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103 lbs. Healthier
 
“I’ve been very successful with my surgery. I don’t regret doing it one bit.”
 
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Karen VandeHey, 103 pounds healthier

Interviewer: Tell us about your experience with weight loss surgery.

Karen: I had a different type of bariatric surgery 23 years ago. At that time, when they did the surgery, there wasn’t the follow-up that there is now. So, whatever problems you had, habits you had, nobody tried to change that. It was like they cut off your stomach, sent you home and said, “Oh, you’re going to lose weight,
”When you get to the point of being 100 pounds overweight, that’s just monumentous.”
you’re going to be fine for the rest of your life.” You were pretty much on your own.

I did really well for awhile. But, I was a stress eater. It didn’t make any difference if it was good stress or bad stress. It was the reward. Eventually, I started to put on the weight again. I went back to trying the Dexatrim pills and the whole gamut of that crap. And then, when you get to the point of being 100 pounds overweight, that’s just monumentous.

I had put on the weight across my lower stomach area – my first pregnancy was triplets and I had two more after that, so I had a lot going on down there.

Anyway, there was a flap that, in the summer especially, would get sore and raw. So, I thought, if I go to a plastic surgeon and have that removed, then I wouldn’t have to deal with that anymore. So, I did. I went to see a plastic surgeon and he asked me, “Have you ever considered weight loss surgery?” I had done it once and had gained the weight back, so I didn’t think too much of it. But, he took pictures of me and sent them to the insurance company.

I had to see my own doctor again about a month after that and she said, “I got a letter from Brian (the plastic surgeon). I want you to look at this.” And, the recommendation was bariatric surgery. My own doctor said, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this. I think this is for you. I want you to attend this informational seminar, and as a
”I never thought about consequences. I never thought about what could happen to me. I just knew I was going to do this and I was going to get my life back.”
matter of fact, I went ahead and made an appointment for you.”

I went to the (Midwest Bariatric Solutions) informational seminar and from then on, there was no question in my mind. I got through everything, listened to them and that was it. It was a snowball. I never thought about consequences. I never thought about what could happen to me. I just knew I was going to do this and I was going to get my life back.

Interviewer: Did you have other health issues?

Karen: I had fibromyalgia, which I still have. The biggest thing was my legs and my feet. My feet would hurt so much – I’m on my feet all day at my job. I’m a fraternity house mom at Lawrence University. I basically do all of their cooking. I cook three meals a day, five days a week and I’m there all day.

I was taking time out to swim, which helped. It was good for my muscles and joints, but there was still the constant pain in my feet. I had to get orthotics and I couldn’t ski anymore.

Interviewer: How much did you weigh then?

Karen: I was about 268 pounds.

Interviewer: How tall are you?

Karen: About 5’1”

Interviewer: Tell us about any other health problems you had.

Karen: I had sleep apnea which I found out through the course of the pre-op testing, which made a lot of sense. I was also on medication for the fibromyalgia.

But, the main thing was that I just couldn’t do anything anymore. Walking hurt. I
”The main thing was that I just couldn’t do anything anymore. Walking hurt. I couldn’t ski anymore. I couldn’t do anything in the garden anymore – getting down and getting up was such a struggle.”
couldn’t ski anymore. I couldn’t do anything in the garden anymore – getting down and getting up was such a struggle. I mean, anybody with a video camera would’ve had fun – it was a circus.

I had problems with things that everybody takes for granted. Crossing your legs, putting your socks and shoes on, playing with the grandchildren. And, I was depressed all of the time.

Interviewer: How old were you when you had the second surgery?

Karen: I was 56 years old.

Interviewer: Tell me about your first encounter with Dr. Wasco or Dr. Georgen.

Karen: Betsy was my first contact. Dr. Wasco was the one who gave the presentation at Theda Clark. I found him to be a very compassionate man. I liked him from the minute he opened his mouth.

Interviewer: What do you think it was about him?

Karen: The fact that he didn’t put fat people down.

So many things that I had thought about obesity, he reiterated. It’s not the fact that you sit in the closet and eat candy bars all day. Yes, for some people it may be like that, but for so many more people, it’s hereditary.

Interviewer: Is there obesity in your family?

Karen: My mother was heavy, my grandmother and my grandfather on my father’s side were both heavy. And, from what I know about my other grandmother, she was heavy, too.

Interviewer: So, you found Dr. Wasco to be very understanding?
”I felt very comfortable with Dr. Wasco and Betsy. He was very reassuring, he was very kind.


Karen: I felt very comfortable with Dr. Wasco and Betsy. He was very reassuring, he was very kind. He never looked at you like you were a fat, old whale or anything like that. You were a human being – and you needed help.

Interviewer: You talked about the compassion you felt from Midwest Bariatric Solutions from the start. What type of support did you receive during and after your surgery?

Karen: At the hospital, the doctors were there everyday. Betsy was there everyday.

When I got home from the hospital, I wasn’t in a lot of pain. I didn’t have the pain that so many people talk about having. I have a tendency to heal real fast. I can’t say I have a high tolerance for pain – I can be a real wimp when it comes to my teeth! But,
Dr. Georgen was the one who released me from the hospital and he said, “If you need anything, call. We’re here for you.” … it felt like they were my friends.
I never took anything at home for pain after the surgery. I had the surgery on a Tuesday and went home on Saturday. I did need some units of blood. Because of the previous surgery, they had to do some repairs, so I lost quite a bit of blood.

But as for the doctors, they were both very reassuring. Dr. Georgen was the one who released me from the hospital and he said, “If you need anything, call. We’re here for you.” And they made you feel like you really could call them. That you wouldn’t be imposing.

Interviewer: So how did you feel about asking the doctors questions?

Karen: No problem. It felt like they were my friends. I felt that way through
”Sometimes I would call Betsy EVERY day. And if she didn’t answer, she’d call me right back. A couple of times, Betsy wasn’t there and Dr. Wasco called me back.”
and through, starting with the pre-op.

I got really sick at home. It was like having morning sickness 24/7. Sometimes I would call Betsy EVERY day. And if she didn’t answer, she’d call me right back. A couple of times, Betsy wasn’t there and Dr. Wasco called me back. He would say, “You’re going to get through this. You’re going to make that corner soon.”

But, it was hard. I got very frustrated, I looked like hell, I was pale…

Interviewer: How long did that go on where you didn’t feel well?

Karen: It went on for 6 or 7 weeks.

Interviewer: When did attend your first support group meeting?

Karen: I know I went to that very first bariatric meeting right away. My daughter took me, walked me down to the room and picked me up.

Interviewer: And how was that meeting? Did you benefit from it?

Karen: Yes, I sure did. I was able to ask other people and listen to them say, “It’s going to get better. You’ll be fine. The fact that you’re here says a lot. You may feel like crap, but you made it. Every time you do something, you made it.”

Interviewer: What would you say was your most challenging moment during the whole process?

Karen: It was getting through the first weeks after surgery. But, it helped to have good friends. My children were a big help. My husband was a big help. At one point, all three of my best friends came to see me at the same time. We sat together, held hands and prayed. I still believe that was a turning point. Because it got gradually better and I could see it getting better after that.

I started before my surgery with a psychologist and she was a big help. And my own doctor was a big help – they were all very encouraging.

Interviewer: Who answered your questions regarding nutrition?

Karen: Betsy. They gave me a manual to follow. My husband was very rigid with that saying, “You can’t have this, but you can have that.” I followed it. I was very good about that. Water was my friend.

Interviewer: Do you still find it a challenge?

Karen: Oh, yes you do. They didn’t change much in here [points to her head].

I still struggle. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not telling you that this
”I still struggle. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not telling you that this is a walk in the park.”
is a walk in the park. I’ve never been a strong person when it comes to making a commitment. My husband quit smoking and that was it. One day he just decided and said, “That’s it. I’m done.” That was 20-some years ago. He decides to do something, he’s committed. Me, I’m more wishy-washy, I’ve always been that way. That’s part of my chemistry I guess.

But, you find that there are things that you don’t like, or that just plain don’t work. I still have a tendency to fill my plate and then feel like a schmuck later because, for crying out loud, there’s no way I can eat all of that. A lot of times, my husband and I will share meals and that’s more than enough.

Interviewer: What is the best thing about having the surgery?

Karen: My balance, going down steps and being able to keep my balance and not being afraid that I’m going to fall.

On our recent vacation to Mexico, I was in the water sitting by the pool bar. I was going to get out of the pool and I had to step up about 10 inches to get out. One of the guys saw me and he came over and gave me his hand and I was just able to get out and go! I didn’t have to worry about, “How should I do this?” I could lift myself up. I thought to myself, “Wow, I can do this!”

There are so many little things, like the first time I could cross my legs and keep them crossed. Or, how I can almost put my shoes and socks on while balancing on one foot. Before, I couldn’t stand on one foot to save my butt. Every once in awhile you notice the little things that everybody else just takes for granted.

Interviewer: What advice would you give to someone who is considering bariatric
”You need to hear from other people who’ve gone through it that they’ve slipped, what they did to correct it and how they’re staying on track.”
surgery?

Karen: I would encourage anybody who has the surgery to attend the support group meetings. You need to hear from other people who’ve gone through it that they’ve slipped, what they did to correct it and how they’re staying on track. You need to talk to them about that.

Interviewer: Would you recommend Midwest Bariatric Solutions?
”With Dr. Wasco, you’re a human being. And that means so much.”


Karen: Yes, I would. Betsy is so kind. And with Dr. Wasco, you’re a human being. And that means so much.

Interviewer: How much do you weigh now?

Karen: I lost over 100 pounds. I weighed 268 before my surgery. I weighed 165 when I stepped on the scale this morning and that’s coming back from vacation!

I’d like to get down to 150. And that’s very attainable now, it really is.

Interviewer: How has your fibromyalgia been?

Karen: Much better. I used to take Advil so much. I called them my M&M’s because I popped them constantly all day long. Why my stomach wasn’t rotted out, I have no idea. And, I can honestly say that I have not taken 50 Tylenol since my surgery and that’s been over a year. And, most of the time, when I take it, it’s because I have lots of knots in my muscles that are due to stress – just like everybody else.

Interviewer: Did you have the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery?

Karen: Yes, I did.

Interviewer: Do you think you’ll do anything cosmetic?

Karen: I don’t know. It depends on how much more weight I lose, if I can get down to 150. I’ve heard some stories from people who’ve had it done. I would not look forward to it. It’s not a walk in the park, either. But, my bariatric surgery is too new yet for me to think about more tubes and bands again.

Interviewer: Is there a certain amount of time you have to wait before you can have anything cosmetic done?

Karen: Yes, I guess about a year. But, I just don’t know if I want to go through that. One of the gals I know, we call her the “Queen of the Plastic Surgery” has had quite a few. But she was very large and she had a lot of excess skin. When I have clothes on, I look OK.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I have been very fortunate. I’ve been very successful with my surgery. I don’t regret doing it one bit.”


Karen: I have been very fortunate. I’ve been very successful with my surgery. I don’t regret doing it one bit.
 
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