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How bariatric surgery at LVHN transformed a young Wilson couple’s life

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Ashley and Jordan Strause - Weight-loss Surgery

For former math teacher Ashley Strause, subtracting weight was always a challenge, a problem she thought might never be solved.

Her husband, Jordan, says his excess weight meant he was often physically exhausted by lunchtime at his maintenance job, where he was on his feet much of each day.

Did You Know?

Obesity is linked to more than 40 other diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable and premature death. - Source: American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery

That all changed in 2018 when Ashley in February, then Jordan in October, underwent weight-loss surgery through Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). More than four years later, they’ve kept off the weight and now have Parker, a beautiful 8-month-old boy.

The decision to have weight-loss surgery

Ashley and Jordan married in 2016, and losing weight came rushing to the forefront in 2017, when Ashley experienced health problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, and was told her weight would make it hard for her to have a child. She knew weight-loss surgery was an option, and the Wilson couple attended an LVHN information session. Jordan knew he, too, wanted surgery, but they decided that, for them, it was best not to do so at the same time. There are couples who choose to have bariatric surgery at the same time. 

Jordan supported Ashley as she recovered, and vice versa. Both lost most of their weight in the first six months after surgery. Together, they lost 240 pounds.

Their surgeon, Dan Harrison, DO, LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery–1240 Cedar Crest, says the couple’s weight loss experience is common, and noted bariatric surgery patients typically lose 70 percent of their excess weight in the first year.

Both Ashley and Jordan had minimally invasive laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery, in which about 85 percent of the stomach’s volume is removed. The resulting stomach is a smaller, banana-shaped organ. The smaller stomach not only restricts the volume of food that is consumed before someone feels full, but it also has a metabolic impact because much less ghrelin – the hormone that stimulates hunger – is produced.

Harrison says about 5-7% of bariatric surgery patients regain some weight. However, those that do best continue their post-surgery follow-up with LVHN’s multidisciplinary program that includes dietitians and other experts. “It’s really maintaining that lifestyle that’s important,” he says.

“It’s OK to give up a food when you see how your life changes. I would much rather be a happy, healthy woman at 31 at this weight and have a child and a husband than eat a big bowl of spaghetti any day.” – Ashley Strause

Not easy, but worth it

“It’s not easy, but it’s worth it,” Ashley says.

In addition to different post-surgery eating habits, the couple, both 31, say their weight loss also presents mental challenges regarding their relationship with food.  

“You can retrain what you eat, but you can’t always retrain how you think about what you eat,” Ashley says. “There’s no light switch. There’s no switch to turn off your old way of thinking. You just have to think a new way, but just know you’re going to have those mental challenges and you’ll get through it.”

Jordan echoes his wife and says prospective bariatric surgery patients need to fully research their options and avoid rushing into a decision. “You need to be mentally ready for this. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You can’t eat the same way you did before,” he says.

“Every day I have thoughts of wanting one more bite of something or I just want to eat that thing I shouldn’t, but it’s not worth it,” Ashley says.

Ashley says getting pregnant after her surgery was a challenge but said with the help of her doctors and LVHN dietitians, her son was born at a healthy weight. Her new eating habits also enabled her to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy.

By the time Jordan underwent surgery in October 2018, he was able to see Ashley’s success and observe firsthand the changes she made. Now, they are each other’s daily support system. “It’s like checks and balances,” Jordan says. “You have each other’s back and make sure you’re following the rules.”

A new, better life

Ashley’s thankful she can keep up with Parker without getting winded. Jordan, an outdoorsman, says going hunting and fishing is now a lot more fun. He says he’s able to walk up a hill and not be “winded and completely tired.”

In addition to improved health, Ashley says, she’s more confident. She changed jobs about three years ago and is now working as an administrative assistant at Lehigh University. “I don’t think the pre-surgery Ashley would have had the confidence to do that [change careers],” she says.

“I’m on my feet all day and it doesn’t slow me down,” Jordan says. “It’s amazing.”

Both said they would choose bariatric surgery again. “I would do it 10 times again, absolutely,” Jordan says.

Their advice for others? “If someone’s on the fence, I tell them how my experience was, and hopefully maybe that will help their decision as well,” Ashley says.

Bariatric surgery, and the changed eating style it demands, can be a big change. Ashley uses pasta to help illustrate what it’s like.

“My favorite food is spaghetti. Can I have a small bowl of spaghetti and be fine? Yeah,” she says. “Do I want a big bowl? Right. But we know what’s going to happen. It’s knowing that you can have what you like in small bites and maybe you’ll learn that your body doesn’t do the same foods anymore. But it’s OK to give up a food when you see how your life changes. I would much rather be a happy, healthy woman at 31 at this weight and have a child and a husband than eat a big bowl of spaghetti any day.”

Bariatric Surgery

Weight-loss surgery can be a life-changing procedure for many people. At LVHN, we have the most established bariatric surgery program in the region.

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