Innovation at UPMC: Taking Control of My Life

After losing over 110 pounds, Mr. Granata, a local car salesman, now sits comfortably in one of his  vehicles. To Darryl Granata, 63, losing weight had become much more than just wanting to look good; it had literally become a matter of life and death.

“I’ve never been thin, but I really became heavy in the last 10 to 12 years,” he said. “In late 2007, my weight had climbed to 368 pounds. My blood pressure was up, I had become a diabetic, and I was at the point where my weight was making me an invalid.”

Mr. Granata also was finding that the extra weight was affecting his ability to do his job as a car salesman. “It’s hard getting in and out of cars when you weigh over 360 pounds,” he said.

His wake-up call came during a checkup with his physician, following a successful heart valve replacement. “The doctor said ‘your heart looks good, but too bad you’re going to be dead in five years.’ I was shocked that he would say something like that, but he said that if I didn’t do something about my weight, my health problems, such as the diabetes, would only get worse until they eventually killed me.”

A Life-Changing Solution

That visit with his doctor, plus watching a friend lose a leg to diabetes, was enough to push Mr. Granata toward actively searching for a life-changing solution to his weight problems. He tried many diets over the years, and even lost 80 pounds after one dieting attempt, but he always put the weight back on.

“Unlike some people, will power wasn’t enough to get me through the weight loss,” he said. “For me, surgery was the only option that I had left.”

After undergoing a series of medical tests, a psychological evaluation, and a six-month lifestyle program, all of which are standard for those considering weight loss surgery, Mr. Granata had Roux-en-Y surgery, commonly called gastric bypass, in January 2008 at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Since the surgery, he has lost over 110 pounds, feels younger, and is more energetic. More important, however, is the improvement in his health, including the diabetes. “There is a large and growing body of evidence that suggests bariatric surgery provides dramatic and durable improvements in type 2 diabetes and its related diseases,” said Anita P. Courcoulas, MD, director of Minimally Invasive Bariatric and General Surgery at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

While results vary with the type of weight loss surgical procedure, Dr. Courcoulas said gastric bypass results in an 84 percent resolution of the disease and adjustable gastric banding results in a 73 percent resolution.

“These findings challenge previously held ideas that type 2 diabetes is a progressive and irreversible disease,” she said. “Currently, there are no other treatments, either medical or lifestyle modification, which are known to have such profound and sustained improvements in this devastating disease.”

Winning His Battle

Dr. Courcoulas, who performed Mr. Granata’s gastric bypass surgery, also said diabetics who have surgery are often able to stop their insulin medications completely. This was true in Mr. Granata’s case.

Ten months after his surgery, his physician took him off his diabetes medication. “I still monitor my blood sugar every day, and I’ll continue to do that, but it’s under control now and I’m grateful that it’s no longer doing the damage to my body that it had been doing,” Mr. Granata said. “I had to make some sacrifices in my life after the surgery,” he said. “But the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices.”

Bariatric surgery is performed at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, UPMC Horizon, and UPMC St. Margaret. For more information, call 1-800-533-UPMC. 

Mr. Granata's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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