Sunday, May 18, 2008

Woman sheds 800 pounds after gastric bypass surgery

Mount Vernon, OH
Flowers will bloom outside Mindy Sheriff's home this summer for the first time in 15 years.

"Life is sweet" now for Sheriff, 47, since gastric bypass surgery two years ago allowed her to lose more than 800 pounds.

It probably saved her life. At her heaviest, Sheriff, 47, weighed about 1,000 pounds. She is now at 191. "In 1993, I got really sick and had a lot of fluid retention," she said. "I was just raising my kids at the time, and so I was already staying at home and rarely going out."

That lifestyle would continue for another 13 years. "My legs started getting really bad, and I was having a lot of ulcers, which is common in obese people," Sheriff said. "I just couldn't get around good, so I started gaining weight."

In April 1998, Sheriff was admitted to MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital with breathing problems. "My doctor walked into my hospital room one day and said to me, 'Mindy, if you don't lose weight, I can't promise you another six months,' " she said. "It was devastating, and a rude awakening. When you gain weight, when you're heavy, you see yourself as you want other people to see you. You don't see yourself as you really are."

At the time, Sheriff's registered weight was 961. "I was bigger than that, but for a long period of time they couldn't weigh me," she said. "It's pretty embarrassing to be taken down to the laundry to get weighed, but even that scale didn't go any higher."

Along with health issues, Sheriff said being stubborn added to her problems. "Everyone kept trying to get me to seek help and my mother always told me, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves,' " she said. "But I wouldn't listen. I wasn't motivated. I didn't care about myself and I had very low self-esteem."

For a while, Sheriff said, she was in the care of a nursing facility. She lost 113 pounds there, but she regained most of it after she was dismissed. On Christmas Eve 2005, Sheriff was taken back to the hospital by ambulance. "I didn't even know I was going," she said. "My daughter and doctor decided I should go. I was mad at everyone for a while."

The next stop was The Medical University Center of Ohio in Toledo. "They asked if I was willing to talk to a bariatric surgeon up there," she said. "On Martin Luther King Day 2006, a doctor came in and told me what I needed, and within three weeks I was approved for the surgery."

On May 3, 2006, she had gastric bypass surgery. Her stomach was stapled, creating a much smaller food pouch and allowing food to bypass part of the small intestine. The net effect was feeling full more quickly and a reduction of food and caloric intake.

Sheriff's new life had begun. "The weight came off quickly," she said. "For a long time, I was losing 10 to 15 pounds a week. I am now down to 191 and am a hundred times more active. I used to have to use a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around, but now I don't use any of those.

"This past winter, I actually went outside and shoveled snow. I do my own housework and laundry now. I just planted vegetable and flower gardens for the first time in years. It's wonderful."

Sheriff said she exercises and goes to therapy three times a week. She and her ex-husband have gotten reacquainted and have been dating now after being apart for 25 years. "There are so many everyday things people take for granted that I am just now rediscovering," she said. "Life is sweet."

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