convinced your body to crave,” she said. “Now, I’m able to distinguish when I am eating for my health requirements versus over-eating for emotional comfort.”

Her husband added,” Bariatric surgery is more about good health than weight loss. Weight loss is a consequence but the actual program is about promoting a healthy lifestyle. It’s a lifetime commitment and you really have to be ready for those changes.”

“I am 100 percent happy!”

“Bariatric surgery gave me back my life. I can climb a ladder, do yard work, go fishing with my grandson …without being tired and in pain all the time,” said William Swindell, 65, of Chesapeake Beach.

Today, Willie at 5’11” is down from 309 to 185 pounds after having gastric sleeve surgery Oct. 21, 2021. “When I see a picture from before, I don’t even recognize myself,” he said. “I basically weigh what I did right after high school. Feeling normal feels great. I’m able to do all the things I couldn’t when I was overweight.”

Willie was Dr. Alami’s second surgical case at CalvertHealth. He had multiple comorbidities, overhanging abdominal skin that was hitting his thighs and could barely walk. At his two-year appointment, his BMI (body mass index) was down to 25.9 and he is off most of his medications. “I was impressed with the way they take care of you,” he said. “They made sure I knew what to expect. They answered my questions and were very supportive.”

Along the way, Willie said he has adopted some newer, healthier habits. “I can eat almost anything I want, just in smaller portions … and I had to teach myself to eat slow. I cut out fast food and I split meals with my wife when we eat out. I do a lot of walking. I lift some light weights for my arms and to build up my core. I enjoy life a lot better now.”

Guiding You at Every Step

A unique part of CalvertHealth’s team is Bariatric Coordinator and Nurse Navigator Tracey Csillag, RN, MSN, CBN. She is a certified bariatric navigator with 33 years’ nursing experience and advanced training in caring for bariatric surgery patients. She is there every step of the way from the initial consultation to postoperative visits – answering questions, addressing issues and facilitating appointments. “I believe having a familiar face who knows them helps our patients feel supported.” Kim said Tracey was a lifesaver for her. “I immediately felt comfortable with her in the room. She just radiates compassion.” LaShawn concurred. “She makes you feel better. She listens and is always so positive.”


The Bariatric Wellness Workshop helps patients feel like they are not alone and the only ones struggling. The support group meets the last Thursday of every month at 5 pm in Suite 101 of the Calvert Medical Offce Building. It is intended for anyone who is concerned about their weight – from those thinking about bariatric surgery, actively working toward surgery, newly post-op and post-op for many years.

“It’s nice to talk with other people who have walked the walk,” said Kim. “We often get ideas from each other.” LaShawn and Tony go every month. “We look forward to it. We swap recipes and we swap stories. There’s always something there for us.”

Life-Changing Benefits of BARIATRIC SURGERY

  • Helpful hormonal changes
  • Improved blood sugar levels
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Reduced risk of obesity-related conditions
  • More physical energy
  • Enhanced mental well-being
  • Better quality of life
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