Elusive Sleep Restored After Weight Loss Surgery.– Michelle
When Michelle Stoneback, 48, of Roseto, reflects on how her life has changed since her bariatric surgery, she is certainly grateful for her 260 lb. weight loss, but she’s also thankful for much more. Because of her bariatric surgery, she is finally able to get a good night’s sleep, the lack of which was impacting almost every facet of her life. And, as an added bonus, she found love, which was a benefit to surgery she never expected.
Like many other bariatric patients, Michelle had a lifelong struggle with her weight. And yet, throughout much of her adult life, she didn’t really comprehend how bad it had gotten. When she reached 540 lbs., her obstructive sleep apnea was at its worst. She had sleep studies done and used a CPAP machine, but she would still wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. It interrupted the continuous night’s sleep necessary to be fully functioning in waking hours. “I didn’t even realize it at the time, but my sleep deficiency was starting to get in the way of everything, including my mood and outlook on life,” describes Michelle. “I was just so tired and irritable all the time; I was snapping at people and always felt on-edge.”
Doctors cautioned Michelle as the weight crept up and more and more comorbidities started to appear, but it wasn’t until she was hospitalized with cellulitis, a serious infection, that her weight problem really hit home. “I’ve always been overweight, but when I started to have trouble getting around and ended up in the hospital, I knew I needed to make a change,” recalls Michelle. When a doctor came to her room to check on her and interview her about her health history, she checked off pretty much every box they would inquired about. Family history of diabetes? Check. Heart disease? Check. High cholesterol? Check. Sleep Apnea? Check. A family member death before the age of 60? Check. Add to that her weight and BMI and on paper, she certainly had all the serious health risks. As Michelle lay in the hospital for almost two weeks, she knew that if she didn’t make some serious changes, regular hospital visits and failing health would become a regular occurrence. “My dad died young and towards the end, he was in and out of the hospital all the time. My hospital stay reminded me that I could very easily have a similar fate. Coupled with that, I had zero energy for my 12-hour work days and constant anxiety about not being able to fit in chairs whenever I went somewhere new,” Michelle says.
A few weeks later, she sat in the office at St. Luke’s Weight Management Center with Maher El Chaar, MD and his team. Michelle was indeed a candidate for gastric bypass, so there was nothing holding her back. “Not once did I have a reservation about going forward with surgery after I met with the St. Luke’s team,” says Michelle. “The fact that St. Luke’s was a high-volume bariatric center performing nearly 500 successful surgeries a year made me even more confident. The doctors and staff walked me through the process and I was full steam ahead.”
The Laparoscopic Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass surgery was a success and almost immediately, some of Michelle’s comorbidities disappeared. Sleep apnea was a thing of the past, and a few months later, she was completely off her blood pressure medication. “Dropping so much weight was great, of course, but being able to sleep soundly again made such a big impact on my life,” says Michelle. “I’ve gained my life back, I’m more confident and I have more energy. My whole outlook is brighter,” says Michelle. “I never realized how much my weight affected my day-to-day life and my overall personality until it was gone - I’m so much happier.”
Michelle says Dr. El Chaar’s team was with her every step of the way and still is. “Dr. El Chaar is the most amazing person I’ve ever met,” says Michelle. “And I never felt alone in this whole process. They helped me plan out how to eat, what to eat, when to eat; they made it personalized for me since I work nights and have such a crazy schedule.”
A few months after her surgery, Michelle met her now boyfriend at a support group for bariatric patients. They both keep each other on track with healthy lifestyle changes. Meeting him was one of the benefits of bariatric surgery she never expected but greatly appreciates. “I can’t overemphasize how much the surgery changed me, especially in terms of how it impacted my health and cured my sleep apnea,” concludes Michelle. “Being able to sleep well, move throughout the day and yes, even fit in chairs are things I will never take for granted again.”