Skip section navigation
Taking care of Heidi Morrison
Heidi Morrison’s story of weight loss success is a happy chapter to a life of against-all-odds struggles.
Morrison’s mom died when she was 16 years old and still in high school. She became an instant parent to her seven- and twelve-year-old siblings when she turned 19. She and her new husband legally took custody of her brother and sister, caring for them and making sure they had life’s necessities and lots of love.
Later, Morrison had a son and daughter. Her husband drank heavily and eventually died of alcoholism. Even though they were newly divorced, Morrison helped care for him at the end of his life. She gained another child when her daughter’s young teen friend moved in with the family.
“I always took care of everyone else: my siblings, my children, my ex-husband,” said Morrison. “I was a heavy girl when I was in school and I gained even more weight after I had my kids. I was miserable, but I was too busy caring for other people and didn’t make the time to take care of myself.”
Seven years ago, Morrison found a new guy – and happiness – online. “We fell head over heals in love and have been married for five years,” she explained. “My new husband loved me the way I was, but he always encouraged me to be kinder to myself and put my health first.”
Health was declining
Morrison knew about bariatric surgery, but didn’t think she had the time or energy for it. In the meantime, her health was steadily declining. “I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and sleep apnea – and my knees, feet and ankles hurt a lot from the extra weight,” she said. Worse, her family history includes heart disease and cancer, which can be worrisome for someone carrying too much extra weight.
At only 5 feet 5 inches tall, Morrison weighed 280 pounds when she was laid off from her job and needed to enroll in her husband’s medical insurance plan. Since his insurance covered bariatric surgery, the layoff turned into a blessing. She attended a free information session at Unity Hospital in fall of 2010 where she learned about surgical weight loss options and met the staff members, including surgeon Laura July, MD.
“After hearing about the different surgeries, I thought that the sleeve procedure would be best for me,” Morrison said.
Sleeve gastrectomy is a somewhat newer weight loss surgical procedure that changes the size and shape of the stomach. Quite simply, in the sleeve procedure the majority of the stomach is removed. There are no devices placed in the abdomen, nor is any part of the small intestine changed. Patients eat less and feel full for a longer time.
Morrison scheduled an appointment with Dr. July to further prepare for her surgery. Dr. July had performed the first sleeve procedure at Unity and was seeing more patients interested in this new surgery option.
After losing 30 pounds to prepare for the procedure, Morrison’s weight loss surgery was scheduled for January 10, 2011. “The surgery went really well,” she said. “I had some issues with lactose intolerance but received the support I needed to work through that.” Morrison’s supportive husband took a week of vacation to be at home with her after surgery. Recovering quickly, she only missed one week of work herself.
“The Unity program is amazing. You are not just a number here,” she said. “My nurse Lynn called to check up on me and I was told I could call her anytime I needed to. I’d say, ‘I don’t feel well’ and she’d say, ‘OK, what are you eating? What can we change?’”
When Morrison checked in with Dr. July and the program staff after only six months she had lost 70 pounds. She became “a gym rat” and started activities she never would have considered when she was heavy: kayaking, doing 5K races, and a mission trip planned with her church’s youth program for the summer of 2013.
Life is amazing
“My health is great now,” said Morrison, “My goal was to get to 165 pounds and I’ve been maintaining my weight at 157. I’ve gone from size 26 jeans to a size 10. Life is amazing.” Morrison shares her weight loss story at Unity’s free introductory classes, where Dr. July will see her on occasion and ask her how she’s doing. “Dr. July is a warm, lovely person who honestly cares about her patients,” she said.
Morrison also facilitates a weight loss support group in Cambridge and attends a support group on Saturdays.
“I’m grateful to Dr. July and the staff at Unity. I think part of my success comes from involvement: participating in the support groups and being able to share my story at the Unity introductory classes,” Morrison said. “I like to say that it keeps my head in the game and fat off my butt!”