Patient Stories

Ellen Luckow

"I have more energy to do the things I love again."
Gastric Bypass Leads the Way to Renewed Confidence

When she weighed in for the first time at Dr. Callery’s office, Ellen Luckow was mortified to see the scale tip at 350 pounds. After yo-yo-ing for years with several different diet plans, she was ready to make a permanent change.

“I was at the ‘end of my rope’ because of those failed attempts at weight loss,” she says.
“I figure I had lost 700 pounds of weight over a 35-year struggle, losing 50 to 100 pounds several times, before determining that I had to take control of the situation if I was ever going to be happy.”

Ellen’s obesity had taken a significant emotional toll throughout her adult years. It hindered her ability to do the physical activities she once enjoyed. In high school, she Varsity-lettered in three sports (volleyball, softball and tennis) and played on intramural volleyball and softball teams in college. Over time, she stopped doing her favorite activities like boogie boarding, swimming, boating, dancing, biking and hiking.

“I was embarrassed by my appearance and, because of greatly reduced cardio strength, I didn’t have stamina to enjoy these activities anymore,” Ellen says. “I realized that in addition to limiting my physical activities, obesity was diminishing my natural outgoing social nature and stunting my professional growth.”

Ellen lost confidence in her ability to excel in her chosen career as a human resource technician for the Vista Unified School District. She stopped applying for promotions, believing that obese people are perceived as lazy, non-productive. It even became difficult to play the organ at her church and duets with piano students.

Compounding the emotional toll obesity was taking, Luckow was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2008 and also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She felt depressed and wasn’t sleeping restfully because of chronic snoring.

“I began to realize that as I grew larger because of excess weight, my world was actually getting smaller as I had to give up the activities and dreams I had for myself,” Ellen says.

Following a big emotional setback when she attended her daughter’s wedding alone, Ellen decided it was time to take control. She made an appointment with Dr. Charles Callery, who is Medical Director of the Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence at Pomerado Hospital.

Since gastric bypass surgery on February 23, 2009, Ellen has lost about half of her body weight and resumed a rigorous schedule that includes ocean distance swimming three or four times a week during the summer. She’s gone from a size 28 to size 10.

“I have more energy to do the things I love again,” Ellen says. “People see the outward change, but there are a lot of changes that need to take place internally to achieve permanent weight loss. I’m still working on that, but it gets better every day. I am ready to dream again.”

Cathy Harrington


"As I move down to a smaller size, I get rid of the larger clothes that I will never wear again."
Taking Control of the Future, thanks to the Lap-Band®

After battling excess weight for 15 years, Cathy Harrington determined it was time to get serious.

“I was approaching 50 and didn’t want to live the second half of my life not being able to do the things I enjoy because I was too fat,” she says. “I knew being extremely overweight was taking a toll on my health and I was concerned because of a family history of heart attacks and diabetes.”

A girlfriend told her about Dr. Charles Callery and the Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence at Pomerado Hospital.

“After a thorough evaluation, I attended education classes where I learned about the two different types of bariatric surgery,” she says. “The staff emphasizes that surgery itself is not the cure for obesity. You have to commit to making significant lifestyle changes for yourself. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t do the surgery.”

Since her Lap-Band surgery in June 2009, Cathy has lost almost 20% of her body weight and she is still losing a safe one to two pounds each week.

Cathy motivates herself by tracking her continued weight loss on a thermometer chart posted on her refrigerator right next to the pre-surgery “fat” picture of herself.

“As I move down to a smaller size, I get rid of the larger clothes that I will never wear again,” she says. “I’ve changed my hairstyle and makeup and even my clothes style. Before surgery I wore drab, matronly outfits to camouflage my size. Now, I enjoy prints and bright colors – a more updated look.”

John Johnson

"My life has turned around completely."


“Each year I celebrate March 14th as my ‘rebirthday'",says Rancho Bernardo resident, John Johnson, who underwent gastric bypass (bariatric) surgery at Palomar
Pomerado Health on that date in 2004. “My life has turned around completely. I have truly been ‘born’ again.”

Before surgery, Johnson weighed about 575 pounds. He required assistance from family members to get around, was on disability from his job as a machinist, and felt that this surgery was his last chance to lose weight or he would die.

“I had to lose some weight before surgery, because my doctor was concerned about complications from surgery in patients of my size,” says Johnson. By adhering
to a liquid diet, Johnson was able to lose 84 pounds before surgery. “For the first couple of months after surgery, I had to learn how to eat and drink again,” says Johnson. “It’s a complete change of mindset.”

Two years after surgery, Johnson has rebuilt his life. “I’m off all of my medications and I’m no longer depressed. I’m back at work and walking during lunchtime,” he says. “Best of all, I’ve married the love of my life, who I met at a support group for patients who have had bariatric surgery.”

Charlene Patterson

"I have hope, regained my confidence and am embracing life."


Two years after having gastric bypass surgery at Palomar Health , 47-year-old, Charlene Patterson has found renewed energy and self-esteem.

“Although my family and friends were supportive of me before my surgery, internally I felt like I had no self-worth,” says Patterson. “Society views overweight people as invisible; after a while you begin to believe that you are.”

“Since my surgery, I have lost about 100 pounds and found that ‘skinny’ person that I always knew I could be,” says Patterson. “I have hope, regained my confidence and am embracing life.” In May 2006, Patterson completed her first triathlon, the Xterra Spring Sprint Triathlon, even though she claims she is not an athlete. This
event involved a 1/4-mile swim, 9-mile bike ride and 3-mile run, which Patterson completed in less than two hours.

“To keep the weight off, I knew I needed a goal and training for the triathlon has been that goal,” says Patterson. “I also followed exactly the instructions given to me by the staff and I still attend the support groups and watch what I eat. Maintaining my weight is a lifelong commitment.”


Do you have questions about the Bariatric Center at Pomerado Hospital in North San Diego County? For more information please visit our Surgical Procedures page, Contact Us or Find our Location(s).


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