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Thanks to Summa Health System, the Beal family is able to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
By Dani McCann
Thrive, Spring 2007

From time to time, many of us neglect to appreciate the simple things in life. For the Beal family, these delights are something they will never take for granted. For a long time, it was the simple things that proved to be tremendous obstacles for them. Because they were all overweight, easy tasks and a normal, active lifestyle were difficult, if not impossible, for Ann, John and Jessica Beal.

This is the story of how the Beals turned to Summa Health System to help them recover their spirit and take their lives back.

Ann Beal
By 2004, Ann Beal was unable to walk any distances at all. If she went to the store, she needed to hold onto a cart and would have to park as close to the entrance as possible. She also was experiencing arthritis and knee pain as a result of her weight and was often too tired to do things with her family. Her blood pressure was very high and it was necessary for her to take four different medications just to keep it under control.

“I was afraid I would have a stroke and be a burden to my family,” Beal remembered.

Over the years, Ann and her husband, John, did lots of research on bariatric surgery and often discussed both of them having a procedure to help treat their obesity, but it was Ann who decided to have the surgery first when she was sure her insurance would cover it.

Ann sought out John Zografakis, M.D., F.A.C.S. medical director of Summa’s Advanced Bariatric Care and Weight Loss Management Program.

“I talked to Dr. Zografakis in length about my options,” Ann said. “Both Dr. Zografakis and I felt the best option for me would be a laparoscopic, minimally invasive Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass.”

A Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass is the most frequently used and most successful surgical procedure for treating obesity. During this surgery, the normal anatomy of the stomach and small intestine is altered to restrict the size of the stomach and limit absorption. The advantages of a minimally invasive approach include decreased incisional pain, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery.

On December 12, 2004, Dr. Zografakis performed Ann’s bariatric surgery.

“I went back to work two weeks after the surgery,” Ann recalled. “I was pretty tired at first, but after a few months my energy level began to increase.”

All bariatric patients are closely monitored and seen in the office one week, one month, three months, six months, one year and every subsequent year after surgery. Vitamin levels are checked at these visits, as postoperative vitamin requirements are essential to excellent long-term weight loss results. Other important components of the postoperative bariatric program are nutritional counseling and ongoing psychological counseling if indicated. Lifelong exercise is equally vital, and Summa’s Advanced Bariatric Care Program has designed both a preoperative exercise evaluation and two post operative evaluations completed by a clinical exercise specialist. The goal of this piece is to help patients plan for ongoing and lifelong postoperative exercise.

These days, Ann is feeling great. Her blood pressure is stable and she only needs half the medications she took before. At the store, she parks far away and walks — no need to grab a cart. When weather permits, she walks to work, which is one mile each way. Ann also joined the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium and exercises regularly. Her knee will need to be replaced, but the discomfort is now only half as bad. And, she has lost nearly 112 pounds.

“I feel better now than I did ten years ago!”

John Beal
Before his surgery, a day in the life of John Beal went something like this: Go to work, come home, watch TV, eat and go to bed.

“This is what I did five days a week,” John recollected. “On the weekend, I just skipped the work part. My biggest problem was lack of energy.”

But John also had to cope with other issues.

“The issues you face at a larger size, most people would never think about — things such as walking in to a Wal-Mart or K-Mart or being able to grab your size off a rack — most of my clothes came from Big and
Tall stores,” John explained. “Other problems I faced were booths in a restaurant, seats in a theatre or seats in an airplane not being big enough.”

John too turned to Summa.

“The bariatric team (at Summa) puts you through some serious testing. They make sure you are able and ready to have the procedure,” John described. “You could not ask for or even find a more caring and pleasant group of people.”

On April 4, 2005, John underwent the Roux-en-Y procedure.

“The reason I wanted this procedure was there was no chance of cheating or getting back to where I started from.”

Things have turned around for John since his procedure. He has lost approximately seventy-five pounds and can now go into a store and choose clothes off of the rack. Plus, he no longer has to worry about fitting in seats while out in public. And just like his wife Ann, he has started exercising and goes to the
Natatorium at least three times a week.

“We use the bikes, elliptical and weight machines…and I feel good doing it.” John explained.

Jessica Beal
After seeing first hand how the bariatric procedures transformed the lives of her mother and father,
Jessica Beal felt ready for a change in her own life. She no longer wanted to be tired all the time, unable to exercise or get worn out so easily by activities.

“I was only twenty-four years old, but I felt ten years older.” Jessica remembered. “I was tired and cranky from being so heavy.”

Like her mother and father before her, Jessica met with the staff at Summa and chose the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass procedure.

“This was the procedure that gave me the best chance to lose the amount of weight I needed to lose,” Jessica said. “Summa was where my mom and dad went, and they did well with the surgery. Plus, the staff was great and made me feel so comfortable and made sure I knew everything would be fine.”

On March 27, 2006, Dr. Zografakis performed Jessica’s procedure.

“It was hard at first and I was tired a lot, but it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.” Jessica reflected. “After about a month, I would not have thought I even had a surgery, except for the change in appetite.”

Jessica has lost 105 pounds since her procedure; she has joined the Natatorium and is now finally able to exercise.

“This changed my life!” Jessica exclaimed. “It is hard work, but it is worth it.”

On the road to health
Since the Beal’s surgeries, they all are able to do things they could never do before. They take walks in the MetroParks, buy clothes that fit easily, exercise and have a positive outlook and self image. As a family they continue to remain active and their overall health and attitudes have improved.

“Our family does many more things together now, such as exercise, dining out and going shopping,” John said. “We no longer just sit at home snacking and watching TV.”

As a result of their success with Summa’s Advanced Bariatric Care Program, the Beals make every effort to stay active and have the energy to enjoy the simple things in life, especially the moments that they spend with one another. As author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, “It is the sweet simple things in life which are the real ones after all.”

For more information about Summa’s Advanced Bariatric Care and Weight Loss Management Program or to schedule an initial evaluation, please call (330) 375-6590.