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"Happy, Active and ALIVE!"
"Happy, active and alive is how Bernice Petersen of Champlin describes her life following Roux en Y gastric bypass surgery. At 417 pounds, Bernice knew that doing nothing was no longer an option. Having retired in 2009, she gained 30 pounds the following year. "I always wanted to travel when I retired, and I knew this was not going to happen with being so overweight. I also knew it was really important for me to lose weight and regain my health, because if I didn’t, I would not be able to take care of my mom as her health continued to decline. I hate needles, and the fear of coming down with diabetes, especially with my strong family history, was very much a possibility."
At her highest weight, Bernice required the use of a cane and could only walk short distance before pain required her to sit. "My sister had to do all of the shopping for both my mom and me. We ate out a lot because it hurt my back to stand, cook and clean dishes."
Weight loss surgery
Bernice was referred to the Unity Hospital Bariatric Center and found hope. In 2011, she underwent surgery with Dr. Laura July. She loved Dr. July, as well as the rest of the staff. Working closely with bariatric nurse clinician Diane Gladhill, as well Amy Amberg, exercise specialist, Bernice was able to work through her preoperative surgical process. "With this program, I literally got my life back. The entire team was so supportive, not just prior to surgery, but after surgery as well. Their encouragement has helped me succeed with my journey."
When asked if there was anything that stood out to her immediately following surgery, Bernice joked that she feared not being able to postoperatively walk the distance the nurse required. "But I made it," she laughed. One might argue that she has more than made it.
Weight loss success
Today, Bernice is 273 pounds lighter, one-third of her former self. Her BMI is now 23.25. When asked how this dramatic weight loss affected her life, Bernice had quite a list. "I was able to take care of my mom in our home until she passed. This meant a great deal to both of us. I am able to grocery shop and run errands for myself without relying on my sister. Today I get in my car and do all of my own shopping, often stopping at four or five places before returning home. I went to the State Fair this year and was there all day. I only needed a couple of five minute breaks to sit down the entire time. I would not have lasted five minutes prior to surgery. I was so appreciative to be able to go to the fair. It had been years since I was able to do so." Bernice is also looking forward to an upcoming vacation. "I don’t worry that I won’t be able to fit in the seat." She’s also tried out a few other seats, including ones at the Vikings, Lynx, Wolves and Twins games. No surprise, she fits comfortably in each one.
What else is Bernice no longer worried about? She no longer worries about having to wait for a table instead of a booth, or asking for a chair without arms in a restaurant. She no longer worries about having to use a cane. And she now can do one of the things she most enjoys, fishing, because she is not afraid of not being able to get into the boat.
What’s next for Bernice - staying active and spending more time volunteering. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit!