CONCORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio, May 4, 2015—I feel better about myself. My weight isn’t holding me back anymore. I can run circles around my children. My diabetes is gone. I walked my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. These are just a few of the personal achievements patients commemorated at the first annual Lake Health Bariatric Success Celebration held May 1 at the Radisson Hotel and Suites in Eastlake.
Thirty-one bariatric surgery patients, who collectively lost a total of 3,663 pounds, celebrated their new bodies and improved overall health with their family members, friends and the Lake Health bariatric surgery team at the gala event. Nationally recognized bariatric surgeon Aviv Ben-Meir, MD, FACS, director of the Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center, served as master of ceremonies.
“Bariatric surgery has given many of our patients a second chance at life,” Dr. Ben-Meir said. “It was an honor to celebrate with them and share in their joy as they reflected on how far they’ve come and how dramatically their lives have changed since undergoing bariatric surgery.”
At the event, which included dinner and dancing, each patient was recognized and given their moment to shine. Dr. Ben-Meir shared details of each patient’s life-altering transformation, including total pounds lost, personal achievements since bariatric surgery and impressive statistics on the improvement or resolution of obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure for the group.
“The happiness I felt when Dr. Ben-Meir announced my name and seeing how proud my husband was of me opened a floodgate of emotions,” said Willoughby Hills resident Pat Grace, who was one of the patients recognized. “Bariatric surgery has given me the greatest gift of all: freedom from the prison of obesity. I have reclaimed my life. And through this remarkable journey, I have gained respect for myself and I embrace who I am.”
Grace, who had her surgery in January 2014, is a shining example of how weight-loss surgery can transform lives. After riding the rollercoaster of weight loss/weight gain her entire life, bariatric surgery enabled her to lose 140 pounds and achieve better health. With the weight gone, Grace no longer has asthma, hypertension, sleep apnea, gout or high cholesterol.
“Carrying that extra weight for so many years took a toll. I had both knees replaced and three back surgeries and spinal stenosis forced me to stop working,” said Grace, who was a licensed physical therapy assistant at Lake Health for 20 years. “Today, I feel like a completely different person. I have so much more energy than I had previously and I can do things I couldn’t do before, like play with my grandchildren.”
The realization of how radically her life had changed came five months after her surgery, when Grace was at the horse barn with her daughter.
“My daughter has ridden horses since she was young, but because of my size I could never ride with her. I will never forget the day when I had lost enough weight and was finally able to get on a horse. We both burst into tears because it was an activity my daughter and I had always wanted to do together and now we could,” Grace said.
Grace has made it her mission to inspire and support others struggling with obesity. She frequently shares her story at Lake Health bariatric seminars and is now teaching a bariatric water fitness class she created at the Painesville YMCA.
“We provide a judgment-free environment, where no one has to worry about how they look in a bathing suit. It’s a fantastic way to get a low-impact, productive workout without the added stress and strain on your joints due to the buoyancy of the water. This reduces pain, especially if you have arthritis or compromised joints. Doing water aerobics is fun and it enabled me to lose 25 pounds even before my surgery,” Grace said.
The class also provides another venue for Grace to discuss her bariatric surgery experience and sing the praises of Dr. Ben-Meir and his team.
“I know what it’s like to be obese and how it feels to not fit in. Society can be cruel. I want to shout from the rooftops that no one has to go through life feeling trapped and having to plan their entire life around being obese,” Grace said. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Ben-Meir and his staff. They’re genuinely kind and caring and they’ve helped me achieve the healthy and happy life I’ve always wanted.”
Since opening in July 2013, the Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center has helped men and women successfully lose weight and improve their overall health. Weight-loss surgery is a potentially lifesaving treatment for obese individuals—those who are approximately 100 pounds or more overweight—who have not had success with traditional, weight-loss strategies such as diet modification, exercise, or medication. The Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center offers three surgical approaches for qualified candidates: laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.
With an emphasis on individualized care and exceptional service, the Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center offers a full range of bariatric care services to support patients throughout the entire process, including physical and psychological pre-operative evaluation, free patient support groups, pre- and post-operative nutrition counseling and a lifelong follow-up plan to help patients commit to the lifestyle changes needed to achieve and maintain successful results.
“Bariatric surgery is not only about weight loss, it's about restoring health,” said Dr. Ben-Meir. “As pounds are shed, the majority of patients experience complete resolution or improvement of their high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obstructive sleep apnea, joint disease, acid reflux and a host of other obesity-associated diseases. This is a true measure of bariatric surgery’s success.”
To learn more about bariatric services at Lake Health, visit lakehealth.org/bariatric to view an online webinar or register for an upcoming educational seminar.
Brian J. Juriga, DO, co-medical director of Sports Medicine at Lake Health, is one of three physicians named 2015 Team Physician of the Year by the Ohio Athletic Trainers’ Association (OATA). Dr. Juriga and the other honorees are being recognized for their dedication to student athletes and the schools they serve as well as for their support for the profession of athletic training. Dr. Juriga will receive the award on May 8 at OATA’s annual banquet.
Trained as a family physician with specialization in sports medicine, Dr. Juriga provides high quality, compassionate care to all levels of athletes and their families. Dr. Juriga, who insists on being called Brian by athletes and colleagues, has been the team physician for Mentor High School for the last eight years. In that time he has not only helped athletes overcome injuries and improve themselves physically and mentally but also encouraged them to excel on and off the field. In that same caring manner, Dr. Juriga has also taken on serving at three other schools in Lake County as the direct physician for once-a-week injury checks in an attempt to ensure all the athletes have timely and appropriate care.
“Brian is first and foremost a caring physician,” said John Smith, director of Sports Medicine at Lake Health who nominated Dr. Juriga for the award. “He goes above and beyond to provide outstanding care to all athletes, plus he understands the importance of athletics in the lives of children and young adults. Every day he demonstrates a passion for athletic training and a devotion that’s truly unique to our profession.”
Beyond his sports medicine practice, Dr. Juriga continues to work with the U.S. Paralympics ski team. This assignment has taken him to many places over the years, including Sochi, Russia, for the Paralympic Games in 2014. In each experience, Dr. Juriga has provided excellent care for patients and athletes and helped bolster morale and strengthen unity among the team.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Dr. Juriga was also recently named a Fellow by the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine. Fellows are held in the highest esteem by the sports medicine community and are counted on to mentor and foster development of the Academy.
“I’m honored to be recognized by my colleagues at Lake Health and throughout the sports medicine community,” Dr. Juriga said. “The athletic trainers at Lake Health are the best of the best and I’m proud to be a member of the team.”