Jill & Neal's Story
Start Weight: 330 lbs
Current Weight: 190 lbs
Treatment Start: April 2013
Surgery Date: December 2013
Surgery Type: Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve
Start Weight: 380 lbs
Current Weight: 230 lbs
Treatment Start: August 2013
Surgery Date: February 2014
Surgery Type: Laparoscopic Roux-En-Y Bypass
Spouses share many life experiences, but Jill and Neal Nolan are sharing a life-changing experience.
Between the two, they’ve lost nearly 300 pounds — supporting each other on their path to living healthier.
Interestingly, Jill provides that same support for weight loss patients at work, as a nurse navigator for the OhioHealth Weight Management program.
First Jill in April 2013, and then Neal in August 2013, turned to the program when each decided they were tired of being overweight. Each attended an OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management Seminar and met with OhioHealth physician Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS, to begin their journey to better health.
“I had been overweight my whole life,” said the 50-year-old Jill. An unsuccessful gastric banding procedure in 2009 resulted in Jill gaining back the weight she lost. At 330 pounds, she sought laparoscopic gastric sleeve treatment by Dr. Sonnanstine. She had the procedure in December 2013, about eight months after she began participating in OhioHealth’s program.
Weight hadn’t been an issue for Neal — until he hit age 40. “Basically, all through my life I’ve been able to lose and gain weight at will,” he said. But after 40, his weight increased to 380 pounds and he was a diabetic.
Neal wanted to follow in Jill’s footsteps. “I saw that she lost weight, and I just got fed up with my weight,” he said. He had bariatric surgery in February 2014, about six months after he began OhioHealth’s program.
The couple acknowledge that bariatric surgery is a major decision one must make on his or her own. “It’s a very emotional process to go through,” Jill said.
“It’s not just the surgery,” said Neal, a prison corrections official who is now 48. “You have to be ready to make big lifestyle changes.”
Both say they are much more conscious about what and how they eat. Protein plays a significant role in their diet and they drink a lot of water. They eat small meals throughout the day and eat slower. When dining out, they share an entrée.
Exercise is now a daily part of their lives, serving as motivation for each other.
Jill said she exercises regularly at home and at the gym, using a treadmill and weights. She has used a personal trainer and takes classes at the OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center. Neal prefers the treadmill and weight training.
Their big changes have noticeably improved their health. Jill, at 190 pounds now, takes two pills daily instead of six for high blood pressure. “My labs are great. My cholesterol is great. All my numbers are great, really great,” she said.
Neal, at 230 pounds, no longer requires diabetes medication and now takes a lower dose of blood pressure medication. He says he simply feels better. “My knee pain went away. I notice I don’t get sick as much as I used to, like catching colds.”
The Nolans’ new life has had a significant impact on their 22-year-old daughter. She has adopted healthier eating habits, too, and become more active, including working out with Jill. As a result, she’s lost 85 pounds.
Jill continues to serve as inspiration, support and a trusted resource for other patients at OhioHealth Weight Management. “I want them to know that I’m there for them, and that I know what they’re going through.”
Start Weight: 561 lbs
Current Weight: 230 lbs
Treatment start: May 2013
Surgery Date: October 2013
Surgery type: Laparoscopic Roux-En-Y Bypass Surgery
In his youth, 61-year-old Van Michael was active and athletic, a high school and semi-professional football player who also worked physical jobs as a younger adult.
But when work shifted to a desk job, his weight reflected the change. “All the physical activity went down, and that’s when I started to gain like crazy,” Van said, recalling how he grew from about 240 pounds in the mid-1980s to 561 pounds by 2013.
He made attempts to lose weight. Van, who lives in Milford, Ohio, chose to get gastric banding surgery in 2006 at a clinic in Cincinnati to reduce his stomach’s size. He ultimately had complications with the banding, similar to unsuccessful results his mother and son had experienced with other bariatric procedures.
Van, age 61, decided he needed a more drastic approach to also address serious health risks. His type 2 diabetes required insulin daily — sometimes twice a day — and related peripheral neuropathy made it difficult for him to walk. His heartbeat was irregular and he required blood thinner medication.
Business trips to India and China in early 2012 and 2013, made extremely difficult by his weight and health issues, were “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.
As Van considered bariatric surgery, he recalled his son seeking care from Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS, at the OhioHealth Weight Management program to repair the unsuccessful Roux-En-Y bypass surgery that was performed elsewhere. “My son had a really good opinion of Dr. Sonnanstine.”
Van attended the OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management Seminar and began work to lose 50 pounds before his surgery in October 2013, as directed by Dr. Sonnanstine. “What my wife and I thought we knew about nutrition, we didn’t know,” he said.
With program dietitian Kristi Ann Highley’s help, Van said they learned about protein’s importance, hidden fats and healthy choices like Greek yogurt. “I’ve always been a nut eater, and Kristi explained which nuts were better. She turned us on to protein drinks — what food was good, what was bad, as far as keeping my engine moving.”
Van’s next hurdle was getting active again. “It was tough for me to start to exercise,” he said. He started using hand weights while watching television. He progressively gained strength in his upper body and was able to walk better.
These days, Van is back to leading an active lifestyle. He spends evenings remodeling an investment property and does a lot of walking. He works out in his weight room at home and rides an exercise bike. He said he also enjoys giving rides to his five grandkids on his adult tricycle.
Van’s journey to change his lifestyle has had its bumps, including times when his weight loss stalled. But he has persevered, confident he won’t go back to his old lifestyle. He no longer requires insulin, and he said his physician is considering taking him off a daily sugar pill.
“I feel like a new person,” he said. “I feel like I’m back in high school.”
Start Weight: 330 lbs
Current Weight: 175 lbs
Treatment start: August 2014
Surgery Date: December 2014
Surgery type: Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve Procedure
Jason Laipply says he experienced a life-altering moment on Father’s Day 2014 as he watched his dad struggle to get up from a chair.
With his weight at about 330 pounds, Jason said, “I was pretty much a carbon copy of my dad and his dad. I went to visit my dad, and I watched him take about four minutes to get out of a regular old kitchen chair.”
That’s when Jason chose to change his path. He realized he was going to have serious health issues and be unable to do things he wanted to, like playing with grandkids, “if I didn’t do something about my obesity.”
He took the first step by attending an OhioHealth Weight Management bariatric surgery seminar in August 2014. There he talked with Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS, about his eagerness to proceed with the surgery — conceding now that he didn’t fully appreciate the importance of first preparing for it. “Mentally I was trying to take a shortcut.”
But with the program’s nutrition counseling, Jason lost 60 pounds before his laparoscopic gastric sleeve procedure the day after Christmas 2014.
The OhioHealth Weight Management program invests in the patient, Jason said, to provide emotional, nutritional and fitness support along with the bariatric surgery — expert guidance to help maintain a healthier weight and lifestyle. “The surgery in itself is not a silver bullet.”
You have to be committed and embrace the process, he said. “You have to get to a point in your own life where you are going to do this for you. You’re not doing it because your wife is telling you to do it, or your family is telling you to do it. Because it is going to be the most important thing in your life for a period of time. It really has to take center stage.”
Thanks to his surgery and improved lifestyle, the 45-year-old no longer needs the cholesterol and anti-reflux medications he was taking. Also gone are the sore joints and frequent illnesses he suffered.
Jason’s family has been supportive throughout his transformation — with his wife reaping her own healthful benefits. She’s lost 50 pounds in 10 months “just with the changes we’ve made in our lifestyle,” he said. “We are definitely more active.”
The couple walks every morning before going to work, splits an entrée when dining out and tracks what they eat using a free phone app.
A self-described numbers guy, Jason is hooked on wearing a Fitbit to track his daily steps and activity through his employer’s walking program. He is training to run a half-marathon and plays basketball weekly with interns from work.
At his pre-surgery weight, Jason avoided amusement parks “because I wasn’t sure if I could fit on all the rides.” But now he’s looking forward to a fun-filled day at Cedar Point.
Start Weight: 338 lbs
Current Weight: 173 lbs
Treatment start: March, 2012
Treatment type: OhioHealth Weight Management Program
Surgery: Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery
"I had no idea it would feel this good. It has changed my life completely and for the better."
Sheila S. struggled with being overweight most of her life. She tried nearly every weight loss and exercise program available but nothing helped. Each attempt to lose weight resulted in gaining more weight. Then came a medical diagnosis and news she would be lucky to live to age 50. Sheila knew she needed help and consulted with her physician, who recommended OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management as the best way to lose her weight. From that moment forward, Sheila was determined not to let anything get in her way.
Sheila began working with the OhioHealth team to prepare for Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass. Right away, she knew she would have a better experience compared to her other weight-loss attempts.
"The whole team at OhioHealth made me feel like I was important,” she said. "They made me feel like I wasn’t invisible, that I mattered, that what I said and what I did was important."
For several months before her surgery, the staff at OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management worked with Sheila to prepare her not only for the surgery but also for her life after surgery, pre-establishing important lifestyle changes. As a result, her post-surgery experience was much easier.
"The entire team helps you see where you go wrong with your lifestyle choices, and they teach you how to make better choices," she said. “They really, honestly cared about me. It was like having your family there."
Now, at nearly half her pre-surgery weight, Sheila said her perspective on life has changed, and she has endless energy. She has even started a weight-loss program at her church, counseling seven young women. "I want to inspire other people," she said. "The team at OhioHealth inspired me, and that's exactly what I want to do for others."
Start weight: 290 lbs
Current weight: 196 lbs
Treatment start: March 2012
Treatment type: Low Calorie Diet
Pre-treatment health conditions: Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Existing health conditions: unknown
Kristina B. weighed nearly 300 pounds when her primary physician referred her to the OhioHealth Medical Weight Management Program. "I didn't even know about it," Kristina said. When she got an explanatory phone call, Kristina looked at her bank account and decided, "This is an investment in myself."
At that time, Kristina had been divorced for about a year. She credits her time in the program to her drive to be a better person. "Maybe I was ok with who I was," she said, "but I wasn't happy with who I was."
Under supervision, Kristina began a low calorie diet that starts with medically nutritious shakes and gradually transitions to solid food. During the transition, however, Kristina found herself quickly slipping into bad habits. "They were really supportive," she says of the staff at OhioHealth. "It was never, 'Shame on you,' it was, 'Hey, let's try this next time.' They truly do care about every participant."
Now nearly 100 pounds lighter, Kristina says she doesn't even have words for how grateful she is to her healthcare team. "It's truly unique the way they treat you as an individual," she said. "As a fat person, you're used to being treated a certain way, and they are different, they are supportive. It's not something you're used to receiving when you're an overweight person."
Start Weight: 416 lbs
Current Weight: 214 lbs
Surgery type: Gastric bypass
Surgery Date: December 27, 2011
Pre-surgery health conditions: High blood pressure, borderline diabetes
Existing health conditions: Off all drugs except for cholesterol medicine
Dennis was tired of being overweight. "I was fed up with being so big, and I was ready to do something," said Dennis about his decision to undergo life-altering gastric-bypass surgery. "My health and my life were so limited."
When his family physician referred Dennis to OhioHealth for surgical weight management, Dennis felt he had found the right place for treatment. From the beginning of the program, he explained, "They are constantly there to support me, and they always return my calls."
Dennis is often asked about his weight loss journey. He's referred two or three people recently, but acknowledges it's a hard decision to make. "I tell people you have to exercise," he said. "You have to get up, and you have to do it. I listened to everything they told me to do and did everything they asked, and it worked perfectly for me."
Today, Dennis is a new man, over 200 pounds lighter and active in anything and everything. He's been to the Kings Island amusement park, the kind of activity that was improbable before the weight loss. Now though, he rarely sits down long enough to watch television. "I walk. I play with my grandson. I golf again. I'm always doing something," he said.