Dropping Pounds, Gaining Better Health

Jessica and John Griffin tried cutting calories, restricting carbohydrates and limiting their food intake. At more than 300 pounds each, the young Brecksville couple were held hostage by obesity and its accomplices of weight-related health problems, like numbing foot pain, sleep apnea and diabetes.

Topping out at 315 and 354 pounds, respectively, they were determined to end this lifelong struggle. As young parents, they were motivated by the example they wanted to set for their children, ages 6 and 9. An unexpected diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes pushed Jessica to the brink. For John, his wake-up call was an inability to keep up with his sports-loving son.

“You don’t realize how everything spirals, and one day you wonder, ‘How did we get here?’” lamented Jessica, 36. “I finally put myself first and took steps to take control of my life – and to show my children how to be healthier.”

Tools for Success

Other health care professionals had broached the sensitive subject before, gently suggesting that they might want to drop a few pounds. Jessica had always struggled with this thorny topic, she simply did not know where to begin. Finally, Lucy O’Brien, DO, her new primary care physician, told her about the accredited Bariatric Surgery Center at University Hospitals Parma Medical Center.

An online video, viewed in the comfort and privacy of her living room, helped the couple visualize the possibilities. She witnessed the astounding results realized by others who underwent life-altering weight loss surgery. Board-certified surgeons and experienced nutritionists counsel patients through medically supervised weight loss, preparing them for the transformation with lifestyle adjustments that will bear long-term success. This pre-surgery phase also is required by most insurance companies. The program also has a 24-hour hotline, monthly support groups and exercise guidance, with no program fees.

“Support is crucial to a patient’s success long term,” says Anna Hazinakis, BSN, RN, CBN, bariatric nurse coordinator. “Here at UH Parma Bariatrics, we are committed to supporting our patients along their journey and consider all patients part of our UH bariatric family.”

UH Parma Medical Center’s bariatric surgery team includes Mujjahid Abbas, MD, and Richard Ungvarsky, MD, who performed Jessica’s gastric sleeve surgery in December 2016. Two months later, John would follow. In the coming year, she would take up running, logging two to three miles each day.

‘So Much More Energy’

“I have so much more energy,” said Jessica, who – like her husband – now weighs well under 200 pounds. “When we were heavy, we were beyond exhausted all the time.”

A mechanic, John is no longer crippled by excruciating foot pain by day’s end. He now has energy to spare, happily accepting eager invitations to play catch in the back yard with his son.

To the delight of their children, they even enrolled in a family fitness class. Their weight-related medical problems have resolved, and they eat better and far less, cooking healthier meals.

“It can change your life,” Jessica declares. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done.”