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Making a Lifestyle Change Together, For Their Future

  • Patient: Jessica & John Bailey
  • Date Submitted: Jan 4, 2023

“ As a married professional couple with an adventurous and busy social life, Jessica and John Bailey had so many things they wanted to do, but both struggled with being overweight.”

As a married professional couple with an adventurous and busy social life, Jessica and John Bailey had so many things they wanted to do, but both struggled with being overweight.

John dreamt of going skydiving, soaring over the Lompoc Valley with a parachute. Jessica wanted to go zip-lining and scream at the thrill of being on a roller coaster at Magic Mountain. But despite those dreams, the experiences were out of reach for one reason. Both Jessica and John were classified as morbidly obese – she weighed 311 and he weighed 307.

Both struggled in their lives with being overweight and had tried diets with varied success. They felt healthy, but John was deemed pre-diabetic and had high blood pressure. For Jessica, walking their dogs or going hiking would leave her exhausted and unable to do much else for the day.

The Baileys decided they needed help.

After doing research and speaking with their healthcare providers, the couple made a decision to have bariatric, or weight loss, surgery with Dr. Christopher Taglia at Lompoc Valley Medical Center hospital.

“It just started because we both knew we needed to lose weight,” said John, a winery tasting room manager. “We tried different methods – diet and exercise, Weight Watchers. We never had any lasting success. We had a couple different friends who’d had surgery. We saw it worked out for them.”

As a pre-diabetic, John faced a lifetime of medications if he didn’t lose weight. At 38, Jessica was on blood pressure and cholesterol medication.

“We weren't living our lives to our fullest potential," she recalls.

Because they didn't want to be recovering from surgery simultaneously, they staggered their plans for the procedures. Jessica underwent the gastric sleeve surgery in the summer of 2020, and John in December of that year.

“I’m one of the people who thought it (surgery) was extreme," said Jessica, an aerospace engineer. "I think I can do this by myself. I should be able to do this. I’ve accomplished all these other things in my life. Why can't I lose weight? But then realizing there were so many factors that contribute to your weight gain.

She said she had to overcome the fear of judgment about having the surgery and do her own “mental” work to be able to proceed.

“And in the end now, I'm kicking myself. I wish I could go back in time and talk to myself 10 years ago and say, ‘Gosh, Jess, this is going to change your life for the better.”

John, 45, called having surgery with Dr. Taglia a "no-brainer." It was recommended the couple undergoes gastric sleeve surgery or sleeve gastrectomy. In sleeve gastrectomy, about 80 percent of the stomach is removed.

“This is the beginning of my new life," Jessica recalls thinking. “At that point, I was just glad to have known that we made an important decision for us, for the family, to be healthier. This is one of the biggest decisions I've made in my life, and it's been one of the best decisions I've made in my life."

The results are evident post-surgery: Jessica has lost more than 105 pounds, and John weighs 101 pounds less than he did before surgery.

Getting to that point took work -- their decision came amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, causing some hiccups in terms of scheduling appointments. As she went through the process with the nutritionist and mental health experts, Jessica also had long talks with the bariatric coordinator, learning more and doing research.

Until she put her "engineer's mind" to studying the procedure, Jessica said she struggled with taking the major surgical step.

"Really, it was having the staff at the hospital and Dr. Taglia," she said of going forward. "Everyone was just amazing. They were so, so supportive. They really give you all the tools you need. They made it easy. It was my own mental blocks that made it difficult."

John said he benefitted because he saw how the process worked for his wife.

"Jess went first, which was helpful for me," John said. "I got to see first-hand how it went. I felt more prepared going into the mine, even though we got great support from everyone in the program. Just having lived through it with Jess made me feel a little more ready for what was coming."

He also said it was a "big selling point" to be able to have all the pre-and-post operative appointments at nearby Lompoc Health offices and the surgery at LVMC, close to their own home. Having the surgeries during the pandemic meant they could stay home, focus on their health, and learn new ways to make and enjoy meals.

“It's forcing you to do what you should have done all along – eating that healthy diet of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, cutting back on fats and carbs, not eating huge portions, and eating more slowly," John said. "That's what you should be doing anyway."

As she moves beyond surgery, Jessica said she feels she has much more energy and isn't as quickly exhausted.

"This has been so worth it," she said of the surgery. "We've made many changes to how we've lived our lives. It's been so worth it. My only regret with having the surgery is not having it sooner."

Jessica said she's sometimes surprised when she sees herself in a mirror.

"What really helps me is taking pictures along the way and making side-by-side comparisons," she explains. "Ok, this is how far I've come. I may not be where I want to be or at my end goal, but I've made so much progress."

She's also active in LVMC's Bariatric Surgery Support Group, which meets at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month.

"The more people talk about it (having bariatric surgery), you can remove the stigma of it," she says. "You realize this is a tool you can use."

Having any kind of bariatric surgery is not, John notes, an "easy way out."

"It's not less work than dieting," he says. "It's a complete lifestyle change. If you don't make the changes, the surgery won't work for you long-term. You've got to commit to it."

Jess says, "We're now living our lives to the fullest."

before and after bariatric