I have always been a strong believer in the importance of gratitude. It is why telling my story is so important to me.
In many ways I have been blessed in my life, I have wonderful friends and family and have been surrounded with love. However, I have always been overweight and in my adult life I was classified as “morbidly obese.” I was limited in what activities I could do with my husband and children. At a work event one evening a very kind member of our Lund board, Katie Halsey, noticed me struggling to walk. When I explained that my knees often hurt, she suggested I see her husband who was an orthopedic surgeon. And so began my journey…
I first met with Dr. Halsey after his team took x-rays of my knees. He confirmed a diagnosis of osteoarthritis and said that I would need knee replacements at some point. I left that appointment and for another year avoided facing the fact that my ability to move was becoming increasingly limited. I had to crawl up the stairs each evening to go to bed; I used the electric scooter when we took our kids to theme parks in Florida; I watched from the side lines while my family played games.
When the pain and limitation became more than I could bear, I went back to Dr. Halsey. X-rays revealed that my arthritis had progressed to stage four and that I needed surgery. However Dr. Halsey said that he would not perform the surgery at my current weight: I needed to lose 100 pounds first. I began to cry. How could I ever lose that much weight? Dr. Halsey sat with me, and without shame or blame, explained that I needed a team of people to help me get there. His kindness that day was enough to motivate me to try.
My Weight Loss Journey
I found a primary care doctor, Dr. Peter Gunther and a nutritional expert, Paulette Thabault. Paulette started me on my weight loss journey and Dr. Gunther became my cheerleader and coach. I joined Weight Watchers and The Edge. At first, all I could do was walk back and forth in the swimming pool . . . but I did it every day – and I went to Weight Watchers every week. In one year, after I had lost 110 pounds, I proudly walked back into Dr. Halsey’s office.
My Bilateral Knee Replacement Surgery
My bilateral knee replacement surgery was scheduled for October 29 and although I was afraid, never once did I feel alone or unsupported. The people around me gave me information when I needed it and made me feel valued and respected every step of the way. Because of the medical care I received and the people who provided that care, in less than two years I have gone from being an essentially immobile person to exercising twice a day. I have lost 127 pounds and have become an active participant in the lives of my family and friends. I am happy and hopeful.
There really aren’t adequate words to describe my gratitude for the people at the UVM Medical Center whose compassion, kindness and empathy made all the difference. I know that they care for thousands of people each day, but I never felt like a number.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you for saving my life.
Dr. David Halsey– Thank you for caring enough to take the time to be straightforward and direct with such kindness and compassion that I was able to hear hard news without the shame and blame I have carried with me for years. Thank you for taking the time to introduce me to every person in the operating room and explaining their role before my surgery. I was so honored to be treated with such respect and being made to feel that in that moment I was the priority. Thank you for performing my surgery with exceptional skill and competence.
Katie Halsey-Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me every step of the way. Thank you for telling me that I didn’t have to live this way and for getting me that first appointment with Dr. Halsey.
Tamara Whitten, nurse for Dr. Halsey-Thank you for answering my questions over and over again. Thank you for reassuring me when I was afraid and for getting information when I needed it.
Thank you to the nurse on the orthopedic floor of the hospital who took the time to wash my hair, while the transporters waited to take me to acute rehab. The staff at Fanny Allen Rehabilitation were my life line during recovery. My care seemed seamless and coordinated, which helped me tremendously.
Dr. Knakal, your daily visits while I was in acute rehab and your ability to listen deeply was so appreciated. Your humor and positive outlook helped to brighten the day.
Amanda Townsley, Occupational Therapist – you helped me learn independence with dignity and privacy.
Ellen Sweet and Bonnie Aharonian, Physical Therapists- you two were a bright spot to every day. PT is hard and it hurts, but you made it fun!
Meghan Lynch and Masial Mendoza, Nurses- It is difficult to ask for help but you seemed to understand what I needed before I asked.
Today I weigh less than I did when I was in high school and I have no intention of stopping my weight loss journey until I am in the healthy range for my age group. Saying thank you doesn’t seem like enough for people who changed my life in such a dramatic way. The best thing I can think of to do is to pay it forward, to let people know that we are blessed to have this great resource in our community and that health is available and achievable by all of us – even if it takes a village.