In September 2017, Guila "Suzy" Kilmer weighed 360 pounds, causing her to be uncomfortable in her own body and have a variety of health issues. Today, she weighs 166 pounds — less than half her former weight— with the help of Ascension Via Christi's Surgical Weight Management program.
"I was miserable. I couldn't move," says Suzy, a correctional officer at Hutchinson Correctional Facility for 22 years now. "At one point, I had to be moved into a 'safer' workspace to decrease the likelihood of a health-related incident."
After struggling with weight-related issues for too long — including having to be on a CPAP machine at night, take medication to control her high blood pressure and a near-death incident — Suzy decided to do something about it. She researched the area's weight management programs and chose Ascension Via Christi, embarking on a four-month journey that would change her life forever.
'THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL'S BACK'
"My 7-year-old granddaughter told me she worried I wouldn't be there for her wedding," says Suzy. "I promised her I would be. A week later, I had an emergency where I couldn't breathe or move, and I thought I was going to die right then."
This pushed Suzy to seek help to get her weight under control. "It really was the straw that broke the camel's back," says Suzy.
On Aug. 12, 2017, Suzy attended an orientation session for Via Christi's Surgical Weight Management program and then began the program’s pre-surgery lifestyle modification regimen that consists of classes, exercise, physical therapy, progressive diet changes and keeping a daily food and drink journal.
"My favorite was the staff,” says Suzy, noting that one of the program coordinators had previously undergone bariatric surgery. "It was helpful to hear from someone who had been through it before.”
'IT WASN’T EASY’
For Suzy, the program was daunting at first. Keeping a food journal took discipline and dedication, as did exercising and sticking with a meal plan. Suzy continued to attend classes and meet others going through the same program, providing the support she needed.
"The support of my 'surgery sisters and brothers' and Via Christi staff made me want to accomplish this," says Suzy. "It was also motivating to be able to push others on their hard days."
During the two weeks before her surgery, Suzy was placed on a meal replacement program, which helped to bring her weight down to 300.
"The doctor could absolutely tell I stuck to the program, but it wasn't easy," says Suzy, whose gastric bypass procedure took only 30 minutes to perform.
'I WOULD RECOMMEND TO ANYONE'
At first, Suzy found her post-surgery life somewhat challenging as she had to carefully regulate how much food she eats at each meal so that she doesn’t overfill her smaller stomach.
Despite the classes and support, “I felt like I lost my best friend and ruined my life. Food was my support.”
However, that changed over time as Suzy’s newfound confidence and comfort began to reap benefits beyond what she had initially anticipated, or “non-scale victories,” as the program calls them.
"I was promoted at work to lieutenant as a result of the weight loss," says Suzy, who was promoted from case management to lieutenant. "I had been working there over 20 years and now I sometimes have to show my badge to other officers who don't recognize me."
Suzy still practices the same techniques she learned in classes throughout the program. She continues to log her food and liquids, keep in touch with her instructors and support her surgery sisters. As a result of her successes, her spouse is now starting the same program in hopes of similar results.
"I would recommend to anyone at any age, at any point," says Suzy. "You're never too old or too big, you just need to get motivated and educated."
For more information on the program, visit viachristi.org/weightmanagement or call 316-689-5232 to sign up for a weight loss orientation seminar.