Meet Our Patients: Meet Linda

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Bariatric Surgery: One Woman's Story

Meet Linda

Linda a patient of Joseph Regan, M.D., Bariatric Surgeon, Columbia St. Mary’s

Linda 53, has lost 130 pounds over the past 10 months. She has lost so much weight that occasionally people at work don’t recognize her. “Last week, three people in one day didn’t know it was me.”

After a lifetime of struggling with obesity, she chose to undergo bariatric surgery at Columbia St. Mary’s in February of 2004 as a last-resort measure to save her health.

Bariatric surgery is a procedure in which the size of the stomach is drastically reduced from about the size of a football to the size of an egg. The reduction in size limits the stomach’s capacity to hold food, making the patient feel full after eating only a small amount.

“I had been overweight since childhood and I’d tried every diet imaginable,” Linda said. “I joined Weight Watchers three times and lost 100 pounds each time, but always gained it back. When my sister got married in 1978, I lost over 100 pounds for her wedding, because I was the maid of honor. I gained that weight back within three years. I tried diet pills, but the minute I got off of them, I gained even more weight.”

Making the Decision
Linda first began thinking about bariatric surgery after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2001. She was sent to a nutritionist, then a therapist, and after an unsuccessful year of trying to lose weight, the therapist recommended that she consider bariatric surgery.

“I woke up every day thinking about my weight,” she remembers. “I avoided mirrors. My self-confidence was very low.”

At the time, Linda was considered morbidly obese. Morbid obesity is defined as being 100 pounds or more over the ideal body weight or having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Linda was 150 pounds overweight and had a BMI of 49. In addition to diabetes, Linda had hypertension and high cholesterol. Her energy level was low. Because of the extra weight she was carrying, even walking across the room could make her short of breath.

The Columbia St. Mary’s Bariatric Center offered everything that Linda was looking for — a strong surgical team with excellent support after the surgery.

Linda attributes her weight loss after the surgery to both the success of the surgery and her own choices afterwards.

Lifestyle Changes
“Some people think that the surgery will do it all for you,” Linda said. “That’s not the case — there’s no magic cure. Once you are morbidly obese, you always have the potential of going right back. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

For three weeks after surgery, Linda could only eat pureed foods and broth. In the past months, she has been able to add other food, but she still has difficulty eating any type of meat. Eating is a slower process now. While in the past, a meal would mean a full plate (plus seconds) eaten quickly, now a meal is a small plate, eaten very slowly.

Linda used to be a frequent snacker. Now, a snack might be a container of yogurt, eaten over a two-hour period. Linda said she has lost the taste for many foods she previously enjoyed.

“Even sugar-free Jell-o tastes too sweet now,” she said. “I have no desire to eat things like potato chips. You can only eat so much, so you don’t want to waste it on something that is not good for you.”

As her weight has gone down, Linda’s quality of life has gone up. She has more energy, can exercise more easily, and enjoys dressing up.

“I bought some size 12 jeans at the store, but when I brought them home and tried them on, they were too big. That was amazing to me,” she said. “At work, I enjoy wearing skirts and heels. I was never able to do that before.”

Better Health
Most importantly, however, Linda’s health has improved dramatically. Her high blood pressure and cholesterol levels have dropped, and she is able to take substantially less diabetes medication. She is also more confident. Linda hopes that her story of success will inspire other obese people to consider bariatric surgery.

“The other day I was shopping, and I saw a woman who was so heavy,” she said. “I could see the pain on her face. I knew what she was feeling. I just want people to know that they have options.”

Lina Before Surgery
Linda Before Surgery
Linda After Surgery
Linda After Surgery
 

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