|NEENAH — Suffering from active gout and osteoarthritis, Mary Koslowski, 59, participated in the Walk From Obesity last year in a wheelchair. Saturday a lighter Koslowski walked the one-mile route aided only by a cane.
“I did it,” the Neenah woman said proudly.
Choosing either a one- or three-mile jaunt through Riverside Park, approximately 50 people participated in Theda Clark Medical Center and Midwest Bariatric Solutions’ second annual walk to benefit obesity awareness and education. Last year’s event raised $4,000.
“The walk tries to raise money toward the research, education and treatment of the disease of obesity, and try to get the word out there that this is not a lifestyle people choose to live,” said clinical coordinator Jennifer Heim, who works with the surgical weight loss patients at Midwest Bariatric Solutions. “This walk will help fund obesity prevention techniques while helping those living with the disease to manage and control it.”
Health care costs are going through the roof, and two most preventable costs come from obesity and smoking, said state Rep. Steve Wieckert, R-Appleton. “If we could completely eliminate obesity and smoking, we would reduce health care costs by 40 percent.”
It would also save the more than 400,000 lives lost annually due to excess weight gain, said Midwest Bariatric Solutions surgeon and walk participant Dr. Kevin Wasco.
“Obesity is soon to pass smoking as the No. 1 preventable cause of death. This year, Tommy Thompson (secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services) changed the definition of obesity to a disease… I don’t think there is another area of wellness that affects so many body parts: diabetes, cancer and joints.”
Ninety-seven pounds lighter, Rosemary Eckley, New London, had bariatric surgery almost two years ago. “I wasn’t as concerned about my weight as I was about my diabetes,” the 56-year-old said after completing the three-mile walk. “I was insulin dependent and couldn’t get my sugars level at all. Now I am on oral medication for my diabetes and I don’t have to give myself injections twice a day.”
Weighing about 340 pounds, Chilton resident Lori Popp, 44, had diabetes, high blood pressure and numerous kidney stones. “The doctor said I probably had three to five years to live, because my parents had had strokes and heart attacks big time, and I was heading in that same direction. So, I knew I had to do something.”
That was 200 pounds and nearly three years ago. Popp, who had a duodenal switch (a partial gastrectomy or surgical removal of the stomach, which effectively restricts the stomach’s capacity while maintaining its normal function), now leads support groups and visits patients just out of surgery to tell them what to expect.
“People think (surgery) is an easy out and it’s not,” she said. “Every day is a challenge. I tell people before surgery it is 90 percent physical and 10 percent emotional because all you want to do is get thin. After surgery it becomes 10 percent physical and 90 percent emotional because there are so many changes your body goes through and you don’t know how to deal with it.”
Cheryl Sherry can be reached at 920-993