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Bariatric surgery has her ‘living life instead of dreaming about it’

Via Christi Weight Management patient Tammy Metzger

Five years, Tammy Metzger took a long, hard look at herself in the mirror. Staring back was an overweight, 40-year-old woman she didn’t know — one who hated grocery shopping, trying on clothes and being in almost any social situation.

“I had put a lot into my career and being a single mom, and I just lost myself,” says Tammy, now 44 and 130 pounds lighter than when she began Ascension Via Christi Weight Management’s bariatric surgery program.

Tammy, who since 1998 has been the office manager and development coordinator for the American Heart Association, also felt like a hypocrite as she was promoting healthy lifestyles that she wasn’t living.

“Here I was at 312 pounds, and I wasn't ‘walking the walk,’” says Tammy, who had tried numerous diets and products without success before turning to Via Christi for help. “Now I feel I not only look the part, but I'm living proof it works.”

Today, four years after her surgery, Tammy has found herself again.

“It's almost like I got back my will to live,” she says. “I’m living my life instead of dreaming about it.”

While taking a few steps used to be exhausting for her, she now can “walk for hours on a beach — in a swimsuit!” she says. She has energy to do workouts and gets a “natural high” after exercising. She's resumed taking trips, no longer embarrassed to walk down narrow airline aisles or sit in cramped passenger seats.

She’s once again riding motorcycles, going to the annual rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, and even learning to drive a cycle herself. She's looking forward to going to amusement parks with her now 24-year-old son – an activity she gave up when he was in middle school when the rides' safety bars no longer could keep her in a seat.

“Healthwise, I'm 200 percent better,” says Tammy, who no longer is on high blood pressure medicine and continues to participate in the program’s postoperative bariatric surgery support group. “I’m hoping through my weight loss I can overcome my family history of heart disease.”

Tammy didn't pursue bariatric surgery lightly. Initially, she hesitated when her physician suggested it. Then she heard speaker James Early, MD, who founded the Weight Management program at Via Christi, at the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women luncheon, an event that promotes healthy lifestyles for women.

She went through the eight-week preoperative Lifestyles class, listening to educators Helen Ramsey and Dena Marten talk about the changes she'd need to make to her diet, exercise routine and other lifestyle habits. She had the psychological and medical screenings to ensure she was prepared for when surgeon Brent Lancaster, MD, did her procedure.

“Without the pre- and postoperative program, the surgery wouldn't be a success,” says Tammy. “They give you the tools to prepare mentally and physically for the challenges and changes you'll experience.”

Plus, she enjoys her new friends in the postoperative support group.

“They're like a second family. I still need them to keep me successful and to keep me learning how to manage my weight. I hope I’m helping them in the same way.”

She actually already has. Because of her success, Tammy's sister, Kim, participated in the program and recently had bariatric surgery performed by Lancaster.

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