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Tracy Campbell, 47, of Plainfield, had been dealing with hip pain that got progressively worse for five years. By January 2018, she couldn’t move. She was walking with a cane and in extreme pain. “I was debilitated. I was living in chronic pain,” she says.
Campbell consulted an orthopedic surgeon. "He couldn’t do anything for me. He was pretty blunt. He said I need to drop the weight or he couldn’t help me," she says. Campbell weighed 276 pounds at the time.
Tracy Campbell before her weight loss journey began
In January 2018, Campbell went to her primary doctor, Monica Martens, M.D., family medicine physician with Edward Medical Group and Edward Hospital, to figure out what to do.
Married for almost 20 years, Campbell and her husband have three adopted children, ages 17, 15 and 6. “I went in with the motivation of being a mom. My youngest son deserves a mom that walks and can take him to normal activities,” she says.
Dr. Martens recommended Neha Shah, M.D., a bariatric and obesity medicine specialist with Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Campbell made an appointment with Dr. Shah. “I absolutely adored her. I finally met an advocate. I finally met someone who was willing to listen to me and see the route of the problem and not be condescending and say it was my fault I got this way,” she says of their first meeting.
“Dr. Shah is so approachable and attentive. She is a very personal doctor. She was so patient in listening to my frustration and triggers, the pressures around me. She quickly earned my trust,” she adds.
Campbell says she explained to Dr. Shah her motivation for being there. “My motivation was to walk, not to drop a size or look a certain way,” she says.
“Keeping weight off for a long period of time was most important for me. Once we realized how my body started to lose weight, we solidified that surgery was my best option to not only lose the weight but to keep it off.”
Campbell saw Wayne Yang, M.D., an independent surgeon on the medical staff of Elmhurst Hospital. She learned that gastric bypass surgery was the right option for her.
“My thought process was: ‘It hasn’t worked the way I’ve been doing it. I’m going to trust these people that they know what they are doing,’” she says.
For the next 5-6 months, Campbell worked with the Endeavor team. Because of her hips, Campbell couldn’t exercise. “I really don’t enjoy exercise. But I learned it can be done without exercise,” she says.
Campbell met with a dietitian and learned how to form good habits that would help her later with her post-surgical diet. “It wasn’t so much a calorie count I was looking to stay under. She introduced me to higher protein foods and shakes. Once I increased the protein, the constant hunger wasn’t with me.”
Campbell increased her liquid intake to 64 ounces every day. She had a protein goal of 70-90 grams a day. When she was busy or didn’t feel like cooking, she relied on ready-made protein shakes.
She was told to forget the drive-thru line — it doesn’t exist. She learned how to pack her lunch. She was reminded that she would get hungry every couple of hours.
“These were huge lifestyle changes, but easy ones. It was very routine. Working full-time helped because it kept me on a schedule. It became second nature,” she says.
Campbell says when she returned for appointments, it was a physical check-in and a mental check-in. “So much weight loss is mental. More than half of it is mental. It surprised me,” she says.
While waiting to have surgery, Campbell was also prescribed weight loss medication — phentermine and topiramate — to help curb her cravings and suppress her appetite. Over the next five months, from January to June, she lost 30 pounds.
On June 4, 2018, Campbell had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), a bariatric surgery that reduced the size of Campbell’s upper stomach to a small pouch about the size of an egg.
Dr. Yang performed the laparoscopic procedure at Elmhurst Hospital. He stapled off the upper section of Campbell’s stomach and then attached a pouch directly to part of the small intestine called the Roux limb, which forms a “Y” shape. This reduced the amount of food she could eat.
A customer service representative, Campbell’s employer supported her through the process. She was back to work about a month after the procedure.
On Oct. 3, 2018, Campbell went back to see the orthopedic surgeon. She needed to be under a 40 BMI (body mass index) for the surgeon to consider her — and she was. “He said, ‘you held up your end of the bargain, so let’s get your hip done.’” She had hip surgery on Oct. 30, 2018.
Of the Endeavor team, Campbell says, “Dr. Yang and Dr. Shah work so well together as advocates for me. My ultimate goal was to have this orthopedic surgery. They never faltered and really coached me through it. They are a fantastic team.”
Today, Campbell, who is 4’11", weighs 180 pounds, and still losing. She’s lost 96 pounds since she started her weight loss journey. “My BMI is 35 now and I never thought I'd see that goal realized,” she says. “I’ve got a ways to go. My personal goal is to keep going,” she says.
Every few months, Campbell returns to Dr. Shah for a weigh-in. She is now off the weight loss medication and blood pressure pills.
“I recently saw a picture of myself I didn’t recognize. The shape of my body has changed. My whole posture changed,” she says. “I’m feeling younger and stronger than I have in years. I feel back in control. It’s new as far as being able to walk without the sharp pains, being able to climb a flight of stairs without pain. It’s surreal at this point,” she says.
Her advice to others struggling with their weight? “Don’t beat yourself up. That’s what we do,” she says. “Most obese people have dieted their whole lives. We didn’t ask to be in this situation. It’s not completely our fault. Some of it is out of our control.”
“There is validity to genes and heredity. When I started looking at family photos and generations before me, I don’t have a blood relative who doesn’t suffer from this problem. Obesity is a disease and we need to recognize why we’re suffering. When we figure out why, then we can work on fixing it,” she says.
As for what the future holds, Campbell plans to join her parents in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the next few years. But, she says she’ll travel back to see Dr. Shah.
“I’m really grateful to have met Dr. Shah. She will be my bariatrician for life. No question. I will travel back for Dr. Shah, and make sure I’m doing what I need to do for myself,” she says. “All good things from here. Now we just move on.”
Endeavor Health Weight Management® at Edward-Elmhurst Health offers both surgical and non-surgical options to help you achieve permanent weight loss and the healthy, active life you were meant to live. Learn more about Endeavor Health® Weight Management, or call 331-221-6100.
To explore your weight loss options, sign up for our Why Weight? Know Your Options seminar. If you'd like to learn more about weight loss surgery, sign up for our bariatric surgery seminar.
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