LewisGale bariatric surgery patient shares life-changing weight-loss experience
Heather Umberger’s childhood memories are filled with hikes, fishing, and attending all types of sports events with her parents and three siblings. She and her entire family loved the outdoors, her dad coached softball, and Heather participated in an active life all throughout high school. From the time she could remember, Heather always wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.
After graduating from high school, Heather followed her dreams, went to nursing school, and is now a very busy and active Emergency Department Director at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski. She has also maintained an active lifestyle with her husband, three boys, ages 8, 7, and 4, and the family dogs, with the entire family enjoying sports and outdoor activities.
Despite her active lifestyle, Heather always battled weight, partly due to heredity and a thyroid disease known as Hashimoto. “It was always part of me,” Heather says. Over the years as she gained more weight, it began taking a toll on her lifestyle. “It became harder to walk, nearly impossible to hike, and affected my energy level while working,” she added. “My weight contributed to the development of gestational diabetes and hypertension during my third pregnancy.”
Over the years, Heather tried a variety- of weight loss techniques, including protein shakes, pills, and shots under the supervision of a physician, but all were unsuccessful. After several attempts, Heather began considering weight-loss surgery. Her mom had had success with bariatric surgery, so Heather began putting the wheels in motion and began exploring a bariatric surgeon and program in Richmond, Va. She completed a medically-managed six-month weight loss program, a requirement of her health insurance plan, and completed all the necessary paperwork.
Fast forward to (May 2020), Heather learned about Dr. Darren Glass, a bariatric surgeon, who had just moved to Roanoke to join LewisGale Regional Health System. She wasted no time in scheduling an appointment after he had been with LewisGale for only two weeks. During her appointment she told him, “I’ve completed all my paperwork and have been waiting on you!”
Heather immediately started her journey with the LewisGale Bariatric Team that consisted of Dr. Glass, who is an experienced bariatric surgeon, a registered dietitian, a trained psychologist, and a nurse coordinator. “While Dr. Glass is a strict teacher, making certain you understand what’s involved, he is so personable and is devoted to his patients’ long-term success,” says Heather. “One of the things he said that struck a chord was that we were not focusing on losing weight, but to get me healthy.”
While Dr. Glass had performed over 1,500 bariatric surgeries, Heather was his first patient at LewisGale Medical Center and her surgery -- a Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass, one type of bariatric surgery – was performed on August 19, 2020.
Today, one year later, Heather is 139.6 pounds lighter and has decreased her BMI by 25.7, leaving the “obese” charts far behind. She now out-hikes her boys, coaches baseball, and plans to coach soccer in the near future. “My family has been so supportive and my husband, who is the main cook, is making healthier meals which is benefiting the entire family,” said Heather. “It’s also helped with my position as an ER director, since I feel so much better throughout the day,” she added.
For anyone considering weight-loss surgery, Heather’s advice is to “take the leap and trust the process. It’s not an easy path, but one of the tools that can be lifechanging. It was for me.”