Letters for the week of February 14-20, 2007 

Readers comment on life after weight-loss surgery, King Jorge, and labor strife at an Emeryville hotel.

"Life After the Knife," Feature, 1/17

Your article about weight-loss surgery was better than most — no horror stories. Four years after surgery, I can tell you: This is NOT the "easy way out." We face a lifetime of vitamins and supplements and potential for anemia, osteoporosis, and other problems if we don't take care of ourselves. There will always be some folks envious of our transformation, hoping we'll gain our weight back. And there's no description that adequately represents the post-weight loss, pre-plastic-surgery body type: Maybe online dating services should add "Sharpei" to their body-type choices. Nevertheless, I'm maintaining my size 6-8 (from size 28). I'm 53, and I've never been this happy or healthy in my life. Weight-loss surgery was the best decision I ever made.
Martha Silverspring, RN, MS, Oakland

I had gastric-bypass surgery five years ago and have maintained a weight loss of 170 pounds. I think your article was fair and accurate. Not much is written about the struggles we face after surgery. Many think that surgery is the easy way out, and as you stated in your article, the real work begins after surgery. One has to learn to live their life over again in order to be successful. Without truly changing lifestyle, one can revert to old behaviors that allow the weight to come back. The reality of a large weight loss and the amount of excess skin causes much psychological trauma. Even though there are not many folks who see me naked, I did not feel the journey would be complete if I did not have the 20 pounds of excess skin removed that was left behind after my weight loss. After two additional surgeries and four procedures, I still need to have my arms done this year in order to feel like I'm done. As you know, many cannot afford the cost of plastic reconstructive surgery, and most insurance does not cover it. I, too, run a support group for weight-loss surgery patients — pre- and post-op. Thank you for the article. I intend to share it with my support group and friends.
Pat Blaney, Benicia

Great article. I had the RNY gastric bypass over three years ago, and my life has never been better. I've run a half marathon and a full marathon, and in the process raised over $6,000 for the SF AIDS Foundation. I still run three days a week and do circuit weight training three days a week. I no longer have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, frequent headaches, or joint and foot pain. I've also had two reconstructive surgeries. It's sad that some of the subjects in your article have not come to grips with the emotional aspects of the surgery. I've had to do a lot of work in that area. Life is not perfect, but I've never experienced such joy despite the regular sorrows that we all have. Life, with all its twists and turns, continues to amaze me with its beauty.
Francisco Caravayo, San Francisco

I had GB surgery on 4/10/2006. Thank you for showing that it isn't an easy fix. I knew that going in, and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to have the surgery. I no longer take medication for diabetes and high blood pressure. Those of us who had the surgery at a Kaiser facility have to go through counseling and many classes to get where we are. I haven't experienced many of the physical problems that the people in your article have suffered. I take my supplements every day, but that is a tradeoff for me. I have lost close to 90 pounds since my start of this journey. Once you have the surgery, you have to find other ways of dealing with your emotions. That is the hard part for me. Giving up the comfort of food was not an easy decision. Someone said that "everywhere you go, there you are." No matter what size you are, you have to deal with you. Not being fat has given me new perspective on how I deal with life's issues. I do hope that readers that are considering the option of surgery know that it isn't an easy way out. It is a tool to help you on your way.
Bobbie Jo Colbert, Richmond

Thank you so much for this excellent article. The weight loss and surgery itself are (as in my case) the least of the issues facing people who have had gastric-bypass surgery. I hope this discussion becomes more de rigueur both pre- AND post-op. It's an issue that I don't think a lot of people realized they would face.
Pamela Porter, Washington, New Jersey

"The Problem With King Jorge," Letters, 1/31

Perhaps after reading the article about Jorge Lopez ("The Method of King Jorge," Feature, 12/13), one could liken him to a dictator, as Michael J. D'Augelli has done in his letter. However, being a sixth-grade teacher at Oakland Charter Academy has shown me the complexity of the man in question. Yes, Mr. Lopez is strict. Yes, he lets ineffective teachers go quickly. Yes, he has extremely high standards for the kids — he expects them to show up EVERY day, ready to learn and work. Yes, he cares that the students do well on standardized tests (don't all the schools?). Besides these qualms, Mr. D'Augelli's "real concern [is] the treatment of the teachers." Well, as a teacher at OCA with an inside perspective, do not be too concerned for the teachers or the students. Mr. Lopez, aside from requiring a weekly lesson plan, walking casually through my class from time to time, and expecting that I complete the curriculum, has not micromanaged my classroom. He gives me great freedom and has been anything but domineering as a supervisor. Mr. Lopez also knows every child: He is acutely aware if a student needs academic or emotional support early in the game. My students have a complete respect for him that I wish I commanded. While OCA, with the lead of Mr. Lopez, may be hard to understand at first, the school is producing top-quality students. When my students proudly compare their three-hour-per-night workload to their friends' homework at other schools, come to school every day (I've had a total of five absences ALL year), and fawn over their principal — I know I chose the right teaching community to be a part of. Isn't it about time, anyway, that the schools in Oakland have high expectations for their students? That's all Mr. Lopez has for his students and teachers, and it works like magic.
Rebecca Anderson, Oakland

"Christmas at Woodfin Suites," Feature, 1/24

The tug-at-our-heartstrings story of hotel workers ignores the fact that the workers who apparently came here illegally intending to stay temporarily have decided to stay here permanently. Melquiades also decided to have three children, which doesn't make her situation any easier. People who knowingly break the law cannot reasonably complain when the law is enforced by asking for documentation. My son, born in the Dominican Republic, is here legally. There are legitimate ways not to fear for your job.
Robert Gable, Berkeley


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