Marie Marucci had been overweight since she was a teenager. Time after time, the Dundalk resident tried and failed to lose weight. “You name it—I tried it.” Marucci bounced from one thing to another for decades, including popular commercial diet programs, liquid and low-carb diets, and even hypnosis. “Nothing worked,” she says.
Marucci’s attempts to get healthier almost seemed cursed. In 1984, she was hit by a car while crossing the street and needed surgery to repair her left knee. Soon after, she fell and damaged her knee again, requiring another surgery. When she developed arthritis, her surgeon told her the only way to relieve her pain was to lose weight. While exercising, she injured her other knee and developed arthritis there, too.
After Marucci lost her husband to cancer in 2007, she handled grief by eating. “Food was my crutch,” she says. She gained 150 pounds in three
years and developed type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and sleep apnea. Marucci could only work part-time, was barely able to walk and could not get in and out of bed comfortably.
Throughout these hardships, Marucci knew she could always lean on her older sister Karen. “She’s my best friend. She’s always there for me and has always been concerned about my weight,” Marucci says. On Thanksgiving Day of 2010, Karen handed Marucci a brochure from the Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery.
Marucci hesitantly attended an information session in January 2011. Even then, she was uncertain if bariatric surgery was the answer for her or if she could commit to the lifestyle changes it would require. Ultimately, she decided that surgery gave her the best chance to live a healthy life, and that Johns Hopkins offered the best support network for patients. In August 2011, Marucci met with surgeon Thomas Magnuson, M.D., to begin preparing for bariatric surgery.
Gastric bypass is a type of bariatric surgery that creates a small pouch in the stomach to make patients feel full while eating much less food. “The gastric bypass has always been the gold standard operation that we started doing in the late 1990s,” Dr. Magnuson explains.
Marucci underwent gastric bypass surgery in July of 2012, and the weight began to fall away. She lost 90 pounds within the first five months after surgery, ultimately losing over 250 pounds. She walks and exercises regularly, and swears by her pedometer. “The more I walked, the better it felt,” she says.
Marucci also began a more protein-rich diet, which she says “gave me energy to be more active, and I never had a hunger pang.” A self-proclaimed “chocoholic,” Marucci now satisfies her chocolate cravings through her calcium and protein supplements.
With the weight loss, Marucci’s health complications nearly disappeared. She no longer takes diabetes or cholesterol medication and feels much less arthritis pain. Dr. Magnuson explains, “The main reason we do the operation isn’t the weight loss. It’s to get rid of medical problems related to being heavy.”
“Sometimes, people’s diabetes go away before they leave the hospital. And after a year, most of these medical problems are gone,” he says.
This past July marked five years since Marucci’s gastric bypass. She is grateful for Dr. Magnuson and the entire team at the Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery. “There is always someone I can call if there is an issue, and they always have a response,” Marucci says. She also regularly speaks at sessions and attends support groups on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus. After finding the groups so valuable, she “pays it forward” to others by sharing her experience and providing support.
Marucci believes this encouragement and camaraderie helps to keep people focused on improving their own health and their own lives. “You have to do it for yourself. It’s the only way you are going to be successful.”
For more information on bariatric surgery, or to register to attend an information session, visit hopkinsmedicine.org/jhbmc/bariatrics.