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Weight loss surgery and a virtual support group improve quality of life for a grateful patient

Weight loss surgery and a virtual support group improve quality of life for a grateful patient
Weight management treatments help patients improve their health and quality of life. For some, surgical weight loss procedures can make all the difference.

Laurie Lingley shared her experience before and after weight loss surgery. “I took a trip to Yellowstone two years ago and I couldn’t see all Yellowstone because of all the walking and hiking trails,” said Lingley. “It was eye opening. There are still things I want to do.”

Laurie’s primary care provider referred her to the Bariatric program at Carle Health in Champaign-Urbana. There, she found not only a supportive team of clinical providers, but also a community of patients, friends and family members to encourage her along the way of her weight loss journey.

At the age of 56, Lingley had a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in June of 2022, performed by Christian Perez, MD, FACS, FASMBS.

A laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy is a procedure that removes part of the stomach to reduce the size of the stomach in volume. After the surgery, patients feel full more quickly, resulting in weight loss.

“The surgery is as safe as getting your appendix removed,” said Dr. Perez. “It’s complex, but it’s safe, and patients benefit a lot from it.”

Before surgery, Lingley worked with the bariatric team for about seven months to determine an individualized treatment plan. “We look at all medical problems and the patient’s goals. We provide the pros and cons to each procedure and work with patients to decide what surgery is best for them,” said Dr. Perez.

Dr. Perez also shares that, “It only takes a few weeks to recover from surgery, and patients can get back to life and work, implementing new lifelong eating habits and vitamin supplementation. After losing weight, patients start gaining stamina and feel better and better.”

It was during this time that Lingley also become involved with Carle’s Bariatrics Facebook Support Group. She even shared a room with someone from the group at the hospital during her surgery.

“There are people there in every stage of treatment,” said Lingley. “People share recipes and information. I’ve shared a book on there many times. It’s a win to have something in common with people. It’s so personal and good to just talk with people.”

“We have found that patients do well when their support system is involved in their weight loss journey,” said Emily Hamilton, APRN, FNP-C, one of the Bariatric Team members, explaining that the group is open for patients, friends and family members seeking to learn more about the Bariatric program at Carle Health.

Lingley said that people reach out to her from the group to connect with someone who has gone through what she has been through, from asking questions to looking for reassurance in the treatment.

“We realized during COVID that we needed to do things differently to better meet the needs of our patients. We also wanted to reach a larger volume of our patients through a platform which was both easy to use and promotes the ability of patients to interact and support one another. The Facebook Support Group has allowed us to do this. All three of our Bariatric Nurse Practitioners are active administrators of the Facebook Support Group,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton also believes that the positive experiences shared on the page and being able to ask questions to peers or professionals makes the page a supportive resource.

“There are a lot of success stories, and also some patients who struggle, but find support from others in the group who have been through the same thing,” said Hamilton. “The Bariatric provider team has a strong desire to be involved in the Facebook support group to ensure that patients are able to ask questions and receive timely, high-quality feedback from medical professionals, in a space that is both safe and supportive. The Facebook Support Group platform allows us to interact with patients at a time that is convenient for them.”

An educational Facebook live session occurs on the second Thursday of every month.

“One of the Bariatric Nurse Practitioners leads an open, interactive discussion with the participants”, said Hamilton. “Some of our previous topics include mindful eating, purposefulness, meal planning, and exercise, vacation planning and guest speakers.”

After her surgery, Lingley continued to see Dr. Perez and the bariatric team over the next year with less and less frequency. From once every three weeks to once every three months.

“It was fast and smooth,” said Lingley. “Everyone there is pretty amazing. It changed my life, which sounds dramatic, but they really helped me.”

“I think she’s doing a lot better,” said Dr. Perez. “Obesity is not the fault of the patient. It’s a disease with genetic and environmental factors. Everyone’s metabolism is different. That’s why we have treatments to control it like medications and surgery. Sometimes we use many treatments together, but it’s not the fault of the patient.”

“I would recommend it,” said Lingley. “It’s more common now, and it’s okay to get help. You can’t always do it on your own, and it’s life changing.”

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Categories: Redefining Healthcare

Tags: apnea, Bariatrics, Facebook, gastrectomy, gastroenterology, Group, laparoscopic, reflux, sleeve, Support, surgery