May 20, 2009


Northwoods opens clinic to treat the obese

Program will help people loose weight through a team of physicians and therapists

NorthwoodsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Janice Tarter, left, of Central Square, does arm exercises with Lee Joyner, director of rehabilitation at Northwoods of Cortland.

Staff Reporter

Janice Tarter now weighs 244 pounds. Bariatric surgery in December helped her to lose more than 100 pounds.
But when complications from the surgery put Tarter, 56, in a coma and left her muscles atrophied, she checked into the bariatric wellness program at Northwoods Nursing Center to help her walk again.
Tarter is the bariatric wellness program’s first patient. The program had its grand opening Tuesday.
The facility helps the obese lose weight, keep the weight off and attain independence. Bariatrics is a branch of medicine that treats obesity.
A team of physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers and program managers helps the patient to achieve their goals.
The marketing facilitator for Northwoods, Lisa Cupolo, said the nursing facility evaluates patients in hospitals and if the patient signs a contract, they are admitted for continued care upon release. A home care agency may also contact the facility to follow up with a patient that needs care.
A typical stay could be three to six months, said Cupolo, who said Northwoods is the only facility in the area offering a program that focuses on the needs of a bariatric patient.
The facility offers inpatient care only and the center will eventually be designed to care for individuals up to 1,000 pounds, Cupolo said.
Tarter, a Central Square resident, had bariatric surgery at Upstate Medical University of New York in Syracuse in December.
Prior to the surgery she had worked on an assembly line and enjoyed making home-made pizzas for family but now she just struggles to stand and dreams of one day being able to make pizzas again.
“I wanted to be healthier and I’m diabetic and sometimes that goes away after the surgery. I wanted to feel better,” Tarter said of her reasons for opting for the surgery.
The surgery, commonly called stomach stapling or gastric bypass, creates a bypass in the small intestine which decreases nutrient absorption and reduces hunger.
But Tarter did not respond well to the surgery.
She had difficulty stomaching the protein shakes she had to drink after the surgery and awoke one night in April to excruciating pain in her stomach. Tarter had a hernia and her small intestine had perforated, causing her to go into septic shock. She was hospitalized and put into a coma for two weeks as doctors repaired both problems.
When she awoke, her muscles had atrophied to the point that she could no longer walk. Lori Satlawa, hospital liaison and licensed practical nurse at Northwoods, came to screen her and see if she would enroll in the bariatric wellness program. As a hospital liaison, Satlawa responds to area hospitals to see which patients may need to be enrolled in Northwoods for follow-up nursing services such as wound care or physical therapy needs.
“She told me about the program and it was like it was supposed to be,” Tarter said as she sat in her wheelchair in her room at the center Tuesday.
Tarter’s goal is to walk again.
“I will walk. There ain’t no way I’m not going to,” Tarter said before doing exercises with physical therapist Cori Taylor and occupational therapist Lee Joyner.
After being helped to a standing position, which she held for 20 seconds, Tarter said she felt “shaky.”
“I was nervous, many times I’ve fallen in the hospital but never here,” she said as she sat back down.
Joyner said the program will work with Tarter until she walks again.
“We cannot give an estimated time but we know it’s coming,” Joyner said.
Tarter said she hopes to eventually weigh about 140 pounds. As she did strength-building repetitions, lifting a cane with weights attached to it, Joyner said the support of other residents at the facility is very encouraging for the patients.
Although Tarter is the bariatric center’s first patient, there are other patients in the nursing facility who may qualify for the bariatric program. The center has nine beds at the bariatric facility and will expand beyond that when there is the need for it, Cupolo said.
Cupolo said Northwoods, built in 1973, decided to expand to include the bariatric program because of demand for the services. She said that given the national obesity epidemic, the response from area hospitals only confirmed that there was a need for services geared towards treating obesity in the community.
“We went to area hospitals and asked what the needs in the community are,” Cupolo said, adding the center wants to help as many people as it can.
“Not only to help them lose weight and be physically independent again but to help them build self esteem and confidence and job skills,” Cupolo said.
The facility accepts insurance plans such as Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance.


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