Published on January 15, 2019

Bariatric Surgery Helped Improve Her Health, Energy, and Self Esteem

Photo of Laura Ferguson after bariatric surgery at MidMichigan Health.

Laura Ferguson enjoys having her energy level back following bariatric surgery.

Like many of us, Laura Ferguson of Midland used food as a coping mechanism. Formerly an employee at Midland Public Schools, she spent eighteen years working with emotionally-challenged children. It was a rewarding career, but not without a significant amount of pressure. “I ate my stress,” she says.

Food was also central to Ferguson’s family and social life. Together with her husband, she raised three kids to adulthood and now has two grandchildren. It comes as no surprise then that providing for family and friends is a part of her nature. “I love to cook, I love to bake,” she enthuses. “My neighbors love me because I love to give it away.”

Unfortunately, Ferguson’s culinary comforts inevitably led to a series of health issues. She had always struggled with her weight, despite repeated attempts to get it under control. “I joined Weight Watchers ten times, and the only thing that got thinner was my wallet.”

Hoping her weight gain would eventually stop, Ferguson felt dismayed as she progressed from overweight to obesity. Each weight marker she passed felt like a new blow – 175 pounds, then 200, then 250. She remembers how she got to the point where she didn’t feel as though she liked herself anymore and was very self-conscious about her appearance.

Not unexpectedly, Ferguson also began developing joint problems. One of her knees in particular became excruciatingly painful to put weight on. Her lower back became very achy as well. When out grocery shopping, Ferguson resorted to riding a motorized scooter around because she didn’t want to walk around on her sore knee. “I could barely walk to the mailbox and back,” she recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m too young for this.’”

Along with her BMI, Ferguson’s blood pressure began creeping up as well. Eventually it hit dangerously high levels, putting her on the road to a stroke. She began taking blood pressure medications in an effort to manage it. The potential consequences of her weight complications became worrying. “I want to live to see my grandkids graduate high school and get married,” Ferguson says.

When doctors wanted to perform knee surgery, and even possibly back surgery, to reduce the pain in her joints, Ferguson began exploring her options. She had heard about bariatric surgery but wasn’t sure if it was the right choice for her. Several friends of hers had gotten a gastric band but had had a difficult time recovering from the surgery.

One day, however, Ferguson happened to attend an informational seminar about a laparoscopic procedure called sleeve gastrectomy. The presenter was Jeffrey Smith, M.D., a bariatric surgeon at MidMichigan Health. He explained how, during the minimally-invasive procedure, the stomach is divided into two portions using staples. The larger section of the stomach is then removed, leaving a small, sleeve-shaped organ behind. The results from this type of surgery have been quite promising. Ferguson was intrigued and got in touch with Dr. Smith.

After an initial exam and consultation, Ferguson was approved to have the sleeve gastrectomy done. First, though, was a six-month prep period to get her body in the proper condition for the surgery. During this time, she began slowly changing her eating habits, including kicking a years-old soda addiction. She had to document everything she ate and drank so her healthcare providers could help her make the necessary changes. “Having a really good supportive doctor helped me get through those six months,” she says.

Though difficult with her knee, Ferguson also began exercising. The family nurse practitioner who worked with her, Anne-Marie Wiggins, F.N.P.-B.C., M.S.N., was careful to adjust the preparatory regimen to Ferguson’s capabilities. “She first had me walk down to the mailbox and back, three times a day,” Ferguson recalls.

On October 11, 2016, Ferguson finally arrived at her scheduled surgery date. Ferguson is happy to say that everything went very well. “Their staff is amazing. The ladies that took care of me had me so calm,” she remembers. “I think I was more excited than nervous!”

Once the surgery was finished, Ferguson was glad to find she wasn’t in very much pain. The support staff continued to be incredibly helpful, making sure she was able to get up and walk around.

Three days later, Ferguson was back at home and resting up. For the first six weeks, she had been instructed to take it easy and not exercise. After that recovery period, she joined a circuit training class for women.

After just the first month of post-surgical exercising, the results were impressive. “I couldn’t believe how well I had done in inches and in weight,” Ferguson says. Since then, her weight has dropped dramatically. Starting at 265 pounds prior to her surgery, Ferguson has now lost 115, down to a healthy 150 pounds. On top of her BMI, her blood pressure is now down to a healthy level, and she has discontinued her blood pressure medication.

In addition to her physical health, Ferguson has experienced a great improvement in her self-esteem. Unlike before, she now enjoys going out shopping for clothes, and admits she even enjoys checking herself out in the mirror. She has more motivation and feels less depressed, and is keen on going out to socialize with her girlfriends. “I like myself now,” she enthuses. “I feel like I’m on the go all the time.”

Highly satisfied with where she is now, Ferguson wants to make sure she remembers how far she’s come. When passing on her old clothes that are now too large to wear, Ferguson kept one pair of jeans as a reminder. She also hasn’t updated the photo on her driver’s license, which remains as a testament to how much she was able to change. “It’s the best thing I ever did.”

MidMichigan Health offers bariatric surgery in both Alma and Midland. Those who would like to watch an information video or take a free weight loss assessment may visit www.midmichigan.org/weightloss.

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