Brave New Path: Read Kim's Story
Nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight. More than 35 percent are obese. We hear these numbers thrown around on a near-daily basis. So what does it mean?
Research shows with increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea and a host of other problems, it can mean life or death. For Kim of Roebling, that is exactly what it became the moment she was diagnosed with high blood pressure.
“My father had a stroke a few years ago and I saw what that did to him,” explains Kim. “I told myself I would not let that happen to me if I could help it. I knew losing weight was the first step.”
Kim also had chronic back pain that prevented her from participating in the level of activity needed to lose weight. She knew her weight was probably contributing to the back pain, and something had to change.
‘An Uphill Battle’
For years, Kim tried many weight-loss strategies, but she had some challenges working against her.
Kim comes from a family where multiple members have experienced life-long challenges with weight. Like height and eye color, overweight and obesity can be an inherited trait. Val Prokurat, DO, a surgeon who specializes in weight-loss surgery, explains how one’s family can contribute to weight issues.
“Families have a tremendous impact on a person’s ability to lose and gain weight. First, because some families have a predisposition to overweight and obesity. So it’s an uphill battle already. Additionally, familial eating habits and activity patterns also play a role,” he says.
For Kim, those hereditary factors and lifestyle were working against her in any efforts she would make to lose weight on her own. “I would lose. Then gain. Lose. Gain. You begin to feel hopeless,” she says.
Val Prokurat, DO, has seen a number of cases just like Kim’s. “For many of the people I see, they’ve tried many options with no success. They turn to surgery because it provides them an opportunity to gain control over something that had previously seemed an impossible fight,” says Val Prokurat, DO.
Taking the Leap
Still, surgery is a big decision, and it wasn’t until her sister had gastric sleeve surgery that Kim began to consider it.
“It was not a simple decision. Some people see surgery as an easy way out, but it is not easy. It changes your life in so many ways,” says Kim.
Watching her sister go through the surgery prepared Kim for what she would experience with weight-loss surgery, including:
• Pre-surgical testing, including psychological and medical tests
• An increased sensitivity to certain foods following surgery
• A dramatic change is portion sizes when dining
• The body’s response to major weight loss, including excess skin
Kim chose the gastric sleeve surgery, like her sister. This approach offered less risk than gastric bypass, which is typically needed for more severe cases than Kim’s.
Today, Kim has experienced a 110 lb. weight loss, and counting. During the surgery, it was discovered that Kim had an undiagnosed case of diabetes.
Not long after the surgery, both the diabetes and the high blood pressure were resolved. Although Kim still has some back pain, the surgery has helped her to reduce the pressure on her spine.
These results are not uncommon. According to Dr. Prokurat, studies show that in 90 percent of individuals living with type 2 diabetes for fewer than five years who go through weight loss surgery, the diabetes is resolved or blood sugar is significantly reduced.
Since her sister’s surgery, Kim is one of three family members who have had the surgery. With one more in the process of planning the surgery.
“We are a great support for one another. It helps to keep us all on the right track,” she says. For Kim, it’s the best decision of her life.
“Before the surgery, I would have to take breaks at work or when I was walking just to catch my breath,” says Kim.
“About a year after the surgery, my sister and I were on a cruise in the Caribbean and decided to take a 10 mile walk around St. Maarten. We didn’t stop walking once!”
She adds, “I feel like I’ve really accomplished something incredible in my life. I just wish I’d done it sooner,” she says.