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Surgery, fitness program help Belle Plaine woman lose nearly 200 pounds

Stephanie Smeeton and Daniel Fowler

Nearing the end of her workout, Stephanie Smeeton was powering through a set of weighted sit-ups on the Functional Trainer in the Via Christi Wellness Center, located inside the Via Christi Cancer Center in Wichita.

“You can go up five more pounds, if you want to,” said Daniel Fowler, a board-certified exercise physiologist and coordinator of the Wellness Center. “Are you ready to go up?”

After her workout, Stephanie says Fowler's encouragement and expertise have played a significant role in her nearly 200-pound weight-loss journey that started almost two years ago with classes and then bariatric surgery through Via Christi Weight Management.

“For me, it's because of the one-on-one attention that I can't get anywhere else – and he's motivating,” she says. “I've dropped out of other centers because no one cared if I wasn't there.”

The Wellness Center offers fitness and wellness services with a physician's approval for anyone dealing with chronic diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, pulmonary disorders and obesity. It also provides fitness programs for patients with cancer; Fowler holds specialist certification in cancer exercise. All patients using the center are assessed and provided with individualized exercise programs.

“I've had several patients who come here from our Weight Management program, but nobody has stuck with it like Stephanie,” says Fowler.

Her only hiatus from her workout program in nearly two years was a two-month recovery period following surgery to remove her gall bladder in early 2017.

She makes it a priority to meet with Fowler to exercise every weekday morning for an hour, before she starts work as an office manager at a Wichita business. After work, she enjoys spending time with her family, which includes three adopted children ages 10, 9 and 3 – the initial motivators for Stephanie's weight-loss journey. Four years ago, she and her husband of 14 years adopted the older two siblings; three years ago, they adopted their third child.

“The kids are the reason I had the surgery. They take a lot of energy, and I need to be there for them and I want to be active with them,” says Stephanie, 42, as she recalled how difficult it was to hold the youngest before her weight loss. 

Last year, the family took a trip to Portland and the Oregon coast.

“I would not have been able to enjoy that trip before,” she says. “It was so good I had had the surgery.”

In September 2015, Stephanie had gastric bypass surgery, during which her stomach was stapled to create a small pouch about the size of an egg and the small intestine was divided and connected to that small pouch. It is one of the three bariatric surgery options offered by Via Christi Weight Management, which earlier this year became the first program in Wichita to receive bariatric surgery accreditation.

She initially was scheduled to have surgery with another weight-loss clinic , but then found Via Christi Weight Management's program, which offered more opportunities for success, she says, with ongoing support group meetings and a customized exercise program in the Wellness Center, all of which are free to Weight Management patients.

About Amy Geiszler-Jones

A Wichita writer, Amy-Geiszler-Jones is a multi kind of person: She lives in a multigeneration household with multiple pets and she loves multicultural events, including ethnic dances.