LGH's Own "Big Losers" Reclaim Their Lives

Gastric Bypass Gives Wendy and Don Sheppard New Bodies, Confidence, Vitality

Wendy & Don Sheppard After

When asked what's next after winning the Super Bowl, professional athletes proclaim, "I'm going to Disneyworld!" When Don and Wendy Sheppard lost more than 440 lbs. between them after gastric bypass surgery, they also celebrated their victory with a trip to the iconic Florida theme park.

"And we fit into every single ride!" Don says.

It wasn't always that way. In 2006, Wendy weighed in at 400 lbs. at her annual physical. She had high blood pressure, sleep apnea, pre-diabetes and a host of "female problems" that had culminated in a hysterectomy two years before. She couldn't walk without getting out of breath; she couldn't even wash dishes without breaking into a sweat.

"Still, I was horrified when my primary care doctor asked me to consider gastric bypass surgery," Wendy recalls. "I thought surgery meant giving up; it sounded way too scary. So I asked for more time to take the weight off myself."

A year later, she still weighed 400 lbs.

"I hung my head and asked my doctor who she recommended for gastric bypass," Wendy says. It was the Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery at Lowell General Hospital. Wendy, then 41, underwent surgery in November 2007.

Wendy & Don Sheppard Before

Her husband Don, 43, followed three months later. "I'd topped out at 366 lbs., I was tired all the time, had high blood pressure, and could do less and less with our kids," he says. "I felt I was running out of time."

Today, Wendy has lost 247 lbs., and Don has lost 195 lbs. - both surpassing their goal weight. Now at 153 and 167 lbs., respectively, they've gained a remarkable new lease on life.

"We're both able to wake up and feel rested - no more sleep apnea," Wendy says. "Neither of us takes blood pressure medication now, and I'm no longer pre-diabetic. We go horseback riding, bike riding, kayaking...we've even climbed Mt. Monadnock," she adds.

"I feel more confident," adds Don. "Plus, I can fit in an airplane seat, and go to baseball games and concerts, which my kids enjoy, too."

With their newfound vitality, confidence and self-awareness, Wendy and Don also serve as Bariatric Ambassadors for the Center, providing support and information from a patient perspective.

"It helps us walk the walk, to give back and educate others," says Don.

"The Center says that the first 100 lbs. of weight loss comes from using the tools of bypass surgery," Wendy says. "The rest is up to us - exercise, eating right. We're doing that, and we feel proud."

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