Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center's Bariatric Program is celebrating one year of improving and saving the lives of morbidly obese patients.

According to the National Institutes of Health, morbid obesity is defined as being 100 lbs. or more over ideal body weight or having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher. Obesity is also considered morbid when it reaches the point of significantly increasing the risk of obesity-related conditions or serious diseases that can cause death or disability such as stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gout and infertility.

"In the past year, we've see dramatic changes in our patients who have undergone bariatric surgery," said Jason Balette, MD, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Bariatric Program Medical Director. "We've seen significant weight loss. But more importantly, we've seen dramatic improvements in obesity-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea, among others."

Offering comprehensive care close to home, Dr. Balette and his team offers patients three treatment options - gastric bypass Roux-en-Y revisions, LAP-BAND® adjustable gastric banding and laparoscopic gastric sleeve. Each surgery reduces the size of the stomach so that it will hold only a small amount of food, allowing the patient to feel full more quickly and consume less.

In addition to surgery, bariatric patients at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands can access a wealth of resources that enable them to succeed in their weight loss goals, including personalized nutrition education, counseling services and monthly face-to-face time with other patients who have undergone similar procedures.

"We provide as many tools and resources as we can for patients to succeed, emphasizing the importance of permanent lifestyle changes like eating healthy and exercising often, as well as peer support," said Mary Jo Novak, a registered and licensed dietitian at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands.

Donna Williams, the program's first patient, says surgery not only changed her life, but saved her life. "I'm still a work in progress, but it's so exciting to have lost more than 130 lbs. so far.

"In addition to improving her overall health and enabling her to spend more quality time with her two young children, she is now able to pursue her life's professional ambition.

"I've always wanted to become a paramedic, but knew I was too heavy to achieve it. Now I can pursue my dream," added Williams.