Jill's Story

"It Reinvents You as a Person"

Firefighter/EMT drops more than 100 pounds following bariatric surgery.

Climbing stairs in up to 130 pounds of firefighter gear could put a strain on any body. Add in more than 100 pounds of extra weight on your person and the extra burden could be positively stifling.

Jill Boden, 34, had tried every weight loss drug, diet and exercise program she could find to trim weight off her 315-pound frame. Finally a family friend recommended University Hospitals, which offers the only surgical weight loss program in the state of Ohio with three programs accredited by the American College of Surgeons, Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation & Quality Improvement Program.

“I never actually realized how difficult the normal things I did on a daily basis really were because I was just so used to doing them,” says the Pittsfield Township woman, who works as both a fire lieutenant/EMT and in a water treatment plant. “Now I have a ton of energy!”

It wasn’t until she made the transition that she fully realized how tired she was of aching knees and ankles; of failing to fit into seats on Cedar Point rides; of worrying that she’s crowding the person sitting beside her at sporting events; of feeling all the time like she’s out of breath and burning up.

Once Jill switched insurance companies, she found that bariatric surgery was finally a covered possibility. She discovered that UH had the strongest program, with surgical and medical weight loss options available at UH Cleveland, Geauga and Parma medical centers. She chose UH Parma Medical Center, which is closest to her Lorain county home.

Surgery to slim the stomach 

UH Digestive Health Institute’s Bariatric Surgery, Metabolic and Nutrition Center is a comprehensive program, with six months of nutritional counseling and goal setting. Patients can choose between a medically supervised weight loss program or surgery.

Jill met with Mujjahid Abbas, MD, Bariatric Surgical Director at UH Parma Medical Center, whom she trusted immediately. Presented with several surgical options, she chose a sleeve gastrectomy, a minimally invasive procedure in which the surgeon removes 80-90 percent of the stomach, including the portion where hunger hormones are generated. “I liked Dr. Abbas from the second I met him,” says Jill. “He was down-to-earth and took a genuine interest in me. His staff also was awesome, taking the time to get to know me and genuinely caring about my success.

“The staff at UH Parma is unbelievably organized and well-prepared,” Jill says. “The whole bariatric program is well thought out and so easy to follow.” A comprehensive checklist covers what to expect, including one-on-one meetings with the surgeon and nutritionist to receive a personalized recommendation and a presurgery class that covers the preoperative diet and goal-setting to ensure success for the rest of the patient’s life. Financial counselors also help patients navigate their insurance for this surgery, which is covered under many plans.

Jill walked laps on the hospital inpatient floor and drank copious amounts of liquids following laparoscopic surgery to ease the pressure of gas pains and jump start her digestive system again. She only had minimal pain from her three, centimeter-long incisions.

With a smaller stomach, Jill consumes far less food now – only a modest 3-4 ounce steak versus 16 ounces plus multiple sides. The surgery has spared her additional weight and saves her time and money spent on groceries. She has dropped more than 100 pounds, with the most significant weight loss coming in the first six months after surgery. “This surgery isn’t only about losing the physical weight; it’s also about gaining life,” says Jill. “It’s about losing the mindset and lifestyle that got me to 315 lbs. It reinvents you as a person.

Support for long-term success

Jill knew she had a whole team of experts behind her when she chose University Hospitals. UH Parma Medical Center’s team felt like an extension of her family.

“Our multidisciplinary team of patient navigators, bariatric nurse coordinators, bariatric dietitians and bariatric fellowship-trained surgeons work tirelessly to ensure that each patient has a positive, productive and safe experience with exceptional outcomes,” says Anna Hazinakis, BSN, RN, CBN, Assistant Nurse Manager of UH Parma’s program. “Our program is designed to offer holistic, comprehensive medical and surgical services for the treatment of obesity, ensuring that each patient has a unique care plan and is treated as a member of our family.”

Jill appreciated their candor and honest suggestions. She had done her own thorough research before her first appointment, and they were prepared for her questions. They told her to plan to take many vitamins and be conscious of fluid intake and protein consumption. She is working through the challenge of an overabundance of excess skin now that she has lost so much weight. While bariatric surgery is covered by numerous health insurance plans, cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin may not be deemed by those insurance companies as “medically necessary.” UH offers financing options.

Friends are thrilled to see Jill’s transformation. Clinical Bariatric Dietitian Dina Corrao RD, LD, CSOWM, who worked with Jill during monthly sessions and also leads a support group for patients, was encouraged by Jill’s commitment to change from the very beginning and not at all surprised by her progress.

“All this weight may seem impossible to escape from, but it is, in fact, totally possible,” Jill says. “With the help of my family and friends and everyone at University Hospitals, I gained a better and much healthier life and am eternally grateful to everyone that helped me along the way.”

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