A New Life After 200-pound Weight Loss

Lori EmerickLori Emerick remembers the days when weighing 417 pounds literally weighed down her life.

Over 10 years, her Type 2 diabetes had become progressively worse. She suffered knee pain, back pain and frequent migraines. She sluggishly went to work and then came home and often went straight to bed. At age 45, she felt sick and tired.

She would cringe when her teenage daughter wanted to go to the mall; it was too much walking. She squeezed into the largest size offered at the plus-size clothing store. She didn’t have near enough energy for the 3-and-4-year-olds she supervised as an assistant daycare director. Once she got down on the floor to play, she had to stay there a while.

“My diabetes numbers were out of control,” Emerick says. “I was tired of taking four insulin shots and two oral medications a day. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Finally, I decided I just couldn’t live like this anymore.”

Today, Emerick is nearly 200 pounds lighter after having bariatric surgery through the Genesis Center for Weight Management. In a dramatic turnaround from her pre-surgery days, she rides her bike to work and participates in 5K races. She is off all diabetes medications; crunches on veggies instead of potato chips; and, has enough energy to be called the “Energizer Bunny.”

“At 47, I feel like I’m 17 again,” she says. “I’m so much happier.”

Weight-loss surgery

Weight-loss surgery had been in the back of Emerick’s mind for a while. Years earlier, she had investigated another program in the region -- only to be told she had to lose 60 pounds in about three weeks to be eligible. Feeling defeated, she abandoned the idea.

Years later, a friend from card club convinced her to consider bariatric surgery through the nationally accredited program at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport. That friend, Teresa Fraker, managed the center at the time and had seen the surgery change many lives for the better. She encouraged Emerick to attend an informational meeting.

“I felt welcome the minute I walked into the bariatric surgery center at Genesis,” Emerick recalls. “Immediately, I noticed the chairs were larger. I didn’t feel huge walking in there. I just knew they were on my side no matter what. Everyone was so nice and friendly, and I loved them all.”

The informational meeting inspired Emerick. She began the journey that would ultimately bring her to gastric bypass surgery in November 2009.

But first, she would participate in a program designed to assist her in achieving the maximum success after surgery. “When you’re going through the process you think, ‘Come on. Let’s get this over with, so I can have the surgery.’ Later, you understand you’ve gone through this very important process so you’re prepared for a lifetime of compliance,” Emerick says.

Before surgery, she also would have to lose enough weight to get down to 400 pounds.

For several weeks, she was on the Optifast® Program, a medically supervised weight-loss program of pre-portioned, calorie-controlled meals. “The timing was perfect,” Emerick says. “I found that adhering to the program was easy because I had the right mindset.”

Not all patients are required to lose weight before surgery. It’s on a very individual basis, depending on weight and specific medical conditions.

“Some patients ask, ‘Why should I lose weight beforehand when I’ll lose so much weight after weightloss surgery?’” says Kathy Crooks, RN, Bariatric Program Coordinator of the Genesis Center for Weight Management. “Weight-loss before surgery can help patients lose some weight to help reduce their risk for complications during surgery. The lifestyle changes they learn as part of the program also help them prepare for life after surgery.”

4 weight-loss options

Lori Emerick holds up a t-shirt she used to wear when she weighed 417 pounds.

Lori Emerick holds up a t-shirt
she used to wear when
she weighed 417 pounds.

Emerick underwent laparoscopic Rouxen- Y surgery on Nov. 2, 2009. The surgery was performed by Matthew Christophersen, M.D., FACS, the program’s medical director.

“I haven’t been on any diabetes medication since the day before surgery. That alone has made it all worthwhile,” she says. “Without insurance, one insulin prescription alone would cost more than $300 per month.”

While the Genesis center offers three surgical options, it is the bypass option that has gained the most attention as treatment for Type 2 diabetes.

A growing body of research shows that weight-loss surgery can reverse diabetes.

“Most of our patients who have Type 2 diabetes prior to surgery leave the hospital after Roux-en-Y off all of their diabetes medications,” Crooks says. “Bypass is remarkably effective for treatment of Type 2 diabetes.”

The surgery brought many other benefits to Emerick, as well. Gone are her aches and pains and the need to lie around fatigued. She copes better with the physical demands of her job, and she has a positive attitude.

“Before my surgery, I remember going down to the school’s basement to get supplies, and the climb back up the flight of stairs would nearly kill me,” she recalls. “My knees would throb, I’d sweat profusely, and I’d be out of breath for 10 minutes. I didn’t let people know how hard it was for me, but I felt crabby and down all the time.

“Weight-loss surgery has made so much of a difference. I’m so much happier today.”

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