DS Veteran: Jillian O.
Location: IL, USA
Surgery Date: Dec 11, 2000
Surgeon: A. Hares, MD
Highest Weight: 408 lbs
Pre-op BMI: 58
Pre-op Weight: 406 lbs
Goal Weight: 240 lbs
Current BMI: 31
Current Weight: 219 lbs
I’ve always been a “big” person. I come from a big family, in that they are all taller than I am. My mother is 6’0″ and my brothers are each well over six feet themselves. I was my full height of 5’10” by the third grade. Even though I wasn’t fat necessarily, I was big in stature and didn’t have a prayer of being an average sized person. I was very physically active when I was young. I played all kinds of sports, t-ball, softball, basketball and volleyball all the way through high school. I used to ride my bike for miles at a time each day, as that was my freedom from a home life I just assumed avoid. I look back on my body at that time and I look at it with amazement. I was in such good shape, but I didn’t know it. I thought I was a fat cow!! I was told so almost every day.
I didn’t start to gain weight until I reached my 20’s and started to slow down my physical activity level. Part of me thinks that gaining weight was a way to make my internal and external selves finally match. I saw a fat person in the mirror every day, so actually gaining weight wasn’t a noticeable or alarming change.
I gained weight over the course of many years. I built a very strong physical wall around myself. I managed to avoid a lot of the co-morbidities that others talk about. I was on thyroid medication and a mild water pill for the beginning signs of hypertension.
I finished college and got a great job that led to a promotion that required I move out of state. I was in a new city and state and aside from friends at work, I spent my time alone – eating. Eventually, my life revolved around the fact that I was extremely obese. I didn’t have a lot of energy. I had to plan where I went and where I sat to avoid embarrassing myself too much.
Fortunately, my weight didn’t impact my upward movement within my company and I was eventually sent to graduate school, sponsored by my company. Right before I decided to have weight loss surgery, I was working full-time and going to graduate school full-time. I realized that I needed to do something to tackle my weight once and for all. My whole life I was on a diet, planning to start a diet or feeling guilty for screwing up a diet. So, after my first year of grad school, during the Christmas break, I had the open DS surgery. That was December 11th, 2000. The day before my 34th birthday.
I drove to the suburbs of Detroit, checked into a hotel, did my lovely bowel prep and was up and at the hospital at 4:00 AM the next morning. My father met me at the hospital and got there in time for me to give him a copy of my will and letters for every member of my friends and family in the event that I didn’t make it through. I knew the seriousness of the surgery, but I also knew I couldn’t continue to live my life the way I had been.
After 5+ hours of surgery, I had been switched and was in recovery. I spent 5 days in the hospital and then an additional two weeks in a hotel down the road from the hospital. My Dad stayed with me while I was in the hospital and got me settled into the hotel, where my Mom took over and stayed with me and then drove me back home to Illinois. I had someone with me, by my side for the first 5 weeks after surgery. I hadn’t had surgery before and didn’t know what to expect. Looking back, I could have gone it alone much earlier, but it was nice to have people there with me, just in case.
It’s been eight years now and I’ve lost 167 lbs. My life is completely different. I am very active, once again. Weight isn’t the first thing that people notice about me and I don’t feel the need to have the physical wall up anymore. The DS and really good therapy have given me back my life. It hasn’t always been perfect, you can see my story of weight regain and loss also posted on this site, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey thus far!
My advise to potential DS patients is to do your homework, don’t settle for anything less than what you want and stay connected to other DS patients, whether it’s through the DS forum, surgeon sponsored support groups or the Internet. Keeping connected and staying on top of the latest and greatest information on your surgery is key. My first initial response to losing my excess weight was that I didn’t want to focus on weight anymore, I just wanted to “move on” with my life and that’s where I got myself into trouble with some weight regain. That weight is gone now and I am feeling really good, because I am connected to a great community of DS patients and staying on top of my health! I wish you luck on your journey!