If you have an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.


Going Global: St. Luke’s Performs Weight Loss Surgery On First International Patient
October 10, 2014

Weight loss surgeon Leonardo Claros, MD, gives bariatric patient Lizzie Ortiz the ‘all clear’ to return home to Bolivia following weight loss surgery.

Allentown, PA (10/10/14) - Mary “Lizzie” Ortiz de Ribera has travelled the world. Her position as a public figure, magazine publisher and beauty salon entrepreneur in Bolivia has afforded her the opportunity to seek out the best of everything – hotels, restaurants, shopping – you name it.

So when, after three years of soul-searching, she decided to have weight loss surgery, she knew exactly where she wanted to go: St. Luke’s Weight Management Center at St. Luke’s Allentown Campus.

“It was important to me to have an experienced surgeon and a program that had all the resources I knew I would need,” explains Ortiz, who travelled more than 4,000 miles from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, South America to Allentown, Pennsylvania for her surgery. “I know that here I am in good hands.”

Leonardo Claros, MD, FACS, FASMBS, chief of bariatric surgery and medical director of St. Luke’s bariatric surgery program, performed Ortiz’s gastric sleeve gastrectomy and could not have been happier with her outcome. “She is the epitome of the perfect patient,” says Claros. “Lizzie was up and walking within hours of her procedure and she is very motivated to do well.”

Sitting still is not part of Ortiz’s world. When she isn’t running her chain of “Mary Lizzie” beauty salons/ schools throughout South America, or working on editorial and photographs for her bridal magazine Novias or her beauty publication Estilismo, Ortiz is busy keeping up with her 10-year-old son David and husband, Osvaldo.

Always active and thin through her 20s and 30s, Ortiz started to put on weight after she gave birth to David at age 42. Now 52, at 5’ 3” and 210 lbs, she was concerned about her health. “I have hypothyroidism and was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I knew it was time to take control of my health and lose the weight once and for all,” explains Ortiz. “I want a better lifestyle, to feel better and to feel confident in my appearance again.”

“I discussed it with my husband, my son and my team at work and they were very supportive,” said Ortiz. “My husband told me ‘If it will make you happy, then I’m all for it.’”

Ortiz is spending four weeks in Allentown – two prior to surgery and two following surgery. She prepared by booking flights, lodging, appointments and making sure she would have the appropriate vitamins and medications that she would need.

Having its first international patient presented some unique challenges to St. Luke’s Weight Management Center’s team; however, they were ready for Ortiz’s arrival. “This moment has been long in the making,” explains Dr. Claros, who is fluent in Spanish and was able to easily communicate with Ortiz. “Our team is exceptional and we have been publishing studies for years about our quality outcomes. It’s exciting to see the ‘word get out’ about our program and have people like Lizzie find us.”’

“I’m grateful to Dr. Claros and St. Luke’s for taking care of me,” says Ortiz, who can’t wait to return home to her family and business. “They did a great job of educating me on the entire process and I know that with their guidance and support, I will be successful.”

Besides getting back to “normal” Ortiz can’t wait to start exercising again. “I love to walk and run. Marathons are very popular where I am from. Now I feel ready to start training for one!”