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Losing Weight, Gaining Life



Sitting on his front porch on a beautiful June evening, Darin Kuzel crosses his legs and gets comfortable. "That's something I couldn't do a year ago," says the 44-year-old. "When you weigh 363, even simple things, like crossing a leg, become impossible."

Michele, his wife of 22 years, glances down at her bare feet. "I can actually see the bones," she says, laughing. "I dropped a foot size when I lost 86 pounds."

But the changes go deeper. For this Moorhead couple, the gifts of weight-loss surgery have just begun …

Danger ahead

For years Darin and Michele had tried diet and exercise programs, only to see the pounds come back. The stakes got higher a few years ago when Michele's mom suffered a massive heart attack. Several months later Darin's dad had a heart attack. Both survived.

"Those heart attacks were like a mirror. We saw where we were headed and it scared us," says Michele, who at age 42 was already taking daily blood pressure and diabetes medications.

"It was our wake-up call," says Darin, who had already been diagnosed with sleep apnea. "While we still had the chance, we needed to take steps to a healthier life. Nobody was going to do it for us."

A search for answers

Darin thoroughly researched weight-loss surgery, reading online and talking with people who'd had it done. He and Michele met with Dr. Timothy Monson, one of four board-certified bariatric surgeons at Sanford.

"I had a list of questions and wasn't shy about asking them," says Darin. "I included everything – complication rates, surgical experience, support staff, whether the program included education and follow-up. Sanford Health was the place."

Sanford offers a total package of weight-loss services from pre-surgery to post. Michele was not as certain surgery was the answer. "If this had just been about improving outward appearance, I'm not sure I would have been on board," she says. "But this was about my health. I knew this surgery could save my life."

Preparation leads to success

Michele and Darin participated in months of pre-surgery education sessions with Sanford dietitians and others to prepare for their new lives.

"Some people think surgery is the easy way out. It's not," says Michele. "You have to commit 110 percent to a whole new way of living, including nutrition and exercise."

Last September they underwent laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery. One of three surgical options offered at Sanford, laparoscopic surgery is less invasive and leads to quicker recovery and less pain. Other procedures include Gastric Banding and Sleeve Gastrectomy Surgery.

Today they couldn't be more pleased. "We're more energetic, more active, definitely healthier," says Darin, whose sleep apnea has almost disappeared. Michele no longer needs diabetes or blood pressure medications – and has a new picture of her future. "Now I can see myself at 65 chasing my grandchildren around the house," she says.

You're invited!

Does severe obesity blur your picture of health? Take the first step and attend a free information session. You'll get the chance to meet staff members, ask questions and find out why Sanford Weight Loss Surgery is a nationally designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. Call (701) 234-2251 or (877) 484-4144 to learn more.

Posted Date: January 2011

Losing Weight, Gaining Life

Darin and Michele Kuzel tried dieting and exercise but only when those techniques were accompanied by weight-loss surgery did their lives truly change. Now health abounds.