Bariatric Surgery Patient Stories

Virginia Mason is proud of every patient who undergoes weight loss surgery and achieves the life changing transformation as a result of this journey. Read these bariatric surgery success stories, and see what amazing results have come out of these patients' hard work.

Bunny

Visiting family in another state, Sharalyn “Bunny” Staricka heard the plan was to spend a day at the zoo. Her sister-in-law, niece and nephew clamored for Bunny to go, but she had to turn them down. At 375 pounds, Bunny knew she’d never make it around the exhibits — or even across the parking lot without severe pain.

Bunny Before and After Gastric Bypass Surgery

Bunny started thinking about weight-loss surgery in college, but insufficient insurance and financial resources kept it out of reach. Life setbacks, including a divorce, moving far from home and the end of another long-term relationship, all contributed to putting on more pounds. Then the unexpected: Bunny met the love of her life, Mathias.

“A few months before our wedding I had concerns about my health and wondered if I’d ever be able to have children,” says Bunny. “It was time to find a doctor to do the surgery. In the past I’d had such good care in Virginia Mason’s Emergency Department, that’s where I wanted to look.”

Bunny watched a video of bariatric surgeon Lily Chang, MD, and was struck by her genuine desire to improve the lives of people battling extreme obesity. Bunny learned about the different options for weight-loss surgery, ultimately deciding on the Roux-en-Y procedure. Roux-en-Y gastric bypass involves creating a small pouch from the stomach and connecting it directly to the small intestine, bypassing parts of the digestive tract that absorb calories.

In just over a year since having gastric bypass, Bunny shed 170 pounds. Now, she walks all over downtown Seattle and recently toured Japan, on a dream trip with her husband. Bunny also introduced him to rollerblading, an activity she loved as a kid. On a return visit with her brother’s family, they all got to enjoy the zoo. Bunny is living her best life now, she says, but acknowledges there will be at least some weight gain happening soon.

“One year after surgery Dr. Chang gave us the green light to start a family,” says Bunny. “We’re expecting our first child in October.”


Liz Becker

Liz Becker before bariatric surgery
Before
Liz Becker after bariatric surgery
After

What do you know now that you wished you had known prior to surgery?
Even though I was told numerous times through seminars, online info, etc., that everyone's results after surgery can be different, somehow I still managed to have it in my mind that I should have these miraculous weekly weight losses. When I didn't for the first few months, it was quite devastating.

What have you done after surgery that you were surprised you could do?
I ran track in junior high school (almost 30 years ago), and never thought I'd have a desire to lace up my running shoes. With losing a significant amount of weight, though, I find it's so much easier to move around. I now love running. I've done a 5k and I'm training to run a 10k. I've always enjoyed exercising, but doing exercise for the purpose of training for an event is really enjoyable, and motivating.

How has your life changed since surgery?
Life has changed in that I don't have any limitations. I feel like I can do anything.

Do you have advice for anyone thinking about weight loss surgery?
If you're thinking about surgery, be the most informed patient that you can be. But know that, even with all of the information in the world, there will be things that come up throughout the journey that you couldn't necessarily have anticipated. But I think the more informed you are, the less likely you are to be taken by surprise. You can learn a lot by coming to support groups before surgery and hearing from people about their experiences, positive as well as negative. YouTube is another source of information (but also taking into consideration that you're not always going to see the model or best examples).

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Helen McConkey

Helen McConkey before bariatric surgery
Before
Helen McConkey after bariatric surgery
After

What do you know now that you wished you had known prior to surgery?
I wish I would have known that the post weight loss surgery road is not easy.  There will be pitfalls, times of extreme happiness and times of great frustration. Through it all, having this surgery was one of the best decisions that I have made.

What have you done after surgery that you were surprised you could do?
I have completed four triathlons and becoming a 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher. I never would have attempted either of these before I had surgery!

How has your life changed since surgery? 
My self-esteem and confidence are both much higher. I am healthier and more physically active.

Do you have advice for anyone thinking about weight loss surgery?
WLS is an amazing tool, but it’s not a cure for obesity or compulsive eating. You also need to make lifelong commitment to take your supplements and get your labs done yearly!

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Brenda Schwilke

Brenda Schwilke before bariatric surgery
Before
Brenda Schwilke after bariatric surgery
After

What do you know now that you wished you had known prior to surgery?
I wish I would have known to keep my eye on the long run; realizing the six months following surgery is not how life is always going to be.

What have you done after surgery that you were surprised you could do?
I ran a half marathon! Actually, I’ve ran more than one! I never even imagined that I would be able to do that, and I certainly couldn’t have done that at 410 lbs. I had no interest in running before my gastric bypass and now I actually enjoy it.

How has your life changed since surgery? 
I am so much more active than I ever was! I used to think that I was really active prior to my surgery and that my weight did not stop me from doing anything that I wanted to. What a lie I told myself! It did stop me; actually it stopped me a lot! Now, I’m extremely active and don’t even think twice about doing things.

Do you have advice for anyone thinking about weight loss surgery?
Remember the surgery is not a “quick fix” and it’s a lot of hard work! It’s a major life changing event in ways you can’t even imagine. Know that anyone can do anything for a short amount of time (i.e., post-operative dietary changes) and that it will be worth it in the long run!

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