Hope & Spirit Honoree: Pam Levister
May was a joyous month for Pam and Joe Levister as they returned home from the Ukraine with their newly adopted 18-month-old son, Andy. But Andy was only one more development in an amazing year that saw Pam make a commitment to her health that has totally changed her life.
Just over a year ago, Pam weighed 382 pounds and had a dangerously high body mass index (BMI) of 52. She also struggled with a host of associated health problems, including asthma, hypertension and degenerative joint disease. On August 26, 2004, Pam underwent laparoscopic Roux Y gastric bypass surgery through the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Bariatric Surgery Program. The surgery helps obese individuals lose weight by reducing food intake and feelings of hunger. People who undergo the surgery must also adopt strict eating habits for personal health and comfort. Since the surgery, Pam has lost 159 pounds and lowered her BMI to 30. Her hypertension has been completely resolved and she no longer takes any medications.
According to Deborah Andris, RN-CS, MSN, APNP and a member of the Bariatric Surgery Program team, Pam’s story is more remarkable than just numbers on a scale. “Understanding that gastric bypass is simply the tool, Pam has taken personal responsibility for making the lifestyle changes demanded of her post-operatively. For Pam, modified eating behaviors, diet and exercise are now a way of life,” says Andris. Pam says, even while traveling in another country, she never wavered from her commitment. “I have it in my head exactly what I’m supposed to eat and because of that, it isn’t hard.”
As she continues to lose, not only is Pam getting closer to achieving a normal weight, she’s also living a normal life. At one time, she was unable to walk her five-year-old daughter, Anissa, around the block. Now she walks a mile a day and is enthusiastically involved in family activities, including a recent ride on a carrousel. Pam says, “I’m no longer living my life cooped up in the house, making myself and my children prisoners. I never thought of the surgery as something I was doing for myself, it was always for my family. To me, being able to do things with my family - that is everything.”