Joanne F's Story
“As I sit here awaiting my second procedure to take place in 48 hours, I am struck by how much my life has changed for the better through meeting everyone at Body By Katzen. It’s a long story but one that may help someone who is on the fence about moving forward with their new life in a new body created through your skill and dedication. Please feel free to share my words as I stand behind every one of them and give them my number. I typically don’t do testimonials and I have been trained professionally to not give recommendations but I am breaking all of those “rules” in this case as I believe so strongly in Dr. Katzen and all of you at Body By Katzen. In order to explain my comments, it is important to share with you my background. You see, I was the “chubby child” who was supposed to outgrow her baby fat. Then, I blossomed into the “Princess of Plump” Prom date and eventually grew into the “Wide Angled Wife” who embarrassed her family and friends by always being the biggest girl in the room. My excessive weight cost me my marriage, missed promotions and eventually impacted my health. In 2003, I decided to embark on a serious weight loss journey through having Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass surgery. I had researched the procedure and the local surgeons for two years in the Philadelphia Area and finally completed the procedure. Having never had surgery or ever being in the hospital as a patient, I had no idea what surgery would feel like. I can remember telling my sister to “get me a gun to shoot myself”, based on the post-op pain and the lack of aftercare that I was experiencing. Obviously, it was said in jest and desperation and I soon recovered from the experience losing 130 pounds. I was so proud of myself. My friends, family and colleagues were full of supportive and encouraging comments that made me feel good about what I had accomplished. I went out and bought an entire new wardrobe but each time I tried on clothes, although I had lost a great deal of weight, I couldn’t fit into flat front pants or dresses that showed any curves. My arms were still large and my rear-end still looked like “two Bulldogs in a bag”. I convinced myself that since I was divorced and not dating, it didn’t really matter that I had loose skin hanging and that I was still wearing granny pants. I had told myself what every heavy person tells themselves while trying to rationalize how they look- “it’s what is on the inside that matters and anyone who can’t accept me the way I am is too shallow for me anyway”. I love the movie “Shallow Hal”. It sounds good but it’s not the real world- the first impression DOES MATTER and how you look tells a story more powerful than any words could convey.So, turn the clock forward by five years. After 50 years of a comfortable life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I moved for a job to Southern Orange County, California. Change just seemed to be what was happening to me as I was trying to control and plan my life. I noticed that the beautiful people really did live in LA. I decided to try one of those on-line dating services and was actually getting some responses and then it occurred to me that I might have to meet face to face with someone, it might turn into a date and at my age, holding hands for two years before the first kiss was not very probable. I looked at myself honestly in the mirror and had to admit, it was not a very attractive look. My belly hung over, the skin under my arms flapped when I moved them and my breasts hung down to my elbows. I was a smaller size and kept looking at my before pictures but it didn’t matter. The people I was meeting now never knew about my morbid obesity, nor did they care. I was back in my home in Pennsylvania and decided I would investigate some plastic surgeons referred to me by my Gastric Bypass Surgeon. I made 3 appointments and got three different opinions about how they would correct my sagging skin situation. In each situation, I met with the referred surgeon for no more than 3 minutes before he introduced me to his junior partner to explain the procedure. I never spent more than 6 minutes total talking to anyone in a white lab coat with M.D. behind his/her name. And I paid, on average, $135.00 for the privilege. I had decided to pursue one of the surgeon’s and scheduled the procedure. He recommended that I have a tummy tuck and the sagging skin on my arms removed and a breast lift. I booked the procedure at the University of Pennsylvania for December 11, 2007 and returned home to California.
As luck would have it, I was talking with some colleagues in my industry, Health Care for Johnson and Johnson, and was telling them about my plans. One of our companies, Ethicon, Inc. had been involved in manufacturing the instruments used in the gastric bypass procedures and had been making sutures and wound healing products for decades. One of the J&J Medical Directors, who had been collaborating with the top plastic surgeons for years, asked me why I was flying to Philadelphia when the absolute best doctors were in my backyard in California. I had never thought about it before and was unfamiliar with anyone in California to ask. That same evening, I was watching The Discovery Health Channel on television and saw a feature on “The Shrinking Woman”. The segment featured a surgeon named Dr. Katzen of Beverly Hills who has dedicated his practice to helping those who have lost a great deal of weight through gastric bypass and other methods, reconstruct their body and re-invent their life. I liked his demeanor with the patient and his thoroughness in explaining the procedure. I went on-line and began to research Dr. Katzen. He had built a business called “Body By Katzen” and I was very impressed with all of his credentials. Credentials and references are important since in today’s world, any doctor could be calling himself or herself a Plastic Surgeon. I also called my colleague at J&J and asked if he had ever heard of J. Timothy Katzen, M.D. I was told Dr. Katzen was “The Best of the Best” for the procedures I wanted. I noticed on his website that he was offering a Saturday Seminar somewhere in California and was also offering a free consultation. I already had my surgery date confirmed in Philadelphia, so I decided I had nothing to lose in attending.
On October 6, 2007, I drove 90 minutes to the seminar. It was in large room in a medical building and the room was a buzz with excitement. There were people wearing black shirts with “Body By Katzen” embossed on them. I assumed they were employees of Dr. Katzen. I soon learned these people were patients who had come to share with the attendees their first hand experience with Body By Katzen. There were men and women of all ages sharing their “fat pictures” and talking about this person who had changed their life called Dr. Katzen. They stood in front of me in mini-skirts, tight fitting jeans, flat stomachs, and no hanging skin. I was amazed at what I was seeing as none of these people looked as if they had ever had a weight problem. But what REALLY impressed me was what they said about Dr. Katzen. Each one of them, in their own way, told their story about how Dr. Katzen made them feel as if they were the only patient in the world. And how his office staff (Diana, Rachel and Jane) all made him or her feel welcomed and appreciated. I saw a man standing in the back of the room and introduced myself. It was Dr. Katzen. I told him that I had booked my surgery in Philadelphia but would like to get a second opinion. He was so pleasant and accommodating, I looked forward to the consultation. A few hours later, Dr. Katzen and his assistant, Lieu, met with me. I asked him what he would suggest and he started to show me how he would re-shape my body. I was mesmerized with how he could look at my body and see beyond the skin and fat and craft a plan to make me look beautiful. He spent 45 minutes with me talking about me and what I was thinking. I shared with him my plans in Philadelphia and that the other surgeon was going to do 3 procedures at once. He was very professional but indicated to me that he would never put a patient in a position where they could not use their core muscles and their arms. And then he explained that unless the surgeon was superhuman, he could not physically do all three procedures by himself and that since I would be at a teaching hospital, chances were high that the senior surgeon would be using junior surgeons or interns in the procedure. It was all coming together as to why I kept getting introduced to the junior surgeons in the Philadelphia offices. We talked about how the sutures can be different on each arm as a result of different surgeon’s doing the sutures-each one having their own style of stitching, much like tailors. Dr. Katzen told me that he does ALL of the sutures himself. So, after 45 minutes of a consultation, which had provided me with more information than all of the other, surgeons that I had met put together, I made my decision. I confirmed three surgeries (360 Body Lift, Brachioplasty and Breast Lift and Thigh Lift) and three surgical dates beginning in February 2008.
I waited four months with great anticipation. I completed the battery of tests needed for the pre-op and was cleared for surgery. I arrived at the Surgical Center adorned by my Valentine Day Hearts and was ready to go. Dr. Katzen met me and began to draw funny lines on my body with Sharpie Markers- black, red, green. My sister was with me and was concerned that I was getting nervous. I had no nervousness about what was going to happen at all. I had met with Dr. Katzen enough times that I had every confidence that he knew exactly what he was doing and would be doing what he does best in the operating room. Even the Anesthesiologist had called me at my hotel room the night before to introduce himself and explain every detail of what would be happening from his end the next day. The nurses were wonderful and when I woke up after a grueling 11 hours of surgery for the team, it was Dr. Katzen’s face I saw telling me everything went great and answering my “Thank You’s” with his typical “My Pleasure” and grin.
I had heard that the pain might be difficult for me but Dr. Katzen had taken great care to ensure I was comfortable. I can honestly say that I never experience a great deal of pain from the 360 Body Lift. It is amazing that so much of the body can be cut and the pain was not even close to what I experienced after the Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass. No “guns” needed this time around at all! It’s now almost 8 weeks later and although I made a few calls to Dr. Katzen on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening, which he promptly responded to in 60 seconds or less (very impressive in my experience with doctors), I am very pleased with my decision with Dr. Katzen. I actually look forward to my visits to his office in Beverly Hills despite the one-way 2 ½ hour commute. His staff, Diana, Rachel and Jane are just delightful and so helpful to me in ways that go beyond “their job”. I actually miss everyone when I don’t have an appointment.
I have spent 30 years as Human Resources Executive for the Johnson and Johnson Family of Companies during which time; I have honed my skills and intuition about people. I have been able to distinguish between people who want a job or a career, between people who have integrity and those who do not and I have been able to determine those who love what they do and those who just put time in. I can say with great confidence that J. Timothy Katzen, M.D. loves what he does and has a passion for excellence that I don’t often see. He has the eye of an artist to see things that haven’t yet appeared and the hands of skilled surgeon to make a previously obese person into someone who has the chance to feel beautiful and normal. He has the patience and tenacity to ensure the patient feels comfortable and the smile that re-assures them about the future. He has chosen his staff to compliment his philosophy around excellence in patient care and his diligence to his craft is evident in everything he does. I feel very blessed to have found Dr. Katzen and his staff and would travel any amount of miles to be in his care. If you are on the fence in deciding if you want to take that bold step to recapture your life and your happiness, don’t be, Dr.Katzen will be there to lead you every step of the way. With Gratitude.”