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Committed to Health and Happiness

Nicknamed “Tinkerbell” in grade school, Kelly Rafferty was shy, petite and light on her feet. Nobody would’ve guessed that by her mid-40s, she’d suffer such severe obesity and back pain that she’d need a cane to walk.

“I knew weight loss would help, but all the diets turned out the same,” she says. “I’d lose weight, gain it back -- and then some.”

At 257 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches tall, Kelly knew her situation was serious. She even had a wheelchair on order.

“My fiance was the one who brought up weight-loss surgery,” she says. “He said it so genuinely and with such kindness…”

The pursuit of knowledge

In August 2007, Kelly and her fiance Curt Brickman attended a weight-loss surgery informational seminar at Sanford in Fargo. A nationally designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, Sanford offers a highly qualified team, a complete program and proven results.

“There must’ve been 50 or 60 people in that room -- it was overwhelming, but I picked up a lot of information,” she says. “For the next several months I held on to the paperwork.”

She took the time to learn on her own, going online to read about the different types of weight-loss surgery and people’s experiences.

“I knew I didn’t like the idea of lap band because that introduces something foreign into he body.” she says. “I wanted gastric bypass.”

In January 2008, Kelly took the next step. She began Sanford’s in-depth, multi-month process -- nutrition classes, a psychiatric evaluation, support groups and more. She also met Dr. Luis Garcia, one of three board-certified weight-loss surgeons.

“By the time you have surgery at Sanford, you’re very prepared and well-educated,” she says. “I knew it would work.”

Half is enough

On August 12, 2008, Kelly underwent laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery performed by Dr. Garcia. The day of surgery she snapped a photo of herself and now keeps it in her “My Life at a Glance” album.

The album shows photo after photo of a life transformed:

    * Nine months after surgery and 105 pounds lighter, she participated in her first 5K.
    * After 10 months she walked on the stilts made by her grandpa in 1970.
    * After 11 months she fit inside one leg of the size 24 jeans she used to wear. “I’m half the woman I used to be,” says the caption.

Three years after weight-loss surgery, Kelly weighs 130 pounds and wears size 4. “I can do things today that for years have been out of my reach,” she says.

A style all her own

Kelly tells humorous stories about people she’s known for years who no longer recognize her. Yet recent acquaintances can hardly believe she’s ever been so heavy.

Amazing? Yes. But Kelly is the first to say weight-loss surgery is not a miracle. “It’s a tool,” she says. “And if you don’t take care of it, it’ll get rusty and stop working.”

Every couple hours she eats a half-cup of nutritious, high-protein food -- just enough to fill her tiny stomach, but not enough to stretch it. She takes daily vitamins, exercises regularly and participates in Sanford’s support group -- and nourishes her own network of support, too.

Kelly creatively embraces her new lifestyle. Exercise includes hula hooping on the deck outside. She grows her own herbs and vegetables, invents her own recipes and designs her own cookbooks complete with weeks of detailed menus. She follows them religiously.

“I leave nothing to chance,” she says. “I admit I might have a little bit of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Or ‘CDO’ as Curt says -- he knows I like things alphabetical.”

“I do!”

A white garment bag from a bridal shop hangs in the hallway of Kelly’s home in Fargo.

“Yup, after 11 years together we’re getting married,” she says. “Curt’s my rock.” The celebration will include bagpipes, spice cupcakes and plenty of high-protein treats prepared by Kelly.

And when she walks down the aisle? No cane needed. The foot pain’s gone, no more back flare-ups and Kelly’s once again light on her feet.

Oh happy day!

For more information about weight loss surgery click here.

Posted Date: August 2011