Weight loss surgery helps two women reclaim their bodies

Federal Way resident Wanda Ryan before her weight loss surgery (left) and after (right). Since her surgery in July 2008, Ryan has lost 85 pounds. - Courtesy photos
Federal Way resident Wanda Ryan before her weight loss surgery (left) and after (right). Since her surgery in July 2008, Ryan has lost 85 pounds.
— image credit: Courtesy photos

For years, the weight was unavoidable. Despite diets, exercise and pills, the weight continued to pile on, wrecking their bodies with hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and diabetes.

Wanda Ryan and Jeanne Rogers decided a dramatic change was needed. Both woman came to the St. Francis Weight Loss Surgery Clinic in Federal Way for surgery to help them reclaim their bodies.

For Ryan, the decision was made easier after she was diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol. She was suffering from palpitations and sleep apnea, which can cause a person to quit breathing at night. She was directed to wear a mask hooked up to a machine (a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure) that forced the air from the room into her airways — keeping her alive.

"I really did not like that at all," Ryan said. "I was already on four medications and it really got my attention. I decided to seek a surgical intervention. The CPAP was a pivotal moment. I thought, my god, you've got to take some action here."

Ryan began researching the options by going online and talking to others. Her insurance company wouldn't pay for the procedure: A lap band, which costs about $18,500, said Dr. Ki Oh, one of two weight loss surgeons at St. Francis.

"I am really grateful that I do have the ability to pay for it," Ryan said. "It was expensive, but I am really glad I did it. It just makes me angry that insurance won't pay for it, but they did pay for all the other pills and the CPAP."

Rogers' insurance company didn't cover her surgery either, although she switched jobs three months after the surgery, and her new insurance company would have covered it. Rogers still has no regrets other than not getting the surgery sooner.

Most insurance providers now, she said, will cover the surgery for morbidly obese patients.

Rogers had been a diabetic for more than 20 years. After years of different programs, she decided to undergo weight loss surgery to avoid becoming insulin dependent.

"I couldn't do a lot," Rogers said. "I couldn't play with my grandchildren. Now I can do all that."

She first went to a seminar about the types of surgeries. Now she speaks at those seminars, usually at least once a week.

"It takes you back to when you were there, the fears," Rogers said. "It's a community service if I can convince them their life would be better."

The surgeries

After going through the seminars, multiple tests and then a two-week liquid diet, it was time for the surgeries.

Rogers had hers in April 2006. At the peak her weight, she was 325 pounds. Since then, she has lost 155 pounds, a majority of that in the first year with her lap band surgery. She can now eat pretty much anything, she said. The key is portion control. Her stomach can now only hold about two ounces at a time. Rogers, like all other lap band patients, must consume protein shakes and vitamin supplements for the rest of her life.

"I believe if you've tried everything, it is a tool," Rogers said. "It's not always easy. It doesn't take away from the fact that you'd like to have a cookie. You have to have some willpower."

Ryan agrees that surgery is just a tool to help.

After having her lap band surgery on July 22, 2008, Ryan has lost 85 pounds. Her goal is to lose 100 pounds.

"This is not a cure, it is a tool that helps me," Ryan said. "The main thing I have done is really really truly changed my lifestyle — that's the key. I eat chicken, fish and veggies. I eat really healthy and exercise five to six times a week. It's the first time I am enjoying exercise. It's harder when you are bigger, but now that my weight is down I can exercise and I actually enjoy it."

Read more

This is the second story in a two-part report on weight loss surgery. Part 1 explored the four types of weight loss surgery as well as St. Francis Hospital's role as a regional leader in the field.

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