In 2007, Casandra and Derek DeGutis, of Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey, decided to change their lives by undergoing weight loss surgery at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC). Today the DeGutises are thankful for the decision and celebrating happier, healthier lives.
Casandra, age 32, an assistant bank branch manager, and Derek, age 35, a mortgage banker, had been happily married for two years and wanted to have children. After trying to conceive on their own and undergoing in vitro fertilization without success, their doctor explained that they each needed to lose 100 pounds and stop smoking.
The thing we want most is to have children,” said Cassandra. “So, when the doctor told us to lose weight, we took it to heart.
“The thing we want most is to have children,” said Casandra. “So, when the doctor told us to lose weight, we took it to heart.”
Derek and Cassandra took advantage of a free informational seminar at AtlantiCare’s Center for Surgical Weight Loss & Wellness about weight loss surgery. From there, they met with surgeons from four different organizations, including Wael Kouli, MD, a fellowship-trained bariatric surgeon at ARMC. “We hit it off immediately with Dr. Kouli,” said Derek about their first meeting. “He is so knowledgeable, but is also approachable and low-key. We were impressed.”
Kouli was similarly impressed with the DeGutises. “They were special,” he said. “They were engaged in the process and had researched the procedure. It was clear they were determined. They also were energetic and had a loving relationship. I knew they would be good candidates for surgery.”
Derek had his surgery first in November 2007. Casandra had hers in January 2008.
“The day I got home, Cassie and I walked about 150 yards to a stop sign close to our house, but that’s as far as I could go,” he said. “Every day we went a little bit farther.”
As Derek was incorporating regular exercise into his routine, Casandra was preparing for her own surgery, starting her liquid diet on New Year’s Day. Her surgery also went well, and just two weeks after the procedure she felt so good she decided to go snow tubing. She promptly broke her leg.
“It was mentally very hard,” she admitted. “Derek and I do everything together. But during this time, I had to sit in the living room while he was on the treadmill. Eventually I did physical therapy, and from there began exercising.”
Now Casandra and Derek exercise together regularly. According to the couple, while surgery at ARMC started them on the road toward better health, maintenance of their good habits is the key to life-long fitness.
Following surgery Casandra lost 126 pounds and competed in 5K races. Derek finished both the New York City marathon in November and the Lake Placid Ford Ironman® Triathlon in July. He has lost 185 pounds since his surgery.
After years of trying to conceive, the DeGutises welcomed their first child, Victoria Rose DeGutis, March 1, 2011. She weighed a healthy 6 pounds, 10 ounces and was 20 inches long.
When asked about her name, the proud parents explained, "We named her Victoria, because we feel victorious. It really is a dream come true for us."
“Dr. Kouli was one of the first people we called when we found out we were pregnant. It was the whole reason we decided to have weight loss surgery in the first place, so it was important to tell him. He told us he was very proud that we are his patients.”
Both Casandra and Derek agree that the journey has been a long, difficult one, but it has brought them to a much happier, healthier place in their lives. According to Casandra, “You have to be prepared and mentally ready if you undergo the surgery. But, if you are, it can change your life.”
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