Searching for answers
Life-changing. Again and again, that’s how Jordan’s mom, Janine, describes what bariatric surgery has meant to her daughter. Jordan started gaining weight around puberty and for some reason, she wasn’t able to stop. It was no easy feat to find this solution. Janine is both determined and a nurse, two attributes that when combined, mean she will not settle for anything less than the best health for her children.
“It just didn’t make sense,” Janine says. “We eat very healthy and are an active family, but no matter what we did, she kept gaining weight. For years, I’ve been looking for answers – we tried every diet you can imagine – keto, paleo, no gluten, no sugar, no dairy. We’d tried all the different exercises. Nothing worked.”
Janine and Jordan went to see specialists of all kinds – endocrinologists, geneticists, gynecologists, nutritionists. All of her lab tests came back normal; it wasn’t a metabolic disorder they could find, like polycystic ovary syndrome, it wasn’t her thyroid. They kept hearing the same response from doctors – weight management is a simple formula: make sure that fewer calories are coming in through food than you are burning through exercise and you will lose weight. It seems some people’s bodies just have a different formula.
“It was just an uphill battle,” Janine says. “All the different diets, clean eating. I would even pack her healthy snacks at birthday parties so she could have that instead of cake. After hearing the same thing from doctors over and over, we began to lose hope. Then it was like she almost gave up. She started feeling sad all the time, she started sleeping a lot, she didn’t feel like doing anything. When you lose hope, it’s devastating, as a mom and as a nurse, when you can’t find the answers.”
“Hope is an amazing thing”
Years ago, when Jordan was just 7 or 8 months old, the family was living in Winter Park. One night, Jordan began having seizures. They took her to the clinic in Winter Park, but the clinic hadn’t seen anything like that and couldn’t determine what was causing the seizures. Jordan was flown to Children’s Hospital Colorado and her parents drove down the mountain to meet her. As they drove, Janine thought of all the things a mother does when their child is sick. She was worried that when they got to the hospital, they would find their daughter in a coma, or worse.
“When we got there,” Janine says, “A nurse was holding her, and Jordan was awake and she looked fine. The nurse said, ‘Don’t worry, she’ll be fine. Yes, we’ve seen this before. And yes, we can help.’” While that was nearly 20 years ago, Janine said she almost felt the same way when the family visited Children’s Colorado again last year.
“Once we saw Children’s,” Janine says, “we saw that spark come back in Jordan. The doctor said, ‘We see girls and teenagers like you all the time, and yes, we can help.’ It finally gave us that hope that we needed. And hope is an amazing thing.” Jordan and Janine worked with a bariatric surgery team that included Tom Inge, MD, Jaime Moore, MD, Kelda Reimers, RD, and Rachel Anthony, NP.
Jordan received bariatric surgery in January and in less than six months has lost 55 pounds.
“It’s empowering how life-changing the surgery has been for her,” Janine says. “She a different person – she’s more outgoing. She’s seeking friends and finding new hobbies. When we have guests over, she’s excited to greet them and talk to them.”
A long road ahead, but a sunny one
After Jordan had first met with doctors at Children’s Colorado, she and her mother began doing the research most people do before a possible surgery. Janine talked to people who had the surgery and just about everyone said the same two things: It is a huge commitment and that they wish they would have gotten it sooner.
Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach, which in turn affects your metabolism and affects the signals that are sent to your brain that tell you when you’re hungry. The diet after the surgery is very specific and very regimented. It takes time for your stomach to expand again after the surgery. That means that you can only eat a certain amount of food in a certain time period. Janine said that following the surgery, their best tools to help them follow the diet were a 3 oz. cup and a kitchen timer.
But Jordan isn’t doing it alone. Apart from the support from her family, Children’s Colorado also helps in different ways. In addition to medical guidance, the hospital helps Jordan approach the weight loss mentally and socially. For instance, a team psychologist set up a peer-to-peer support group, where Jordan can talk to other teens who have had or are having the same experience.
“That teen-to-teen connection is so different than a doctor talking to them,” Janine says, “to actually see someone who had been through it. She met a girl who had the surgery, they connected on Instagram and are still friends!”
Another aspect of the program Janine and Jordan like is the option to use telehealth. Instead of having to drive the 4 hours it takes for them to get to Denver, they can video conference for check-ups and go to a local medical center that Children’s Colorado partners with if they need any lab work done.
While bariatric surgery is a commitment, Children’s Colorado does everything they can to set up teens like Jordan for success, from peer support to the whole bariatric team.
“Jordan worked very hard to follow her goals post-operatively,” says Rachel Anthony, Jordan’s nurse practitioner who worked very closely with Jordan. “At just 3 months post-op she was down 18.2% of her body weight, which is weight loss we typically don’t see until closer to 6 months post-op. She followed the plan, dialed in her exercise and nutrition and was successful. We are very proud of her!”
“The team at Children’s is just amazing,” Janine says. “From the nutritionists and nurses to the psychologist, the doctors, the surgeon, the physical trainer, even those working at the front desk – they’re all wonderful!”
Now that the surgery is behind her, Jordan is looking forward to what’s ahead. She’s started stand-up paddleboarding. She’s excited to take walks around the park, she’s excited to get a new swimsuit, and she’s excited to celebrate her upcoming birthday.
“I’m turning 20 at the end of the month,” Jordan says, “I’m going to start my new life!”