Seeing my father struggle with weight has been a part of my life from my very first memory. Every day, I could see the difficulty he had moving and breathing. The shame and guilt that he had from eating just like a “normal person” because of his size were evident everywhere we went. I saw it even when I was a small child – people would stare at him all the time because of his size.
What people didn’t see or understand was that when my dad was 21, he was in a severe car crash. The impact shattered his hip, and he had a metal rod with 12 screws implanted to hold the bones together.
What people didn’t see was that my dad endured multiple surgeries to fix his hip; the bone was so weak, and it broke repeatedly. What people didn’t see was the pain he experienced with every step he took from the moment he woke up. The pain never indeed ended. I can remember my dad saying he could feel the screws move as he walked. This accident cost my father so much of his life and his dreams, but he was lucky for the ability to walk.
Before the accident, he was a baseball player in college and helping coach a high school team. He was a typical weight for a man his age and height. But then he became 22-year-old barely able to walk. After the accident, my dad was unable to move and exercise. Over five years, his weight gain increased, and soon he weighed more than 500 pounds.
With the pain and lack of exercise came the weight gain, and with the weight came more pain and more struggles. It was truly a vicious cycle. After ten or more years with this struggle, my father decided to undergo bariatric, or weight loss, surgery. It gave my dad his life back. After a substantial weight loss, my father could walk up and downstairs again, something most of us take for granted. He could go out to restaurants with his family back. He no longer had this fear of not being able to fit at the tables or breaking the chairs in a restaurant. The pain from the accident would always be with him, but at least it wasn’t so unbearable for him anymore. My dad became more of the dad he wanted to be again. He smiled. For me, as his daughter, to see someone smile that didn’t do so for many years is something I will never forget.
People have different reasons for why they gain weight, and often other people have so many misconceptions about a person’s size. I do not think I have ever met anyone that has said, “Yes, I like being overweight.” As a society, many of us struggle every day to eat healthily and to exercise. But we’ve learned through research that was eating right and exercising more is not the “cure” to obesity.
Often, in this busy world we live in, “self-care” is ignored amid all the other obligations of life – until obesity starts impacting a person’s daily life and they no longer have a choice about what to do about the weight.
With an understanding that many people struggle with obesity, a new bariatric surgery program is now offered at Lompoc Health – North H Center. I have seen firsthand how the commitment to undergo surgery can change a life. We do not always see the battles and the challenges that shape someone’s choices or circumstances. Bariatric surgery is not an easy choice, nor is it the right or wrong pick for everyone. But bariatric surgery does give people the tool they may need to make changes in their life. It could mean the difference between a parent being able to play at the park with their small child or not being able to participate in the play. It could mean the difference between someone spending time with their family during celebrations and being depressed and alone for the holidays.
My father’s story is why, as a daughter and a nurse, I find metabolic and bariatric surgery so crucial for people like my dad, who passed away five years ago. For some people, it is truly a lifesaving surgery. Now that I have the role of our Bariatric Program Coordinator, I want to make sure people understand that bariatric surgery isn’t a surgery that just “fixes” people and their underlying health and weight issues. It is a tool, and sometimes, it can be one of the ultimate tools needed for someone who is struggling with weight.
I have seen firsthand the positive changes for a person – my dad – and for a family that was able to enjoy many more years of a meaningful life because of his decision to undergo bariatric surgery. I hope that as the Bariatric Program Coordinator, I will be able to offer help and guidance to our residents who are taking this monumental step toward a changed life.
Take Your First Steps Toward a Healthier, More Active Life
Join us on the first Wednesday of every month for a free one-hour informational seminar on our new surgical weight loss program. Starting July 3rd, at 5:30 pm in Lompoc Valley Medical Center. You’ll learn about local options for surgical weight loss, hear about our comprehensive pre- and post-surgical plans, and get your questions answered.
Register now for this free Informational Seminar by calling our Bariatric Program Coordinator Kassi Smith, RN at (805) 737-3382.