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Less Baggage, More Fun

Mary Fischer gazed up at ancient Notre Dame Cathedral. She watched as other travelers climbed the narrow stone staircase that would take them to the top.

She, too, wanted the bird’s-eye view of Paris, but could she handle the steep climb? How many times would she have to stop and catch her breath? How many people would she slow down?

At 5’2” and 244 pounds, she had serious doubts.

“I hesitated to even try because I knew how hard it would be,” says the 57-year-old executive at Sanford Health in Fargo. “That’s when I realized I was losing opportunities because of my size and my struggle to move.”

With travel at the top of her bucket list, Mary didn’t want her weight holding her back. But that wasn’t all. In 2001, she underwent major surgery to replace her left hip. The surgery was difficult and the recovery lengthy. She didn’t want to go through it again.

“By carrying so much extra weight, I was not being a good steward of my hip -- or my health,” she says. “I had to do better.”

A dramatically different option

Counting calories, tracking points, joining programs… Over the years Mary had tried many different strategies to lose weight.

“I’d yo-yo,” she says. “I’d lose pounds, but never had the wherewithal to keep them off.”

In 2010 she participated in a Sanford leadership conference-- and so did Sanford weight loss surgeon Dr. Luis Garcia. She had a chance to casually visit with him about weight loss surgery. His response inspired her.

“That started me on a path to learn more,” she says. “When you’re making a major decision like this, you want to get as much information as possible. You want to know everything!”

She talked with people who’d had weight loss surgery. She went online to compare programs and results. And she attended Sanford’s free weight loss surgery informational seminar. A nationally designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, Sanford Weight Loss Surgery Program offers a highly qualified team, a complete program and proven results.

“Weight loss surgery is a dramatic step -- one you need to be absolutely 100 percent certain about,” she says. “I made my decision in April 2011. I was ready.”

Preparing for a smooth journey

A formal consultation with Dr. Garcia led to intensive pre-surgery education including dietitian visits, a psychiatric evaluation and more.

“You learn exactly what you need to do to maintain your weight loss,” she says. “There are no detours. You need to follow the plan, keep moving and keep your head on. If you do the right things, you’ll succeed.”

Six months of preparation led to Mary’s laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery in September 2011. The procedure was performed by Dr. Garcia, one of three board-certified weight loss surgeons at Sanford.

“All went great -- no issues,” she says. “I stayed in the hospital overnight and two weeks later was back at work.”

She dropped pound after pound, reaching a weight of 149 pounds less than a year later. Her blood pressure went down, too.

“That was the really surprising result,” says Mary. “For 26 years I’d been on medication for high blood pressure. My primary care doctor and I never thought that would change. I now have low blood pressure with no medication. Amazing.”

Let’s go!

Today Mary wears size 10 jeans -- no more size 24s. She walks quickly and confidently.

“I feel awesome, just awesome,” she says. “I can move and do things I haven’t done in a long time.”

When she and her husband Dan traveled to Europe this past year she could climb to the top of St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican with energy to spare. She could easily get in and out of the gondolas. And without sweating, she could navigate the narrow aisles of the packed trains.

“It’s a night and day difference when you’re carrying 100 pounds less,” says Mary.

She and Dan look forward to more travel, including excursions on their Goldwing Trike motorcycle.

And next on Mary’s bucket list?

“Driving a semi-truck,” she says. “I can’t wait!”

Posted Date: August 2012