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The family history of diabetes made its appearance in Stacy Schmucker when she became pregnant with her son, now 8 ½. Her weight kept climbing after the baby's birth, as did her need for medication. "I thought I could shed the pounds on my own," said Stacy. "And I did lose some, but gained it all back and more." At her most vulnerable, Stacy, now age 36, weighed 270 pounds. "I watched my grandfather die from complications of diabetes, and I didn't want to put my kids through that when I could do something about it." But progress would be slow. "All those years of damage couldn't be corrected overnight." Was bariatric surgery the answer? "What I heard in the informational meetings is there is no quick fix and that if I was going to go down this path, I had to be prepared to change my life. I was ready. I want to grow old with my husband, see my kids get married, enjoy my life." Admittedly Stacy was afraid, and she knew it would not be an easy way out, but would be life changing. Now 115 pounds lighter, Stacy tells others contemplating surgery, "I am happy to share my story, my journey, my success, my struggles with you. Calling that 800 number, scheduling the appointment and showing up for the first meeting - that was the hardest part for me." And she adds, the family support has been invaluable. "My daughter says I'm much more fun because we can play together. My son wrestles and we work out together lifting weights. It was a great day when he told me, 'Mom, I can hug all of you now.' "
"For the first 10 or so years of their marriage, Rick Delligatti's wife did all the cooking. Then she asked him if he'd like that responsibility. "I took over the kitchen, with her blessing. I guess that's what got me into trouble. I still love to cook, more now than before and now it's keeping me focused." Once active with manageable health problems. Delligatti turned to weight loss surgery when he needed to turn away from bad habits that caused diabetes, heart and back problems. "When I hit 270 pounds, I knew I needed to do something. My family doctor and my cardiologist were both in favor of the surgery as a way to improve my health," he said. "I didn't know if I had the mindset to be successful, but decided I needed to commit wholeheartedly or suffer the consequences." Ready for a carefree retirement, Delligatti, 61, has made steady progress toward his optimal weight since having the surgery in May 2011. Still the chief cook, he's modified recipes to include the approved ingredients, and practices portion control. "When I have spaghetti, first it was two ounces of whole wheat pasta, now it's spaghetti squash, which is just as good to me. And there are more vegetables and salads on the menu. I was never a junk food guy, but I do enjoy a good meal. I'm just smarter about it." And the rewards are worth it. "I can climb hills, and keep up with my 3-year-old grandson. Surgery changed my life, but you have to realize it's a marathon, not a sprint."
"I had always been thin, but after the birth of my fourth child, I had a difficult time controlling my weight and it just got worse over time. I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. "The procedure is not as difficult or scary as people make it out to be. If you take it all into perspective, focusing on what you receive far outweighs what you don't. Personally, I have had an incredibly positive experience. I am so grateful; I have been given my life back, years and quality time I was missing with my family and friends. "Even though this is a lifetime commitment, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. Since day one, I haven't had sugar and I don't miss it. I no longer feel hungry and don't feel the need to eat like I previously did. it is very important to relearn body signals and make sure you eat for nutritional purposes even if you aren't hungry."
Three years ago, Greensburg resident Brenda DeCecco was finally forced to accept reality about her deteriorating health. She concluded it was time to re-evaluate her life and make a dedicated commitment to take better care of herself."With a medical background I certainly knew better and was fully aware of the health consequences associated with not eating properly or exercising," commented DeCecco, a lab technician at Excela Health, Westmoreland Hospital. "But until you are affected personally, you convince yourself that it doesn't really matter, but then it is too late."After years of weight gain, increasing health ailments that precipitated taking numerous medications that made her feel even sicker, DeCecco decided enough was enough. After trying numerous options to lose weight and make needed lifestyle changes with little success, she finally chose to pursue a gastric by-pass."The fear of not being around anymore for my family was by far the real reality check," confessed DeCecco. "I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands, and that I was the only one who could make it happen."For DeCecco, the procedure proved to be a positive experience. "Dr. Costa and his staff were wonderful," noted DeCecco, "Everything that they said would happen, did according to plan."Following surgery the biggest challenge for DeCecco was adjusting to her body's ability to tolerate certain foods. "It truly is a trial and error process, and you have to learn what you can or cannot eat and when or how much you can eat." she said.When asked if she would recommend the procedure to others, DeCecco replied "most definitely" noting that the procedure is only a tool and to maintain success you must constantly work at it, adhering closely to your doctor's recommendations. "It is important to know that this is not a quick fix, but a lifetime commitment to eating nutritionally and making healthy lifestyle changes," she emphasized.For DeCecco it was the best decision she could have made and results were immediate. "Following the surgery, my lab results started returning to normal values, I was able to get off all medications and my sleep apnea improved," noted DeCecco. "Physically, I was able to walk and do things that I hadn't been able to do for years without being short of breath."Her greatest accomplishment was getting back on water skis and seeing the amazement in her husband and children's eyes as she was able to do something that she thought she never would be able to do again.
Shortly, after his 50th birthday, Connellsville resident Thomas Kezmarsky came to the conclusion that it was time to do something about his weight, a big factor that was contributing to various health problems including severe pain in his knees.
According to Kezmarsky, the arthritis in his knees was so bad that injections were no longer providing any pain relief, making normal mobility and functioning a real problem. It was all he could do to put in a full day of work. When he got home from work, all he could do was sit in a chair. "It was impossible to find the energy or will to do anything else," said Kezmarsky. "My doctor came right out and told me knee surgery was not an option and the only way I could help myself was to lose weight."
That, coupled with the fact that he could not enjoy or play with the puppy that his children had given to him for his birthday, was the last straw that motivated Kezmarsky to pursue a gastric by-pass -- having failed at all other attempts to lose weight.
Two years later, Kezmarsky has trimmed down to 224 pounds, a loss of over half of his prior weight of over 420 pounds. He is pain free and functioning at 100 percent. "I still have the arthritis but the pressure has disappeared because the weight is gone," he noted.
Kezmarsky is certainly reaping the benefits of the surgery, enjoying life to the fullest with more energy and motivation. He is now able to enjoy the companionship of his dog and work around his home.
Once he got over the initial hurtle of committing to the surgery, Kezmarsky's progress has been good. Losing over 100 pounds during the initial six-month pre-preparation period, Kezmarsky's doctors gave him the option not to have surgery. However, fearing he would fall off the wagon as in the past, Kezmarsky, along with the support of his wife and children, opted to proceed. "I knew if that would have happened, I would never have had the courage to go through with it again," admitted Kezmarsky. "For me, this was the right choice, and I now have a manageable tool in place to maintain results."
With a new lease on life and his health status in check, Kezmarsky enjoys being able to buy normal clothes again, noting he has a lot more choices and "It's great to know I am half the size I used to be." He added, "It's also rewarding when someone notices the difference and acknowledges my accomplishment. It's actually a compliment if someone doesn't recognize me."
Kezmarsky attributes his success to the following statement that is prominently displayed above his work bench, "It's not what you're giving up, it's what you're gaining." This is the reminder and motivation that helps to keep him on track to maintain continued success.
For the first time since the eighth grade, Timothy Dunn, 57, of Scottdale is pleased to say that he is no longer classified as being overweight, a major accomplishment he never thought possible until two years ago when he decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
"Being obese for most of my life, I always had the lingering doubt that any program would bring desired results," stated Dunn. "After all, the weight struggle had been something I had learned to live with for over 43 years and everything I tried was unsuccessful."
At 6 feet, 3 inches, 370 pounds with a BMI of 45 and considered morbidly obese, Dunn had basically given up. Working in the food service industry provided constant temptation. He was a diabetic with high blood pressure and had trouble walking. Easily winded, climbing stairs even proved to be a challenge. At one point, his girth prevented him from being able to put on his socks and shoes. "I was so embarrassed of my weight I would go to my son's soccer games an hour early just to get a seat so I wouldn't have to climb over people," said Dunn.
While attending an informational session on bariatric surgery, Dunn saw the surgery as his last chance for good health. After battling back and forth with the decision about surgery, he finally decided to embark upon the journey with the support of his family. "I was really scared, even up to until the night before the operation," admitted Dunn. "This was a major life-altering decision for me."
To date, he has lost over 180 pounds, equivalent to the size of a whole man. Medication- free other than vitamins, he no longer suffers from diabetes or hypertension and can now actively exercise and ride his bike. Dunn is happily living life again and enjoys spending time with his two grandsons, fishing and attending their sporting events.
When asked if he misses food, Dunn confidently stated, "Not at all -- I have learned to eat nutritionally and in moderation, which has turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience."
So pleased with his results, he actively serves as a spokesperson for the bariatric program. Apprehensive to participate at first, he was encouraged by his mother who convinced him that if he could save one person‘s life on the basis of his own experiences, that would make an important difference."
For Dunn, the biggest adjustment was reactions expressed by others. Because of the drastic physical change, acquaintances ironically misinterpreted the situation and thought he was sick and dying instead of getting better and healthier.
According to Dunn he was truly blessed and fortunate to have wonderful doctors and unending support from his wife and family. "They truly saved my life," added Dunn.
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