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In high school, Debbie Weismiller was a petite 98 pounds. But the scale slowly inched up over the years after marriage and two daughters. Ironically, when her job changed 10 years ago from nursing to a more sedentary management role as unit director at UPMC Hamot’s Bariatric Unit, her weight really soared.
Debbie was shocked into action when she had a pre-surgery EKG test. As a cardiac nurse, she instantly knew something was wrong. Further testing showed she had an enlarged heart and her “controlled” blood pressure was actually spiking dangerously high at day’s end. “I had to do something,” she says.
Debbie started taking additional medicine to control her blood pressure. She also was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic. Coupled with her aching joints and a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, Debbie knew she desperately needed to lose weight. “There’s too much fruit in my family tree and I knew it was going to fall on my head,” she says. “I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up.”
She discussed her concerns with bariatric surgeon Amjad Ali, MD, at UPMC Hamot and attended an information session. After six months of preparation, she underwent gastric sleeve surgery in February 2015 at age 58. Over the next 12 months, her weight dropped from 268 to 168 pounds. She eliminated one medication and reduced another as her blood pressure dropped from 150/110 to 130/80; her blood sugar level is now normal. “I lost a whole person — and I gained my life back!” says Debbie. “I feel fantastic.”
2015 was a momentous year for Debbie. She became grandmother to a set of twins — her fifth and sixth grandchildren — earned her master’s degree in nursing and certification as a board certified nurse executive (NE-BC), and celebrated UPMC Hamot’s recertification as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence.
But the most meaningful event occurred when she went shopping for a graduation dress. Clothes at the “plus size” store were too big, so she went to a “regular” store. She slipped on a simple navy blue dress and sobbed. “It was the biggest moment of my life,” says Debbie. “I was becoming the person I was on the inside.”
She can’t wear that dress anymore — it’s too big. But Debbie vows never to get rid of it. “That dress is a symbol of my success.”