Learn Insider Details About Her Work With Dr. Rachel Streu to Help Mary Maxwell Lose Excess Skin and Get a Slimmer Look After Massive Weight Loss
Mary Maxwell is a resilient woman who dealt with obesity since the age of 19. Faced with the reality of several close family members dying young, and wanting to avoid that same fate for herself, she committed to losing weight. With help from gastric bypass surgery—and revision surgery after complications arose—she went from 315 to 165 pounds, but still struggled with her image and identity due to the folds and flaps of deflated tissue.
That’s where Dr. Kathleen Waldorf and Dr. Rachel Streu of The Waldorf Center in Portland, Oregon, came in. Together, they worked with Mary to remove the unwanted skin to reveal the slimmer, sleeker body hiding underneath. The journey they took together can be seen in the May 3, 2017, episode of TLC’s Skin Tight, a show that follows patients who have lost massive amounts of weight and now deal with the leftover skin—a literal and oftentimes emotional burden. This excess tissue can obscure the thin body they worked so hard to achieve, typically requires special care to avoid injury, and can add up to 50 pounds of bulky weight to a person’s frame.
In this behind-the-scenes interview, Dr. Waldorf talks about what went into making the episode of Skin Tight—and reveals more details of Mary’s inspiring story:
How did your segment with Mary Maxwell on Skin Tight come about?
I was approached by the production team. They presented her story and asked if we would be interested in working with some of their patients. I agreed to consult with the patients and go from there. Mary was the only patient I felt was ready to proceed with this type of surgery.
What was the most rewarding part of working with Mary?
Mary is a very impressive young woman. She has worked hard to achieve her goals of a healthy lifestyle, which included weight loss and increased exercise. The skin reduction surgery has been shown to help people like Mary to keep their weight off and certainly makes aerobic activity much easier. I believe that the surgery has helped to improve the quality of her life and give her more self-confidence. That in and of itself is enormously rewarding for us as surgeons.
Can you describe what the process was like for Mary? For you?
I think this is a difficult process for patients to go through. I know when we first met, Mary knew she might be turned down. We also told her she needed to lose more weight prior to the second procedure. I think this can be a very stressful and emotional time for patients. Mary handled it all well. She had/has a great support system in her friends and family. From my perspective, it is certainly difficult to disappoint a patient, but my job is to look at what is best for them—for example, when a patient is excited to have a procedure done but they are not a good candidate for whatever reason.
What was the biggest challenge you faced throughout this process?
I think the biggest challenge was the timing. We typically like to give patients a minimum of six weeks between these types of surgery to recover. If there was any complication, this would increase the amount of recovery time needed between procedures. Fortunately, we were not faced with that in this case, but it could have resulted in not being able to get the second procedure completed in time for the filming. We would not have compromised on that!
How typical is Mary’s experience? Have you seen many other patients with her same needs?
We are seeing more and more patients after massive weight loss for skin reduction surgery. I believe this is due to advances and increased safety, as well as availability of bariatric surgery and a focus on achieving a healthy weight through diet and exercise. I work closely with one of the top bariatric surgeons in the country here in Portland, OR, and several weight loss clinics, so we do see a number of these patients. I think that while every patient is different and has their own issues, there are some common complaints they present with.
How did knowing your surgical process and results would be shown to a national audience impact you?
I did not actually think that much about it! Our process and procedures for how we treat patients is fairly standard. Deviating from routines can lead to errors, so this is not an option. We strive to attain the best result possible for all our patients regardless of who will see their results.
What don’t we see in the show that would be important for patients to know?
These procedures are not without risk, and it is important to understand that before proceeding. We do what we can to minimize that risk, and a big part of that is making sure the patient is mentally and physically ready for surgery. There was a significant amount of time spent counseling Mary about this before surgery.
Would you do something like this again?
Overall it was a great experience for all of us. I feel it is an opportunity to educate the public and potential weight loss patients about the opportunities available and potential outcomes that they can expect from these procedures. So, in short, yes!