Survivor Spotlight: Bariatric gives teacher a new lease on life

2014-04-16T16:48:00Z Survivor Spotlight: Bariatric gives teacher a new lease on lifeJennifer Pallay
April 16, 2014 4:48 pm  • 

As a middle school math teacher, Jeannine Wolfe knows about numbers and hers were not adding up to good health.

Through her commitment to change and bariatric surgery, she has lost weight and rid herself of many health issues.

Wolfe, 33, of Michigan City, said this has been a four-year process, which included attending a seminar about bariatric surgery when she was 29. She suffered from type-1 diabetes, hypertension, chronic headaches, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, a fatty liver and foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis.

Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 10, “It was a challenge my whole life,” she said. “As my weight increased, the challenges became more severe.” She required more insulin and her numbers continued to get worse the heavier she got.

“Over a period of 10 years, every few months, something else popped up. Every time I went to the doctor it seemed like there were more and more issues.”

After work, she was exhausted and her feet her so badly that all she could do was lay on the couch.

“When your head hurts and your feet hurt, it’s difficult to be as good of a teacher as you could be … Certainly my quality of life wasn’t what it could have been.”

After seeing “a million doctors for a million different things,” taking a multitude of tests and being prescribed various medications, she heard about someone who found success with bariatric surgery. She did research and attended a seminar given by the team at Healthy 4 Life, a comprehensive medical and surgical weight loss program.

She worked with the team including Omar Shamsi, who is board certified in internal medicine, and completed a six-month supervised weight loss program. Still, nothing took off the weight she needed to lose, and she made the decision to do the surgery.

She worried what people would think because weight loss surgery is often portrayed as a quick fix.

“It was still a tremendous amount of work,” she said. “I decided my health is more important than what anybody thinks.”

Her surgeon, Paul Stanish, who has offices through Community Hospital in Munster and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, said there are two types of bariatric surgery. Wolfe had laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery, which involves making a small pouch to section off the top part of the stomach that adjoins the esophagus. The second part involves rerouting part of the intestine to join the pouch to the intestinal track.

“That results in eating less food and getting a full feeling,” Stanish said. “You stay full for a longer period of time. The food you eat is not digested or absorbed as efficiently.”

Rerouting the intestines also changes the hormones they make, particularly favorable for diabetics. In fact, about 70 percent of diabetics will no longer have the disease following the procedure.

Bariatric surgery candidates must meet defined guidelines including having with a Body Mass Index greater than 40 or a BMI greater than 35 with other weight related health problems.

Stanish said Wolfe was one of his lower BMI patients but her main concern was her inability to control her diabetes well.

“We do these surgeries for health related problems. It’s not considered a cosmetic surgery. We’re looking to get people healthier,” Stanish said. Candidates must also be of sound mind and are screened by a psychologist, who works to find their underlying eating issues.

“If we can solve those problems prior to surgery it’s more likely that their long term success will improve.”

They are careful to explain to patients from the beginning that this is a commitment, he said.

“Like any other opportunity in life, if you make a full commitment to that and take full advantage of the opportunity, you will be successful. On a daily basis we see people happy with their outcome,” Stanish said. There are potential complications just like any surgery although he does not see them often.

After surgery in July 2011, Wolfe maintained her commitment to getting healthy.

“Your stomach is so much smaller, you have to learn to gauge what size and what portion you can have of foods – how much sugar, how much fat, it can make you really sick. It was a learning process.”

Although she always tried to exercise and control her weigh on her own, she was unsuccessful until after her surgery. She was also able to lower the amount of medications she needed from 13 to 14 pills a day to two.

“I do exercise every day now and certainly didn’t before,” she said.

She said others who are struggling, should consider the surgery.

“It does require a lot of motivation and dedication. If you’re not willing to do all the things it takes, then it’s not right for you, but if you have tried other types of weight loss and are still battling with your weight, go to the seminar. Find out what it’s about. I didn’t think it was right for me until I looked into it and it changed my life.”

She also suggests looking into a support group or talking to others who have had the surgery to gain a different perspective.

Now with a BMI of 26, her diabetes under control and a weight loss of 90 pounds, Wolfe has is able to enjoy kick-boxing, rollerblading, swimming and even running, she said.

She has even completed six 5K marathons, when a few years ago, she could barely walk across the parking lot without being in tears. She no longer suffers from hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea or the other half-dozen medical conditions she was battling.


Healthy 4 Life Center has locations in Hobart and Munster and offers comprehensive medical and surgical weight loss services.

FYI: or (866) 224-2059

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