Better Together

March 8, 2019

A married couple reclaimed their lives through weight-loss surgery.

Like many married couples, Len and Vinnie DiPiazza have shared a lifetime of wonderful experiences, including travel, entertaining and being supporters of their daughters’ sports teams. But this couple has shared one experience that most do not. In less than a two-year period, they both received laparoscopic bariatric surgery to help them lose significant weight and live healthier, more active lives.

“I struggled with my weight since my pregnancies roughly three decades ago,” says Vinnie DiPiazza, who is now 64 years old. “Then in the last few years, menopause caused me to gain more weight, and I wanted to get healthier.”

Len, age 63, who also struggled with his weight, developed Type 2 diabetes. He remembers, “I was taking medication for diabetes and other problems. I didn’t want to take any more pills.”

Inspired Surgery

Len was the first to research laparoscopic bariatric surgery. He came across Hans J. Schmidt, M.D., FACS, director of the Center for Bariatric Medicine and Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, and felt he was the right doctor to help. Dr. Schmidt performed Len’s surgery at Hackensack on Thursday, September, 6, 2014. Free of pain, he was back at work the following Monday at his wholesale bakery.

Len’s weight loss was spectacular. In a year’s time, he went from 318 pounds to 194. He admits that he regained about 10 pounds following forced inactivity from hip replacement surgery, but his weight has been stable since. He is also now off his previous prescription medications.

Len’s success peaked Vinnie’s interest. “I was shocked!” she recalls. Her husband was feeling good, he was losing weight, and she wanted that for herself. “I am a very strong woman, but I developed a weight issue.”

Less than two years after Len’s surgery, Vinnie also had laparoscopic bariatric surgery, impressed by Len’s results and the prospect of all-over weight loss. Having dieted in the past and only losing weight in certain areas of her body while retaining weight in others, she was excited to get full-body results.

“This is the best thing I have ever done,” she says. “I wish I’d done it years ago! I’m proud of having the sleeve surgery, and I can’t believe more people don’t do it.” Vinnie moved from a size 20 to a size 6 in six months, results that Dr. Schmidt said are expected.

Dr. Schmidt fondly remembers Vinnie and Len. “He was suffering from significant medical problems,” he says. “She saw the results and decided to have the surgery, too.”

Like all of Dr. Schmidt’s patients, Len and Vinnie had to demonstrate that the surgery would benefit them. All of his patients undergo a brief psychological examination to determine whether they are ready to make permanent lifestyle changes. They meet with a dietician who helps them start making necessary lifelong dietary modifications. Dr. Schmidt also consults with patients’ primary physician and any necessary specialists to evaluate their readiness for laparoscopic surgery.

The laparoscopic procedure takes only about an hour, and patients normally spend a single night in the hospital to monitor their progress. During the surgery, the size of the stomach is reduced to a “sleeve”. Dr. Schmidt notes that almost everyone experiences a significant weight loss, equal to or better than patients who receive a bypass or band.

“It’s the ability, in a single one-hour surgery, to completely change people’s health and lives,” he says. “They have struggled to overcome their weight problems, and we’re able to help them achieve their goals and reach their target weight.”

Shared Success

Initially, Vinnie joined the support group at Hackensack and found it valuable. Today, she and Len rely on each other for a unique level of support. “I make sure we eat right, exercise together, and we encourage each other,” Vinnie says. “It’s great being a team and doing this.”

Vinnie and Len’s joint weight loss has brought benefits that have significantly added to their enjoyment of life. Today they enjoy taking walks through local parks and keeping in shape with exercise equipment in their home.

Even more, they now love to shop for clothing. “We can go into a store and everything looks good,” Vinnie says happily. “Now I’m wearing red and pink. It’s fun!”

Is Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgery Right for You?

Is obesity limiting your lifestyle and harming your health? Losing a weight can reduce or completely alleviate the symptoms of many debilitating medical conditions, including diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, liver disease and infertility. Learn more about the surgery Vinnie and Len had at a seminar near you: HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Bariatrics.


Do you have questions about whether or not bariatric surgery is right for you? Our care team is available to answer your questions.

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