Nurse Gets Second Chance at Life After Bariatric Surgery

“I was really thin my whole life until I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome,” says mother, wife and nurse Shelly Reading. “It wasn’t until my late 20s that I started packing on the weight — it was a combination of the disease and what I chose to eat. As a nurse, I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I tried everything and couldn’t lose the weight.”

“At my heaviest, I weighed 275 pounds and I’m only five feet tall,” says Shelly. “My life consisted of sitting on a couch, watching TV and watching the world go by. I could barely walk, couldn’t play with my kids or enjoy my husband. I couldn’t go from the car to the grocery story without leaning on a buggy.”

When Shelly learned she was diabetic, she knew high blood pressure, cholesterol and other health problems could follow, and that her life could very well be shortened. She didn’t want her children to grow up motherless as the result of something she knew she could prevent.

“I tried to lose weight on my own. And I had two other surgeries before I came to Cleveland Clinic, but nothing worked. I came to Cleveland Clinic because I wanted the biggest and the best,” says Shelly. Cleveland Clinic is the top-rated hospital in Ohio and a leader in bariatric surgery.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but when I sat down with Dr. Schauer, I knew it was going to be different. He was the only doctor who ever told me he wouldn’t just do surgery. He said I needed to be educated as to all aspects of what surgery would entail.”

“Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but when I sat down with Dr. Schauer, I knew it was going to be different. He was the only doctor who ever told me he wouldn’t just do surgery. He said I needed to be educated as to all aspects of what surgery would entail.”

Philip Schauer, MD is a bariatric surgeon, and director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. According to Shelly, Dr. Schauer’s goal was not to whisk her into surgery and hope she’d lose weight. Rather, he wanted her to understand that her weight loss journey would require lifestyle changes — that she’d have to eat and live differently to ensure she’d not only lose weight but be a healthier version of herself after surgery.

“The average bariatric procedure is now considered as safe as gallbladder, appendix or hysterectomy surgery,” says Dr. Schauer. “And 85 to 90 percent of our bariatric surgery patients lose most of their excess weight and keep it off long-term.”

There is a tremendous amount of education involved with bariatric surgery. Shelly spent time with a variety of caregivers — a nutritionist taught her how to eat properly; a psychologist helped her address the underlying issues that led to her weight gain; an exercise physiologist educated her on how to exercise to help keep weight off; medical doctors verified that she was healthy enough for surgery; and the surgeon ensured that she fully understood the surgical procedure.

“The purpose of bariatric surgery is to reduce life-threatening obesity and related illness,” says Dr. Schauer. “The process of adjusting to the lifestyle changes that accompany bariatric surgery can be challenging, but we have a fantastic team to support patients before and after surgery.”

 “When the day for surgery arrived, I was terrified and wanted to back out. But my husband reminded me that I’d been waiting years for this,” says Shelly. “I was only in the hospital for a day, then went home, and it was wonderful. I could just tell that my new life began. I sat down and looked out the window, and instead of feeling like I was going to watch the world go by, I knew I was going to be able to move again and be part of it.”

Following surgery, Shelly experienced something she never had before — a feeling that she just didn’t want to eat anymore. And 18 months after surgery, she’s lost 120 pounds. “When I had my one year appointment, I walked past Dr. Schauer in the hallway, and he didn’t recognize me,” says Shelly.

Related Institutes: Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute
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