Gastric bypass at Ascension Alexian Brothers helps 24-year-old’s weight loss | Ascension

Gastric bypass at Ascension Alexian Brothers helps 24-year-old’s weight loss

A Rockford, IL woman lost 111 pounds at the age of 24 after having gastric bypass surgery at Ascension Alexian Brothers.

Before: 306 lbs. | After: 195 lbs. | -111 lbs.↓

If there was one thing Morgan Pefley thought she knew before her weight-loss surgery at age 24, it was that she was too young to get weight-loss surgery.

“I thought it was more for older people, or for people who were really big,” recalled the Rockford resident.

But Morgan, now 26, has changed her mind after her gastric bypass procedure at Ascension Alexian Brothers in Elk Grove Village, IL, helped improve her health in ways that went beyond a number on a scale.

“Looking back, I probably should have done it sooner,” Morgan said.

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Morgan has always thought of herself as a bigger girl. For years, she had tried to manage her weight with personal trainers, medications and a variety of diets, not all of them realistic. Though she had some success here and there, the weight always came back.

“Nothing was really working for me,” said Morgan. “So I just kind of gave up.”

Morgan’s weight spiked during a stressful time in her life when she was making a difficult decision to change careers. During a check-up, Morgan’s primary care doctor told her that her body-mass index (BMI) qualified her for bariatric surgery.

“That was a wake-up call for me,” said Morgan. What convinced her to move forward was her friend’s father. He had undergone gastric bypass surgery and couldn’t be happier with the results. He recommended Peter Rantis, MD, a bariatric surgeon affiliated with Ascension Illinois. Dr. Rantis specializes in weight-loss procedures and also surgically treats hiatal hernia, acid reflux and other gastrointestinal and colorectal conditions.

Morgan had already met with a bariatric surgeon closer to her home, but Dr. Rantis made a better impression on her during their initial consultation.

“I feel like he was very honest but professional and supportive,” said Morgan. “He wasn't afraid to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to drink alcohol for a long time. He answered my questions, and he also asked me how I felt. Truly an amazing doctor.”

Dr. Rantis considered Morgan a promising candidate for bariatric surgery based on her previous attempts to lose weight.

“It also helped that she had few co-morbidities and a healthy support network,” Dr. Rantis said. Her young age meant that she would benefit from the results for the rest of her life.”

Body contouring options to remove excess skin

Morgan chose gastric bypass surgery due to concerns about acid reflux. According to Dr. Rantis, the procedure is often recommended over gastric sleeve surgery for patients with acid reflux or diabetes concerns. As an added benefit for choosing Ascension Illinois, Morgan had the option of having her body contouring, which removes any excess skin, performed by the same team that did her gastric bypass.

“Any significant change to your body weight is going to leave behind excess skin, and that can disrupt a patient’s quality of life in terms of exercise, wearing clothes and intimacy,” said Dr. Rantis. “We’ve included this service for decades as a courtesy to our patients.”

Weight-loss diet before and after gastric bypass

Morgan started preparing for her gastric bypass in October 2021, which included a psychiatric evaluation, cardiac testing and endoscopy to make sure that she would be physically and emotionally able to handle the surgery. For Morgan, the most challenging part of these months of preparation was the two-week liquid diet before her procedure in February 2022.

“It was protein shakes, sugar-free Popsicles and Gatorade, broth — and no coffee,” said Morgan.

But this diet was only temporary. In the lead-up to her procedure, Morgan’s care team helped her address a misconception that many people have about bariatric surgery.

“I thought my life was going to be very limited, that I'd never be able to, say, go out to dinner again or eat something that I really wanted,” recalled Morgan. “But they showed me that’s not the case at all. You just have to be smart about what you eat. Before, you might eat a whole slice of cake. Now you're going to have two bites and that does the trick.”

Within a month of her surgery, people were telling Morgan they could see a difference. 

“It took me a while to believe them and see the results because to myself, I always looked big,” said Morgan. But the change became undeniable during a flight when Morgan realized that her seat belt was loose.

“It was such a weird feeling, being able to cross my legs on a plane and not feel like I’m filling up someone else’s seat,” Morgan laughed. “But that feeling changed everything.”

Morgan’s care team was almost as excited as she was when she returned for a follow-up visit.

“One of the assistants told me, ‘Morgan, you look so good!’ Dr. Rantis heard her and he stepped out into the lobby to see and he also complimented how I was doing. That felt really good,” she said.

New energy, confidence and interests

A year and a half later, Morgan still gets compliments and congratulations when she posts photos of herself on social media. The confidence she gained from her results have inspired her to try new things. She has really taken to kickboxing, which she does twice a week. She has also run two 5Ks and recently enjoyed a month long trip to France and Italy. Morgan has also noticed side benefits to her weight loss, including better sleep and fewer headaches, which she credits to clean eating and drinking more water.

“I don't snore anymore. I have more energy throughout the day. I can last longer physically, doing things I normally wouldn't have been able to do,” said Morgan.

For Dr. Rantis, the most rewarding part of bariatric surgery is getting to see patients like Morgan thrive over the years.

“Treating cancer is rewarding, but so is having patients hug you because they’re off insulin and not considered diabetic anymore,” he said. “Or grandparents whose weight once prevented them from going on cruise excursions or amusement park rides with their grandkids. It’s these little things that most of us take for granted, but they make such a difference in people’s lives.”

Weight loss results may vary depending on the individual. There is no guarantee of specific results.