Danielle: Nurse Reclaims her Health

Though Danielle struggled with extra weight since her teen years, she never obsessed about her 235 pound frame. She was active and athletic, a regular at martial arts classes. It wasn’t until 2012 when the 39-year-old telemetry nurse caught a glimpse of herself in photographs—and was taken aback. “Wow, is that really me?” she remembered thinking.

The single mother had worked hard building a career as a respiratory therapist prior to nursing school. But eight years on the overnight shift had taken its toll on Danielle’s health, as she grabbed quick and unhealthy snacks. “I was burning the candle at both ends,” she said. “I was pre-diabetic and had wicked high cholesterol.”

Danielle tried diet and exercise programs. She’d be successful for a while, and then the weight would creep back on. When a friend told her she was having a gastric sleeve operation, Danielle was intrigued. “She doubted I’d qualify,” Danielle said, “but I knew I hid a lot under my scrubs!”

After careful research, Danielle chose Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (CMBS), an all-inclusive program offering a thorough medical evaluation, laparoscopic surgical options, and lifetime support by a team of surgeons, dietitians and psychologists.

“I liked that the surgeons are known as top researchers in bariatric surgery. Plus, it is part of the Partners hospital system, like my employer North Shore Medical Center – Salem Hospital,” she said.

With a body mass index (BMI) of 40, Danielle met the criteria for weight loss surgery. She was excited about the prospect of improving her health, yet heard negative responses from a few people. “Can’t you just close your mouth and exercise more?” she recalls hearing.

Danielle ignored the naysayers, embraced her team at CMBS, including bariatric surgeon Malcom Robinson, and leaned on her mother and daughter for support at home. She said she learned that weight loss surgery is not the total answer. “It is a tool,” she said. “I had to make a lifetime commitment to eating right and exercising.”

According to Dr. Robinson, “Danielle was an ideal candidate for the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. She wanted a procedure that offered a good chance of long-term durable weight loss, without the small increase in risks associated with gastric bypass. The sleeve consists of removing eighty to ninety percent of the outer portion of the stomach, leaving behind a “sleeve” or tube of stomach. This operation is also called the “banana operation” because of the way the remaining stomach looks after the operation is complete. The sleeve works by physically limiting the amount of food one can eat and by changing the hormonal environment of the body, so patients are less hungry and feel full more quickly.”

Post-gastric sleeve surgery, Danielle stuck to her diet and drastically changed her eating habits—and the weight steadily came off. She lost 70 pounds and has gone from a size 24 to a size eight. Though she said it has taken time to come to grips with her new body, and she still gravitates to the plus sizes when she shops, Danielle now enjoys trying on jeans. “I balled my eyes out in the dressing room the first time I fit into a size eight,” she admits.

Danielle said her CMBS psychologist Paul Davidson, PhD, has been her biggest cheerleader. “During our sessions, he pulled stuff out of me I didn’t want to face. With his help, I’ve learned to reflect on my life and be proud of the old and the new me.”

Danielle, who can now run up a flight of stairs easily, is no longer pre-diabetic and has normal cholesterol levels. As she heads into her second year post-bariatric surgery, Danielle said she is still learning about her body’s response to food and has developed an appetite for healthier choices. Cauliflower is a new favorite. She takes comfort in knowing her CMBS team is always there if she has questions or concerns.

When asked her future goals, Danielle’s response shows her commitment to health. She plans to continue her nursing education by finishing her bachelor’s degree, and intends to maintain her weight loss and exercise more.

For now, Danielle is enjoying life’s small triumphs: “I’ve caught my 15-year-old stealing my clothes,” she laughed. She also delights in the attention she receives from colleagues who don’t recognize her. “Even in my baggy scrubs!”

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