It’s really an amazing community – experienced nurses, physicians, surgeons, social workers, dietitians and even the other support group members - everyone carries you through, lifts you up and keeps you going. – Jen
For years, Jennifer DeLong, 46 of Pen Argyl, was so busy with all the minutiae of everyday life with her husband and son, she didn’t really notice the weight creeping up. From a young age, she was always on the heavy side and never thought much about it. She kept active as a kid playing soccer, but it wasn’t enough to counteract all the sweets and candy she was putting into her body on a daily basis. As she got older, her life became more and more sedentary and her candy habit remained.
Even after she was put on blood pressure medication for her hypertension, she didn’t really acknowledge that there was a problem. It wasn’t until her son started playing soccer that she started to notice that she would be out of breath just carrying her chair to a game. Standing at 5’5 and weighing 272 lbs., she knew her weight was likely the cause of her breathlessness, so she made feeble attempts with fad diets, but ultimately, the diets were so extreme that she could never sustain them.
She vented to a friend about how her doctor recently upped her high blood pressure medication and that she was so short of breath that sometimes she couldn’t carry on a conversation. Coupled with that, she just felt bad about herself. Her friend knew of someone who had weight loss surgery with St. Luke's Weight Management Center, and it piqued Jen’s interest enough to start researching her options.
She started by attending an information seminar hosted by the bariatric surgeons and team at St. Luke's Weight Management Center. She immediately felt at ease during the session as she listened to the doctors and staff and others who had bariatric surgery. She liked that the team would provide guidance about nutrition, behavior modification, emotional readiness and fitness. She felt encouraged by everything she heard, but she still yearned for something more to put her over the edge.
Next, she attended a bariatric support group meeting and listened to a patient share her success story. Something inside Jen clicked. “Her story was so normal – she was just like me and she stood there in front of all of us, healthier and happier because she lost the weight,” recalls Jen. “It made me feel like I too could actually do it.”
Jen knew that St. Luke’s was the right place for her to have her surgery. Not only was she impressed with the surgery and support staff, but she knew that St. Luke’s was a Center of Excellence for Bariatric Surgery and that this designation is only bestowed on the best facilities and doctors in the country.
“I was also impressed with the fact that St. Luke’s required a number of prerequisites, like approval from a cardiologist, psychologist and family doctor,” says Jen. “That, to me, meant that they aren’t just doing surgeries to churn them out for numbers, they really care and want to make sure surgery is truly right for their patients.”
Jennifer lost 110 lbs. after her laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery. The day she went in for surgery was the very last day she took blood pressure medication. Even the painful arthritis in her ankles has subsided due to her weight loss.
Jen cautions anyone thinking of pursuing bariatric surgery that it is no easy fix. “It’s definitely not something to take lightly,” she says. “Yes, you lose weight right away, but you will gain it all back if you don’t make some major lifestyle changes.”
The St. Luke’s staff is still helping Jen stick to all those healthy lifestyle changes to stave off the weight as well as the high blood pressure. “They don’t just abandon you after the surgery is over,” says Jen. “They want to make sure you continue with your success. It’s really an amazing community – experienced nurses, physicians, surgeons, social workers, dietitians and even the other support group members – everyone carries you through, lifts you up and keeps you going.”
Now, almost seven years post-surgery, Jen has maintained her weight loss and frequently attends support group meetings. She now hopes her story will inspire others to take this important life-saving step to get healthy.