Weight-loss surgery with a robotic assist helps Rehoboth man shed pounds

April 16, 2019

When Eric and Kelly Dencker of Rehoboth Beach started to talk about having a child, the elephant in the room was Eric’s weight.

“I had gained weight – more than 200 pounds – over a couple of years. I couldn’t seem to take any weight off,” Eric said. “I knew I wanted to have a child, but I didn’t think I could be the dad I wanted to be with all the extra weight.”

Eric was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and then decided to see a weight-loss expert. “I wanted to see if I could lose the weight myself. It’s an ongoing battle,” he said.

Eric worked with another weight-loss surgery program in Milford, but, despite his efforts, he actually gained a few pounds.

“I just didn’t feel the program was right for me. It didn’t have a personalized feel to it,” Eric said.

That’s when he and Kelly decided to find out about other bariatric surgery options and learned of Michael Sofronski, MD, a bariatric surgeon with Beebe Medical Group.

Bariatric surgery, also called weight-loss surgery, offers several options for people who have a body mass index of 40 or higher. Those with a BMI of 35 may also be considered for bariatric surgery if they have other health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

“Bariatric surgery is a powerful tool; however, it is not for everyone. People who have 100 pounds or more to lose can certainly benefit from bariatric surgery, but they also need to understand that a continued effort needs to be made,” said Sofronski.

Eric started Sofronski’s weight-loss program, which includes keeping a food journal and adding daily exercise. Through his efforts, Eric lost 35 pounds.

“It was so much more personalized to me. I felt Dr. Sofronski and his team really cared for me and the nutrition program was amazing,” Eric said.

Sofronski was proud of his efforts and approved Eric for a procedure called vertical sleeve gastrectomy.

“The ability to show weight loss and a commitment to lifestyle changes prior to surgery are essential to success,” Sofronski said. “In fact, many insurance companies require a patient shows weight loss prior to bariatric surgery or they won’t authorize the operation.”

The vertical sleeve procedure reduces the size of the stomach to 20 percent of its original capacity. This surgery allows the body to naturally limit the amount of food one can eat at a time.

Eric had to be cleared by a psychiatrist and have additional tests to make sure he was healthy enough for surgery.

“I was excited to learn that Dr. Sofronski is doing all of his bariatric procedures robotically,” Eric said. “I learned that by using the da Vinci machine, patients are able to have smaller incisions and go home faster. It is an amazing technology.”

Eric had his surgery in the early afternoon. By dinnertime, he was up and walking the halls of the recovery unit. And by the next day, he was cleared to go home.

“I had a great experience. Everyone from Dr. Sofronski’s office staff to Dr. Sofronski himself – they helped guide me through the process. They were truly interested in me as a person and interested in helping me reach my goals,” Eric said.

Kelly agreed, saying, “The surgery team at Beebe was incredibly kind – taking the time to explain everything to me. I was worried Eric would need to relax for a long time; however, he was up and walking and feeling great pretty quickly. We have already recommended Beebe’s program to others.”

Beebe’s Center for Robotic Surgery uses the da Vinci Xi Robotic Surgical System – the latest in available robotic technology. The center offers robotically assisted surgery in the areas of cardiothoracic, gynecologic, general and bariatric surgery.

Following his surgery, Eric knows he has a long way to go to fully reach his goal of losing about 200 pounds. He walks daily and eats healthy meals.

“It’s part of my life now. No more fast food and no more cheat meals. That part of my life is over. Now, I focus on making healthy choices every day,” Eric said.

He still meets with Sofronski, who tracks his progress, and he is part of an online support group where he finds new recipes to try out.

“I can’t say enough about Dr. Sofronski – he’s a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy,” Eric said. “Before, I had difficulty making it through the grocery store. Now, I enjoy going to the store and going other places with my wife. It has certainly opened up new opportunities for me to get out there and enjoy my life more now.”

To learn more about Beebe’s Center for Robotic Surgery and the Bariatric Surgery program, go to


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