One Mudder’s Journey to Better Health
Abington Mom Emerges from the Muddy Waters of Obesity and Climbs to Healthier Ground
At 32, Abington resident Amy Millar was battling high blood pressure, sleep apnea, migraine headaches, chronic back pain, an unstable knee, acid reflux, and prediabetes – all obesity-related medical conditions that resulted from carrying more than 300 pounds on her 5’6” frame.
Today, Amy is 92 pounds lighter, healthier and more active than ever before. She credits Abington Health’s Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (IMBS) for her striking transformation. “The IMBS team taught me how to use weight loss surgery as one of many tools to save my own life,” says Amy. “I decided I didn’t want to keep dying from obesity.”
For Amy, the struggle with weight had been lifelong. She’d been overweight as a child, continued gaining as a young adult, and put on additional pounds with each of her three pregnancies. When Amy’s weight topped out at more than 300 pounds, her health reached a tipping point.
“I remember the moment I finally understood what it meant to be morbidly obese,” says Amy. During a routine visit, Amy’s doctor expressed extreme concern about her health. Amy told him she didn’t have time to care for herself while meeting the demands of a full-time job and mothering three young children with special needs. “The doctor simply asked me who was going to care for them if I had a heart attack or died. Welcome to morbid obesity.”
Through the years, Amy had experimented with many weight-loss techniques – various diets, gym memberships and weight loss medication. “I could not lose weight successfully on my own,” she says. After the light bulb moment with her doctor, Amy began to research weight loss surgery online. She attended an informational session at IMBS, then discussed her options in detail with Bariatric Surgeon Kristin Noonan, MD.
Amy chose a procedure known as vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), during which the surgeon divides the stomach vertically and removes 85 percent of it to create a smaller, banana-shaped stomach. “Because the stomach is smaller, patients cannot eat as much food so they consume fewer calories and lose weight,” explains Marguerite Dunham, CRNP, program coordinator.
Prior to surgery, Amy had begun making lifestyle modifications the IMBS team had recommended to help contribute to her long-term success postsurgically. Her family of five joined the local YMCA, “where we basically live now,” jokes Amy. They also adopted a more nutritious diet and healthier eating habits.
Since her surgery in May 2013, Amy has lost 92 pounds. She no longer needs the five longstanding medications she took daily to manage obesity-related metabolic problems. “This journey is not an easy one,” she advises. “It has been slow and difficult, but I’m never alone. The IMBS team is with me the whole way.”
The first time Amy worked out at the YMCA, she took an elevator to reach the second-floor track because she couldn’t walk up one flight of steps. Just four months after surgery, Amy completed the Mudderella – a 6.2-mile muddy run with 15 obstacles. “I climbed over walls, planked across a trench, crawled under wires, and carried a teammate up a hill,” says Amy, who is training to complete a mud marathon in 2014. Today, she works out with a personal trainer six times a week. Amy also continues to attend IMBS support group meetings to maintain momentum, stay focused and share encouragement with others.
This journey has transformed every aspect of my life,” she says. “It has deepened my relationship with my husband and children because I am able to actually live. I don’t have to watch my kids grow up from the sidelines anymore. I can outrun them all.”