My love for (and residence in) State College began in 1984 when I moved here to start college at Penn State. I never left! I’m a morning broadcast meteorologist for AccuWeather, but a lot of people know me as “the Voice of Beaver Stadium” – I’m the announcer for Penn State football and volleyball, as well as other sports.
Struggling with my weight has been a lifelong battle. When I would achieve big losses, they were unfortunately followed by even bigger gains; the trajectory was always off, until I reached 380 pounds. I realized – my health was now affected to the point where I could not deny it. My blood pressure was 180/90; I was pre-diabetic; I had high cholesterol and sleep apnea. I’ve known my primary care physician, Dr. Franklin Berkey, since we were students at Penn State. He often mentioned bariatric surgery and that maybe I should think about it. So my partner, Joel Hernandez, and I started looking at what was involved and how it would help me, and it made sense. I had to lose a lot of weight to regain my life, my health and time.
At age 45, I was ready to commit! The biggest thing I had to understand, as anyone committing to this surgery does, is that it is a tool to be used. Surgery is not a magic reset button. There is more involved than pushing ‘reset,’ although at this point, I do feel I’ve been lucky enough to get that chance! Not many people get to do that, especially when it comes to your health. I remember the first time Joel and I met my future (at the time) bariatric surgeon, Dr. Ann Rogers at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. She came into the room and, in a very matter-of-fact way, told us all the things that could be cured if she performed this surgery on me, in addition to my compliance with the program. I remember when she left, Joel and I were talking and we wondered if she was serious about curing all those things. But she was serious—she knew what she was talking about. She cured every single thing, including the sleep apnea and everything that contributed to the whole downward spiral.
Everyone with a weight problem understands the embarrassing moments that hit you as you go through life, either on your own or with your family. You know, when you realize you can’t ride a ride at the amusement park, because you’re too big. When you can’t keep up, have to stop and catch your breath as you walk up a hill. It’s sad. It’s disheartening. You almost feel defeated.
But then, I was accepted into the program! In those first six months before my surgery, it felt different. There were changed attitudes and different levels of positivity. In preparation, and to begin on the path to changing my life, I had lost 40 pounds before the surgery. There’s an excitement; I started feeling better.
June 11, 2013, was my big day – I had the gastric sleeve bypass, or gastric sleeve, surgery. Two days later, I went home; June 13 was my 47th birthday.
Since that momentous birthday and the recovery that followed, I’ve managed to hold my weight between 216 and 218 pounds. My blood pressure is 130/70. My cholesterol is normal and I’m no longer pre-diabetic. All these things are great and amazing, but, honestly, the biggest thing is that I’ve been able to recapture my life!
I don’t think I could have achieved such changes and marked improvements in my life without the Penn State Surgical Weight Loss team. It’s people like the dietitians, and Mike Zehner, the program’s exercise physiologist. Mike was my first appointment – my very first exercise partner. He got me moving! I started out walking. I remember telling Mike that I wasn’t really much of a gym person, and he understood; regardless, he encouraged me to start with five-pound dumbbells. I did, and after about three weeks, I joined a gym!
One of the best parts about this to me is not only the amazing credentials that these people have, the cutting-edge surgical procedures they perform, and the smiling faces, but it’s the work they did at the Surgical Weight Loss clinic in Middletown so I didn’t have to make multiple trips from State College each month. I’m so inspired by people who dedicate their lives to helping other people because they want to make their lives better. That’s what Penn State Hershey is all about. It’s all about taking care of patients, taking care of people. That’s what inspires me.
Today I’m doing things I never thought I would do. Not too long ago, I saw my trainer, Emmitt Terrell, at the gym. He was at the pull-up bar – one of the more daunting pieces of equipment there, from my perspective. Instead of shying away, I thought I should give it a shot – so I did! I did a pull-up! We both started freaking out. I could not believe it – I did a pull-up!