Weight was never much of an issue for Judy Grimm until she reached her 40s. After two children, her weight slowly climbed from 145 to 168 — not an unwieldy amount for her 5-foot 7 1/2-inch frame. Then, a failed marriage, stressful job, and sedentary work began to take their toll. As her weight rose to 258 pounds, so too did her blood pressure and other health issues.
She tried dieting and exercise, but nothing worked for long. “I just couldn’t get things under control. The weight kept piling on,” says Judy. Her joints hurt so much she no longer wanted to walk. She began taking medicine to manage her blood pressure and hormones, and started using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat her sleep apnea. “I just didn’t feel well,” she says.
Judy, who remarried and now has four children and six grandchildren ages 14 and under, was shocked into action after a visit with her doctor. That’s when she found out she was pre-diabetic — and might not live to see her grandchildren get married if she didn’t lose weight. “That scared me. My mother died from diabetes,” she says. “I didn’t realize things had gotten that bad.”
Determined to turn things around, Judy began researching weight loss and bariatric surgery. After scouring the internet, the medical billing manager, bookkeeper, and tax preparer decided on Anita P. Courcoulas, MD, director of the UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital Minimally Invasive Bariatric and General Surgery Program. “It was an easy decision,” says Judy. “Magee has a great reputation and so does Dr. Courcoulas.”
Judy met with Dr. Courcoulas and after discussing the various surgical options, it was decided that the gastric sleeve surgical procedure was the best option.
After six months preparation, she underwent surgery in December 2014 at age 57. She dropped to 161 pounds, eliminated her blood pressure and hormone medications, and stopped using the CPAP machine. With her joint pain gone, she also began exercising — including working out with a personal trainer four times a week. “I feel great,” says Judy.
Losing 95 pounds changed her life for the better, Judy says. At first, it was the joy she felt in packing up her oversized clothes each month to donate to charity. “Every time I did that, it was like a burden had lifted,” she says.
It also made traveling more enjoyable. She no longer has to purchase two seats for herself or worry about the weight of her luggage. Since her procedure, Judy and her husband have traveled twice to the Caribbean (including a 21-day cruise), journeyed to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Calgary, Alaska, and Hawaii, and took a 6-week cruise around South America from San Diego to Rio de Janeiro. She’s also been able to participate in activities with weight restrictions: parasailing in tandem with her husband, flying in a hot air balloon, riding dune buggies, swimming with stingrays, and flying in a helicopter to see sled dog races in Alaska.
“I would never have been able to do all these things without the surgery. It gave me a second chance to really enjoy life,” says Judy.
“It wasn’t easy and I know it will always be a challenge to keep the weight off. But I’m so glad I had the surgery. I feel fantastic and I feel so good about myself.”