Growing up in a family where obesity was the norm and she was always “a heavy kid,” Jennifer Read had seen her mother, grandmother, and aunt have bariatric surgery. By age 24, she had failed at more diets than she could count, and at just shy of 400 pounds, suffered from edema and high blood pressure. She couldn’t walk short distances without being short of breath.
Jennifer’s father Richard, 53, saw firsthand how her weight kept her isolated and withdrawn. “I really promoted her doing something to improve her health,” he says. When Jennifer finally decided to seek help from the Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Program, her father attended the informational sessions and support groups with her. “There’s a really good, comprehensive plan in the way they prepare you for surgery,” he says. “It helped me to feel more comfortable.”
Jennifer embraced the program and lost a total of 220 pounds. Four years after the surgery, she had a son, something she’d never dreamed possible when she was obese. “I never thought that I would be able to have kids because I was too heavy,” she says. “And if I had had my son when I was heavier, there’s no way I could have been able to keep up with him. I’ve become so much more active since losing weight.”
Jennifer’s decision to undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass at the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program ultimately affected more than just her. It encouraged her father to finally address his own weight issues. Approximately one year after Jennifer’s surgery, Richard had the same procedure with the same surgeon—and today, father and daughter enjoy many of the same benefits of lasting weight-loss success.
At 330 pounds, Richard had his own share of obesity-related health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea and hypertension. He’d seen his own mother go through bariatric surgery successfully, and in his career as a nurse, had taken care of bariatric patients himself. Still, he says, “It’s always a little different when you’re on the other side of the bed.”
When Richard signed on for surgery, Jennifer encouraged him and joined him at support groups just as he had done for her. “The only one we didn’t go to together was my first year out from surgery meeting, because he hadn’t gotten there yet,” Jennifer says.
He eventually would, though. Today, Richard is a svelte 185 pounds, his blood pressure is normal, and he no longer fights chronic fatigue or has to use a CPAP machine to breathe normally at night. “I was very motivated and directed,” he says. “I know some people who had the surgery and gained it all back, but I really listen to my body and what it says.” Most of all, he’s happy at the change he’s seen in his daughter. “I’m very proud of what she’s done,” he says. “It’s given her an opportunity to have a life.”
For more information about weight-loss surgery, sign up for a free information session with the Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Program.