A lot to lose
Vivian Duffy's story
A single parent of three young children, Vivian Duffy simply couldn’t afford to die. A 26-year-old woman doesn’t usually think about such things. But on the eve of Duffy’s 27th birthday, at her annual physical exam, the scale and the doctor flashed bright warning signs. Her fluctuating weight had hit 343 pounds, and she was on the verge of diabetes and high blood pressure.
“In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes,” she says. “I thought of my three little children and how quickly I might leave them. I knew then that I needed to get control of my health; I needed to change things. I knew I needed help.”
She had to find the answer to two haunting questions: “How did I get here?” and “How do I get out?”
Dieting and exercise had provided only temporary fixes, so she turned to Dr. Mark Vierra to discuss surgical options. Vierra established the bariatric surgery program at Community Hospital in 2001 after overseeing Stanford’s program for more than a decade. In 2006, Community Hospital became one of the first bariatric Centers of Excellence in California, recognized for safe, high-quality surgical care.
Vierra and Dr. Michael Lurie have performed more than 1,400 bariatric surgeries at Community Hospital for patients like Duffy, committed to reducing their weight and improving their overall health.
“Weight loss is the visible, dramatic result of bariatric surgery,” Vierra says. “But the real impact is even more significant: Three major studies have shown that weight-loss surgery saves lives because of fewer deaths from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”
Admittedly, Duffy was scared about having surgery. But she was even more scared about what would happen if she didn’t. On New Year’s Eve 2010, she underwent gastric bypass surgery and woke up to a new year and a new life.
Sixteen months later, Duffy has lost 134 pounds and the threats of diabetes and high blood pressure have subsided. She no longer watches her kids play sports; the one-time avid athlete joins in again. You might even see her around the Peninsula, pedaling the pink Schwinn® bicycle she bought herself as a reward.
“What shook me into my decision,” she says, “was when Dr. Vierra said, ‘You wouldn’t do drugs in front of your kids, wouldn’t give them alcohol or hand them a cigarette, but you put sugar and fast food in front of them.’ My goal was to wrap my mind around that and instill healthy habits in my children. I don’t want them to have any other legacy from me. I want to parent by example and give my kids a brighter future. One that includes me.”