Steve Ahrens’ Long Trail to a Different Life - Genesis Health System

Published on December 16, 2019

Steve Ahrens’ Long Trail to a Different Life

By Craig Cooper

At the end of his hike to Devil’s Bridge, a spectacular spot near a spectacular setting, Sedona, Ariz., Steve Ahrens threw his arms up to the bright sunlight and blue bird sky.

Steve Ahrens 2019

Steve Ahrens 2019

It was his version of the Rocky movie moment.

“I did this. It was on my bucket list and I did it,’’ Ahrens said of his thoughts at the time. “I was not sitting idle and letting life pass by because of my health. I was doing this.’’

Ahrens doesn’t believe the Devil’s Bridge hike or a hike in Grand Canyon, which he also took, would have been possible before Nov. 20, 2017. That was the day surgeon David Aanestad, M.D., changed Ahrens’ life.

Ahrens, who had stopped and started the process of weight loss surgery once before, underwent a vertical sleeve gastrectomy at Genesis Medical Center, East Rusholme Street, Davenport. In the two years since, and including the 50 pounds he lost before the surgery, Ahrens has lost more than 150 pounds.

“I wouldn’t have been able to think about something like these hikes,’’ Ahrens said. “I was ‘pre-everything,’’’ he said. “I hated my sleep machine, I was pre-diabetic, my mom has had a stroke, my dad has heart issues. I was a physical time bomb and emotionally I wasn’t that great either.

“I basically had two outfits of clothes I wore all the time because they were the only ones I felt comfortable in,’’ he said. “I was always thinking about what my next meal would be. Now I don’t feel restricted and there is nothing I can’t eat. I just can’t eat as much.

“Now I buy whatever I want to wear. Right off the rack.’’

With Surgery Comes Responsibility

Ahrens, 45, is executive officer of the Riverfront Improvement Commission, a City of Davenport commission. He is a former Davenport alderman.

Steve Ahrens before surgery

Steve Ahrens before his surgery

He is a prominent figure in Davenport. At least he is prominent when people recognize him, which is an experience patients of weight loss surgery learn to handle.

But Ahrens said the process of getting to surgery day is a journey and he recognizes that the surgery comes with responsibilities and expectations. He takes over-the-counter vitamins daily and while he may appear much different, there can be emotional stress from feeling so different.

“Two things you learn during the journey toward weight loss surgery is that the surgery is a tool, not a solution, and second, you are a patient for life at the Genesis Center for Weight Management,’’ he said. “Everyone at the Genesis Center for Weight Management is part of your team. They monitor your health and your long-term weight loss, but it is still up to you personally to take control.

“The surgery is life changing, but you also have to be more aware of what you eat, how much you eat, and you need an exercise routine. I’ve gone through the embarrassment of traveling and needing the belt extender on a flight and worrying about where to sit in a restaurant. Sometimes you are still very aware of those things because you lived so long the other way.

“I might look like I’m taking an unusual path in a restaurant. It’s because I forget I can fit through tighter spaces. My friends will look at me and ask, ‘why did you do that?’ and then you remember you aren’t that size any longer.’’

Ahrens said he has also experienced something others who undergo weight loss surgery have noticed; a level of energy unknown to patients prior to surgery.

“I can drive people nuts with all this energy,’’ he said. “After surgery you realize you have lost so much by being unhealthy and you don’t want to miss another minute of your life. I had this life-changing surgery that has given me a new outlook.’’

A High Standard of Safety and Outcomes

The Genesis Center for Weight Management offers patients comprehensive programs for both surgical and non-surgical weight loss. The experienced team includes registered nurses, three surgeons, a dietitian, psychology, physical therapy and pharmacy.

Surgeons David Aanestad, Matthew Christophersen and Michael Phelps have changed the lives of more than 2,000 patients with surgical weight loss.

The Genesis Center for Weight Management is recognized as a Comprehensive Center by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program through the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. The Genesis Program is also a Center of Excellence and a Blue Distinction Plus Center by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

For information about introductory education classes and information about the program, call (563) 421-8361.

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