This surgery gave me and my family our lives back.

Cheryl Yonkers, Patient

Like a lot of people, Cheryl Yonkers made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. She had struggled with her weight her entire life. “I remember weighing 190 pounds in middle school, and by the time I was a senior in high school I weighed 290 pounds,” she said.

As a mother, Cheryl was disappointed that she could not participate in physical activities with her children. “I was always one who sat around and watched my kids do the activities,” she said.

Not long after she made her resolution, a newspaper article about bariatric surgery caught Cheryl’s attention. Frustrated with a lack of results from all of the popular diet programs she had tried, she decided to learn more about the procedure. Her research on the internet led her to Bronson Medical and Surgical Weight Management and bariatric surgeon Kibwe Weaver, MD, of Bronson HealthCare Midwest.

“I decided to go to a meeting at Bronson to learn more about it. I came out of that meeting excited. I knew I needed to do something. Nothing else worked for me,” Cheryl said. “I scheduled my initial appointment with Dr. Weaver. At that time, I weighed 397 pounds and had a BMI of 54.”

Dr. Weaver is the only fellowship trained bariatric surgeon in the region. He identified that of the three types of bariatric surgery performed at Bronson, Cheryl would be a good candidate for roux-en-y gastric bypass. This procedure greatly reduces the size of the patient’s stomach. It bypasses part of the stomach and portions of the small intestine. The result is Cheryl would feel full quicker and less food would be absorbed in her intestine.

The other two types of bariatric surgery performed at Bronson are adjustable band and sleeve gastrectomy. In adjustable band bariatric surgery, a silicone band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. The stomach is sewn over the band to hold it in place, slowing the rate of travel of food through the stomach. This causes patients to feel full more quickly and eat less.

Sleeve gastrostomy reduces the size of the stomach. The stomach is stapled and divided, forming a gastric tube for the passage of food. The rest of the stomach is removed, and there is no rearrangement of the intestine. With sleeve gastrostomy, patients feel full quicker and eat less.

Dr. Weaver helped Cheryl create a plan for success. “He gave me a check list of everything I needed to do. I had appointments with a nutritionist and a psychologist,” Cheryl said. She completed all of the items on her check list and went on to have surgery.

Cheryl had a team of experts supporting her. The bariatric program coordinator helped her navigate the program. A psychologist helped Cheryl prepare for the psychological aspects of the procedure. Registered dietitians provided Cheryl with nutrition counseling for long-term success. And the bariatric surgery support group was there to provide ongoing advice and emotional support.

To be successful, patients who have bariatric surgery must stick with required nutrition and lifestyle changes. After her surgery, Cheryl began walking daily. “By the end of summer, I felt like I had walked all over Portage,” she said. As winter arrived, she and her husband joined a gym. They also began to bring their kids to the gym. “We played racquetball, basketball, baseball, or we would just walk or run around the track.”

Cheryl has lost 187 pounds and her BMI is 28. Her entire family now enjoys a healthy, active lifestyle. When Cheryl ran her first 5k, her husband ran with her. In fact, he has lost 115 pounds by joining his wife in her newfound passion for health and fitness.

”The purpose of bariatric surgery is to let you live longer and live healthier,” said Dr. Weaver. “These procedures can help people who suffer from health problems related to obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, asthma, arthritis, stress urinary incontinence and fatty liver disease. Weight loss improves quality of life in a number of ways. Patients become more mobile, have less depression, and report having improved self-esteem and better social interactions.”

When Cheryl’s family visited a resort waterpark recently, they noticed that there was a weight limit on a lot of the water slides. They also noticed that some parents had to watch their kids from a distance. Cheryl said, “That would have been us. If we had visited the resort before my surgery, I would not have been able to go down the waterslides with our kids. Instead, my husband and I went with our two kids, running up the five flights of stairs, and racing each other down the slides. My kids are having a new life with us.”

To learn more about bariatric surgery at Bronson, visit bronsonhealth.com/bariatric, or call (269) 341-8900.

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