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Feature Article Weight Loss Surgery Leads to Healthier Life

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“Bariatric surgery is a tool, not a fix.”

That’s how Paige Welburn of Lebanon approached her weight loss surgery six years ago.

Welburn was having increasing health problems, trouble with high blood pressure and difficulty with her joints when she decided to find a new tool to help her with her lifelong struggle with her weight.

With four young kids at home, Welburn knew she needed to be there for their future, and a health scare made her examine everything in her life that needed work. She decided to jump into the bariatric program with both feet, and although it hasn’t always been smooth, she’s never looked back.

“I did quite a bit of research before having the surgery,” said Welburn, a nurse case manager at Samaritan Evergreen Hospice. “And at the time, there wasn’t even five years of data on the procedure so there were still questions.”

Welburn selected the vertical sleeve gastrectomy procedure and later received a Roux-en-Y surgery. The sleeve gastrectomy isolates a small section of the stomach limiting meal size to one ounce. In addition, with Roux-en-Y, a section of the small intestine is bypassed to reduce the amount of food that can be used by the body.

After talking with bariatric surgeon Donald Yarborough and meeting the team that would be supporting her through the program, Welburn decided she was ready.

“It’s not something that happens tomorrow,” she said. “You have to work to get there.”

As part of the program, Welburn had to lose five percent of her body weight before the surgery and meet with a counselor.

“A lot of people said to me, ‘oh, you took the easy way out,’” said Welburn. “But it’s not easy. It’s a complete lifestyle change. You have to embrace the program and use it as a tool, not a fix.”

Having surgery was just the first step for Welburn as she looked at revamping her lifestyle. Following surgery she has maintained a healthy diet and rigorous exercise schedule.

“Food used to be a huge drive for me,” she said. “I had to learn a lot about portion control.”

Going from a size 24 to a size four is a significant change, but it sits comfortably on Welburn. As she looks back at old photos of herself with her kids, they barely seem to remember her the way she was.

“They tell me, ‘you seem like you’ve always been the person you are now,’” she said.

Welburn expected that bariatric surgery would change her life for the better. But she didn’t expect the support and care that would come from the bariatric surgery program throughout her journey, even so many years later.

“What’s great about the program is you can always reach back out and the support is still there,” said Welburn, who recently scheduled a checkup visit with Kirsti Troyer, a dietitian in the program. “It’s an amazing group of people, and just to be able to be a part of what they do is incredible,” she said.

“I love that team. They changed my life for me.”

So much so, that with Welburn’s encouragement, her partner, Deborah Lane, just completed a vertical sleeve gastrectomy.

Ready to learn more about bariatric surgery? Visit samhealth.org/WeightLoss or attend an information session.