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Dozens of pounds down

'Nana' is nation's first to receive new robotic weight-loss surgery.

Article Author: Wesley Roberts

Article Date:

fmily stands together and smiles. two grandparents, two young boys and a young girl

It’s been a lifelong commitment for Valerie Sawyer, 62, to maintain a healthy weight.

“I’d always been overweight as a kid,” Sawyer recalled. “I grew up in a family where everything we did revolved around food.”

After becoming a mother of two, keeping the additional weight off became even more of a challenge. By 2007, she weighed over 400 pounds and knew it was time for a change.

That’s when she decided to have a gastric band surgery, also known as “LAP-Band,” in which a silicone band is placed around the stomach to reduce stomach capacity and slow the passage of food.

Unfortunately, in mid-2023, Sawyer started experiencing extreme reflux and was unable to eat or drink. She found out the band had slipped and there was major blockage and restriction around her stomach.

That’s when she met Steven Hodgett, MD, FACS, a bariatric surgeon who practices at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. He recommended a removal of the LAP-Band and a gastric sleeve surgery.

A new approach to weight-loss surgery

During a gastric sleeve procedure, part of the stomach is removed and the stomach is formed into a narrow tube or “sleeve.”

“We can perform gastric sleeve surgeries laparoscopically, which means we only use small incisions in the upper abdomen,” explained Dr. Hodgett. “This minimally invasive approach allows for less pain, faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay for patients.”

In fact, Sawyer was the very first patient in the United States to undergo a procedure using new robotic technology. Dr. Hodgett and the bariatric surgical team were assisted by the Maestro Surgical Robotics System, a new robot that provides surgeons with an extra set of “hands” to help hold instruments and move tools with precision.

“I’ve been working in the medical field for 30 years. To me, being the first at Baptist Health and the first in the nation was an exciting, cool thing,” said Sawyer, who works in the Finance department at Baptist Health. “I had complete trust in the bariatric surgical team.”

Focused on the future

“I was really encouraged by others in a Facebook group who had gone through the same surgery,” said Sawyer. “It took only a month to feel 100% and I’ve had no complications. I’ve healed well.”

Only four weeks post-procedure, Sawyer lost 30 pounds and can already feel a difference. She’s experiencing less knee and back pain.

“My biggest goal in trying to be healthier is to be there for my grandkids,” Sawyer, who welcomed her fifth grandchild in January 2024, said. “I love spending time with them. I always let them know Nana loves them.”

Though one of Sawyer’s passions is researching genealogy and family history, she’s now focused on her future. She’s deeply committed to her continued weight-loss journey and feels “really, really good” about what’s to come.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see patients thrive after surgery,” said Dr. Hodgett. “We’re happy to bring the latest technological innovations to our patients – ultimately aiming for the best quality and experience for each person who decides to undergo a procedure.”

Bariatric surgery can be a big decision. Selecting the right bariatric center with the right surgical team is important to ensure your best results, and that's what you'll find that at the Baptist Center for Bariatric and Reflux Surgery. A combination of the latest technological advancements, years of expertise and excellent outcomes all contribute to the center being accredited as a “Bariatric Center of Excellence.” To learn more, visit baptistjax.com/weightloss or call 904.202.SLIM (904.202.7546).

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