Medical Services
Heather's Story

Heather's Story

Follow Heather as she rediscovers herself and uncovers the strength to reach her weight loss goals.

Video Chapter 1: Before Bariatric Surgery

Video Chapter 2: Day of Surgery

Video Chapter 3: Goal Weight

Video Chapter 4: Glam Girl


Enjoying New Life After Bariatric Surgery

Ever since Heather was a teenager, she loved riding horses. Riding and training horses in her hometown of Constantine, Michigan, quickly became her greatest love. But the unbridled passion for riding horses nearly disappeared when she came to the startling realization a few years ago that she was too heavy to ride her favorite horse, Lad.

Heather, an operating room nurse at Elkhart General Hospital and visiting lecturer in nursing at Indiana University South Bend, struggled with obesity for years. Her weight fluctuated dramatically as she experimented with nearly every diet plan. Two different diets caused her to lose 100 pounds, but other health issues, a strenuous graduate school workload and late night shifts in an ICU caused Heather to put back on the weight. Her obesity caused serious health issues: high blood pressure, acid reflux and hip and joint pain. In preparation for her wedding day on May 8, 2010, she lost 30 pounds, but still weighed 289 pounds.

A New Day

For the year following the wedding, Heather had on- and off-again success in losing 100 pounds. But she committed herself to losing weight and keeping it off – due in large part to Elkhart General Hospital Bariatric & Metabolic Institute and the arrival of board-certified and fellowship-trained bariatric surgeon Eric Knapp, DO. After several meetings and reviewing her surgical options, Heather opted to move forward with lap-band surgery with Dr. Knapp. For the next six months before her April 2012 surgery, she prepared herself for life after lap-band surgery by living the life before surgery – overhauling her diet and changing her eating behaviors. Her outlook has paid dividends as she embraces rather than rejects healthy food choices. “I don’t have to eat healthy, I want to eat healthy,” she said.

Lifelong Journey

Tammy Haeb, RN, coordinator of the Elkhart General Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, has helped dozens like Heather to end the rollercoaster of dieting and become healthy in a lasting way.

“We love what we do because we get to be a part of peoples’ lives who are transformed by a partnership in which we prepare and support them on this lifelong journey to better health,” said Haeb.

The Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, which features the only fellowship-trained, board-certified bariatric surgeons in the region, offers an individualized program that ensures long-term success through patient education, support groups and follow-up. And to create the roadmap for success, the bariatric team prepares patients six months in advance of surgery by guiding them along a medically monitored program that includes meal replacements, nutritional counseling, exercise classes and access to health experts. While bariatric surgery is effective for people who are obese, it’s also ideal for those affected by diabetes or another chronic condition who may not even be overweight. Gastric bypass surgery, for instance, can reduce the severity and frequency of diabetes symptoms.

Today, Heather feels more like 24 than 34 thanks to the lap-band surgery, a regimented diet and frequent exercise. Her blood pressure is normal again, and there is no more hip or knee pain. She used to weigh 319 pounds and wore size 26 jeans, but today she weighs 181 pounds and wears size 11 jeans. And best of all, an enthusiastic and confident Heather is once again able to ride horses.

“It’s still a work in progress, but I am personally growing as a result of this life-changing experience,” she said. “The journey has only begun and I am excited to continue to learn and grow as a person emotionally and physically. I am empowered by the decision I made to have the surgery and will use this tool to make myself the healthiest person I can be.”

FREE Bariatric Informational Seminars

Bariatric Surgeons Eric Knapp, DO and Luis A. Benavente, MD provide in-depth presentations on the latest weight-loss surgical techniques, including a review of the potential benefits and risks. A general discussion period will follow.

For more information, please call 574-523-3264 or toll free at 855-874-3BMI (3264).