Nashotah, Wisconsin resident, Janeen had back issues for as long as she could remember.
The 54-year-old was born with Klippel-Feil syndrome, a rare condition where two or more vertebrae are fused together at birth. As she got older, Janeen developed some other health issues, including plantar fasciitis and excess weight. In 2019, Janeen weighed about 300 lbs. The extra weight on her muscles and joints made simple tasks like standing or walking difficult, especially with pain forming in both of her legs.
With her increasing health issues and pre-existing condition affecting her back, spine and joints, Janeen asked an orthopedic surgeon for guidance in 2019. The doctor said everything looked normal, but recommended that Janeen see a rheumatologist for some additional testing.
Her rheumatologist found no problems with her nervous system or arthritis, but the discussion that followed changed Janeen’s outlook on her health.
“My rheumatologist said, ‘If you don’t lose weight quickly, you’ll end up in a wheelchair. If I were you, I would seriously consider bariatric surgery,’” Janeen said. “That was my wake up call. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family.”
Center of excellence bariatric care
Now determined to change her lifestyle, Janeen began looking for a bariatric surgeon. After his family’s positive experience, a coworker recommended Bobby Wu, MD, a metabolic and bariatric surgeon at nationally accredited Ascension Medical Group Wisconsin – Bariatric Institute of Wisconsin.
Janeen began scheduling a series of appointments with several doctors, including Dr. Wu, her primary care provider and a registered dietician. Her primary care provider and dietician set calorie, exercise and behavioral goals to prepare her body for a sleeve gastrectomy that would take place sometime in 2020.
In a sleeve gastrectomy, the surgeon removes most of the left part of the stomach. The remaining stomach becomes a narrow tube, called a sleeve. After the surgery, less food is required to feel full after eating.
In the middle of all of this planning, the pandemic began, but Janeen said her doctors worked hard to keep her on track throughout those uncertain months. If she had stopped, Janeen would have had to start the entire preparatory process over again.
Finally, Janeen received a phone call on July 9 — her birthday — with the official date of her sleeve gastrectomy: August 26, 2020.
As a result of her months of weight-loss preparation, and her bariatric surgery, Janeen’s weight shifted from 300 lbs to roughly 165 lbs.
Bariatric care teams are with you every step of the way
“I still have Klippel-Feil syndrome, but since the surgery, my flare ups are a lot less, and as far as my back and feet, I have no issues,” Janeen said.
Prior to surgery, she was not one to exercise. Now, Janeen swims a mile a day, 5 days a week for exercise, and is always finding new ways to stay active. Janeen continues to schedule follow up appointments with Dr. Wu and a registered dietitian to make sure she’s staying on top of her health.
“Janeen’s journey is exactly what we want for all of our patients,” Dr. Wu said. “We are so proud that her hard work and determination has led her to a happy and healthy lifestyle.”
Weight-loss care for the whole family
Janeen’s success has inspired others in her life. About two years later, in 2022, Janeen’s husband, Joe, received bariatric surgery — also performed by Dr. Wu.
“Janeen’s experience changed my life,” Joe said. “If it weren’t for her listening to [her] doctor’s advice, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Prior to his surgery, Joe had several health problems, including excess weight, diabetes and high cholesterol. He even received open-heart surgery in 2017.
“At first, I wasn’t sure it was the best option,” Joe said. “Being someone who was overweight, I felt like getting surgery to lose weight was cheating, but after watching Janeen put in the work, and seeing the results she has, I knew it could work for me too.”
He started asking his wife more in-depth questions about her bariatric surgery during a road trip they took together, and soon after, he officially started his weight loss journey.
Joe received a Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) on June 15, 2022. A RYGB divides the stomach into a smaller pouch that still connects to the small intestine. This smaller stomach pouch restricts food intake.
Bariatric surgery has significantly improved Joe’s health. Joe says both he and Janeen have been able to maintain their new healthy lifestyle, not just through supporting one another, but through the support they’ve received from their care team at Ascension Wisconsin.
“There are no words to say how much we appreciate the guidance from our registered dietitians and Dr. Wu,” Joe said. “He was so positive and attentive to both me and my wife.”
After Joe’s surgery, the medical staff had questions about some issues with his blood pressure. Janeen remembers Dr. Wu went the extra mile to make sure Joe’s problems were solved.
“He was in casual clothes, on his way out the door, but he made his way around to make sure he checked on my husband to help with his blood pressure before he left the hospital,” Janeen said. “It’s hard to put into words what Dr. Wu means to my family. This really has been a life changing experience for us.”
Ascension Wisconsin Weight Management
Taking the next step of your weight-loss journey can be challenging. Ascension Wisconsin is here to provide the care and support you need. Weight loss can be a deeply personal, life-changing decision. Our doctors and nurses will work with you to create a weight-loss plan that’s right for you. Our care team helps you to understand surgical and nonsurgical treatment options and necessary lifestyle changes. We care about your physical and emotional health. Talk with your doctor about mental and emotional health concerns — we're ready to listen and provide support.
Weight loss results may vary depending on the individual. There is no guarantee of specific results.