Rocky Point, NY
Surgery date: February 2010
Weight lost: 165 pounds
Kelly Clark feels like she has lived two different lives.
“My whole life started over for me after surgery,” Kelly said. “It was a new beginning, a new time to focus on myself, on my goals, on my marriage, on my career and really to just be happy — and that has been the best gift I’ve ever received.
“I’m not Kelly who was really fat before. I’m not Kelly who had weight loss surgery. I’m just Kelly. And that is awesome.”
Before bariatric surgery with Arif Ahmad, MD, at the Mather Hospital Bariatric Center of Excellence, Kelly said every day was a struggle. But two key events illustrated just how uncomfortable and arduous her battle with weight had become.
The first was a trip 10 years ago with her husband to Hawaii. A lifelong swimmer, Kelly was excited to go scuba diving. But in Hawaii, she could only think about the embarrassment she felt as a 300-pound woman in a wetsuit.
“The entire trip out on the boat, my whole thought process was not how beautiful it was, but is everyone looking at me because I looked like a beached whale,” she said. “Every step of that vacation was grueling — and it should’ve been a dream.”
The second event was when her father, also overweight, was awaiting a heart transplant and she trudged into a Manhattan hospital to visit him. She quickly realized she was on a crash course with a similar fate.
“My youngest at that point was 18 years old and I just thought, oh my, I don’t want them to make this trip into the city and worry about me,” she said. “I really have to do something.”
Nothing had worked for Kelly. She knew she needed help.
“When I went into Dr. Ahmad's office for the first time and met his support staff, they were so wonderful,” said Kelly, who works as a paralegal. “Once you become a patient at Dr. Ahmad’s office, you truly become family. Their staff is absolutely amazing. They will give and give and give anything that you could possibly need from them."
“I know them by their first name, they know me by my first name. That to me is something that is priceless in this day and age.”
Kelly knew bariatric surgery was just a tool to help her live a healthier and happier life. While all the diets she tried were also tools, none of them were life-long tools.
“The surgery is really the beginning,” she said. “Everyone thinks that’s the end, but it’s the beginning. It gave me the tool to create a healthy lifestyle — and love it.”
Six years later she has kept the weight off. She took up Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art that focuses on hand-to-hand defense, and recently earned her yellow belt, which she proudly displays.
“I can protect myself — and that’s not something I ever thought that I could do before,” she said. “Weight loss surgery gave me the confidence to try.”
Kelly advises people considering the surgery to “be very honest” with themselves, because it is a decision that requires a change in lifestyle.
“It’s not a diet,” she said. “You are changing your lifestyle for good. You become a happier person because you feel better. It is truly life- altering.”
As for that Hawaii trip, Kelly and her husband are hoping to revisit that vacation in the next few years.
“I will be so thrilled to be there. They will hear me on the beach all the way up there screaming because I’ll just be so happy to know I don’t have to think about my weight anymore.”