Gaining Your Life Back—One Pound at a Time

Prior to having bariatric surgery, Michelle Sparacino used to describe her life simply as “miserable.” Constantly uncomfortable and always in pain, even the smallest tasks proved to be difficult. Sitting down, sleeping, and walking up stairs were all challenges.

“I avoided the world at all costs,” said Michelle. “I felt embarrassed by my size and didn’t want to be seen anywhere—not even out with my husband or with our kids at school.”

In 2013, Michelle married the love of her life, but even her wedding day had a dark cloud over it. While she still describes it as the happiest day of her life because she was marrying her best friend, Michelle still felt insecure because of her size. She couldn’t help but feel ashamed of how she looked—even on such a special day. Her insecurities even prevented the newlyweds from taking a honeymoon. The humiliation and anxiety of getting on an airplane and having to buy two seats was just too much.

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Two years later, Michelle decided she needed to make a dramatic change for the better and had gastric bypass surgery in February 2015. Since then, life has been completely different. Michelle has lost 170 pounds and has gained much of her life back.

“My life is completely different now,” said Michelle. “I can do everything and I have plans to do it all. I will be going to amusement parks with my kids and riding every single ride. I can fly on a plane, I can walk, I can hike, I can run.”

Michelle no longer avoids going out with friends and family and feels proud to be seen out with her husband and children.

“I love doing things with my kids and being active with them,” said Michelle. It feels so much better to playing with them instead of just sitting on the sidelines.”

I can do everything now and I have plans to do it all

In addition to being more physically able and active, Michelle enjoys another new activity—shopping. Before her dramatic weight loss, Michelle had to order all of her clothes online.

“Now I can shop anywhere,” said Michelle. “It feels great to wear things that actually look good, I’m no longer wearing clothes just because they’re the only thing that fits me.”

In May 2016, Michelle was able to celebrate her success at St. Vincent Charity’s My New Life Celebration—an annual recognition event for patients who are at least one year out from bariatric surgery. A new twist on this year’s celebration was the Care Beyond Medicine awards program. Patients were invited to submit short videos telling us how bariatric surgery changed their lives. Rather than telling us about the numbers on the scale, we wanted to know what they couldn’t do before that they can do now and what it means to their life.

A panel of caregivers from the Center for Bariatric Surgery reviewed all of the inspiring videos and selected the top 3 submissions to receive a customized prize package. Michelle’s story was a standout favorite and was chosen as our grand prizewinner.

When it came time to design her prize, it was obvious what needed to be done. The team at the Center for Bariatric Surgery decided to give Michelle and her husband the honeymoon they were never able to take. She was surprised at the event to learn she won a “mini-moon” vacation in Ohio Amish Country.

“Bariatric surgery has changed everything about my life,” said Michelle. “I am so grateful to have this opportunity for a second chance at life. My only regret is not doing it sooner.”