Like many women, 51- year-old Donna Harvey had an ongoing yo-yo type of relationship with her weight. As a mother of four (including a set of twins) she would gain pounds, but had always been able to drop the baby weight post pregnancy. After having children, Ms. Harvey admits to bad health habits she developed, like emotional eating and a serious sweet tooth, which seemed to really impact her life. She found herself in a place where her weight was more than a problem, it threatened her health.
"I had developed some significant health problems," she said. "I was taking medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and was using a CPAP machine at night because of my obstructive sleep apnea. I had pain in my back and knees and it had gotten to the point where I had to ride in a motorized cart when I did my shopping. I needed to do something."
At 316 pounds, Ms. Harvey knew she needed help. "I had tried diets. I tried everything. You name it, I tried it. I didn't want to do anything too invasive so I attended a seminar on Lap-Band surgery at Capital Regional Medical Center. Even though my insurance didn't cover it, I decided this would be an investment in myself."
Lap-Band is the only adjustable and reversible surgical weight-loss option available. It uses a minimally invasive technique to place a banding device around the stomach that can be adjusted to fit a patient's lifestyle. It reduces the stomach's capacity, restricting the amount of food that can be consumed at one time.
In January 2015, under the care of her bariatric surgeon, Roy Schwartz, MD, Ms. Harvey began her life-changing journey. "The surgery went very well," she said. "But that's just the beginning. I have a distinct memory of sitting in Dr. Schwartz's office and him stressing the fact that the Lap-Band is only a tool and that the sooner I realized this, the more successful I would be. He said I need to let my Lap-Band be my friend." When she did slip up, Dr. Schwartz gave Ms. Harvey the tough love she needed. "I appreciate his honesty. He's been wonderful."
Ms. Harvey admits that she has had her successes and failures, but the support she received from Dr. Schwartz and the Capital Regional Bariatric Center staff has been invaluable to her. "They have support groups to attend, offer one-on-one counseling, and publish a newsletter with nuggets of advice and information that are very helpful. I'm reminded that to reach my goal I have to be committed to a lifestyle change. Eating a clean, healthy diet is a big part of it. But getting exercise and frankly, changing your mindset about lifestyle is important as well. The surgery is just one tool in my toolbox."
Two years after her surgery, she has lost over 110 pounds and is near her goal of 180 pounds. "I now use a personal trainer three times a week and do some kind of workout six days a week," she said. "And along with the weight loss, I am now blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol medication free!"
"I'm not riding on those motorized carts any longer," Ms. Harvey said. "Now when I walk in to the store and get my buggy, I look at those carts I'm reminded of where I was and how far I've come."
To learn more about Capital Regional's Bariatric Center and to register for a free bariatric seminar, visit http://capitalregionalmedicalcenter.com/service/weight-loss.
Surgeons at the Capital Regional Bariatric Center are currently performing gastric bypasses, sleeve gastrectomies and adjustable gastric bands.