Patient Testimonials

Randa BurkheadRanda Burkhead - after surgery at 152 pounds.Randa Burkhead - before surgery at 269 pounds.
Muscatine, Iowa
Age: 57
Pre-surgery weight: 269 pounds
Date of Surgery: July 7, 2007
Weight loss to-date (July 08): 152 pounds

Before surgery, I struggled with the every day functions of the day.  Every step I took, my knees and also my feet hurt.  I had high blood pressure, acid reflux disease; my sugar levels were raising each year along with my cholesterol levels.  I researched Bariatric surgery for three years before making the decision that has changed my life. 

I used to eat for every known emotion.  I didn't  care if the occasion was happy, sad, calm or stressful.  Food was my solution for everything and also my addiction.  Through the help at the bariatric center, I have learned how to eat - what to eat and to enjoy what I choose to eat. 

I am no longer limited in activity.  Before my surgery, I would make sure that my shopping list of needed times were in the chronological order of the store where I was going, so I wouldn't have to make any unnecessary steps.  No backtracking was allowed - it hurt to badly!  Now, I can shop where I want, walk where I want, and enjoy each outing- no pain in the feet or the knees!

I enjoy horseback riding and I no longer feel sorry of the horse.  I can go through the Menard's entryway without turning sideways.  I can paint my toenails - and not pinch my stomach!  I fit in the seat at the Mark and the movies.  I can exit and enter a backseat of a car without embarrassment.  I can cross my legs at the knees without picking up my foot!  There is room on my lap for my grandchildren!

Thank you Dr. Phelps and the Genesis Center for Weight Management for helping me to find my health!

Yvonne WigantYvonne Wigant in March 2005 after losing 152 poundsYvonne Wigant before weight-loss surgery at 297 pounds
Orion, Illinois
Age: 42
Pre-surgery weight: 297 pounds
Date of Surgery: March 8, 2004
Weight loss to-date (March 05): 152 pounds

A 297-pound Yvonne Wigant didn’t go quietly when she made the very personal decision to have bariatric surgery at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport.

Instead, the registered nurse agreed to write an online diary, or blog, and share her weight-loss journey with the 446 people who signed up to receive her periodic e-mails and the thousands of people who log on each day to the Genesis Web site.

Through her eloquent entries, Wigant of Orion, Ill., told of her life-changing experience with the Genesis Center for Weight Management. She inspired readers with the setbacks and victories that led to her hard-fought, 152-pound weight loss; and, over the course of 14 months, motivated others with her heartfelt entries.

“This very public sharing does not come easy to a matter of fact, I’m considering finding the nearest cave and hiding out,” Wigant admitted before her March 8, 2004, surgery. She didn’t expect the outpouring of support and encouragement she received as a result.

A final posting

A year later, and after recently posting her final entry on March 11, Wigant hopes that her very-public battle with severe obesity has helped those who grapple with the decision to pursue weight-loss surgery.

“As I close my blogging experience, I find that I have many emotions,” Wigant, 42, wrote. “It has been a wonderful experience, and I feel privileged to have been able to share my journey with so many people. I’ve ‘gained’ much more than I’ve ‘lost’ through all the support, encouragement and kind words received from so many of you.”

She “lost” 14 dress sizes and, most importantly, the high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint pain and sleep apnea that came with being so overweight. “I’m officially HALF the person I used to be,” she wrote in January.

She “gained” a personal trainer, a love for exercise, an understanding of how to “eat to live instead of live to eat,” and the healthy realization that self worth should never be measured by the scale.

Today, she stands taller; enjoys shopping for “regular” clothes; celebrates “sugar-free” birthdays and holidays; and, comfortably rides a new Harley with her husband. For summer vacation, the couple plans to go to a hiking destination. “I feel like I’m actively participating in my life now instead of standing on the sidelines and watching it go by,” Wigant said. “I’m a partner again with my husband and daughter and take part instead of saying, ‘I’m too heavy, or I don’t feel like doing that.’ ’’

Pounds of support

She credits her success to her family’s endless support and the guidance of a multi-disciplinary team at Genesis, including her surgeon Matthew Christophersen, M.D., center manager Teresa Fraker, R.N., nursing staff, and a pharmacist, dietitian, physical therapist and recreational therapist. Genesis Psychology Associates administers psychological evaluations to ensure people are good candidates for surgery.

What was the hardest part about sharing her weight-loss experience with so many? Remaining positive in the face of changing a lifetime of bad behaviors and overcoming a negative body image wrought by 20 years of being overweight. Occasionally, fears of failure and defeat would get her down, Wigant admitted.

“At times, I was discouraged. I didn’t want to come across as negative because the whole experience has been wonderful. But we all have struggles in life, and I wanted to be honest, too. I didn’t want people to think this was easy.”

Fraker said it was Wigant’s candidness and caring nature that won over her electronic audience. “People have such a profound connection with her. They come to support group, and they all want to meet her. They identify with her. Fraker added, “Yvonne is a person who started out being very private. But she felt compelled to share her experience and to help other people who have the same fears and worries. She and all our bariatric surgery patients remember what it was like to be the size they were. They’re very sensitive, caring, and loving to these other people who are suffering. One support group member takes care of one another. They just connect. Yvonne’s behavior of ‘Let me show you the way’ is pretty typical of all our patients.”

Wigant is grateful that the Genesis Center for Weight Management has given her the tools to continue a lifetime of healthy habits.

Exactly one year after her surgery she wrote: “So many changes have taken place... I can honestly say though that I am not the same person that I was a year ago. Not physically, mentally or emotionally. I have no doubt whatsoever that this surgery saved my life. My high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint aches and pains among many other ailments have been cured. I exercise almost every day (and like it), and I eat small, but healthy portions of food.”

She still likes food and still wishes she could eat some things that are now off limits. But she works it out and moves on. It gets easier every day, she said.

“No, gastric bypass isn’t the easy way out,” Wigant concluded. “I’ve fought a hard battle, and every day I make the decision to keep fighting. The surgery is really only a tool to get you good and started, but it is not a magic cure.”

Mary McDonaldMary McDonald in October 2005 after losing 130.5 poundsMary McDonald before weight-loss surgery at 308 pounds

Maquoketa, Iowa
Age: 51
Pre-surgery weight: 308 pounds
Date of Surgery: Sept. 22, 2003
Weight loss to-date (October 05): 130.5 pounds

Mary McDonald’s moment of clarity came after one of the final conversations with her cancer-stricken oldest sister.

“She told me she had no regrets about having weight loss surgery,” says McDonald. “She still believed that the procedure, done some 25 years ago, was the best way to deal with the weight problem she had.” It helped McDonald decide to have her own weight loss surgery.

Growing up thin and active in sports, McDonald didn’t have a weight problem until she became a mom. “Once I started having kids, it seemed like every year it’d be another five pounds. It all added up over time. Never in my worst nightmare did I ever think I’d weigh more than 300 pounds.”
Weight Watchers. Atkins. You name the diet. McDonald probably tried it over the years. Different exercise programs and places too. There wasn’t anything wrong with any of them. They just weren’t enough for her.

So, with the support of her husband and three grown children, who were concerned about her health, McDonald came to an educational class at the Genesis Center for Weight Management.

“When I walked into the clinic that first time, and saw the oversized chairs, I knew then that they get it,” she says. “They understand that when you’re really heavy and you go into a place, you’re worried you’re not going to fit in the chairs.”

McDonald “breezed” through surgery – pitching her pain medication by day three. She says she struggled some with eating at first. Bouts of dry heaves have since passed.  She doesn’t eat a lot of meat yet. But she can eat almost anything, just not as much. Attending regular meetings of the “Images” support group, McDonald learned she’s not the only one who still has occasional spells of vomiting, and that it’s not unusual. There’s comfort in sharing the same experiences with other weight loss surgery patients, and happiness with the way her weight loss is progressing. Her borderline high blood pressure has disappeared. Unable to walk more than a block without back pain before surgery, she now walks a couple of miles every day.

“I’m pain free. I don’t have to worry about going somewhere and getting a close parking spot, knowing now it doesn’t matter where we park because I can walk the distance,” says McDonald. “Since I grew up playing sports, now that I feel so much better, I’m getting back into playing tennis and bike riding. I’m thrilled about that.”

McDonald is losing weight faster than she thought she would. She’d like to drop to 140 pounds. There’s no timetable for getting there, but no worry about reaching that goal.

“After the surgery, you continue to go back to see the psychologist, the nutritionist and the physical therapist. I think that’s very important. The Center does a really good job of having you follow up with those people,” McDonald says. “The Genesis Center for Weight Management staff has been wonderful. Any time I’ve had a question or problem and called, they’ve gotten right back to me.”

Asked if she has any regrets about choosing weight loss surgery, McDonald’s answer is the same as the one her sister gave her.

“I certainly would do it again. There’s no way you would lose weight at this pace and feel this good.”

Jane DohrmannJane Dohrmann in October 2005 after losing 137.5 poundsJane Dohrmann before weight-loss surgery at 324 pounds
Davenport, Iowa
Age: 61
Pre-surgery weight: 324 pounds
Date of Surgery: Sept. 15, 2003
Weight loss to-date (October 05): 137.5 pounds

At 190 pounds overweight, Jane Dohrmann’s uncomfortable life went something like this: Get off work. Plop down on the couch. Promptly fall asleep. Get up, go to bed, and sleep fitfully. Wake up in the middle of the night to gasp for air, choke on the stomach acid burning away at your throat, or occasionally fear you’re in the throes of a heart attack.

With only one pair of Size 26 professional slacks that fit, the banker from Davenport washed them out at night to wear again the next day. Life was a series of obstacles. Lawn chairs weren’t big enough; diets didn’t work; seatbelts often didn’t fit; restaurant booths were out of the question; and going out for entertainment ran the risk of rude stares and squeezing into too-small chairs. The once-active 61-year-old no longer had much energy to go out anyway.

“I celebrated with food, I was depressed with food, my life WAS food. I was destroying myself,” Dohrmann says. “I defined the term ‘couch potato.’ I’d sit there and say, ‘I should get this room clean,’ but that’s all the farther it ever got. I was so overweight I couldn’t do it. In my opinion, I just shut down.”

Now, Dohrmann tells how the Genesis Center for Weight Management helped her reclaim her life with its multi-disciplinary clinic and compassionate health care team. Since her surgery on Sept. 15, 2003, she has seen dramatic health improvements. Her acid reflux problem is gone; her sleep apnea is greatly diminished; and she no longer has to take thyroid medicine.

“I feel fantastic – just 100 percent better,” Dohrmann says. “I’ll pass by a window, see my reflection and think, ‘Wow, it’s me!’”

“When I first considered bariatric surgery I wondered, ‘Am I taking the easy way out? Can’t I just go on another diet?’ But the more I talked to experts I learned this isn’t a shortcut. This is a lifetime commitment. You have to have dedication.”

The Genesis’ program has followed Ms. Dohrmann before and after surgery, providing her a support system to help her succeed. She also attends the regular meetings of the “Images” support group.

For Ms. Dohrmann, the surgery was the easiest hurdle. More difficult has been learning new skills, adhering to a new healthy lifestyle and developing a new state-of-mind.

“I don’t mean to make light of the surgery,” she says. “But that part was a breeze compared to the mental adjustments I had to make. I couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support of my family, too.”

She stays completely away from her two former food indulgences -- desserts and Diet Pepsi. “Now, my system just won’t take it. When you can only eat so little, you want to make it food that’s good for you,” she says.

Dohrmann, who is somewhat of a free spirit and never likes to be told what to do, is surprised she has adapted so well to her new lifestyle. In fact, her regimented diet has made her more organized in other areas of her life. She also embraces having the ability to go for walks and tackle projects she had lost the energy to do.

“I can’t believe who I am now,” she says. “Finally, I’ve got it in my mind that I don’t ever want to be as overweight as I was before. I want to be healthy.”


Greg MirfieldGreg Mirfield in October 2005 after losing 123 poundsGreg Mirfield before weight-loss surgery at 352 pounds
Davenport, Iowa
Age: 51
Pre surgery weight 352 lbs.
Date of Surgery: April 19, 2004
Weight loss to-date (October 05): 123 pounds

Say “goodbye” to the old Greg Mirfield.

He’s the 352-pound man who grumpily lived life on the couch and in the cab of his 18-wheeler, usually with his hand in a bag of Cheetos. Hindered by a 64-inch waist, he couldn’t bend over to pull on his boots. His T-shirts couldn’t cover his belly, and walking up stairs made him pant and perspire. Call him a buffet line’s worst nightmare.

Now meet the new Greg Mirfield.

Just four months after weight-loss surgery, he’s already 80 pounds lighter and revved up about life atop his new motorcycle. He plays with his five grandchildren; buys clothes off the rack; tucks in his shirts; has enough energy for yard work and pheasant hunting; and when he can, orders off the children’s menu. He’s a cheerful, likeable guy.

His wife, Bonnie, likes to joke: “The old Greg Mirfield is not allowed in the house anymore.”

The new Greg Mirfield credits the Genesis Center for Weight Management for helping him reclaim his life with the help of its multidisciplinary clinic and compassionate health care team. Since the surgery, the incessant backaches, sleep apnea and the diabetes medication are gone.

So is the deep depression that hit when – all within a month – he suffered a heart attack; found out he had kidney cancer and diabetes; and, had to have his kidney removed. Through the thick of it came the realization that he needed to be thinner, too.

“I was a ticking time bomb,” said Mirfield, 51, of Davenport. “I lived life exerting the least amount of energy that I could. I was a Cheetos junky who’d sit in a semi 12-13 hours a day, go home and plop down on the couch with the remote control.”

Surgeon Matthew Christophersen, M.D., F.A.C.S., of Davenport Surgical Group, suggested a more permanent solution to the weight problem that threatened to cut short Mirfield’s life – Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the most widely performed surgical procedure for weight loss. The surgery restricts caloric intake by reconfiguring the stomach and the small intestine. The Genesis Center for Weight Management's wide continuum of care, which also includes ongoing consultations with nursing staff, a dietitian, a physical therapist, a pharmacist and a psychologist, has provided Mirfield a support program to succeed.

“I have a new lease on life,” he said. “I have more energy now; I’ve found clothes in my closet I haven’t worn for years, and, I’m actually outside doing things again. My kids are happy; my wife is happy.”

Wife, Bonnie, is amazed that she has to remind her formerly food-addicted husband to eat. “He used to get into the refrigerator while I’d be fixing dinner,” she said. “Now, he’ll eat dinner; take maybe six or seven bites; and say ‘I’m done.’ ” The happy man she married 30 years ago has returned, and even his loud snoring has dissipated to the extent that she occasionally checks to see if the now-quiet sleeper still breathes.
The Mirfields stress that bariatric surgery is not a magical cure or an easy way to lose weight. “You have to want to do it and take the time to learn what you can and cannot eat,” Mr. Mirfield said.

Seriously overweight men should not be ashamed to investigate the surgery. Nor should people with health problems automatically assume that they aren’t eligible for surgery. “Every day, I wake up and feel better,” he said. “I have no regrets, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to help me through it than the Genesis Center for Weight Management.”

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