September 18, 2014

Lisa’s entire family struggles with obesity. Her own weight issues started at age 10.

“It was a combination of genetics plus emotional eating,” she said. “Food didn’t talk back or make fun of me. I wanted to be thinner, but I couldn’t do it on my own.”

As an adult, Lisa’s weight grew to nearly 400 pounds at her heaviest. She couldn’t walk from her car to her house without getting winded. She suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. A severe cold had damaged her already strained heart. She suffered from a too-rapid heart rate and arrhythmia. Fluid built up in her chest. She couldn’t exercise because her heart couldn’t take the strain.

Lisa had watched obesity kill two family members—one whose 550-plus weight took his life at age 23. She knew she didn’t want that for her future. She was looking into bariatric surgery when doctors discovered a blood clot in her heart.

Lisa wouldn’t live without a transplant. Five days after being placed on the waiting list, Lisa was at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City getting prepped for surgery.

Ten months and one long recovery later, Lisa was prepping for another surgery—this time with G. Brent Sorensen, M.D., for gastric bypass. She weighed 377 pounds on the day of her surgery.

“There are people who say obese people don’t have willpower, that surgery is the easy way out,” she said. “It’s not. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do, but everyone deserves a chance to be healthy.”

Today, a healthy Lisa walks every day. She works out with dumbbells to build muscle, rides a bike, and is preparing for a body lift. Her blood pressure and cholesterol are controlled. Her sleep apnea is gone. More important, her new heart beats strongly in her new, strong body.

“I look in the mirror and see the ‘me’ I always wanted to be,” she said.