A Bariatric Nurse’s Journey to Weight Loss
My Journey … By: Sarah I Grimes, RN, CBN
To say this is the beginning of my journey is really not correct, my journey to surgery started YEARS ago. I was small, many would say tiny until I hit puberty, and then I ballooned. I remember being self conscience, worried about what size I wore, yet wanting to eat junk whenever I could. And I was active; I swam at least 2-2.5 hrs. 5 -6 days a week, but my appetite was just as fierce. That is when my journey started. I was lucky enough to have parents who didn’t keep sweets in the house, they were treats we got occasionally, if you wanted dessert you could have fruit, in fact we could always have fruit, if we were hungry enough we’d eat it. I still say that to my kids! But, as I grew and had my own money I had increased access to junk and less time at home. I was around 180 lbs. when I graduated high school, 226 on my wedding day and stayed around 240-250 with each pregnancy, then in 2014 I was within a couple lbs. of 300 and I knew then I couldn’t keep doing this to myself, I had to make changes. I was somewhat active, but tired, in pain, and not living a life I knew I could have. I had been a member of a gym for years, but time wasn’t on my side. I hated dropping the kids in the gyms childcare right after I picked them up from daycare and afterschool care. I felt horrible taking away their mommy time so I can have my own time. But at that moment in 2014 I knew I have to do something. It was then I quit the gym, yes I said quit the gym and started exercising. I walked my driveway and in front of my house after putting the kids to bed, it was my time and I was right there if they needed me and it was much cheaper! I started food journaling –again, I also started a weight loss medication, this all resulted in about a 50 lb weight loss, which was great, but I was still 120 lbs. overweight.
Now I need to back up some. I became a nurse in 2000 and starting working at Parkwest on the 4th floor before I even graduated. In 2003 Dr. Boyce did his first RNY and I took care of our first patient on day 1 post op, I was hooked. In the next 18 months I took care of as many of Dr. Boyce’s patients as I could and then I got the call I was waiting for. There was an opening in the office, I applied and got the job! Now comes the guilt, I knew I was overweight, I dieted, I exercised, I used our products (and yes they are good) but I could never get below 240 – that was my kryptonite weight. I felt at times I shouldn’t work here, yet I loved my job and still do. I love working where patients are getting better and improving their lives. I have seen patients who came in on scooters for their first visit, later walk in. I am telling you all; I have an amazing job and get to see amazing things!!! I felt I didn’t live up to what I should and have answered many questions as to why I hadn’t had surgery. If I believe in something so much, why haven’t I done it? Yet, my insurance didn’t cover surgery (my husbands insurance) so I couldn’t proceed. Then, last September, we were reviewing our insurance changes and I saw it, screamed and told my husband I would be having surgery after the first of the year. Bariatric surgery was now covered and I immediately started documentation on my 6 month MSD, did all my consults, sat down with Dr. Williams, as we both just said “I can’t believe this is finally happening!” It was almost a 12 year journey to have surgery, just waiting on insurance to come around and realize surgery was worth it.
During my time here, we have added a second surgeon. So yes, I was here before Dr. Williams, I became his nurse about 2 years after he arrived and the first two years he was here the two doctors shared two nurses. So I have now worked with him for 10 years and Dr. Boyce for 16 (I am counting the time at the hospital.) I have learned so much, I have debunked myths and try to pass that on to our patients. The first is obese does not equal lazy, I find most of our patients put all others above themselves and that leads to obesity. You have to learn to be a little selfish to be successful and IT IS OK!! Also, once you are obese you have a 10% chance or less of getting traditional “dieting” to work for you; its not that you can’t lose it, you just can’t keep it off. I am respectful of anyone who tries, no matter what their starting point. It is easy to train for a 5k if you exercise regularly, but there is more effort put forth from someone who has rarely exercised. I have learned that each patient has a different reason for doing this, but the most successful are those that in the end, are doing it for themselves. By working here so long, I have been given an advantage by seeing so much and I want to use it the best I can.
On April 6, 2016 I had a Sleeve Gastrectomy. I am blessed with such great support from my family, friends, and work family; I know this is not something everyone has. I have not posted much on my personal Facebook page, because I know there are doubters and I don’t want the negativity. My #1 piece of advice I have given from my first day here: Stay away from anyone who does not support your decision until at least 3 months after surgery. I am sticking to that myself. The two week diet was harder than I hoped but easier than I feared, especially on the weekends. Weekdays were great, my family had more home cooked meals than normal because they didn’t have to eat what I like, and I only made what they like. Easter fell on my first weekend, apparently I was a little evil that day, and I feel bad for that. Phase 1 is difficult, as liquids only always are. I really do not have an appetite, but the smell of food is heavenly and my mind thinks I should have it. Then I take too big of a sip of protein shake and my stomach gives my head a reality check on why we are only having liquids! I will start puree in the next few days, and am scared I will get sick. I know fear is normal and I am trying to listen to all the advice I have given, follow the rules and you will be ok. I have accidently gulped once after coming inside after a walk – I am sure it will happen again and I now refer to these moments as reality checks!
I am now excited about the future, I am still scared. I am scared of weight gain, not losing, eating the wrong thing, getting sick, and so much more. But, I am mostly optimistic. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and hopefully have learned how to prevent the bad and ugly. I know what I need to do, I always have, I am grateful to have this opportunity to finally take care of myself and have the knowledge of those that have gone down this road before me. I hope my children will not go down they same path I have, and will instead walk with me down my new path to a healthier life. I am looking forward to being seen for ME, not my size. I am saddened that in our society there is still discrimination against people of size, and hope that when you come into our office you feel accepted, seen, and heard. Remember no matter where you are in your journey, it is not the end, it is never the end!
On Left: 12/2014 HW 297ish On Right: 04/27/2016 227 (3 weeks post op)