After weight-loss surgery, couple shares their experiences with bariatric support group
Winter days can be bleak, but Drew and Dori Howington’s home in Etowah is filled with the savory scent of a warm and freshly prepared dinner. “I’m a chef at heart,” says Drew, who loves to find new ways to prepare tasty foods for his family. Drew has lost about 100 pounds since undergoing a gastric sleeve procedure at Parkwest Medical Center in December 2019. These days he invests extra time in creating delicious meals because he can’t thrive on the unhealthy foods he used to eat. “I’ve adapted my talents for cooking to our new lifestyle and formulated new ways of preparing foods to keep them healthy,” Drew says. “The key is to be creative.”
With his weight hovering around 300 pounds after years of yo-yo dieting, Drew says he was living a limited life. He couldn’t walk very far, his knees hurt, going up stairs was exhausting and he couldn’t keep up with his young son. He continued to live with his weight until routine blood work at his doctor’s office revealed enzymes that signaled the onset of liver failure. “That was essentially my wake-up call,” says Drew. Those liver enzyme levels were corrected almost immediately after the surgery. As he began to live a healthier lifestyle, eating less and exercising more often, the weight began to drop and his energy level increased. “I was nowhere near the father that I should be for my child, or the husband I should be for my wife, and I definitely owed it to myself to have a long and healthy life,” says Drew.
Dori, who had previously undergone a gastric sleeve procedure herself, and Drew have become enthusiastic about sharing what they’ve learned. They are actively involved in a support group sponsored by Parkwest Bariatric Center. Group members have sampled Drew’s cooking and learned from the couple about navigating health and fitness apps. Drew and Dori also are helping their support group leader plan a date night for other couples in the support group. “It’s crucial that people realize when you’re morbidly obese, even if you’re not on medications and you think you’re healthy, you’re not,” says Dori. “Surgery is a life-changing adventure and it can be scary, but for many of us, it’s a necessity. Surgery gives you a tool that can last a lifetime. It gives you that extra push that gives you the ability to maintain the weight loss.”
The Search for Excellent Care
When Drew decided he was ready for weight- loss surgery, the couple researched options far and wide before deciding Parkwest was the best choice. “We looked as far west as Las Vegas and as far south as Florida,” Drew says. “We settled on Parkwest because with all of the research that we did, we felt like they provided a level of service that exceeded our expectations.”
Parkwest Bariatric Center coordinator Stella Mouzon, a certified bariatric nurse, says patients come into the program telling stories of being rejected from amusement park r ides, being unable to tie their shoes or being embarrassed when an airline seat belt wouldn’t fit. “I love it when I hear people say, ‘I just feel so much better,’ or ‘I have so much more energy,’” Mouzon says. Patients find they can enjoy fun activities like never before. In addition, they often are able to quit taking medications for blood pressure and diabetes.
According to bariatric surgeon K. Robert Williams, MD, the first step is becoming well-informed about the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery. While any surgical procedure has risks involved, he says that depending on the procedure, “In this day and age the risk of having a complication around the time of surgery is only about one to three percent.” D r. Williams adds, “There are multiple benefits patients harvest [from weight-loss surgery]. Most notably, near the time of surgery there’s a great improvement in diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, hyperlipidemia and reflux. “In some cases improvements in lifestyle are even more important than improvements in medical problems,” he says. “Patients often find that they are more likely or able to do things and participate in family and physical activities.”
Mouzon says, “These are what we call ‘non-scale victories.’ It’s like they’ve been freed.” Drew and Dori Howington are embracing that freedom with each new day. “It has definitely changed my life for the better,” Drew says.
Support for a New Life
Patients who trust K. Robert Williams, MD, and Parkwest Medical Center for bariatric procedures have seen life-changing results with better health, heightened energy and greater self-confidence. But surgery isn’t the only key to winning the weight loss war.
“Support groups are very critical to people’s success,” says Stella Mouzon, program
coordinator and certified bariatric nurse. “The folks who attend sup- port groups tend to do better than the folks who try to make it on their own.”
Parkwest Bariatric Center support group meetings offer information, encouragement and
inspiration. They’re open to anyone who has chosen to become a patient in the program. The bariatric surgeon’s office hosts a private Facebook group for patients, too.
Some of the people who participate are only in the early stages of working
toward future weight-loss surgery, while others are patients whose surgeries are behind them. In the group, they have a safe place to share their stories, their struggles and their support for one another. “In our support group we talk about making changes in your lifestyle and making changes mentally,” Mouzon says. “Sometimes it’s a struggle for folks emotionally and mentally after weight-loss surgery.”
In order for drastic weight loss to happen and to last long-term, some significant lifestyle
changes have to take place. Support group member Dori Howington says most people
don’t realize just how much change it requires. “Your whole lifestyle changes,” Dori says. “Everything about what you do in life, how you eat, how you spend your time, going out to restaurants – it even changes the entertainment factor within your life.”
With so much of East Tennessee social life focused on meeting up for meals and beverages, Dori and her husband quickly learned they had to find new ways to socialize. It
was a paradigm shift that was made easier with support from Parkwest Bariatric Center.
The support patients receive is just one more reason Parkwest Bariatric Center has become a trusted place for weight loss options that work.