Weight-Loss Surgery Changed Louisa Rurka's Life

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Louisa struggled with her weight and health issues for years. Inspired by her daughter, Louisa made the decision to have weight loss surgery at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Taking Control and Giving Care

A caretaker by nature, Louisa Rurka‘s default reaction was to put herself on the back burner and tend to the needs of others. As a mother and a professional in the healthcare field who made a career shift to special education, she admits that self-care was not something that she made time for.

“I’ve never taken care of myself, I have always had to take care of somebody else,” said Louisa. “That’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

In her early 30’s, Louisa was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a disorder caused by hormonal imbalances which can cause the ovaries to develop cysts. 

“The symptoms were out of control. I was putting on weight for what seemed like no reason, I was pre-diabetic and then eventually diabetic, was taking about ten medications each day to control the symptoms, and ended up with a sleep apnea machine, which is not so romantic when you have a partner,” she said.

Leading by Example

After a new diagnosis of severe arthritis, and the suggestion of her doctor to start another medication, Louisa reached her breaking point. Not only was she in pain and unwell, but she was acutely aware of the message that she was sending to her daughter Aurora, who was twelve at the time.

“I remember thinking somethings got to give, somethings got to change,” she said. “I have to make sure that I am healthy so I can have healthier relationships with everyone else. I wanted to prove to my daughter that I could become a healthier version, and I deserved to be the best version of me that I could possibly be.”

Education and Support

Louisa had explored weight loss surgery years prior, but was not a candidate because her BMI was too low.

However, when she inquired about the bariatrics program at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in late 2017, she learned that she was now a candidate for surgery. Feeling prepared and eager, she invested herself in the process.

“The process is long,” Louisa said. “It took about six months, and included many meetings with a nutritionist, meeting with Dr. Ampadi, and seeing a therapist to make sure I was mentally ready.”

Dr. Thampi Ampadi, the head of the bariatrics program at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, explained the preparation and recovery process for the surgery to Louisa. She was a candidate for a gastric sleeve, a surgical weight-loss procedure in which the stomach is reduced to about 15% of its original size, which was ultimately the best option for her.

Building a Support System

She credits Alicia Walter, dietician at Baystate Franklin Medical Center for preparing her for a new lifestyle and providing guidance.

“Thank goodness for Alicia. Without her, I would have felt very lost,” Louisa said.

Alicia was patient as she encouraged Louisa to make one change at a time, which had a big impact on Louisa’s overall health.

Louisa was part of a monthly support group hosted by Alicia as well as an online support community.

“The group has been a huge help, and without hearing their stories, this process would have been much more challenging. It was all so comfortable and non-judgmental,” Louisa said.

Surgery, Recovery, and Preparation For a New Lifestyle

Although Louisa felt prepared, she recalls her fear on the day of the surgery and the tears that she shed before entering the operating room at Baystate Franklin.

Her surgery went well. Louisa stayed at the hospital, a five minute drive from her home, for two days to recover. The first days in recovery were difficult, but with the help of the nurses on the inpatient unit, she was able to get through it.

“Kudos to the nurses,” she said. “They were so supportive, and most of all, understanding. They anticipated my needs and communicated well with each other.”

Less than a week after surgery, Louisa chaperoned her daughter’s Girl Scout troop field trip to New York City.

“I felt great, it was a much easier recovery than I had expected. I had a specific diet that I had to follow in the first two weeks post-op and even that felt manageable. I was ready. I was prepared,” she said.

Going Beyond Goals

Looking back, more than one year after the surgery, Louisa believes wholeheartedly she made the right choice. She wants others who are considering weight loss surgery to know the journey is well worth the destination.

Although Louisa has exceeded her own personal weight loss goals, she still works with Alicia and goes to the monthly support group whenever she can. She relies on their experience and expertise as she tweaks her diet and exercise regime to strike the right balance. Louisa visits the gym almost daily.

“I still have to make the choice every day to maintain my health. I don’t want to live that way ever again,” Louisa said.

She thinks she has finally found a “happy medium” with her workout schedule and caloric intake.

“When I lost the weight,” Louisa said with a reflective pause, “I gained back the version of myself that I knew I could be when I was larger, when I was incapable of doing the things I wanted to do. I am more confident, not just physically but emotionally. I don’t allow myself to hide anymore. I enjoy my life, I am okay.”

Louisa said progress does not stop with her own health. It goes far beyond, into the next generation of family.

“I am showing my daughter that is okay to take care of yourself, and it’s necessary,” Louisa said.

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