Obesity is not a choice. Fifteen million Americans are morbidly obese, meaning they are at least 100 pounds overweight. For those patients who have tried and tried to lose weight with little success, bariatric surgery can be a successful option, as St. Luke’s Health patients have discovered.
But it requires two critical things: first, a serious commitment to changing diet and lifestyle post-surgery and second, the care of a highly qualified bariatric team, like the one at St. Luke’s Health.
Linda Birkholz of Huntsville, TX is a good example of the positive change that comes with a commitment to regaining one’s health. She underwent Gastric Bypass surgery at St. Luke’s Health – The Woodlands in December 2020. Less than two years later, she lost 172 pounds and is within ten pounds of her target weight.
At 353 pounds, 65-year-old Linda felt “icky” all the time. The retired schoolteacher suffered from a long list of health problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower back pain, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, depression, anxiety, and migraines.
“I was on oxygen. I used a scooter if I had to go shopping. My ability to do anything was so limited. I couldn’t walk my dog or clean my house. It was hard to even take a shower,” she recalls.
Linda went to see Dr. Yong Choi at St. Luke’s Health – The Woodlands. “Dr. Choi told me from the very beginning, ‘you have got to change your ways if you're going to do this.’ He did not sugarcoat it at all. He wanted me to understand that this was not the easy way out.”
“Linda had a previous lap band surgery at another facility twenty-five years ago that did not control her weight,” Dr. Choi said. “Due to the failure of the gastric band, we felt she was a candidate for removal of the gastric band and revision to a vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery (VSG).” According to Dr. Choi, the surgery causes a reduction in the hormone that triggers hunger in addition to creation of a much smaller stomach. It worked.
Linda spent one night in the hospital, was walking her dog the next day and driving in a week. Within six weeks she lost 30 pounds and is now closing in on her goal weight.
“I made a commitment to better nutrition and eat completely differently now,” she explains. “Before the surgery, I was a Doritos and Coke person and ate a lot of fast food. Now I cook vegetables and eat protein, protein, protein, protein.”
Linda says she feels so much better. "I'm no longer pre-diabetic, I no longer take medication for high blood pressure every day, I'm off my CPAP and oxygen and I'm taking half the dosages of a couple of other medications I have to take. In essence, there's been a vast improvement of my overall health. I feel 20 years younger!"
Learn more about bariatric surgery at St. Luke’s Health