Healthcare Services and Programs

Van's Story

Van's StoryStart 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.”

Jason's Story

Jason's StoryStart 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.

Franciska's Story

Franciska's StoryStart Weight: 286 lbs
Current Weight: 171 lbs
Treatment start: January 2013
Surgery Date: September 2013
Surgery type: Laporoscopic Roux-En-Y Grastric Bypass Surgery


“In my eyes, Dr. Sonnanstine has saved my life. And his whole team has given me my life back, like it was 25 years ago.”

It’s no wonder Franciska is eager to share her experience with the OhioHealth Weight Management program. Thanks to the laporoscopic Roux-En-Y Grastric Bypass surgery she had in September 2013, she is happy, healthy and at a dramatically reduced risk of stroke.

As a teen, Franciska was a thin model. But when she was diagnosed in her 20s with polycystic ovary syndrome, she gained 100 pounds in three years. That began her cycle over the next two decades of constantly attempting to lose, and keep off, the added weight.

Still, she considered herself in good health. Yet that wasn’t the case.

In her 40s Franciska was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure that required medication. She also suffered a broken ankle in a fall at home that was slow to heal. Then came another scare: she suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) — a mini-stroke.

“Nothing scares you straight like the look of near loss on the faces of those you love,” Franciska said.

A health assessment indicated she was at 68 percent high risk for a full-blown stroke. Her physician was direct: “He told me I was either going to have to get the weight down or have a stroke. And I was only 44 years old. I had just turned 44.”

That’s when she went to an OhioHealth Weight Management seminar to hear Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS, discuss bariatric surgery options. “He was so impressive that I knew when I left the seminar I was going to have the surgery and he was going to do it,” Franciska said.

She knew the program’s surgery preparation process—as well as life after surgery—would be emotional, have ups and downs and require her family’s support. The program’s specialized medical staff and support groups are there to answer questions and help with struggles for this major life change, she said.

The medical team, Franciska said, has “a level of compassion and joyful friendship with their patients.”

She embraces her healthy routine now, daily using an elliptical exercise machine and protein drinks, supplements and vitamins. “I eat every three hours and drink water all day. You’ll never see me without a bottle of water. This is what I have to do to be healthy.”


Sheila's Story

SheilaStart 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."

Kristina's Story 

KristinaAge: 30
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."

Marsha's Story 

MarshaAge: 61
Start Weight: 242 lbs
Current Weight: 184 lbs
Surgery type: Sleeve gastrectomy
Surgery Date: July 31, 2012
Pre-surgery health conditions: Sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression
Existing health conditions: Off all drugs except for cholesterol medicine

Marsha P. had "been on every diet known to man." But after helping a friend through a sleeve gastrectomy, she began to seriously consider bariatric surgery. In January 2012, she took the first steps toward having the operation.

Marsha found her pre-surgery contact with the doctors, support staff and nutritionists at OhioHealth to be very helpful. "They had a gal there who gave her testimony," she said. "It was important to me to talk to someone who had actually been through the surgery."

It meant a great deal that she liked the medical staff. "They were honest about the possibility of complications from the surgery, and I appreciated that," she said. She also found the nutritionist to be a big help, because Marsha "had no idea what to eat" in her post-surgery life.

Now, nearly 60 pounds lighter, Marsha's daughter says she walks like a thin person. "It's helped everything," Marsha said. "I feel more limber. I'm able to walk. I'm able to get up from the floor without crawling over to a chair. I can cross my legs. I can carry my three-year-old grandson if we're out shopping and he gets tired.

"I would absolutely recommend this program," Marsha said. "Do it. Don't put it off.  For people like me, I would say do the surgery."

Dennis' Story

Age: 51
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.

Cheryl's Story

Age: 61
Start Weight: 196 lbs
Current Weight: 125 lbs
Treatment type: Very Low Calorie Diet
Pre-treatment health conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol
Existing health conditions: None

Cheryl has been on lots of weight loss programs in her life, but it was the OhioHealth Medical Weight Management Program that finally helped her lose nearly 75 pounds.

"I was looking for something that fit my lifestyle, and I didn't want to have to think about what I was eating and do a lot of meal-planning," Cheryl said. "I just wanted something simple."

She took part in the OhioHealth Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) Group Program that combines nutritional shakes with behavior modification and exercise for optimum weight loss. In addition, her health is tracked through regular lab work and physician visits.

Cheryl credits OhioHealth's nutritionist, exercise physiologists and overall motivational support for her success. "Everyone there seems genuinely concerned in improving your health," she said. "It was something I really hadn't seen anywhere else."

Since losing the weight, Cheryl finds she has a lot more energy and fewer aches and pains. "Plus, you feel good because you look a lot better. That boosts your confidence and feeling of well-being."

After witnessing her success, Cheryl's husband, who has diabetes and heart disease, decided to join the program, losing approximately 60 pounds. "He saw I could do it, and he went ahead and decided to join," said Cheryl. "He feels a lot better, and his glucose is under control. I think it's been great."