Angela Wilcox, Bariatric Surgery Patient

Angela Wilcox - Bay City, MI

"If you follow what they tell you, you will be successful."

Bariatric Surgery Was the Tool to Her Weight Loss Success

At first, Angela Wilcox of Bay City felt nervous speaking publicly about her weight loss experience. Despite being a very common situation faced by many Americans, struggling with obesity and the use of bariatric surgery to help overcome it are not often discussed openly. Because of her success and how much she has felt it has improved her life, however, Angela decided to tell her story in hopes that she can help others facing similar difficulties.

Those who know a bit about Angela will not be surprised by her desire to help others. She works full time as an elementary school teacher, with plenty of experience helping children reach their full potential. She has been married to her husband for ten years, and between them they have five kids to take care of.

Unfortunately, like so many other people, Angela discovered just how difficult it can sometimes be to take care of oneself. Throughout her 30's, she had struggled with excessive weight. This was not for a lack of effort in dieting and exercise; despite trying numerous versions of diets and exercise regimens, she still faced the familiar troubles of losing a bit of weight only to have it come back a short time later.

After years of this, Angela's weight began noticeably affecting her health. She started to feel lethargic all the time. Running around after her own kids, as well as the kids she teaches at school, became difficult due to low energy levels. She developed sleep apnea and needed to sleep with a CPAP machine. She also became pre-diabetic. "I was tired of not living my life, of just existing," Angela recalls.

Understanding the power and importance of education, Angela began doing lots of research on her own. During her search, Angela learned about a minimally-invasive bariatric surgery procedure called sleeve gastrectomy that was being offered at MyMichigan Health. Intrigued, she went to one of the free informational seminars. There, she heard about the process of surgery, as well as the whole program that accompanies it. Feeling like this might finally help her get on the right track, she went in for a consultation.

The doctors at MyMichigan determined that Angela was indeed a good candidate for the procedure. From there, she began the six-month diet and preparation phase preceding the surgery itself. "I knew I needed to take it seriously," she says. "A lot of people say it's the easy way out, but it's not."

One of the purposes of this preparation phase is to get patients ready for the diet they will be following once the surgery is done and their stomach is significantly smaller. Angela learned how to cut her portion sizes, how to eat slowly and carefully, and how to make sure she was still getting the proper nutrition. Once a person can no longer eat as much, a big challenge is ensuring that they consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals each day to maintain their health. "Listen to the nutritionist," Angela advises.

When the day of the surgery finally came, her husband and children went with her to the MyMichigan Medical Center Alma. "The hospital was just great," Angela remembers. "The staff there was very supportive."

The operation itself was relatively smooth. Leading the surgical team was Bariatric Surgeon Jeffrey Bonacci, M.D. "My doctor was really available, helpful, and supportive," Angela said.

"The recovery was really simple," Angela added. Along the way, she received a tremendous amount of support from doctors, nurses, and staff from the bariatric surgery department. She says that the program's Bariatric Coordinator Angela Munro, R.N., B.S.N., was particularly helpful. "She was really good, always available to talk," said Angela. On top of planning and scheduling appointments, Munro made herself available for patients to call at any time if they needed help or answers to questions.

Angela was careful to follow the directions of her diet and exercise routine, which started with restrictions as she healed. "I made sure I followed my plan," she says. She took care to drink enough water during the day, and to get enough vitamins with the reduced amount of food she was eating.

Now that it has been more than a year since the surgery, the results are profound. Since then, Angela has lost a total of 125 lbs. She reports feeling much happier and more energetic than she had before. "I have more energy to keep up with teaching, and my own kids," she said. What's more, she has stopped using her CPAP machine and is no longer pre-diabetic.

With all of her improvements in her health, Angela has uncovered a greater zest for life. "I do things now that I couldn't before," she says. She has gone hiking, motorcycle riding, horseback riding, and other activities in the outdoors. "I get excited getting up and going to work now," she also reports.

Possibly the greatest benefit of her newfound health is the energy Angela has to spend on her own children. "I am really active with my kids now," she says. The lethargy and body image and self-esteem issues had previously kept her from pampering herself much.

Angela hopes that her success story can inspire others to take the steps and do what it takes to get themselves fit and healthy. She knows a few other women currently in the process of getting the surgery. For anyone else considering it, she has this advice: "Go into it knowing it's not a quick fix: it's a tool." Weight loss requires a whole toolbox of methods, including healthy eating, exercising, and in many cases, surgery. Luckily, Angela had a team of experts at MyMichigan to rely on and help manage each of her tools. "If you follow what they tell you, you will be successful."

MyMichigan 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.mymichigan.org/weightloss.

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