Lauren Marshall, Bariatric Surgery Patient

Lauren Marshall - Ovid, MI

"You will be wowed with the results and the support you have. You'll never do any part of it alone – there will always be someone there to push you along."

Lauren's Only Regret Following Surgery: Not Acting Sooner

Lauren Marshall might be considered a typical Michigander. She enjoys swimming, fishing, riding her Harley Davidson motorcycle with her husband, camping and taking her dogs for walks. She also loves playing outside with her nieces and nephews.

Marshall is a paraprofessional which means her workdays are active too. As a special education teaching assistant in Clinton County, she's on her toes all day as she works with students of all ages.

"My weight held me back a lot, but it was mostly my health that was declining," she explained. "I was 22-years-old, pre-diabetic and had high cholesterol and fatty liver disease." On top of that, the extra pounds were taking a toll emotionally. "I had a fear of smushing my husband if we sat on a rollercoaster ride together," she added. "And it was embarrassing to explain to my nieces and nephew that I couldn't play tag with them anymore because I had to sit down and catch my breath."

Marshall knew of several people who had undergone bariatric surgery to help manage their weight, so she found information on the MyMichigan Health website and then attended an informational seminar on the procedure.

"I went to a few support groups MyMichigan offered and after attending a few sessions and hearing patients talk about their experiences, I decided this is what I wanted to do," Marshall said. The groups were filled with patients who already had bariatric surgery or who were also thinking about it.

Marshall learned about sleeve gastrectomy, a minimally invasive surgical weight loss procedure, performed by specialized bariatric surgeons at MyMichigan Medical Centers in Alma and Midland. During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision to access the stomach and then staples it into two different sections. The surgeon then removes the larger section, making the stomach smaller and shaped like a sleeve. The transformed stomach still stretches and expands, but it prevents the patient from overeating.

After deciding this was the route for her, and with full support from her husband and mother, Marshall began to prepare for the procedure with help from the surgical weight management team. The preparatory work included six months of weight checks, a nutrition class, psychological evaluation and support group sessions, all to prepare her for the lifestyle changes she'd have to make after the procedure.

Marshall speaks highly of the surgical weight management team that helped her along the way. "They were all wonderful. I always felt understood and supported. They never made me feel like I was doing this for the wrong reasons," she said.

When the procedure date came on September 18, 2018, Marshall had a mix of emotions. "I was nervous, but also super excited because I was about to regain my life back," she said. "I was finally going to be able to fully live life and enjoy it without my weight getting in the way, so I was ready."

The procedure performed at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma by Bariatric Surgeon Jeffrey Bonacci, M.D., went well. When she returned home, she felt great and the pain was mild. Within three months after surgery, the results were significant.

"I feel so much better about myself and my health," Marshall said. "I no longer have diabetes or high cholesterol. I can go for runs with my dogs and chase my nieces and nephews around the yard, and I don't have to worry about being embarrassed fitting into a seat on a rollercoaster or airplane. I would've done this so much sooner if I had known the results would be so dramatic."

Being 110 pounds lighter, sometimes even family members don't recognize her. "I was at a family gathering and an aunt came up to my husband and asked where his wife was – I was sitting right there across from him!" she said. "When he pointed me out, my aunt said, 'half of you is missing!'"

As Marshall looks back on the experience, she's grateful for the unwavering support that her husband and mother showed her by going to doctor's appointments with her and cheering her on along the way. She's also appreciative of the support groups that introduced her to two people who became some of her closest friends. The three of them shared the journey and their progress, having had bariatric surgery within two weeks of each other.

"I would tell anyone thinking of getting bariatric surgery to join a support group," Marshall adds. "You will be wowed with the results and the support you have. You will never do any part of it alone – there will always be someone there to push you along."

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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