Jean Gappert’s Success Story: Optifast Saved My Life*
Optifast saved my life.
Sounds dramatic? Let me tell you my story. It began at my 60th birthday dinner in 2005:
The dining room lights dimmed as the kitchen door slowly opened, revealing my four year old grandson, his brown eyes sparkling as he tightly gripped the huge round cake plate topped with a three layer chocolate cake covered with semi-sweet chocolate shavings and six large flickering candles. The candles each represented a decade of my life. With wide eyes he carefully set the cake in front of me. Surrounded by my family, I heard the chant: “Make a wish. Blow them out, Grandma.”
It was a moment I wanted to remember forever. I took a big breath, ” Make a wish!” and blew. Nothing happened. Suddenly a hush surrounded me. I tried again. I took a big breath. I blew, and one of the candles flickered a bit. I started to cough. My son, sensing my embarrassment, said, “Come on kids. Help grandma. …Blow!” They made quick work of it and the candles sputtered out, spraying little spots of wax all over the cake top. Everyone clapped and my daughter-in-law began cutting and serving huge luscious pieces of cake to everyone. I sat smiling, but mortified. I thought: I was only sixty years old and couldn’t even blow out six candles!
Little did I know that this was the turning point in my life. I should have noticed, because all of the signs were there. I had had two knee replacements because of osteoarthritis. I had gradually had to take less and less active jobs because I couldn’t work. My asthma was out of control and fmally, at a telemarketing job, with my weight at 210 pounds, I could no longer report regularly to work. I finally had to go on disability, sell my house, move into an efficiency apartment and I was battling depression. My life was spiraling down out of control. Even with an M.A. university degree, I couldn’t support myself. My health kept me on the couch or bed watching TV or reading books.
After two stays in the hospital with asthma, my three doctors: pulmonary, general practitioner and psychologist sort of gave up on me. They didn’t know what else to do. I felt my body was giving up on me, too. Hitting the scales at 220 pounds, on oxygen, and taking increased pain medication, I found myself isolated and depressed. I discouraged friendships: when I scheduled a play or concert, and I had an asthma attack, I had to back out. It was a lonely time.
My son had moved to Denver and invited me to join him and his family. I had heard about Denver’s National Jewish Hospital, with its stellar reputation as the nation’s number one respiratory hospital. I moved to Denver, Colorado. Being with my grandchildren brightened my life, and I immediately made an appointment at the hospital.
After many tests, I was told I had asthma, a condition I already knew I had. I saw a doctor at one of the satellite offices. A year went by, with many new medications and oxygen. Nothing improved. The doctor finally gave up too, and said I should see someone at the main campus. By then I weighed 230 pounds; I was very depressed and really ready to give up. Many of you may relate to how I felt. I had a handicapped sign for my car, I wore a lot of black baggy clothes, and with every step, I dragged myself through life.
At the main campus of NJH I saw Dr. Ali Musani. He ran more tests: established that I had acid reflux, asthma and he performed an out- patient bronchoscopy. He also had me do a sleep study. At our next meeting, I had a conference call with my son and Dr. Musani.
The prognosis was frightening. He said that if I didn’t lose 50 pounds immediately, I might die! He suggested that I see Dr. Lazarus at the Clinical Nutrition Center and made another appointment for four months later: June 2011. With my son’s financial assistance, I began the Optifast program that February.
As I lost weight I felt better. I walked a mile twice a day with my dog, I joined at no cost the Silver Sneaker program at the YMCA and tried to swim or participate in their Arthritis swim program. All the exercise was at my own pace. My treadmill gave me extra exercise as I watched TV and worked up from 3 minutes to 45 minutes at a time.
The weekly meetings with my CNC dietitian, and the monthly blood and blood pressure tests medically mapped my safe incredible weight loss odyssey. My asthma greatly improved, my need for supplemental oxygen was reduced and my pain began to lessen as the scales dropped. I’ve now lost over 50 pounds in 7 months and my quality of life has greatly improved.
Dr. Musani at NJH was so happy to see my improvement. He said my bronchial tubes which had been blocked in February were clear. He was astounded that my weight loss will prevent me from a serious surgery he thought I would need. He had never seen such dramatic changes due to weight loss. He said he will recommend Dr. Lazarus to his other patients. If only other doctors would understand the power of weight loss to lessen pressure on joints, help clear asthma and chest pressure and generally improve the quality of life and energy.
On my next birthday, with those six big candles and 6 small candles, they better watch out. I have a long and wonderful life to look forward to and my grandchildren to enjoy. Thank you, Dr Lazarus, Liz and the rest of the wonderful staff at Clinical Nutrition Center. Maintenance is my ongoing challenge and I know I can do it with the support of CNC.