Patient Story: Taking Her Life Back - Genesis Health System

Published on February 27, 2015

Taking her life back

Nurse improves diabetes with weight-loss surgeryHigby

For Kim Higby, the biggest motivation to undergo gastric bypass surgery wasn’t to lose weight. It was the hope of leaving the hospital after surgery without needing her daily insulin shots.

“Of course, knowing I would lose weight was very appealing,” says Higby, a registered nurse. “But the main factor that led me to have weight loss surgery was that many patients with Type 2 diabetes are able to leave the hospital without having to inject insulin anymore.”

She added, “I’d had Type 2 diabetes for 15 years. I started managing the disease with diet and exercise and then eventually had to go on insulin. I decided to have Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery because I didn’t want to die of complications from diabetes.”

Higby is 70 pounds lighter today, and as she had hoped, she did indeed walk out of Genesis Medical Center, Davenport after her 2012 surgery without needing to take insulin. She still takes oral medication for her diabetes. Not only did her weight loss help her diabetes, it also improved other mounting health problems that led her to seek surgery -- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and joint pain.

A goal to become healthier

Kim Higby prior to bariatric surgery

Kim Higby before receiving
bariatric surgery

Her journey began with a free introductory educational meeting at the Genesis Center for Weight Management, located in Medical Office Building 2 on the Genesis Medical Center, East Rusholme Street campus in Davenport. It was the beginning of a months-long process that ultimately would lead her to have gastric bypass surgery in August 2012.

Participants at the informational session immediately learn weight loss surgery is not an easy way out and requires a lifetime of post-surgical compliance. Surgery is a “tool” to help them make the necessary lifestyle changes.

The Genesis center offers the region’s most comprehensive surgical weight-loss options: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding – all laparoscopic procedures. The center also offers Optifast, a medically supervised weight-loss program of pre-portioned, calorie-controlled meals and group support.

While Genesis has three surgical options, it is the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass option that has gained the most attention to help resolve or improve Type 2 diabetes.

“Most of our patients who have had Type 2 diabetes for five years or less prior to surgery leave the hospital after Roux-en-Y off all of their diabetes medications,” says Kathy Crooks, RN, clinic coordinator of the Genesis Center for Weight Management. “Ninety percent of patients who have had Type 2 diabetes for five years or more will have less immediate results after surgery but still will see great progress in resolving or improving their Type 2 diabetes. Studies are showing that gastric bypass is remarkably effective for Type 2 diabetes.”

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Higby says her weight problem began around the time she had children. Over the years, she would lose weight but could never keep it off. Once her diabetes progressed to the point she needed to take insulin, she found herself in a Catch-22 situation: the daily injections made it even harder to lose weight.

“I had my surgery on Monday and walked out of the hospital on Wednesday with no insulin,” she says.

Throughout her career, Kim Higby has worked in the health field – as a dental hygienist, a dialysis technician where she saw how diabetes can lead to kidney failure, and now, as a registered nurse working at the Genesis Center for Weight Management.

Higby On the Go

“When I was going through the program, I was working at Genesis Convenient Care,” Higby says. “When I heard about a job opening at the Center for Weight Management, I knew I had to apply. I share my story with most of our patients, and I still wear the Genesis name badge that has my photo before surgery. Patients always say, ‘Oh, is that really you?’“

Time and again, she witnesses the rewards of seeing patients with life-threatening health issues achieve successful weight loss and change their lives with improved health. “I’ve never had a patient tell me, ‘I wouldn’t do it again.’ They always say, ‘I’m glad I had the surgery.’”

The Genesis Center for Weight Management is an accredited program

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through the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP.)  Patients also can be assured they are receiving their surgery from the only health system in the Quad Cities region to have received an “A” grade for patient safety by Leap Frog Hospital Safety Score.

“The weight loss is awesome. I can get down on the floor and back up again without holding on to furniture,” Higby says. “Although I hate to say it, I think people treat me a little nicer. I have more energy. I can buy smaller-sized clothing. I can exercise more because I can move better. I can’t say anything bad about it.”

Most important to her, however, is the impact Roux-en-Y surgery has had on her diabetes. “If you have a difficult time controlling your weight and have Type 2 diabetes, it’s worth exploring to see if weight-loss surgery is right for you,” she concludes.

For more information about weight-loss surgery options, call (563) 421-8361 or sign up for upcoming introductory education sessions.

-By Linda Barlow, Genesis Health System

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