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*Mother-Daughter Celebrate Their Weight-Loss Victories
For Cherry Hill mother-and-daughter bariatric surgery patients Lorie Vardaro, 39, and Eileen Kutchner, 66, their dual weight-loss journey has been “nothing less than fantastic,” as Lorie puts it.
Both employed at Surgical Specialists of New Jersey – the medical practice of Kennedy Bariatric Surgery Program Medical Director Marc Neff, MD -- the two women knew first-hand about the various weight-loss surgery options available – and the process that each patient goes through to be approved for a procedure.
“I felt guilty looking like I did when I was helping these patients,”Lorie recalled.
Still, it took a while for the two to decide they were ready to undergo weight-loss surgery For Lorie – a married mother of two children – being overweight had been a life-long struggle. Diets, exercise, you name it – she’d tried it.
Eileen Grabosky, 52, says it was desperation – and a growing sense of depression over her health-related medical conditions -- that motivated her to attend a Kennedy-sponsored informational session about weight loss surgery in January 2009.
"I went shaking my head, so to speak – but I did go," the married mother of two recalled. Dr. Louis Balsama explained various weight-loss surgical options, and Grabsoky, who attended the program with her very supportive husband, says that it "didn't take long for me to make up my mind" about undergoing bariatric surgery.
"It was the direction I needed to go," she says.
For good reason: at 279 pounds, the 5 foot 4-inch tall Grabosky was facing an array of weight-related health problems, including an arthritic knee, hypertension, high cholesterol and obstructive sleep apnea. It hadn't always been that way: Eileen was an average weight – 146 pounds -- when she got married in 1982. But after the birth of her children, the pounds started piling on, reaching an all-time high of 286. Not that she hadn't worked hard at weight loss: at one point, Eileen dropped 66 pounds, but "I just couldn't keep it off."
Sharon Shelton, a seven-year Kennedy associate who works at the Stratford campus as an x-ray technician, had struggled with her weight her entire life.
"I tried everything – every diet – but nothing really worked," recalls the 31-year-old Shelton. Finally, she decided on weight-loss surgery, selecting sleeve gastrectomy, which was performed by Kennedy Bariatric Surgery Program Director Dr. Marc Neff on December 4, 2007.
"I did it for my health," Sharon said. "I come from a family of very obese people who develop a lot of health issues. I knew I didn't want to end up with high blood pressure or diabetes, so I needed to do something – something that would work."
She remembers being a chubby child, and "pushing 300 pounds a couple of times in my adolescence." She eventually hit an all-time high of 324 pounds, but Megan McKeever never seriously considered weight-loss surgery until a doctor advised her against trying to start a family "until I lost at least a hundred pounds."
Not that she hadn't managed that kind of weight-loss before – several times, in fact, over the years – but Megan, like many other morbidly obese people, could never keep it off: "I tried every diet you can imagine – even a spinach diet once – but it was a losing battle."
At the time of her marriage in 2004, the five-foot-six-inch addictions counselor weighed 210 pounds, and had resigned herself to "just being a fat girl the rest of my life."
When her family doctor advised her against trying to get pregnant, Megan was crushed: "I thought, I'm not even healthy enough to have our child." She also remembered her father's weight struggles while she was growing up: "He couldn't really play with us or go on rollercoaster rides, and here I was, at age 24, with high blood pressure, and I couldn't even walk up my back steps."